Lifestyle, Nutrition and Health blog

Dear CrossFit

Dear CrossFit

With the 2017 CrossFit Games just over a week away, as a fan, I’m super pumped to watch some of the worlds most amazing athletes throw down.

What I’m a little less excited for however, is the seemingly inevitable narrative that seems to makes its way into the conversation and hone in on women’s bodies…more so now than ever.

I get it, CrossFit does not exist in isolation from the cultural forces that shape how the media portrays women or women’s desires to look a certain way and to embody a certain kind of athletic aesthetic.

Here is the thing though, I thought this sport was supposed to be about making people feel strong and empowered about their bodies while emphasizing performance over physical appearance. But the message being sent is kind of a shitty one if you ask me.

What I hear, from the media, are constant remarks about women’s bodies. The comments aren’t explicitly negative, but I don’t feel like they are particularly positive either.

If I have to hear the commentators say “Alessandra Pichelli is one of the ‘bigger’ athletes on the floor, it’s amazing how well she moves through those gymnastics movements” one more god damn time, I might actually lose my shit. Like…I would pay all the money to be as “big” as her, the girl is jacked AF.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 6.13.16 PM
Alessandra Pichelli on the left…man, what a huge girl, said no one in real life ever.

 

No woman wants to be referred to as a “bigger athlete”, even if they are in fact one of the bigger women on the floor. Like, why the fuck does it matter and why are we even talking about their appearance in the first place.

How about all the comments about how “lean” Katrin Daivdsdottir has become, and how much better she is now that she has dialled in her nutrition and is completely shredded. Ya know, I’m really looking forward to all the comments about how much leaner Brooke Wells and Kara Webb look this year and how they are completely different athletes because of it. False. I’m not looking forward to this at all in fact, ha. They looked great before, they look great now, their shit’s on point, end of conversation.

When someone places the most flattering photo beside the least flattering photo to make a point. Brook Wells is strong as fuck, powerful, and is an amazing athlete...how bout we leave it at that.
When someone places the most flattering photo beside the least flattering photo to make a point. Brooke Wells is strong as fuck, powerful, and is an amazing athlete…how bout we leave it at that.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I think focussing on nutrition and a dedications to one’s diet is admirable and requires a lot of hard work which should be commended. I admire all these women and the many different shapes and sizes they come in, which is a reflection of the many years of hard work they have put in. But since when is it appropriate to focus so much on one’s physical appearance, or how much someone weighs. Hint: It’s not.

I get it, this is a semi-professional sport and these athletes are in the spotlight, but how about we keep the focus on what they can do rather than what they look like. Young girls are watching this, and constantly pointing to physical appearance is just a really shitty message to be sending. Like fuck, I’m a grown ass women and it even makes me feel shitty about myself when I hear the commentary. I find myself thinking, shoot, I’m a bigger “athlete” too, maybe I need to get leaner?

Ben Bergeron recently said in his podcast that women (both elite and general population) should be 15% body fat or less and ultimately they are looking for a level of leanness. How much they eat should be based on the size of the shirt that they wear?? Like…what in the actual fuck? I think it would take nothing short of a life-threatening wasting disease for me to ever attain 15% body fat. AND, even if I did get to that point, my genetic disposition would land me with skinny limbs, but still no visible six pack. #geneticfail

For years, people have been commenting on Camille’s body and how she is “soft”. Like, the girl can jerk 280#, lets stop worrying about the fact that she doesn’t always have a visible six-pack. I think whatever she is doing is working pretty damn well for her.

Ok. That was a long winded rant and I’m sorry for my aggression.

I realize that it’s not irrational, in a world where women are disproportionately rewarded for what we look like, rather than what we can do, to care about what these women’s bodies look like. I wake up everyday and worry about what my own body looks like, stress about what I’m putting into it, and struggle to look in the mirror and love what I see. 90% of the time it’s a losing battle.

Let’s also note that CrossFit isn’t just a community, it’s a business, and sex sells. Given the incredible strong desires women have to look a certain way, it’s obvious that those desires explain some of the popularity of CrossFit.

BUT, next time you think of referring to a woman as a “BIGGER” athlete, how bout you just go ahead and pipe the fuck down.

Love #thebiggerathlete #changethenarrative


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20 thoughts on “Dear CrossFit”

  • My goodness woman you’re uptight, AND NEVER happy. Wtf men are referred to as bigger athletes ALL the time, and how this might constitute to problems within a high intensity fitness competition. I myself transition to crossfit from bodybuilding/ power lifting and went from 215 to 195, what a difference that made in my results. Studies show that the bigger one is the harder the heart has to work to produce oxygen. Not everything mention at female physicality is detrimental to females young and old, unless… We have people like YOU turning into such. As a coach and master trainer i tell ALL my clients that in order to take it to the next level they need to change their eating habits and in turn, their body composition, not one female as ever felt offended and in fact, thanked me for making them understand the scientific aspect of it. Genetics is a huge part of body composition yet their have been countless studies showing that we can change our genetics disposition through time, this if you haven’t heard, is called evolution. Get your head out your ass and stop this childish whining, their are real times when women are body shamed and subjugated and we as a society as a whole should be cognizant of it, this doesn’t constitute to one of those times.

    • Thanks for reading my article Leo, although, I feel like your response is a bit aggressive. I never once said in my article that being lean was a bad thing, I think it’s great and is beneficial to performance 100%. I also think that changing eating habits is a great thing…I never once said it wasn’t. My point is, that is doesn’t matter what someone looks like, at the end of the day, athletes should be commended on what they can do without a narrative of how they look.

      I also realize that it is possible to shift your genetics, but thanks for clarifying just in case I am illiterate and have no idea how the human body works and thanks for clarifying evolution.

      As a woman, confident or not, we are constantly compared to others and subjected to criticism. These athletes eat to perform and are not worried about what they look like for the most part. But, at the end of the day, I think the conversation needs to only be about performance and not looks. Also, you have no idea if your clients have been offended or not when you have told them to change their eating habits. I know many high level competitive athletes that compare themselves to others, starve themselves for competition and do crazy things to look a certain way because that’s the narrative.

      • Kelly I loved your article and agree . Perhaps Leo should take his own advice and remove his head out of his ass . I eat clean and have eliminated many “bad” foods and am still overweight. So his statement about telling his clients to change their eating habits in order to get to the next level and change body composition isn’t necessarily true. To call you a whiner just goes to show that a strong woman expressing a strong opinion is considered out of place or to be put in her “place”. Don’t ever back down or apologize to cry babies like him.

      • “Genetics is a huge part of body composition yet their have been countless studies showing that we can change our genetics disposition through time, this if you haven’t heard, is called evolution.”

        … Actually you 100% can’t change your genes, although you may change how they are expressed based on environmental inputs. This, if you haven’t heard, is called epigenetics, definitely not evolution.

        Fixed it 🙂

      • You can’t “change your genetics.”

        With that out of the way, when they said she was a bigger athlete, they were referring to her skeleton. She’s taller and wider. Nothing to do with bodyfat percentage. The larger you are, the harder the gymnastics are, simple as that. Much like its easier for me to squat because i have a relatively short torso and femurs, that has nothing to do with anything other than my anatomy. It’s not a conspiracy against your feelings, lady.

        • If size comments are based solely in regard to athletic performance, it’s common place in almost all sports. It gets skewed with the cultural bias women face as far as body types. But athletically speaking, an athletes size/weight/height is always discussed in relation to performance. Especially larger athletes. Take football, A comment about a 300+lb linemans quick feet or agility is a daily happening, and in fact is a compliment. Or if an athlete drops X amount of weight from the previous season, his speed/quickness will have higher expectations and creates heightened expectations. I can’t speak to any broadcasters intent when it comes to women athletes, but agility/size is a huge component of athletic analysis.

    • Just wanted to clarify — evolution occurs in species, not people, so me and you and Kelley and Alessandra don’t evolve. We also don’t “change” our genetic disposition, but we can alter whether a specific outcome (say, diabetes) occurs or not by modifying other factors that contribute to developing diabetes. But that genetic disposition, that’s always going to be there.

  • Kelley- I love this piece. One thing stood out to me most of all, and I need to say to you: don’t ever apologize for your aggression. Your aggression is what gets you to the finish line. It gets that lift overhead and completed. It gets you faster and stronger. Women tend to get their aggression sucked out of them, and we have to fight to keep it and use it- like you did with this post. Thank you for writing this!

  • I understand your issues with this topic. Problem is, when “Heavier/Larger” athletes lean up and minimize body fat, they typically do better and sometimes much better. Katrin leaned up and won the Games back to back. Pichelli leaned up last year and did much better at the Games last year – and she is looking to do same this year. And as you forecast, Wells might be threatening to get on the podium this year after leaning up. The results speak for themselves. I agree all these women were healthy, super-fit, and looked great when they were “heavier”. But, they also want to win. And that usually means optimizing their body composition for competition. It may not be a good message to send to the general public about women leaning up as much as possible. But it is reality for competing to win.

  • Sorry Kelly I don’t agree with you at all. I haven’t heard the Bergeron podcast so I’m not gonna comment on it, but your views on commentators saying the “bigger athletes” is ridiculous. They are paid to analyze the sport and size is a legitimate part of the analysis. Crossfit is a sport where size comes with it’s advantages and disadvantages, bigger athletes are generally going to do better on the max lift wod’s, smaller athletes on the body weight wod’s. Obviously there are exceptions to these rules but that is why it is worth commenting when someone is breaking the mold. Taller athletes have an advantage in wall balls, pointing that out isn’t short shaming. I have never heard any commentators remark on the sexiness or attractiveness of any of the girls (if they did that would be inappropriate), but they use the exact same comments about “bigger athletes” referring to the guys so I think attaching a stigma to being “bigger” is something you are doing yourself rather than the commentators.

    • The whole point of the article is that society has already put a stigma on women being “bigger”. It already carries a negative connotation. Guys being called bigger do not have this stigma. Women are constantly being told by society as a whole to be skinnier, smaller, leaner, etc to be attractive. When was the last time you saw this applied to men? It’s the opposite for men in general – build muscle, get jacked, pump up. Women already have to work against this everywhere else, let’s leave it off the competition commentary unless it’s actually relevant to performance.

        • Yeah and the whole point of my comment is that it IS relevant to performance. There is a reason why Brooke Wells finished 37th out of 40th on the trail run but won the deadlift ladder by 20 pounds. If you can’t acknowledge that size and muscle mass effects performance in Crossfit there is nothing I can really say to you.

          But you guys are also conflating “big” with “not lean”. You brought up Camille in your post, look at pictures of her from when she first was at the games 5 years ago compared to now. She is much bigger than she was before and when I say that it has nothing to do with her body fat (it’s probably lower now than it was then), she has put on an incredible amount of muscle mass. This was a conscious effort by her (through years of training, diet and supplements) to disregard societal pressures in order to perform better and add strength. I’m sure she is proud of this. Aren’t you ladies perpetuating those societal pressures by attaching this negativity to a woman being called bigger? Isn’t it actually a good thing that Crossfit is celebrating bigger stronger women?

          Just my opinion but it seems like if you want to stop equating big with bad you should be encouraging discussions from the commentators about how size and increased muscle mass is leading to better performance on the strength events (I think the top female 1 rep max snatch at the original games was 135 pounds) rather than arguing that any discussion of size automatically is a judgement on the aesthetics of the athlete rather than their capabilities.

          • While I agree that in the case of being an elite athlete, or even an aspiring or currently competitive one… being lean is going to increase performance. I do think though that the message in this blog is that you can still be a top dog if you aren’t 15% BF. I am currently 26% and unhappy with my performance. This time last year I was almost half that. I was not over training and under eating and life was less complicated.

            I do think that there doesn’t really need to be a narrative to compare sizes of women that emphasizes the ability to perform tasks as well as “smaller” athletes.

            It is a struggle for us women to meet the desires of ourselves and what we think others want us to look like. We can’t just be satisfied with killin a workout or lifting heavy shit. We want to look “good” too.

            I appreciate this blog post for what I feel is the tone and message. Sorry guys, we are a little more sensitive and self conscious than you when it comes to body image. ): Not to say you guys don’t have your own hangups. Hopefully you know what I mean.

      • But it is relevant to performance. It’s obviously relevant to performance. I feel like Kelly has a hangup…but how can she possibly speak for all women, when she says that “no woman” wants to be described as a “bigger athlete”. Perhaps there are women out there who are proud of their body and proud of being big. It seems like she’s the one who is stigmatizing size, not Crossfit.

  • As someone who gets pissed a lot over stuff like this i’m actually surprised I don’t really agree with you . These kinds of comments are made about men in Crossfit all of the time . There are male athletes that have dialed in their nutrition a bit and leaned out a little — that honestly needed to in order to be more competitive . Sam dancer for example. They also discuss some of the shorter man and some of the lankier taller man and how movements are more difficult or easier for them depending . The comment about Pachelli is warrented as gymnastics movements are a lot tougher for bigger athletes- men included. I’d be annoyed about comments like that if they didn’t include men- but they do. And really they are pretty performance related.

  • Probably no sport is less sexist in the way it treats women than CrossFit. From the beginning, men and women have done the same workouts with the only difference being that Rx’d weight for women is typically about two-thirds of that for men. The quality of coverage of men and women is identical. Fan interest is equal. On teams, the contribution of men and women is equal. Prize money is equal.

    Aside from a conscious decision to treat men and women equal, the fact that the sport is based on entirely on quantifiable tests of work capacity has all but guaranteed that the focus would be strictly on that which could be measured. Although I have not seen a rigorous analysis, I suspect that the relative gains that top women have made in work capacity has exceeded those of men. Sam Briggs Murph time currently beats nearly every man on the planet.

    Every Games athlete has trained to maximize his or her genetic potential. Because there are no weight categories in CrossFit, a natural question is whether any particular body type conveys a competitive advantage or disadvantage at the highest levels of the sport; and whether such a body type can be achieved by training (e.g., leanness) or not (e.g. height).

    It is obvious that being tall makes wall balls easier and that being light makes pull-ups easier. To date it is less than settled whether certain body types make it all but impossible to win the Games. (Can Josh Bridges succeed where Chris Spealer could not?) When announcers point out details about an athlete’s body, they are invariably focusing on whether these details convey an advantage or disadvantage during any given event. I am doubtful that in the hundreds of hours of archived coverage there is much to support an argument that commentators mention of any details of any athlete physique are intended to do anything other than objectively state the facts, as opposed to complimenting, criticizing, or shaming any athlete. The entire premise of the Games is that whoever wins is by definition the fittest, regardless of height, weight, hair style, or shoe size. And no serious fan thinks otherwise.

    What CrossFit the sport is not about is “making people feel strong and empowered about their bodies.” That may be a result, but it is not the intent. The intent is to maximize work capacity across broad time and modal domains. And the intent of the Games (and the coverage of the Games) is to figure out which man and which woman has done that better than all others.

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