Monday, March 31, 2014

This Is What A Real CrossFitter Looks Like

So, I've been thinking a lot about body image and body acceptance for a while now. It is a tricky thing, figuring out how to get rid of conflicting and sometimes crazy notions of what I "should" look like and come to terms with both reality and how my brain works.

You'd think, after three and a half years of CrossFit, after five or so years of really eating well, after losing about seventy pounds, I'd look like those ab-muscled, sleek women in those fitspo images.

Instead, I look like this:

And I am beginning to finally be okay with it.

I have begun to accept that after years of obesity, producing three kids, and now heading toward menopause (hopefully not for a while yet, but I'm 43 so it's on the horizon), and also just not having a terribly genetic propensity toward leanness in the first place (definitely an endomorph type), abs just maybe aren't in the cards. Actually, I have lots of abs, but they (and many other muscles) are "camouflaged." :)

But still, I worry. I worry what people think when they hear I've been CrossFitting for so long, because I don't fit the image. I worry they think I am exaggerating or even flat-out lying when I say that I usually eat really cleanly and am extremely active. I worry nobody will ever want me to coach them because I carry too much body fat. (Too much by whose standards?)

I get irritated at the advice to "just" eat paleo or more carbs or fewer carbs or protein or avoid this or take that supplement. Eat dairy; avoid dairy. Red wine's fine; avoid all the alcohol. Eat nuts; OMG don't even. Honey, I've tried it all, and still haven't figured out my ideal combination yet. That's okay. I'll keep trying. And yes, I've got hypothyroidism and a busy life and an allergy to grocery shopping regularly, so those factors don't help either. Those aren't excuses--they are facts about my life right now, things I need to work around. (Context: just like assholes, everyone's got one.)

I get truly pissed off when I hear people disparage "fatties" for going to the gym or having the nerve to run in a 5K race (overheard a guy complaining about all the fatties once during a race, and for all I know, he was talking about me). You can't tell what a person can do just by looking at them. Trust me. I've been overtaken in 5K races by enough pregnant women and other folks who are probably twenty years older than me. You can't tell just by looking.

I hate that I really considered not undertaking my new obsession, kettlebell sport (which is so awesome OMG, and you're going to be hearing a lot about this new sport in the coming years as it becomes more popular, which it surely will, in part because I am writing about it here on my world famous blog).... Anyway, I almost didn't even try it because it is a weight-classed sport. It took some nerve to do my first competition, I tell you, but it all worked out fine in the end. Didn't even faze me in my second competition.

But enough of what I hate and worry about. Here is what I do and here is what I am.

  • I recently pulled a 265 pound deadlift. Not too shabby.
  • I can do pull ups, and toes-to-bar, and handstands, and all kinds of badass moves.
  • I achieved Rank 1 in Kettlebell Sport Long Cycle. I can snatch a 20kg kettlebell and jerk a 24kg bell. (Heh. I said snatch. And jerk. And yes, I'm still 12 in my head and no, I still haven't stopped laughing at those terms, despite all this time in CF).
  • I finished my third CrossFit Open and did not suck at all the things. I can do 84 thrusters and 84 bar-facing burpees and not die.
  • I also do not suck at yoga, being pretty strong and naturally flexible. Speaking of awesome yoga people, this is a great post I recently discovered, and is the inspiration for the title of this post. I second all the things she says. 
  • I generally feel awesome, and last time I had all the basic bloodwork done, the results were in the "pretty much fucking awesome" category. My resting heart rate is usually around 55-60 beats per minute (which that dude complaining about all the fatties in the race would surely never believe).
  • I can teach people how to move well and make it fun and interesting and motivate them to keep going. I have people, mostly women, ask me for ideas regularly about moving well and getting back on the exercise horse (so to speak, I don't know nothing 'bout horses). I think I am sought out because they know I know about the struggle to keep doing it, to stay motivated, to keep trying your hardest even though there will not be size zero dresses in the future. How we all know size zero dresses aren't and shouldn't be the goal, but that it's hard to get that idea out of one's head. How it takes effort to renew your courage and keep walking into the gym when you still are not lean after all this time, even though you know that the only person really even worried about that part is you, that nobody else at the gym cares about that even a little. And how challenging it is, this ever-lasting puzzle, worse than that 2048 game, to figure out how to keep your focus where it needs to be (health and fitness and mobility and strength) and not body fat percentage, and yet try to find a place where it is okay to want to improve one's appearance. 

So those are some things I've been wanting to say for a while. And for the record, here is what a real CrossFitter looks like:

I'm the one in the middle, in case that's not immediately obvious. My awesome teammate is to my right, and my awesome daughter is on my left.

Also: KETTLEBELL SPORT. You heard it here first, people (well, many of you). ALL the cool kids will be doing this soon. It's sweeping the nation. So look out!

Edited to add: Note on the title of the post: Just to get it out of the way...I'm not saying that those folks with all the abs don't look awesome, because of course they do! This post is just to show what A (one, singular) real-life person who does CF and eats cleanly looks like. A data point, an example among many others, understanding that there is a certain amount of variance within the population. So...not intended to be THE one and only example, etc. etc. etc. I'm not into fat-shaming OR fit-shaming.


Unknown said...

ok, i have a minute to stalk you today. ;oD

first, Gustavo...i was ready to go nuclear, but then i read all the words...

"fatties" (ugh, just typing that, ugh)...they're working harder by a factor of X than the "fitspo" types, so major props and hell yeah to them. i have SO MUCH respect and honor their hard work. (ta heck with the term "efforts", they are *doing* not *trying*.)

i did Zumba yesterday (i can't even look in the mirror or i'll start laughing at my lack of grace), and there was a gal in there twice my size with a bleeping foot brace on, dancing her behind off. there was a larger 13-15ish boy in the front row, being FAB-U-LOUS! he had some *moves*, let me tell ya.

YOU are amazingly strong, seeing progress every day, setting a kickass example for your younglings, and generally an all around BAM. take THAT, inner critic!

debra v

Maggie said...

I'm a longtime lurker on your site but haven't been reading blogs as often as I used to. I rediscovered you and this post after following a link. I wanted to say that you inspired me to start Crossfit a year ago. I loved reading about your progress. You continue to inspire me! Thanks!

water said...

I'm loving the kettlebells! I need a ton of recovery time (at 50). My main goal is getting stronger and if my current clothes fit better that would be great. The strong part is coming along; the clothes - not so much.

My doc isn't too freaked by the # on the scale - which is very misleading. It helps that he knew me before KB and he can see that I am taking up exactly the same amount of space but the scale is about 20 lbs heavier. The nurse flat out didn't believe I could weigh that much.

My clothes don't really fit any better, particularly in the thighs. My biceps were a disaster to start with. But they are doing some incredible things (no pull ups yet!)

Very much appreciate your photos and your taking the time to write encouraging words.

How about where you buy your gym pants? That's what I really need to know! :)