by Whitney Dean
In May of 2015, Sixty Minutes interviewed Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, wherein he was asked to explain his theory that CrossFit will deliver us to our “genetic potential.” Glassman pointed to an athletically built woman behind him in the gym, push-jerking a loaded barbell overhead, and said, “Look at her. She was meant to look like that. That’s what nature would have carved from her a million years ago or she’d have been eaten.”
As a CrossFitter, strangers will sometimes stop me in the street to ask what I do to look this way. I'm not an anomaly but my body type is not ordinary or common. Sometimes I feel like part of a new breed of something, descending from the trees and venturing onto the plains. When I walk into a CrossFit competition, I look among the spectators and athletes with their clearly developed traps and hamstrings and think, “My people!” Then I cry in the changing room of ten different department stores trying to find clothes to accommodate those traps and hamstrings. This body type is still a minority in the world of American corporate fashion. The weightlifting ladies are relegated to the world of yoga pants and racer back tanks.
“Strong is the new skinny,” says the fitness community’s merchandising. But marketing strategies aside, we are creating a new identity, one that I have not seen in my lifetime—one my parents have seen in their lifetime. When the media advises we squat for a perfect butt, we say squat because our butts are designed to lift heavy things. When the morning talk shows and late night infomercials promise a flat stomach with an isolated strength devise, we say--in one way or another--what will strong transversus muscles in my abdomen do for me if the obliques and intercostals are neglected? We’re educating ourselves in new ways. We’re getting smarter.
Recently, a blog post was brought to my attention about the shape of a woman’s butt being primarily determined by bone structure and musculature. That information could be discouraging for those who think in terms of aesthetic instead of function, but a distinct characteristic of the people in my CrossFit community is the value attached to what happens off the mat, the importance of being able to perform well in activities we wish to engage in outside of the box. Ultimately, burpee proficiency transfers quite nicely into mountain biking, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, surfing, and running proficiency. So, regardless of my bum qualifying as an “O” shape, a pear shape, or a box shape, I’m adept at engaging in the activities that improve the quality of my life. So, society can take its expectations of how I’m supposed to look and shove it up its ____-shaped bottom.
It is not uncommon to learn of CrossFitters having experienced eating disorders, poor self-worth, body dysmorphia, exercise addiction, and/or drug addiction in the past. As a coach, I often hear the "I once was lost" stories. The common denominator in all these stories, though, is how individuals have redefined what health and beauty and competence means to them. Empowerment comes in the form of humility, perseverance, and "gainz." We're earning our independence in the confines of a concrete box adorned with a pull-up rig.
And the world needs us to create this new identity. If we want a sustainable, effective healthcare system, we better work harder on preventative health measures. If we want to meet the challenges of a changing environment, if we want the next generation to meet those challenges with us, we need to reorganize our ambitions. If we want society to value our well-being over our consumer habits, well, we better just adopt new consumer habits.
Above all else, I want the responsibility and rewards of creating my own identity and my own values. I want to nurture what nature has carved from me. This is me creating.
10 minutes to 5RM Power clean
EMOM for 5 minutes: 5 Power cleans @ 85% of above
30 Air squats
15 Kettlebell swings 55/35#
Skill Review: Burgener warm up and push ups
New Skills: Back Squat
3 rounds for time