Intimidated by CrossFit Women? That’s a Good Thing.


written jointly Kyle & an Anonymous Awesome Writer

CrossFit levels the athletic playing field more than most mainstream sports: every gym-goer, regardless of gender or past athletic experience, has access to the same experience, the same weights, the same workouts. It’s how each gym-goer responds to that access that determines his or her outcome. But do women shy away from the bigger weights and the higher intensity more so than men? And if so, does that affect their potential to make greater gains and reach their full athletic potential? For some women, this is a big issue that prevents their ability to make continuous gains in the gym.

So why would women shy away from heavier weights or from pushing themselves to max intensity in workouts? It’s no secret that women in the United States are constantly bombarded with unhealthy ideas about beauty, and a lot of the time, those ideas are in direct conflict with good health. When eating disorders are practically a prerequisite for the modeling and entertainment industry, it doesn’t bode well for the body confidence of the general female population. The messages are bombarded: stomachs should be flat, boobs should be perky, and God forbid touching inner thighs! And never, and I mean, never, should a woman be able to open her own jar of pickles or take her own moving boxes down a flight of stairs. That’s what the menfolk are for!

Some women fear big shoulders. Some fear that leg muscles developed from heavy squats will cause us to go UP a size (now I’ll never fit into those Forever 21 leggings!). Some fear being hungrier, which means eating more and gaining weight. In short, we fear more because, as women, we think we should be less. Less big and less strong. Yet again, these ideas are in direct contrast with what we know about health. We KNOW that weight training improves bone density, weight management (you burn more calories at rest!), and cardiac health. Those three things alone (that could prevent osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease) should get you so jazzed about weights that you immediately pick up something heavy just for the hell of it. Seriously, pick up something heavy NOW. We also KNOW that women do not turn into Hulkish beasts because of heavy weights. Just see hot lady o-lifter #1 and hot lady o-lifter #2 if you need proof. Remember how much work went into making Forney “fat?” Well, it’s kind of the same for women. You’d have to work really hard and take drugs to look like this.

Strong is the new skinny, and pop culture be damned, because we will no longer be constrained with an impossible ideal. We should approach our fitness experience like any other gym-goer and not be afraid of more. Stepping up the intensity will give you results and can help you out of a training rut (stuck at the same shoulder press for the past eight months? I’ve been there!).

Weightlifting is a very new experience for so many women in our gym that I totally understand your hesitation and fear of doing it. No one in any important position is encouraging young female athletes to lift weights, but turn on ESPN or watch any dad with his son on the football team, and you will have evidence of  a totally different cultural upbringing. Weightlifting, CrossFit and strength training are essential parts of your program. They are equally important as your metcon and your marathon time.

Women are built to be athletes, just the same as any human, and that’s the fundamental starting point for empowering yourself and realizing your vision of why you came to CrossFit in the first place. Not everyone has the willpower to suffer through pain and eschew popular conceptions about fitness and beauty. It’s a tough culture out there, but we want to be here to make you comfortable and to see you make constant improvement in and out of the gym. And remember, it’s okay to drop a weight or to miss a PR. Just ask Kyle, he does it all the time.

So, for the women in our gym and at other real training centers, dig deep inside and know that you are capable of more. Don’t fear going up in weight, don’t fear the pain, don’t fear the skills you don’t know. And for the love of all things healthy, don’t fear your potential.

31 thoughts on “Intimidated by CrossFit Women? That’s a Good Thing.

  1. love it, Kyle! And love Nike for joining the movement, too:

  2. Gretchen Kittelberger April 22, 2011 — 3:03 pm

    The point of this post is to empower women why in the world is the amazing, strong, and absolutely inspiring female who helped write this post listed ANONYMOUSLY on the top!! Is it because she doesn’t deadlift the most or have the fastest Fran time? Does that make her less qualified to tell other CrossFit women to push themselves and better their health? Absolutely NOT! She’s been through more than some people have to go through in a lifetime so let’s give her some credit!

    Awesome Post Amy!!! You inspire me day in and day out!!!

  3. +1 for the Amy love. I like a lot of what’s in this post, but I REALLY dislike the implications made by title. Aren’t we about no egos and being inclusive and welcoming? I don’t see how being intimidating or, perhaps even worse, thinking that being intimidating is a good thing, fits into that framework at all.

    1. Good point. The purpose of this post was to encourage people, women in particular, to NOT be intimidated by CrossFit, and I certainly don’t want anyone to look at that video and think they have to be to that level of athleticism to come to the gym.

      And maybe this is for another post, but Gretchen also brought up a good point in that no one should ever be embarrassed by his or her ability. Fitness isn’t for elite athletes only – it’s for anyone who wants to be healthy!

    2. Jason, I didn’t read the title as physical intimidation (I agree that CF should be about ‘no egos’ and instead be more about the ‘scaled for all athletic abilities!’). Rather, I read it that women who do CrossFit are, in general, more confident with themselves, their bodies, and their own capabilities. They are more willing to step outside comfort zones, try new things, discover new limits, push further, try harder, and not allow themselves to be confined by gender stereotypes. Their mental prowess is what is intimating, not their physical demeanor. (And it’s not just the women, but anyone who looks up CF, says ‘oh man no way that looks intense, rough, and seriously difficult’ but still shows up to try it out anyway! That takes guts right there!)

  4. I <3 crossfit and heavy weights.

  5. I really liked this piece, because unlike a lot of other woman-oriented CrossFit articles, it’s not merely tearing down one unachievable ideal only to replace it with another. I think becoming aware of and amazed by what your body can DO is so fulfilling, and really not something that women are ever encouraged to consider. Form is nearly always prized over function. It’s literally life-changing to view your body has having value beyond its appearance.

  6. This post is fabulous Amy!

    Fully committing yourself to a physical challenge, as opposed to thinking of moving your body as an instrumental means to change your appearance, is a transformative experience. It takes self-confidence, passion, and humility to try as hard as you possibly can… and then maybe fail. But it is amazing what you eventually get to.

    Becoming an athlete later in my life totally changed my relationship to my body. I hope Crossfit Cville does that for 10,000,000 ladies.

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  8. Love this article! I preach this ALL the time to us female atheletes!

  9. There is nothing sexier for me than seeing a woman lifting heavy!!!

  10. Women have proven that they can be at par with men in many ways and there are even occasions when women overpower men. It is no longer surprising to know that some men will be intimidated by the way women excel because of their dedication on the things they do.

  11. Umm…I dislike links to hot lady lifters!!! Mainly because they are hot AND easily snatching more than me 🙁

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