Aboulhosn only learned later that she was going to be front and center on the cover

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated March 15, 2016 05:40 PM
Credit: Instagram

Women’s Running has done it again.

After earning raves for their August cover featuring curvy model Erica Schenk, and again in December when autistic runner Kiley Lyall won their cover competition, the magazine has put another curvy model, Nadia Aboulhosn, on the cover of their April issue.

Aboulhosn, who also moonlights as a blogger and fashion designer, was initially photographed for a story inside the magazine, but Women’s Running editor-in-chief Jessica Sabor decided to give her a bigger role in the issue.

“We originally selected Nadia for our feature on fitness/fashion influencers, but we loved her energy so much, we knew we had to put her front and center on our cover,” Sabor says in a statement to PEOPLE.

Aboulhosn, 27, says she was blown away to hear that she’d be leading the issue.

“When I got the email, I still didn’t believe it was going to happen,” she wrote on Instagram. “I for sure thought last minute something was going to happen and I wouldn’t be on the cover, just solely off the fact that things have turned wrong for me so much of my life. […] I’m never satisfied and feel like I could always be doing more, but seeing my cover made me calm down and enjoy this moment that’s such a milestone for me and my career.”

Seeing the cover for the first time was an incredible experience for Aboulhosn.

“I was in the airport last night flying from Florida back to L.A. and went in the store, saw it and started crying,” she recalls. “This elderly couple next to me was like, ‘Whats wrong?’ I’m like, ‘This is my first magazine cover after working non-stop for five years!’ ”

Aboulhosn has long been a trailblazer. In eighth grade, frustrated with the lack of a girls’ football team, she joined her school’s all-boys team as a linebacker. She discovered her love of running through the team’s daily track workouts.

These days, Aboulhosn goes for three to four runs a week, and does bodyweight workouts in between modeling for fashion brands Addition Elle (a fave of Ashley Graham), Lord & Taylor and BooHoo.

Sabor was thrilled to feature someone like Aboulhosn, who is working to change the body-image game.

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“You don t need to be an Olympic marathon runner to get the physical, emotional and psychological benefits of staying fit and healthy. We love that Nadia uses running as a way to be her best self – and that self is pretty incredible,” Sabor says. “Whether it’s being the only girl to join her high school’s football team or scoffing at the idea that high fashion is only for stick-thin models, Nadia blazes her own path.”