Why Crossfit Is Good for Women

As I mentioned, I’m reading Lean In right now, and I’m very much enjoying its go-get-’em message along with the cautionary tales of why gender inequality still exists in the workplace. It’s motivating and gratifying in that “oh, that makes so much SENSE!” kind of way. That said, I have no desire to be the CEO or COO of a multi-billion international company. Most of my career aspirations (of which there are many and between which I change my mind every day) don’t make much money, either, but I am proud that Sheryl Sandberg is using her significant voice to talk about this topic.

How does this relate to Crossfit?

Before I had heard of Crossfit, I had legitimately never heard of a normal woman lifting weights. In my mind, women who lifted weights were scary bodybuilders who tanned too much, and women who went to the gym pretty much operated on the elliptical. As a ballerina, I had no information to refute this assumption since I had never set foot in a gym. But after graduating high school and deciding to quit ballet, I figured I should get myself a little more comfortable doing active things other than pirouettes, so I went to my country club’s gym. But of course, this country club hasn’t updated its gym in probably foreverandever, so it actually has separate ROOMS for men and women, and guess what? No barbell, no squat rack, no plates in the women’s section. It consisted of ellipticals, treadmills, some light dumbbells and Pilates balls. My image of gym-going women did not change, and my image of beauty remained a long, thin, wirey-muscled ballerina.

At some point, Crossfit decided to rear its extremely popular head. I didn’t hear too much about it in college, when I only rarely made it to our highly-equipped athletic facility, and then only went to Zumba classes or used the StairMaster. If you must ask, yes, I did gain that freshman 15… and no, I did not regret the ooey-gooey cheesy Pokey Sticks and giant tubs of ice cream frozen yogurt I consumed on a daily basis. That’s what college was for, right? Any.Way. The Crossfit phenomenon was growing, and suddenly, I started hearing their advertisements/slogans regularly: “Strong is the New Skinny;” “Strong Is Sexy,” and so forth.

Strong is the new skinny? I’m sorry, but I’m fairly certain that every girl at UNC was going for the latter. No one was talking about building muscle for the next mixer; they were talking about what they needed to lose. I had several friends who were impressive athletes, but they used their talents to complete marathons, not WODs. And jeeeeez, they looked good! It’s a similar lean, wirey, sleek look to a healthy dancer. But I hate running, especially for anything longer than .5 miles (yes, that is a decimal point before the 5), so you can count me out for that.

Also, I naturally have big thighs, and they ain’t goin nowhere. So it only took a few times of lifting with Emile to get me hooked on the powerful feeling of squatting with a bunch of metal on my back and standing back up again. I am STRONG. And when I am in the gym, and I deadlift 150lbs like it ain’t no thang, I feel confident. And confidence… now, that is sexy.

I don’t do Crossfit. I like doing my own workout on my own time, and honestly, I like doing more traditional heavy lifting and less cardio. I’m also afraid I would get hurt. There’s a lot of technique involved in Olympic lifts, and not a lot of training for Crossfit beginners. There’s a lot of “Do as much weight of this as you can, with as many reps as you can in as little time as possible!” in Crossfit, and that seems like a recipe for injury for my accident-prone self. With my own program, I also see myself improve with those exercises, instead of changing everything so often that it’s hard to measure progress. But, for women specifically, I think Crossfit’s message holds great value – strong actually is sexy.

Women today are more empowered – educationally, professionally, and personally – to strive for whatever they want. Yet there’s still a pervasive image in the media of this waif-like woman posing as society’s standard of beauty. Runway models are still witheringly small, and magazines are still photoshopping pictures to make their models and celebrities just that much slimmer. Strong is definitely not the new skinny – skinny is way ahead in that race. Healthy recipes found online are often dubbed the “skinny” version of whatever the dish might be, because that’s the goal – to get skinny. There’s a reason ballerina bodies are so coveted, and a reason so many ballerinas have eating disorders: they are invariably thin. There’s also a reason so many dancers decide to move toward modern or contemporary dance, where more diverse body types are accepted. I fall into this trap all the time. I don’t have a flat stomach, or I have a muffin top, or my coworker looks far better because she’s thinner than I am… And none of this is to say that skinny is bad! Or that curvy, or busty, or booty-y is wrong, either. But why is it, when women are gaining power in every facet of life and society, that our culture wants women to look weak?

Whether or not Crossfit affects the mainstream perception of beauty, it has attracted women to its fold. It has gotten women to pick up barbells and weights and get strong. It has made women famous – and hot – for being way stronger and more athletic than any guy I know! It has gotten women to eat burgers to replenish after a hard workout and have goals of doing 5 pull-ups instead of losing five pounds. It’s given women a reason to exercise beyond losing a dress size, and a positive goal is always better than a negative one. That’s impressive, and that’s healthy.

So here’s to powerful women, in and out of the gym, and to Crossfit for bringing sexy back.

Until next time,

Estes

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