What is beauty and who defines it? When it comes to body image or the most "desirable" female body type is anybody right and is anybody wrong? CrossFit and other strength and conditioning programs are challenging our culture's idea and perceptions of what a women should and shouldn't look like. By embracing, celebrating, and rewarding an opposing new idea of beauty, a conversation has developed that affects all of us as mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, coaches, athletes, and members of society.
Blogger Average2Athlete offers her insight to this issue using her own experiences as a modern female athlete.
Apologies in advance for this blog post becoming a rant, but it’s long overdue and I have a few thoughts that I need to get out.
Let’s begin with a few statements that have been brought to my attention lately:
You don’t need to get any more muscular.
I don’t want to train with her because her legs are too big and I don’t want to look like her.
I’m scared of getting bulky.
I’ve gained too much muscle. I should go back to only doing “cardio.”
The list goes on.
Here are my responses…
1. Not everyone works out purely for aesthetics.
It is often assumed that everyone is working out for “toned” arms and a six pack. But the truth is, everyone has different goals. Some people want to be faster. Some want to get stronger. Some want to improve in a sport. Some want to prevent illness. Some want to socialize. Some want to sweat. Some want to fit into their jeans from 10 years ago. Whatever the case may be, everyone has different goals and motivations for working out.
My goal right now is to become a better Crossfit athlete. This involves getting stronger, faster and working on my olympic lifts and gymnastics skills. Is it going to give me the body I want? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve seen a lot of changes in my body over the past year but that has not been my main focus, simply a result of the way that I train. If I wanted smaller traps and leaner legs, I might train differently. I might eat differently too. But my workouts and my diet align with my goals and for anyone to tell me to stop getting more muscular just makes me want to get stronger.
2. I would never walk up to you and tell you not to get any fatter.
I might think it in my head, but it wouldn’t be an appropriate thing to say out loud. So why is it ok to tell someone not to get any more muscular? It comes off as insulting and is just as offensive. Think before you speak!
3. Everyone’s body is different.
To say you wouldn’t workout with a trainer because you don’t like their body is just ignorant. Trainers are professionals. Their job is to listen to your goals and help you achieve them, whether that goal is to lose weight, gain weight or get stronger. What they won’t do is sculpt you body to look exactly like theirs. That’s not even possible so remove that thought from your mind.
I used to look at other girls’ bodies and think, I want to look just like her. I still find myself doing it on occasion and have to remind myself that my body is my body and nobody else’s. We are all built differently. We carry fat in different places. We gain muscle differently. We have different bone structures. Once you come to terms with that and focus on things that are within your control, you’ll be a much happier person.
4. It takes years to put on a significant amount of muscle.
Someone asked me after class the other day how long it would take before she looked like me. I’m not always sure how to respond to statements like that. One thing that people don’t realize is that I’ve been weight training for years. I may not have been doing as much heavy lifting as I am now, but since the age of 16 I have been incorporating weight training into my workout routine at least twice a week and I know that has been a solid foundation for where I am now, both aesthetically and as an athlete. Granted, none of my muscle really showed until I cleaned up my diet a bit and stopped drinking like a fish, but that’s its own topic…my point is, you’re not going to “bulk up” or “get shredded” overnight. It takes a little longer than you might think.
And to add to that, just because you put on muscle doesn’t mean you’re going to get larger. Your body composition will change as well, which means that you’ll gain lean muscle mass while you shed some of the fluff on top of it. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the past year (not all muscle but I like my ice-cream) and I still fit into all of my clothing. I just show a little more cheek in my booty shorts ;) Oh and I can see abs for the first time in my life. I never thought that gaining weight would give me abs! Funny how wrong we can be sometimes.
5. It’s all relative.
When people use the word “bulky,” it’s very unclear what they mean. Are they referring to bodybuilders? Competitive athletes? Do they consider me bulky? Everyone has a different opinion. Below are some of the strong women that I look up to and that I’m sure have been referred to as “bulky” more than once in their careers. And these are some of the smaller athletes out there!
I think a lot of it comes down to our surroundings. If you surround yourself with people that are obsessed with being thin, you’ll start to obsess over it too. I get it – I’ve been there too. I used to want to be skinny. I couldn’t have cared less how much I could clean or snatch. I just wanted to fit in my size 0 jeans. But then I found myself surrounded by people who valued performance over looks, who saw girls with curves and muscles as admirable and beautiful rather than bulky and manly, and my outlook began to change. And that has made me a much happier and healthier person.
So what is my point here? If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you should probably keep your mouth shut. Just kidding (kind of). I guess my point is that everyone has their own prerogatives and it’s not up to other people to tell them what they should or should not do. Do what makes you happy and let other people do the same.
This article was written and published by Average2Athlete.
Chris Spealler is not only a CrossFit legend, but he's arguably the best bodyweight specialist to ever compete at the CrossFit Games. Watching him fly through muscle ups or handstand walk his way past the competition was truly amazing and inspiring to watch.
With over a decade of CrossFit experience as both a coach and athlete, and with 6 Games appearances, Chris Spealler has racked up a wealth of knowledge on proper movement and technique.