Dispelling some myths: Women in Crossfit

This post was originally published on Crossfit Salvation's website by Coach Kevin Hughes (check out his bio here).

There has been recent discussion about the athletic look of the CrossFit women. So today, I decided to give you Coach K's perspective on training and the woman in CrossFit. Please realize this is Raw and Unfiltered today. I am speaking from the heart. I give kudos to all forms of fitness, however it is the fallacies and the myths I am addressing today and talking about specifically why CrossFit Women are amazing. This goes for women of all ages, backgrounds and body types!

First, there are some common challenges with the way media portrays “fitness

As you saw on our main page, there are a plethora of so-called “Fitness” magazines out there that tout they have the definition of fitness, the pictures of fitness and the body that “every woman wants”. this frustrates me as a coach because of all the feedback I get when women come to me to train. the most common thing we hear as coaches is: I don't want to lift a lot of weight because I don't want to get big”. Well thanks to mainstream media we have all lost touch with what is real and what is “gym myth”. We have lost the eye for what is truly appealing to most. Our society has been blessed with air-brushing and photo shoots of skinny women who tout they are “In Shape”. And yet never have I seen a CrossFit woman airbrushed her photos of a workout to make her look better. I have yet to find a CrossFit Woman who doesn't take pride in just being who they are and letting the rest work itself out. I also have yet to find a woman in CrossFit who isn't willing to try the workout of the day and push even just a little bit past their comfort zone.

I sometimes wish the media would get their shit together and realize we are promoting anorexia, and self-esteem issues. I used to worry my daughter would succumb to all the bullshit out there until she wrote a book at 10 years old called “The Best Gym Ever” about a CrossFit affiliate in California called CrossFit FTF. I worry about the images we see and how non-motivating it can become for those who need fitness the most, not those who are halfway in shape, but for those who are grossly out of shape. We need to touch these people and NOT give them even deeper rooted psychological issues. We need to realize that the average person is beautiful and the gifted are those on magazine covers and even then, they are airbrushed to a degree. We need to realize genetic potential is a human trait that is different for every man, woman and child and we need to figure out how to reach that in each one of us.

OK. Enough with that…

Women are you SURE you are ready for this?

Let's see what “Shape” Magazine shows as a Lower Body, Butt Hips and Thighs workout: Shape Magazine Video

OK. Now let's look at a Women in CrossFit Video. You tell me who is more fit! And then you tell me if these CrossFit women are “BIG”.

Here are some words to think about coming from a coach who has trained countless women and heard some of the challenges and other discussions coming from his clients: (Please be aware there is only some filtering on this post. this is raw Coach K talk today)

CrossFit is scalable to every one! It is NOT tailored ONLY for those whom are “In Shape” already. It is designed to be scalable based on your fitness level. However, having said that, we WILL push you regardless of age or gender to YOUR physical and psychological limits. Why? Because we know INTENSITY is what produces results, not being in the gym for three hours on a treadmill or elliptical trainer.

Yes you are going to gain muscle. However you will NOT look like you are on steroids unless you take steroids.

Yes your hips, ass and thighs may grow depending on your build and your fitness background. If you have never lifted weights like we do in CrossFit or never squatted more than 15 reps at a time with 2 Pink Vinyl dumbbells, then you will grow. That's OK. Your body is becoming athletic. If you have that background, we are going to do our best to make sure we find your genetic potential EVEN if you don't know what that is. It may change your shape. It may put some lean body mass on. It MAY EVEN make your jeans fit differently. But that's OK!

KettlebellWe understand you don't WANT to buy a new wardrobe, but if we were worried about that, we would stick you on a piece of cardio equipment for an hour.

We know the intensity is different from you're used to. It's what is so great about CrossFit. Your workout will be done in a little bit versus a long bit.

Yes, we know you want to RX the weight, but if you're not ready, we won't let you. We are here to push you not hurt you. We believe in progression as much as any other coaches.

Yes you will probably gain some weight when you first start because we understand that muscle takes up less space than fat so for every pound of fat we shave off of you, we will replace it with three pounds of muscle. The great part of this is, you will LOSE FAT and GAIN MUSCLE. We will replace it with FUNCTIONAL strength that you can actually use in life!

We understand that part of the weight gain is due to inflammation in the muscle and retention of water. We understand this is normal and we URGE YOU… THROW OUT THE SCALE because in the end.. it doesn't f-ing matter.

What to Expect of Yourself and the journey ahead

Yes we will expect you to move heavy weight quickly. It is part of being able to carry groceries, pick up your kids, play with your kids, do your job and perform the essential functions of life.

I_workout_because_I_Love_my_bodyNo we will NOT listen to your whining. In fact, the more you whine, the more weight, box jumps, burpees, pull-ups, air squats, shoulder presses, we will make you do.

We want you to curse our names. It means we are doing our job.

We don't care if it hurts as long as you aren't getting injured. We WANT you to be able to function better and sometimes it requires pushing beyond what you think you can do. We will always ensure that what you are doing is within an allowable and safe range of motion for you. We will always ensure your form is correct. and we will correct you if it's not.

No we don't want you to wear gloves. When in real life are you going to stop to put on your gloves before you lift a box, pick up your kids, or move things around? Why would we want you to do that at our gym?

Yes you are going to get dirty, be sweaty, mess up your hair. Hell you may even break a nail. If you don't, we aren't trying hard enough. It just means you need to work out harder! We will push you to sweat, maybe even blood and tears.

Yes you will have to look at how you are eating. Why? because why on earth would you want to put CRAP in your system when you are training for PERFORMANCE? That's like giving your High Performance vehicle Low octane fuel!

Yes you are going to get leaner, faster, stronger, but it is a process. Remember it takes TIME to get results. Try it for AT LEAST 90 days before you make up your mind as to whether it is for you or not. How can you say it's NOT for you if you only try it ONCE?

NO We will NOT let you do HOURS of cardio on the cardio machines. We don't need you to. Plus, that will end up making you frail in the long run and let's face it, “strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general”

Here's the deal.

We expect you to have some questions, concerns, and issues with your new body.

It's not what you're used to. We don't use steroids, don't promote the use of long slow distance as a substitute for hard work. we want your results probably more than you do., We just can't put the work in. YOU have to do it. we are here to motivate, educate and give you the tools. The rest is up to you. But knowing your body will change, and knowing things will start to fit differently, understand this is a natural part of the process. Understand that sometimes being athletic means your clothes may change “Shape” on your body. What we see is an amazing and beautiful woman. What we see is power, speed, strength all wrapped up into an awesome package. We may notice you are looking more lean, or more powerful or heck, even stronger, but that is our way of noticing you are getting the results you have been after.

We love you for who you are, and who you are becoming.

We cherish that you have taken an interest in improving your life, improving your being and making life easier to live. We are excited about the fact that you have chosen this lifestyle. And while you may have issues with your new body, realize those of us out there that look at you and say DAMN that girl is a CrossFitter, we love that and look forward to your continued success.

Go out today, and blaze through a WOD just because you can… and you're awesome!

meet-kevin-clean-composedAuthor Bio: Kevin Hughes

This post was originally published on Crossfit Salvation's website by Coach Kevin Hughes (check out his bio here).

Kevin is an experienced certified CrossFit and Strengthening and Conditioning Coach. He has been certified through several agencies including CSCS, IFPA, NASM, APEX and USTI. Prior to coming to Fresno to become a firefighter Kevin was the head strength and conditioning coach of Sacramento Fire Department for 7 years as well as a Fitness Manager for 24 Hour Fitness for the 7 years prior to that, teaching techniques and results oriented methods to not only hundreds of clients but also hundreds of trainers. His experiences in fitness led him to discover CrossFit in 2001, and begin coaching CrossFitters in 2002. He has been working with athletes, non-athletes, moms, grandmothers, triathletes, runners, swimmers, brand new fitness enthusiasts, weekend warriors for the last 20 years. The methodology of CrossFit has given him the tools to help people get even more results.Kevin’s passion for understanding and sharing exercise led him to get his degree in Exercise Physiology from UC Davis. His background in exercise physiology gives him the technical background to help people from all walks of life in their quest for ultimate fitness. He continues to strive to learn every day and preaches healthy lifestyles.

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47 comments

  1. As a trainer, coach and athlete I hear clients say they want to look like me, but when I walk them the rack they tense. I tell and show them a few squat reps at 185 Just so they know they really won’t end looking like Arnold… I also tell them I’ve never don’t “magazine” workouts because they don’t deliver the results I want. I wish a mag would sell women the truth. Your post is an excellent start.

  2. Love this article! I totally agree… women are SO brain washed into believing that the bodies they see on TV and in magazines are what they should be striving for. So many women don’t realize that you can only do the best with what God gave you… which doesn’t mean fitting into the perfect cookie cutter 36-24-36 mold! If got gave you a 32-30-36… SO WHAT! Rock it by eating healthy, being physical and doing your best to treat your body well! I wish it were easier to send that message out!

  3. This is 100% truth! Thanks so much for posting this article. It was exactly what I needed today as I sit here contemplating all of the excuses why I shouldn’t work out today. I need to realize that my results won’t happen overnight…but they WILL happen!

  4. I enjoyed reading this article. Before I started doing Crossfit I knew I wanted to do something that would challenge me, not something that will make me feel ok after I was done, but still to see a difference in my body. I can see a difference when I see myself in the mirror and I can see how strong I’ve gotten (my husband will agree) I see how much I enjoy heading out to the box and look forward to the WOD. Before I would feel lazy on going to the gym and sometimes I would put it off till the next day, not now and not ever. I have three kids and everyone says how good I look for having small kids, there are no other words that make me feel so good of myself, specially when someone else recognizes it. I will continue to do Crossfit because I love what I am now and the difference is making in my overall life. I’m a CrossFitter 😉 shout out to CFEP East 🙂

  5. Thank you so much for writing this!! I’m going to start Crossfit next month, and I was honestly nervous, but after reading this I am pumped!! Again, thank you!

  6. Dai, thank you for posting this! It is exactly what I need as I am starting my elements training next week. It is amazing to see these woman who are all different shapes and sizes push themselves. I am inspired by them and in awe of all of them! I am so excited to start learning and becoming the healthiest me I can be! Looking forward to this journey!!!!

    • Amanda, super excited to be involved with your journey down the path to improved strength, health, and overall wellness. See you at the next Sunday Throwdown!

  7. sooooo true. hear this all the time!

    “the most common thing we hear as coaches is: I don’t want to lift a lot of weight because I don’t want to get big.”

    please…

    thanks for this. will be sharing it with our women at BurnedIt Facebook page.

    Thanks!

    Great video find, too.

  8. I love this post. I am starting a blog that will focus on the women who want to be fit and strong, and not ‘skinny fat.’ Look up musclesareforgirls.com
    I really need some ladies to give me some feedback and to share their amazing stories!!

  9. I think your post is spot on. Thanks for the great blog. I am a fellow ‘writer in training’ and am starting up a blog for crossfitting women. Spread the word and i’ll be sure to do the same!!
    musclesareforgirls.com

  10. I love this post! I’ve heard so many girls say they do not want to lift weights at all because they don’t want to get bulky. I myself was that way once until I started seeing my muscle tone improve. Seeing my muscles get more toned and cut made me realize how sexy and wonderful it was to have muscles. I watched the Shape video and kept fast forwarding it, wondering if he was ever going to actually workout!

  11. I have started weight watchers and have lost about 20 lbs, I had a personal trainer who i felt didn’t push me hard enough. I want to loose more weight and get physically fit. I have 41 years old, weigh about 230 lbs and i am sick of it. I am looking at joining a Crossfit gym in my area but all these people are already fit. No one looks overweight. I am afraid i won’t fit in. My chest is big and i have trouble jumping. I am willing to give 150% but will that be enough. I know these are crazy questions but i am being honest, scared and frustrated all at the same time. These girls look great, their strength is incredible. I want to be like that but is there any hope for me ???? I loved reading this blog, i actually read it about 3 times, it is inspiring !

    • Do it Michelle! You have the motivation!

    • Michelle, I know you can get fantastic results from CrossFit. The best part about it is that it is completely scaleable meaning that various exercises can be modified so that you don’t lose any of the intensity as you are learning/improving. Try an on-ramp/foundations course at your local crossfit gym. I’m confident that you will not be disappointed. As stated by an earlier comment, you have the want and drive right now, so don’t let any doubts get in the way of progress. You can do this!!!

  12. This was so inspirational!

    I’m trying out a Box in 2 days and I’m trying to learn as much about CrossFit as I can. As someone who hasn’t really been pushed to work out hard since my competitive volleyball career 7 years ago, I’m a bit nervous to start CF. I’ve never been a slender person and never will be, thank you genetics and 7 years of squatting for volleyball… but I’m finally perfectly ok with that. I’m realizing that I would rather be strong than thin any day!! I was mortified at how tired I got just carrying the 25lb box of kitty litter in from my car. I know CrossFit will make me strong the way hours on a hamster wheel never will!

  13. AMEN! Thank you for expressing my personal views so succinctly. I am living proof that “strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general” 🙂

  14. This is a great article. I have been putting my trainer through as much as he as given me over the years on how much weight i was lifting, not wanting to bulk, but not trusting that this person knew more than my Shape magazine. I have done my share of additional Burpees, pushups, and reps as I whined and smart talked my way on some training days, so I smiled as I read your thoughts on whining. I can also say that I have felt extremely proud to figure out successfully the double jump, my first tabata work out and that my athletic 16 year old was concerned that he probably would not beat me his mom in a rowing workout. I am 46, I am stronger today than ever because of trainers like you with drive, motivation and determination to help me see what you already know. It’s worth it!

    • Chris, that’s so incredible to hear! Nice work! Do you blog and share your successes with other people? Would love to have you write a guest post about how functional fitness training has impacted your life. Interested in writing about your story?

  15. I needed this today. I’ve been doing crossfit for about 9 months now. I’ve gained 10 lbs in the process. Before this I was a runner and did very minimal weightlifting. My clothes are still fitting, but I continue to struggle with the numbers on the scale. Instead I’m trying to focus on the numbers of what I can lift. All of my lifts are up significantly. And I went from not being able to do a single strict pull-up to three. But, today I stepped on the scale again and the disappointment and frustration were back again. Okay, enough whining. I’m gonna go squat something.

  16. Awesome!! and that’s what we do every day!!

  17. THIS IS AMAZING! I just started CrossFit today and it couldn’t be more accurate. Women of CrossFit want are striving for fitness EXCELLENCE and are not afraid to push HARD. I know that I am not looking just for the “bikini results” — it’s what I can DO and BE that is what motivates me! Thanks for a great read.

    • Kacie, thank you for the great comment and of course, welcome to the world of CrossFit. Exciting times ahead for you now… the benefits are endless. Again, thanks for the comment, please visit regularly and share your thoughts or opinions. Would love to hear how your CrossFit experiences are going. Talk to you soon and have a great holiday season!

  18. I LOVE this article, so motivating and SO true! I started crossfit two months ago and I have definitely gained weight since I have started and yes my body is different. I was in that category of being discouraged and thinking why am I doing this if I am gaining weight, shouldn’t I be losing weight? I absolutely LOVE crossfit though, I have never thought about quiting. I remember my first day, I thought to myself who the heck does this everyday, who would want to go through this abuse? Guess what, I came back the next day and after that I was hooked. It is so awesome because it is something different everyday and it kicks my butt! That is something that I need in order to stay interested and motivated when it comes to exercising . I have hurt in places that I didn’t think could hurt and I love it!

    • Awesome! Simply awesome! Thank you for taking the time to let me know about your results with Crossfit. You have the mindset already, and now with the training in check, the sky’s the limit as they say. Any big audacious goals for 2013?

      • My goals for 2013 is to definitely stick with crossfit and not allow myself to quit. I am going to eat better and it should be much easier now that the holidays are almost over. I am anxious to see the transformation in my body over a longer period of time as well as see how strong I can become doing all of the different WOD’s. What I hope to be able to do by the end of this year and possibly sooner is toes to bar, handstand pushups and pull ups without the bands. It should be a great 2013, I am ready to push my 40 year old body to its max!

  19. I like the idea of getting maximum results in a small amount of time. As a runner though, I am concerned about injury. When you are performing the moves shown as quickly as possible without paying maximum attention to form, what are the chances of injury? I really want to gain strength over the next 90 days before I start marathon training in April, but obviously don’t want to risk the injury if I am not capable of performing the reps with good form. Comments?

    • Hi Stacey, I can honestly tell you the best information/coaching I’ve personally received from my coaches has been to “listen to your body”. Ultimately you know when a movement is being done right or not. If proper form isn’t paramount from the onset, and paid attention to and reinforced with repetitive drills, then risk of injury definitely increases. You have to learn the movement patterns so well that they become instinctual. Once you are confident with the movements and you know your technique is solid, then speed of technique along with power etc can start to be increased. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself. That’s never fun and can set you way back with all your fitness goals. I’ve been there and done that, and it seems that there’s always something that I’m working towards improving. I guess when you start to get competitive injuries are inevitable and it becomes about just trying to mitigate the severity when they occur.

      There’s a great post on 25 insights into injuries you might want to check out. Private message me for the password.

  20. This article was absolutely great. I just started Crossfit last week and love everything about it. When I entered the box and introduced myself to my coach the first thing I said after was my name is “I am terrfied.” After speaking with him, doing the class, soaking up the wealth of information, being instructed on the importance of form, being encouraged and pushed by him, and my fellow Crossfitters I can honestly say that I am no longer afraid. I was a bit concerned because I feel like I look fluffy but I now realize that it is likely because my muscles are inflamed and are retaining fluid due to them repairing themselves.

    The videos you posted were so motivating and inspiring. Crossfit women and men are so fit and strong and it is because of their drive, their dedication and how strongly they believe in the program.

    When leaving class the sense of accomplishment I feel is wonderful. Sure my Rx was scaled down but I know in time I can and will be able to do them and make myself proud, my husband and my son proud.

    I cannot wait for Monday’s class. I am hooked! I feel like this program will improve me mind, body and soul. It is exactly what I need.

    I will likely read this article daily 🙂 Thanks again

    • Adrienne, sounds like you have the CrossFit bug. and that’s AWESOME! Looking forward to hearing more about your journey into CrossFit and the results you get. Remember, it’s all about the journey, and the destination is just a bonus.

  21. Really enjoyed your article. I’ve being going to CF for a month now and been feeling down about my clothes not fitting anymore and my weight going up. Was think about stopping and going back to my treadmill. Thanks for educating me. I’ve thrown away my scale and decided to go shopping after my WOD today. It brown out my cloves about a week ago cause I almost slip off the bars while doing a kippi pull up. Thanks for all the help tips. Posting this article on my FB for all the woman at my box to read.

    • That’s so awesome Rosemary! Thank you for taking time to leave a comment. I’m excited to hear about your new found love of CrossFit. Stick with it as the best is yet to come. Happy training!

  22. I have been doing CrossFit for about 2 months now and have noticed a change in my body. I am 5’6″ and before I started was around 122-124 lbs. I do not own a scale but ran into one the other day and I am up to 130. I just about had a breakdown! I usually do 3-4x a week and have been working my butt off and gained weight! I had been feeling heavier – my thighs now touch and from the side my torso is thicker. Granted I now have muscle definition and am way stronger. Before I was doing yoga / running and didn’t know how to lift weights. I feel better and love seeing my muscles but I am pretty bummed about the weight gain – not just the scale but actually looking bigger. Glad to know it is normal to gain weight. Just hope my size doesn’t go up!

  23. Awesome article. CrossFit is where I learned that no matter how tired, or out of breath I think I am I can still do stuff. It is an amazing tool to increase fitness.

  24. Watching the video I’m amazed at the pull ups those women can do and I say this because I find this is the hardest exercise for me. I can only do 2 and I don’t seem to improve. Any suggestions?

  25. I love this article! Why? Because over the span of 6 months I changed my lifestyle and my body! I started with just lifting HEAVY. I started packing on pounds! The scale and my mind was telling me to stop, I am trying to get fit, not fat!! And then I measured myself with a tape.. WHAT!! I lost 3 inches around my waist, 2 inches around my chest, and 3 inches around my hips! I lost nearly 10% body fat, why didn’t the scale reflect that!? As I realized the mechanics of my body and what it was capable of, my definition of FITNESS changed. I didn’t want to be thin, I wanted to get bigger, stronger, but there was a vital part missing, cardio endurance. I still wanted to cut a little bit more body fat, however just lifting wasn’t cutting it, so I started doing Crossfit. YES it feels like DYING every time I do it, yes I want to quite EVERY time I do it.. But you can’t argue with results. My body is a machine, and everytime I look in the mirror, I am proud of what I have accomplished! Yes, my ass got bigger, yes, my legs fit wont fit in the same jeans my waist fits in, but none of that matter, why? Because I can play endlessly with my daughter, I can be a strong female role model for her and the Soldiers I lead everyday! (plus, I love being able to out run and out lift the boys I work with) Ladies strong is sexy! Invest in your health and a long life!

  26. Awesome love your article. I am 48 and have just started cross fit 6 weeks ago. I am the oldest, but I am not treated any differently than the younger participants in their 20’s. I may not be the fastest or strongest but I give 110%. This activity is the hardest I have ever worked and even though can be challenging, I love doing it. My trainer has been very good with correction and pushing me out of my comfort zone to help me be the best I can be.

    • That’s amazing! Have you found your favorite workout yet?

      • Thanks for asking! Some might say the weight lifting portion, but for me it’s the crazy cardio with weights. Those workouts push me to the edge, where I am gasping for every breath. When I finally finish (which is usually last) and leave the said “box”, I am in disbelief that I actually survived. I leave with a great sense of accomplishment! Excited for the next class.

  27. I NEEDED this article….I am a cardio lover….size 0…always “the little one”, I know that I am brainwashed into thinking that is right. I wanted a challenge and I am three weeks into Crossfit and I am already frustrated….The scale keeps going up and I am doing everything right and I am not “supposed” to weight this much….My clothes are fitting differently, I am ready to give it up and go back to strict cardio and then I read this article. I did not know that muscles retaining water might be causing the weight increase…there is hope and I see it here…I might just keep going….

    • Kasie, keep going! You are doing great. You’ll find that the weights are going to improve your overall fitness level tremendously. (it’s not a matter of having to give up the cardio too, mind you – just make sure to keep both up….) keep me posted on your progress and thanks for sharing.

  28. Dispelling Some Myths: Great article, great video clips. The strange thing is, though, that the CrossFit women’s video looked like it was a little compressed, which elongated and thinned out the atheletes… I’m not sure if that was purposeful; could be just the way the video posted, or the type of monitor I have, but I have seen some of those clips before from the original CrossFit gym, and the girls all had fuller, nicer quads and butts than this vid seemed to show (?) I am a CrossFitter, and I cannot wait for my quads and butt to fill out with muscle!

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