By Rian Cole BA, BEd, CF-L2
“Be careful you don’t get too bulky!”
That was one of the first things that I heard when I started CrossFit over 8 years ago. I laughed it off at the time because, as a former rugby player, I’m quite familiar with certain stereotypes associated with female athletes. However, during my 8 years, I also quickly realized that the stigma is recurring amongst women that are uncertain about trying CrossFit for the first time. They are concerned that their femininity will be compromised if they have big muscles, or that men will no longer find them attractive. They are worried they will look “manly”. Since becoming a coach, I have heard a steady stream of “I don’t want to get too big!” and “I don’t want to look like one of those jacked Crossfit girls!” On the other hand, we have many women who are too intimidated to start Crossfit simply because they think that they don’t look fit enough. It’s understandable that many women are self-conscious about their appearance. We are bombarded with images of what women “should’’ look like, and many of us have been programmed to think a certain way about the female body. Even if we know that much of what we are seeing is courtesy of makeup, good lighting, and Photoshop, we still can’t seem to stop wishing that there were parts of ourselves that we could change. The good news is that, for the most part, Crossfit seems to help women alter their priorities. Rather than be concerned with what their bodies look like, they become more aware of what their bodies can do.
Crossfit is all about celebrating your body’s achievements and progress. While weight loss is often a goal of our clients, body composition soon becomes secondary to being able to lift heavier or getting your first pull up. Results are measurable in pounds we put on the barbell and not the number of pounds you see on the scale. There are no mirrors because we are focused on the work and not how we look; your body simply becomes a tool used to complete a given task. There are athletes of all shapes and sizes in the same class, sweating it out, and doing the same work. One of our athlete’s stated it best when she said “it’s a place where I look my worst, but feel my best.” That’s what a person’s health and fitness journey should be about. It should be about being the best version of yourself and feeling good in your own skin. It shouldn’t be about punishing yourself with exercise because you feel that you need to look a certain way. Your workout should be one of the best parts of your day, not one of the worst. Most importantly, it should be about your overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Finally, beyond health and fitness, I think that Crossfit is all about empowerment. There is a certain satisfaction in feeling strong and capable. Something as small as being able to carry all of your groceries in one trip, or not having to ask a man to move or carry something for you is liberating, even in its simplicity. I know that Crossfit has helped to build my confidence in how I feel about my body, but also how I feel about myself in general. I feel mentally stronger and more capable to deal with whatever life throws at me, especially during the unprecedented ups and downs of the past year, and I know that many of our athletes, both male and female, feel the same way. In further discussion with various female athletes at our gym, I was amazed at how strongly they felt about the positive impact that Crossfit has had on their lives. Most specifically, on their self-confidence and how they view themselves. As a coach, it’s truly wonderful to know that the sport that has helped me in so many ways, and that I love so much, is also benefiting so many others. With any luck Crossfit, along with other women’s athletics, will continue to grow and to empower women and young girls to be the best and strongest versions of themselves.
“I’m the fittest I’ve been since I was a teenager. My boss has also pointed out that since starting crossfit, my managerial skills have skyrocketed. I’m much more assertive than I ever used to be, and would no longer consider myself an ostrich in difficult situations.” – Rachel R
“I have become a Crossfit enthusiast, a better mother, a more efficient co-worker, a better friend. I have lost inches, went down in my anxiety dosage, and have gained so much confidence.” – April S
“I have suffered from body image issues since I was 12 years old… I truly believed that my happiness was directly correlated with how small I was… I hated my strong thighs and my ability to gain muscle quickly. That was until 2 years ago when I joined Crossfit Belleville and started to realise that all of those things I viewed as negative were actually why I was built for this sport. All of a sudden I was viewed as an athlete.” – Ashley W
If you’re interested in more information about what Crossfit is about and the kind of training that we do please reach out to email@example.com or check out our website at Crossfitbelleville.ca.