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.