Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Inner Thoughts of an Athletic Woman

I swear if I hear it one more time...come from a woman's mouth...the remark to most often a weight-lifting, more specifically CrossFit question...of "I DON'T WANT TO GET BULKY."---I hope I'm near an oly bar loaded with 300 lbs. because I'm pretty darn sure I'll be able to PR on my deadlift out of frustration and anger!!!

I have heard that question or comment probably 10 times in the past month alone.  It really bothers me that women would rather uphold the 'skinny-fat' look that is as unhealthy as a chain-smoker that only drinks Diet Coke---than to be STRONG!  I'm guessing the whole supermodel skinny image that is splashed in our faces every second has something to do with it.  In addition, I think most men prefer the 'softer' look--not sure if it's out of insecurity or what so they are always the first to comment on a strong, fit woman's 'manly' appearance.  And of course there will always be haters of a fit woman's build, usually the haters are criticizing from behind their computer screens where they have been sitting for the past 10 years--that have no athletic background or appreciation for what it takes to be strong.  But I also believe it has something to do with our poorly educated understanding of what fitness is and how we should get fit.  Most gyms and popular magazines, and textbooks (as much as I hate to say it) have it all wrong.  The focus of getting fit is solely on our looks.  Most of us gauge our fitness levels on this as well.  If we are skinny, we are fit.  At least that is the assumption we all make. 

This is where we are wrong.

I think this is why I love CrossFit so much as well.  It is the sport of fitness.  And one of its key components is that everything is measurable.  So our fitness can be measured by time, reps, sets, and progress over time---as opposed to the .2 lbs we lost on a scale.  It removes the focus from 'what I look like' 'what I do.'

Let me tell you, there is nothing more powerful than lifting a heavy weight off of the ground and pushing it over your head.  Especially when it's a heavier weight than you've ever lifted before.  IT IS EMPOWERING. There is something amazingly exciting about doing your first pull-up, especially as a woman who has NEVER been able too in her entire life.  There is something humbling about squatting 5 reps of a weight that you could not even squat once when you tried a few months back.  No, there is not.

It is okay to be a strong woman.  It is okay to have defined arms.  Sculpted rear.  A V-shape, tight back that makes your waist look small.  Curvy, formed calves.  And the infamous 6-pack defined abs.  (take it from a man's perspective if you don't believe me)

Strong women are beautiful.  Something about CrossFit and lifting heavy things does that for most girls and women.  And I think its because it changes them from the inside--out.  And it all surrounds confidence.  Any woman with confidence will shine in a room full of people.  And confidence is attractive. 

And while you are getting stronger, faster, and will most likely reshape your body entirely--to the way you were first trying to get too.  You see, getting strong, will get you leaner and tighter.  But it becomes an added benefit that you may not even notice happening while you are working your tail off to get a personal record on your 1 rep max squat.  Or improve your 400 meter run/walk time.

But it happens. 

You will NEVER get a tight rear end by wearing SHAPE shoes or by running and walking everyday.  NOPE.  You will, however, get a swimsuit ready bikini by deadlifting, squatting, lunging, and box jumping.  But outside of a nice rear will be getting stronger, healthier.  You will be putting a larger hedge between you and illness, as you push yourself further toward 'fit' level on the arc of wellness. 

You will NEVER get 6-pack abs by doing 100 sit ups.  But you will get them by walking or squatting with heavy things overhead.  Or by catching weight in a front-rack position.  Or by doing push-ups, pull-ups, or any other body weight gymnastic movement.  As well as eating good food.

So be okay with being strong.  Be okay with 'bulking up' as some non-athletic, people would like to call it.  Those who choose to overlook being fit and healthy with looking skinny. 

My own personal example...probably 4 years ago, I weighed nearly 130 lbs.  ran A LOT.  Swam A LOT.  Rode my bike A LOT.  Pretty much cardio'ed myself to death.  I ran marathons, half-marathons, competed in triathlons and lifted light weights 2 days a week--mainly because I was supposed too--but didn't want to put on any weight.  Heaven-forbid!  But what I also didn't have was a regular cycle.  I had acne bad.  I could not get pregnant again.  I was constantly tired.  Stressed out.  Short-fused.  And weak...

This was me at a triathlon in Lawrence, probably summer of 2008 or 2009...not sure

After countless doctors telling me I needed to workout less and eat more, I finally had to give in.  Mainly because we wanted more children, and this seemed to be the only way it was going to happen.  I had to find a way to escape this hole I was falling further into, but I also had to find a way to meet my needs for competition, stress relief, and exercise!  Thus entered CrossFit into my life.

But honestly, it took nearly 2 1/2 more years before I bought into the whole 'strong' woman identity.  I finally sold out to CrossFit in late 2011.  And I rarely weigh myself now and really don't care, but I can tell you all of my 1 RM's I can lift in squat, press, bench, deadlift, power clean, many pull-ups I can do.  I can tell you my time in Fran.  Annie.  Grace.  Helen...and on and on. 

This I know..
I am strong. 
Probably 'bulky' by most people's standards.  But I truly DO.NOT.CARE.
I will say this, I weigh nearly 15 lbs. more than I did in that last picture.  Which is what I weighed at 9 months pregnant with Leah...but I still wear the same clothes.  Although they fit more snug in different places, they fit. 

You can be strong and be beautiful too.  You don't have to give into the image of being skinny fat to be beautiful.

I'll tell you one thing...being 15 pounds heavier hasn't ever felt SO good!


  1. I know the point of this post is to encourage and empower women and I truly, truly believe you have a pure heart and pure intentions with writing this post but I have to say that as a woman I find it so, so discouraging. I have a five month old daughter and have made such a strong effort the past few weeks to get off the couch and do something, anything in the form of exercise. Mostly that has been walking with her in the stroller or doing an ab workout DVD and this post makes me feel like that isn't good enough and I'm not good enough. You're right about so many things you mentioned (especially regarding the body image issues thrown at us by society) but please be careful with your words. It took a lot of dedication and commitment for me to start to doing any kind of exercise because it's not something I'm naturally inclined to do and reading something like this could easily send me or someone else running back to the couch with a snickers bar because I'm not good enough because I don't do cross fit and apparently will never have a nice butt, good abs, or be in shape by your standards.

    Please know that I am not meaning for my words to be harsh and I would have e-mailed you or said this to you in person, in private if I knew you or saw you on a regular basis. But truth be told I don't even remember how I stumbled across your blog so I don't know you and you don't know me. Please, feel free to delete or not post this comment because I don't want to create any type of drama or hurt your feelings in any way.

  2. Erin, thanks for your reply. I appreciate your opinion very much, as I can get caught up in this exercise 'stuff' (as my husband calls it) and lose track of how it may sound to those not familiar with my crazy interests! I admire your willingness to get up off the couch and do something,especially having a 5-month old! Good for you! As all of us mom's know, it is hard, tiring, and on top of hormonal issues, very difficult to make time for 'us.' I do not take anything you said harshly, and realize when I write these public posts that some may disagree. What I do have to say is that you can do Crossfit, and you can be strong, right there at home. I use my kids as 'weights' all the time, carrying them around. You can also check out and follow their site for easy workouts to do while you are pregnant or post-partum. I will say right now you ARE good enough, and you can be that person you don't think you can be. I have been in your place, with a body I did not appreciate, and still have issues with appreciating...what you are doing with walking and exercise videos is GREAT! I am not demeaning anything you are doing...I just don't want you to waste your time on ineffective workouts and then go back to the couch because you aren't seeing results you want. Anyway, stick with what you are doing! When you are ready to try more, then I encourage you to lift some weights. I fill duffel bags full of heavy stuff (shoes, canned goods, pillows, etc.) and run them from one side of the house to the other. Do push-ups with your child on your back...those are the kinds of things I mean when I say lift heavy things, CrossFit is functional and thats what you should be trying to incorporate into your days. Squat with your child in a Moby wrap 20 times. And on and on...DON'T be discouraged! You can be strong!

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