Bulky but Still Beautiful: Representations of Healthy Femininity in the CrossFit Narrative

The end of summer has come, and the quiet blog is testament to how much of a whirlwind it’s been. Between my half Ironman debut, defending my thesis, and starting a new gig at Hybrid Fitness Centre, I’ve had a pretty amazing summer, I’d say. I’ll leave the part about how I dropped a barbell on myself (a wakeup call, perhaps?) out of it and just say that while I’m sad to see summer come to what feels like a quick close, I’m excited for what fall has in store: teacher’s college, working at the gym, and gearing up for some updates to my services–coaching stuff–that I’m anxious to share with you all soon!

But in the meantime, I’m going to share my thesis. The link is live, and so far I’ve had 52 downloads according to the email that came my way earlier this week! I’d like to see the fruits of my labour over two years of my life read by a few more sets of eyes, so if you’re interested in sociology, health, the body, body image, CrossFit, femininity, etc. then do me a favour and take a looksie–it’s available through Western for download.

Here’s my abstract to whet your appetite:

“Positioned in the area of feminist cultural studies, this thesis examines representations of femininity, fitness, and health in four key publications related to the fitness programs offered by the CrossFit™ Corporation. A critical discourse-analytical methodology is used to deconstruct notions of fit femininity in the CrossFit narrative. I argue that themes on femininity reflect contemporary healthist ideologies that promote concerns for health as an individual, moral responsibility, and normalize entrenched notions of the female body as a project to be managed. Drawing on the language of feminine empowerment, the CrossFit narrative constructs the ideal female body as one with increased muscularity and functional abilities, while also offering up a singular feminine ideal that reproduces ideological views sustaining unequal gender relations. An overarching dominant theme of the CrossFit narrative stipulating a need for constant improvement, anchors a discursive effect promoting continual consumption and self-monitoring of, and for, health.

Keywords: CrossFit, Gender, Femininity, Critical Discourse Analysis, Consumerism, Healthism”

…enjoy! I’d love to hear some of your feedback in the comments. I may be done this Masters, but I hope that this is just starting the discussion.

some sort of idea

Do you have any thoughts on CrossFit media?
Have you ever done a CDA? 
Have you written a thesis? 

 

Owning it: Athletics as (a) source of self-esteem–and why we need to take a darn compliment

Lately, I’ve noticed a(n unfortunate) tendency for some of the most badass women—the strongest ones at CrossFit or the fastest or most experienced ones on the bike—to play a game of downplaying their achievements. They ask “Who, little old me?” when someone tells them that they’re great or assure people that really it wasn’t such a great job or that someone or something outside them was the reason for their success.

This makes me sad.

I know I’ve returned a compliment with the kind of downplaying I’m talking about. But this is an issue I’m working on. Ever since I had the experience of a friend telling me she was going to be “slow” and then proceeding to be much faster than me in a running situation, I’ve tried to watch how I talk about my own performances or abilities—whether I think they’re good or bad. I’m sure that my friend was innocently trying to appear humble—not to make me feel bad—but it certainly made me think about times when I’ve maybe done the same thing to other people.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

I know some people who can’t just take a compliment are after reassurance and want to be told a little bit more how great they are. That’s fine. I want to talk about the times where it’s more about not being able to own up to how great we are.

My fellow blogger and cycling friend Sam and I had little bit of a chat about this issue as we watched a club race together last week. Our coach (a man) worked with two ladies to do really well in the race together. It was a men’s race. The gal who won absolutely impresses me with her talent and dedication, but I can remember the first time I met her being met with the kind of downplaying that I’m getting at. Sam pointed me towards “Self-Deprecation and the Female Cyclist,” which is certainly worth a read if you feel like you hold yourself back or downplay your athletic accomplishments and want a reminder to stop that right now.

Maybe for some of us, this comes down to perfectionism—or that ever-looming sense that we aren’t good enough coming back again. We focus so much on what we aren’t or on where we fall short that it’s hard for us to appreciate the things that are really worth celebrating in ourselves. You just ran a great race? Yeah, but it wasn’t as fast as my PB. You just did your first CrossFit competition? Yeah, but it wasn’t Rx.

But it was still badass.

It was still worth being proud of.

It was definitely worth celebrating.

While you’re at it, stop adding the word “just” to things. You didn’t “just” do a 10km when someone else did a marathon. You didn’t “just” go to the gym twice this week when you meant to go four times. Those things count for something.

I’m torn on whether or not I think celebrating our abilities is unquestionably the best way to build our confidence. I certainly don’t think that our only source of empowerment should come from our abilities.  But I do know that pretending that these things don’t make us feel good or don’t contribute to our sense of self-esteem would mean we’d miss out on a whole lot of potential. Maybe the answer is that we can’t base all of our self-worth and confidence on what we’re capable of (so that when we aren’t so capable, we don’t suck), but this kind of appreciation can be a valuable part of what fills up our confidence buckets.

redminer

Anyways, I don’t think that it’s fair to expect anyone—man or woman—to be confident all the time. But it’s my hope that we can think about the way that brushing off compliments or trying to convince people that we’re really not all that good is a habit worth getting out of.

What do you think?
What have you done lately that’s worth being proud of?
Where do you downplay your accomplishments, and what’s up with that?

Conditional acceptance: The problem with the performance focus

I’ve blogged about the need for believing we’re worthy before, but it’s an issue that’s close to my heart and that I’m continuing to work on, so here we go again.

Before I start, let me add: I say yahoo! to anything that shifts the emphasis for women away from how it will make their bodies look (Will pilates give me the toned abs I’ve always wanted?). But the more I read about woman after woman finding her self worth in her abilities, the less comfortable with the whole idea I get.

For my thesis, I’m reading issue after issue after issue of CrossFit magazines and The CrossFit Journal and looking particularly at constructions of healthy femininity. One theme that comes up a lot is CrossFit saving women from their body image woes. Time after time, women are saved from their eating disorders or years of self-abuse thanks to learning to appreciate what their bodies are capable of. In general, these are women who are extremely talented at CrossFit, pictured in sports bras with six packs, and who echo the same sentiment: the route to empowerment is via doing.

I call (at least a little bit of) bullshit.

The route to empowerment is different for all of us. Basing it on ability leaves out those who aren’t able, firstly, but it also sets us up for a conditional kind of self-acceptance that I don’t think will give us the kind of lifelong healthy relationship with our bodies that I am working on creating for myself (and starting a discussion about via this blog and my work in the world).

As it relates to me, I know that athletics helped me a whole lot to appreciate my body. I’ve mentioned before the way I keep my picture of my big ol’ deadlift PR around for when I’m feeling shitty about myself. I hang my latest race bibs around to remind myself that I’m badass for signing up for things that force me outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis. And moving away from the need to burn calories and burn off food to testing out my performance and seeing what I can do with the body I’ve been given has certainly helped me feel better about what I’ve been given.

capability

But.

Since I’ve started to focus on triathlon training again (with lifting things on occasion more for fun than anything and because I like to feel strong), I’m not as strong as I used to be. I can’t do as many pull-ups as I once could, and I sometimes find myself beating my self up for letting myself slip. And on the triathlon front, I don’t run or bike as fast as I did when I was in the midst of my eating disordered days.

But.

I’m healthy. I have balanced hormones. My weight went way up and then has started to come down a bit (not much by the standards of those who employ 30 day challenges or body transformations, but 10 pounds over two years without losing my period). I like training and understand that when my body is whispering no, I should listen so it doesn’t scream. These are perhaps more important than winning an age category at a race or impressing people in the gym and on instagram.

priorities
So in my recovery and body love journey, I’ve seen that impressing myself with what I can do is certainly a tool for me to, like I said appreciate my body. But acceptance requires me to dig deeper. Yesterday I got a migraine and missed my workout. If my self-worth is based on what I can do, what’s a girl who’s stuck in bed and only wants to eat cereal and chocolate to do?

I think the answer lies in realizing that we can’t find the kind of self-love we want outside of ourselves. Some of us look for it from guys, some of us keep on trying to show that we’re good enough by taking it out on our bodies, and some of us don’t even realize that we want it.

This all comes back to a piece of advice worth repeating over and over again ‘til we get it: we are inherently worthy. Whether or not we work out, whether or not we can lift as much as someone else—or our former selves, whether we run faster than we did last year, whether we put pants on in the morning, whether we eat “clean” or choose cookies. Loving ourselves doesn’t require us to be better than yesterday, because we weren’t bad or unworthy yesterday.

can be already are

Loving our bodies doesn’t require that we do exceptional things with them. I think our bodies are exceptional just by virtue of the fact that they let us live our lives. It’s great when we can also appreciate what they’re capable of, but getting to a place of acceptance is another worthy goal, in my opinion.

Sometimes I forget this. As a goal-oriented and ambitious person, I struggle with feeling worthy unless I’m productive, or I work out, or I do this or that. But I for one would like to accept my body so that when things that stop me from performing as I might like to – injury, pregnancy, illness, life – come around, I still feel like a boss. While we by all means celebrate what we’re capable of, let’s give this acceptance thing—no conditions required—a go!

love yourself first

Do you struggle with this? What’s helped you?

CrossFit and body love: why I’m not so sure it’s that easy

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my thesis. Part of what I’m doing is a media analysis of CrossFit, and I’m interested in gender and bodies and fitness and all those good things. If you’re into CrossFit and are into the whole social media / online community, you might be familiar with Tabata Times, which has a whole “Women’s Only” section dedicated to women’s concerns. In most of the articles, there is a common theme of loving and accepting our bodies that comes up. Many of them talk about how CrossFit, and focusing on performance, has helped them accept and appreciate their bodies—all good things.

I knew going into my thesis that it might be a challenge to focus on something that stirs up so many thoughts and hits close to home. Whether it’s triathlon or CrossFit or any other sport that helps me to think about what my body can do instead of how it looks while I’m doing it, I can certainly relate to the feelings of appreciation and gratitude that come from taking the focus off of looks and weight. But something that I’ve noticed with these articles celebrating body acceptance is that it’s a very specific kind of body acceptance—one that is still small, albeit muscular, and one that is still very concerned about being attractive. While I agree that strong can sure as hell be sexy for a woman, I don’t think that means that skinny has to be gross. Or that being sexy is what our approach to exercise should really be all about.

What would it be like to exercise for a reason that’s got nothing to do with how our bodies look? We have this grand idea that if we start CrossFit we’ll look like a CrossFitter, or that if we start running, we’ll look like a runner. But CrossFit boxes celebrate the fact that they’re filled with all shapes and sizes. And go to any marathon and watch the people crossing the finish line and you’ll see that there are finishers who occupy a range of body sizes and types.

I love the message that we can learn to love our bodies if we focus on what they can do. But I don’t love the way it leaves me feeling if I think, well hey, I did CrossFit, but I still want my thighs to be smaller, or, It’s okay for her to love her body because she weighs 66kg (arguably not “big” by any means)…so something must be wrong with me and I need to fix it: more CrossFit, more books about body image, more articles about how CrossFit saved someone from their body woes. I’m starting to see a bit of a lose-lose situation here: I feel required to have the “ideal” body and then since I know that “ideal” bodies are not attainable/sustainable, I feel drawn to these articles that make me feel like the problem is actually the way I look at my body. But then, since those “ideals” aren’t going anywhere (even if they’re shifting), I am back where I started—unable to accept my un-“ideal” body and feeling worse for not even being able to meet the standard of body love.

I love that stronger women are beautiful these days, but I hate that we are so concerned with what exercise does for how we look. I love that people are letting go of the obsession of running on the treadmill for hours on end, but I hate that people are replacing it with two-a-day CrossFit workouts. I love that people are realizing that they don’t have to eat like a bird to be “healthy,” but I hate that they think that they need to “go Paleo” or restrict themselves in equally as cray cray ways to do it instead. I love that we are no longer narrowly defining beauty as thin, but I hate that we are just replacing it with a (thin) woman with biceps and quads.

When I really feel my best, I don’t worry about what other people are doing. This is where I worry that given that some of this “confidence” that comes from having a “CrossFit body,” whatever that means, is at the expense of bringing down other people (or “the old me” that these articles often refer to who spent time running and dieting and trying to be skinny). What happens if CrossFit—and the body that goes along with it—is taken away from us? What if the kind of body love these articles talk about is just as elusive as the ideal body?

Maybe it’s just about acceptance, and maybe that acceptance is unconditional; whether you do CrossFit or not, whether you’re skinny or fat, whether you’re tall or short–you don’t “earn” a body that’s worthy of your own acceptance.

you-yourself-as-much-as-anybody-in-the-entire-universe-deserve-your-love-and-affection-38

I think it’s time to define the relationship that we want to have with our bodies, and then do our best to remember that even though other people will tell us how we ought to take care of ourselves, how we ought to think about our bodies, and how we ought to look, we’re just talking about the vessels that take us through our day-to-day lives. It’s not really how they look or anything about them that makes our lives meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to take care of my body so that I have a place to live for a long time, and a place that feels good to live in, but we can’t escape the fact that our bodies will do things that we don’t want them to do. We get older, our bodies deteriorate, we get wrinkles, we gain weight, we get stretch marks, we get sick. Our bodies aren’t meant to be perfect, and I don’t intend to waste all the energy I have trying to make mine so. We need to focus on our health, yes, but I would argue that our health is what allows us to live our lives, not the sole purpose of our lives.

Throwback Thursday: thoughts on Paleo, balance, and finding what works

This post has been on my mind for a while. I am going to use “Throwback Thursday” as the excuse for posting it now, even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and I’ve got some apprehension about sharing…

Paleo didn’t work for me.

Before I started CrossFit and found out what Paleo, or Eat By Design, or whatever you’d like to call it, was, my eating was pretty balanced. I ate mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, (mostly lean) meat, nuts and seeds, and sufficient froyo with a smile on my face, and I’d been at a stable weight for a while, though I still didn’t have my period on a regular basis. I had been through my eating disorder, done a stint of vegetarianism (mostly because I read Eating Animals and got sad), and was in a super high stress state, but I was back on track—even if my body hadn’t totally sprung back to (hormonal) health just yet. Up from my lowest weight of 114lbs, I weighed a comfy 138-142lbs and when I look back at pictures, I think I looked healthy and athletic.

My half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was "bad." I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

My first (and only) half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was “bad.” I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

So what happened?

The “for me” part in “Paleo didn’t work for me” is important. I didn’t really do it right, but I did what I think a lot of people do. I also think the way in which I failed at “doing it right” is indicative more of the diet not being good for me more so than of me not trying hard enough, even if I’ve spent plenty of months telling myself I should just try harder.

When my bookshelf was stocked with The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Solution, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Practical Paleo, and Everyday Paleo, things changed. I told myself it wasn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense and that I was after health, which was true but I was also hoping for a six pack along the way and I certainly was not ready to gain more weight.

So, I started to make changes. I replaced the chicken, turkey, fish, and beans I ate with more and more pork, sausages, steaks and ground beef. While I did do a good job and managed to track down some free range organic sources on occasion, the vast majority of this meat was just from the grocery store.

When I ate grains, they were definitely not whole grains any more. The Paleo diet says white rice is okay if you train hard enough, so I ate more of it, usually with plenty of coconut milk and sometimes butter on top (FYI, this is delicious). But I also had the mindset that if bread was bad for me, I might as well have the white stuff, so I said farewell to the whole grain options I used to buy. French fries were healthier than a hamburger bun, right? Potato chips better than whole wheat crackers? If grains—or carbs, in my thinking—are bad, who cares about choosing well?

When I went for treats, I was never satisfied with a just a little. Dark chocolate became something like a food group for me, especially the kind of dark chocolate that I could somehow combine with almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc….I ate all the butters. And real butter! With a health halo around it, I started to put more and more butter on the sweet—not white—potatoes I ate. Without bread as a vessel, I’d find myself spooning nut butters right from the jar into my mouth. It’s good for me, right?

paleo desserts

I started to take heavy cream in my coffee. Formerly one to add milk and maybe a sweetener or spoonful of sugar, I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the 30% cream and the looks on the Starbucks baristas faces when I asked them for the whipping cream to add to my highly caffeinated long Americano order (which is also delicious).

Some mornings, I’d crave oatmeal so badly that I would try to fake it. I’d microwave some combination of eggs, a banana, and almond butter. I remember worrying that I was having too much sugar and one day when I “caved” and ate two bananas, I was sure I fired up my fat storage and was doomed for diabetes. I’d make granola out of nuts to go on top of this, because the old recipe I’d used also included those oats, gosh darn it. Oats might not contain gluten, but they were still grains and everyone Paleo knows gluten and oats were probably bedfellows in manufacturing.

There were other changes, but I think you get the picture. I’d gone from what was defined as “conventionally healthy” to an attempt at a fad diet that I still think can be a fine choice—if you put in the time and effort (and moola!) to get the food from good sources, like eating meat, and are on top of food prep—that totally messed with what was a balanced approach. You have to know that I have an addictive personality and that as smart as I like to think I am, I can be easily persuaded. I took things to an extreme, and I used excuses like “It’s gluten free!” or “If I’m going to “cheat,” I may as well go big.” I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also changed my exercise habits. I started to question whether or not “cardio” was good for me. I traded my daily swimming, biking, and running workouts for more and more time with the barbell. I loved the way I could focus on getting stronger. I also read things that told me that cardio was making me fat.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did in the thick of my CrossFit as the be-all end-all days.

But I love swimming, biking, and running.

I love oatmeal.

I love chickpeas.

I love not feeling like I need to have a huge hunk of meat with every meal.

…I gained almost 30lbs in the process of switching my exercise and eating habits. I can’t blame CrossFit or Paleo, and I should add that I added muscle.

As strong as I feel when I am lifting a really heavy barbell, I still crave the feeling I get from going for a super long bike ride. Last year, I experimented with doing both. In the process, I found my body shifting a little more and I lost some of that weight (5-10lbs, depending on the day of course). Stepping back into the world of long bike rides and runs and dips in the pool, I found myself remembering some of the common sense nutrition notions that I used to ascribe to.

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

While I can’t blame the Paleo diet or the ideas about exercise that came along with it or the books or the people who exposed me to them, I can take responsibility for myself and my health habits. Instead of feeling stuck, I can work on shifting my habits and thoughts back to a healthier place. Those beliefs I picked up about carbs and grains and exercise were built. As sticky as they might be—because nut butter is delicious and sausage is amazing—,they can also be replaced—because feeling light and healthy and good in my skin is another kind of amazing.

So, I’m in the process. Today, I am “back on grains.” I eat whole grains as much as I can—quinoa, oatmeal, and rice are my favourites. I like bread and cereal, so I eat them and choose the whole grain options because I don’t think they’re rife with anti-nutrients anymore. I eat lots of fruit and plenty of vegetables, and I have less room for the meat on my plate. I still overdo it on the nut butters, but I’m working on it.

wrong road

I’m writing this because I think there are other people who have dabbled in Paleo or have given up something they love that makes them feel healthy and happy in the name of something someone told them would be better. I know that it’s hard to shift back—there’s still times when I think “how the heck did I eat that many carbs?!”—but it helps me to remember that I was happier with my body when I was eating all the carbs, and wasn’t thinking about them as a villain.

I hope your Throwback Thursday isn’t as intense as this, but I also hope that you take the time to check in with yourself and ask, about your health habits, that question I mentioned earlier this week: how’s that working for you?

Have you ever gone down the “wrong” road and wanted to get back to the fork?
What have you learned from trying diets or exercise programs that don’t work for you?

magazine covers: should they inspire, or should they just sell magazines?

To answer the question in the title of this post, I think magazines, ideally, can do both.

The reason behind this post is all of the hubbub that Camille Leblanc-Bazinet’s latest magazine cover, this one on the box, a CrossFit magazine, has caused.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.46.21 AM

Camille has been on the cover of lots of magazines, CrossFit and more mainstream.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.48.27 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.48.21 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.48.03 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.47.48 AM

Her popularity makes sense: she’s Canada’s sweetheart, she’s beautiful, and she won the CrossFit Games this year.

She’s also been photographed in some pretty racy ways (this is one from SweatRX).

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 4.51.47 PM

So, when people were getting angry on the interwebs about her bikini model-esque cover, I thought maybe there was a little overreacting going on. My reaction? I would rather see her doing something than just standing there. There was a lot of talk about the poor photoshopping that went on and plenty of outrage over the whole process, but maybe I’ve just come to accept that magazines will photoshop even the women I look at and think of as pictures of strength and fitness.

I haven’t read most of the posts out there, but I think what’s missing is a recognition that she posed for this photo. With that racy one from SweatRX in her portfolio, I don’t think it’s that much of a surprise that Camille is using her sexiness to sell herself. Girl power? Or playing into a bigger problem? That depends on how you think a magazine should sell itself. Camille’s mentioned before (in magazine articles) that CrossFit can help shift body image:

“Now that Leblanc-Bazinet is a pro in the weight room, she holds her head just as high. “If I gain two pounds but I can lift 100 more pounds on my bar, I’m like, ‘Hell yeah,'” she says. “I only want to be fitter, stronger, faster, and healthier, and that’s given me tons of confidence.”

Amen to that, I say.

A few months ago, Annie Thorisdottir was on the cover of Vogue. She was pictured in ways that are different from what we would typically see of CrossFit athletes in their element, but there wasn’t so much outrage (at least that I’m aware of).

annie vogue

Maybe the difference was the magazine? Do we expect our CrossFit magazines to resist the urge to sell magazines using sex appeal or making the athletes who grace their covers into cover models?

To me, this just reiterates a point about how we don’t want to just replace one ideal with another. There is something different than saying “strong is the new sexy” and then leaving “sexy” as this objectified, half naked person who is just standing there. The thing with the cover of Camille is: she is much more than that, and while she looks good standing there, she doesn’t have to just stand there. I love the women of CrossFit because of what they can do. I love that their bodies come in different shapes and sizes and degrees of ripped. I appreciate photos of them the most when they remind me that their bodies look that way thanks to their doing and that their bodies are capable of doing amazing things. I read the magazines because I appreciate a break from the typical “tone your tush by Tuesday” articles that fill up lots of general health and fitness magazines.

So the box, if you’re listening, I’m not mad that you did this “to” Camille (let’s hold her at least a little responsible, folks). But you should know: I like the photos of her in action a lot more. My boyfriend doesn’t seem to mind one or the other, but I think he’d like to see more of Lauren Fisher. We’ll both buy your magazine. I have an old photo from your magazine of Camille tacked to my vision board. She’s snatching, and I put it there because I am sure that some day soon my snatch is going to look just like hers.  

Those active photos are the ones I want to see. They’re the ones that make me want to go do CrossFit. They’re the ones that remind me that it’s okay to work out for something besides the pursuit of looking sexy. I like CrossFit magazines because they’re about the sport more often than they are about losing weight or looking a certain way. Reading Shape and Self, when I let myself get sucked into it (usually because there’s a recipe I want to eat somewhere in there or they’re talking about CrossFit or triathlon or something else I care about), leave me with the sense that exercise is really about changing the way my body looks. I think women especially are sick of, when it comes to fitness and health, seeing ourselves as objects or looking at our bodies as things to be “perfected,” whatever that ever-changing definition of “perfected” is. I like that CrossFit gives me a space where it’s a heck of a lot easier to get away from that obsession. Here’s hoping that this isn’t a trend. I, for one, think it’s pretty silly to put the fittest woman in the world in a bikini and ask her to stand there.

What do you think of the cover?
Do you do CrossFit? What for?

CrossFit, empowerment, and thinking critically about the way we talk about CrossFit women

Good morning Monday!

First grad school conference presentation: check.

There I am!

There I am!

I had fun presenting what I’ve been working on as of late and what I hope to continue to work on as I figure out what exactly my thesis will be all about. Here’s the gist of my abstract from the weekend:

“CrossFit, which calls itself “the sport of fitness,” has grown from a single website to a fitness empire with over 7000 gyms around the world, leveraging specific narratives appealing to ideologies promoting individual responsibility for health to establish itself quickly even in a crowded consumer fitness industry. What are the narratives CrossFit uses to promote itself and to establish itself as a leader in the crowded consumer fitness industry? How do these fit in with the dominant discourses in contemporary neoliberal society?

These questions are explored using a Critical Discourse Analysis of a Canadian CrossFit magazine, SweatRX. Drawing on discourses of feminine liberation and emphasizing a focus on performance over aesthetics, the representations of the feminine body in SweatRX promote an alternative form of bodily control that is paradoxically oppressive. By constructing the CrossFitting female body as a site of control and offering up identities based on consumption, a potentially empowering and emancipatory practice is commodified into a method for self management and participation in the fitness marketplace. In the context of contemporary neoliberal society, these narratives can remain unquestioned and reproduce dominant cultural ideologies concerning the moral significance of taking individual responsibility for one’s health, diverting attention away from broader social and cultural factors that constrain health. This is an important extension on research demonstrating the shift towards health as an individual’s responsibility and contributes to a growing body of work examining this shift.”

If you’re not a sociocultural nerd, you probably got “blah, blah, blah” from all of that. So here’s what I said:

“For years, women’s participation in physical activity has been widespread. The embodiment of the ideal “fit” woman, however, has changed over the years. CrossFit is a relatively new player in the fitness marketplace and as such, the “strong is the new skinny” and the muscular body type constructed as the ideal CrossFit female contrasts with the previously skinny, then skinny and toned, feminine ideal. Physical activity can be a place of liberation and empowerment for women, but in the past the commodification as well as the focus on the aesthetic benefits of activities have transformed opportunities for empowerment into sites of control. However, labelling any activity as purely emancipatory or empowering will only further limit the opportunity afforded by an activity. My goal was thus not to promote or condemn CrossFit but to examine the ways in which one selected CrossFit media, SweatRX, a Canadian magazine about the sport, represents the female CrossFitter.

I found several themes, some of which maintain the status quo and others which suggest transformation. Firstly, the female CrossFitter as part of a movement with the aim of empowerment and social progress. This is liberating on the surface but simplistic: suggesting that taking up an exercise program is the same as addressing issues constraining women and constraining health turns social progress into something marketable and commodifiable. Secondly, the female CrossFitter as superior (what I call the “Zumba is for dumbasses” theme in my own head) where bulky is redefined as the ideal and any woman who doesn’t strive for a strong physicality is marked as inferior. Then, a sustained focus on aesthetics (training like a beast but looking like a beauty, etc.). A paradoxical call to resist the media and consumer fitness industries in the midst of the promotion of the consumption of CrossFit and its associated products and culture (one article told readers to resist the media “asphyxiating your subconscious, compelling you to be an obedient American consumer”). A reiteration of women’s social roles (as naturally different from men’s)–i.e. CrossFit as the route to help a woman be a better mother, more capable of “tackling dirty laundry.”

It’s not all bad, though. There is a focus on performance, which is where I think there’s hope. Consider the lack of mirrors in a CrossFit gym. I think saying that just because some of the media’s messages might be problematic, CrossFit is problematic, would rob women of a chance to take up an activity where they can focus on what their bodies are capable of–instead of how they look.”

After my presentation, a girl asked me what I would change if I was the editor of the magazine. What’s tricky is being friends with people who write for this magazine, fans of people who appear in there, and a freelance writer myself. I know that when I write an article I’m not trying to “normalize gender asymmetries that limit women’s opportunities” etc. etc. I’ve met the editor of the magazine at a trade show (at least at the time–she was also an editor for a yoga magazine). If I was in the hot seat–because I think as an editor you carry a lot of responsibility–I would change the subtle things. I would keep talking about body image but I wouldn’t make it a woman’s problem uniquely. I would watch for the subtle things: using women models to show scaled versions of workouts, showing photos of female CrossFitters in gowns and things instead of in their element (or at least including profiles of males in the same way).

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While I’m critical of the magazine–it’s a critical discourse analysis, remember–I think it’s hopeful. I think women reading it are able to see possibilities for them to experience things outside what has traditionally been considered acceptable for women. I think CrossFit is the perfect platform for us to work on these things given just how much potential there is in the sport. Ditto for triathlon, for running, for whatever gives us a chance to get away from how an activity will make our bodies look to how it feels, what it does for our health and well-being, who it makes us.

Now that I’ve tried to sum up a lot of pages in the amount of words I assume will be just enough to leave you informed but not make you give up on this post, back to my weekend recap ;)!

14.4: check.

open 14.4

My thoughts when I saw this workout?

grumpy cat

Last year, I cried during the open WOD with toes to bar because I got a TON of no reps. This year, I didn’t have much faith in my ability to get through 50 of them, even though I knew I’d have ample time to try (I love rowing and finished those calories in about 3:15). Luckily, my coaches had some strategy and faith in my ability and I surprised myself by getting through the darn things with enough time to dive into the wall balls. I think I had more no reps on wall balls (I blame my surprise and awe at the fact that I did more toes to bar during the workout than I’ve done in 2014) than I had on the toes to bar. I ended up with a score of 140, which was fine and dandy with me!

I think the Open has been a good experience this year because I’ve surprised myself more than once with where I’m doing well. I’m doing it in an environment where everyone is good enough so long as you’re trying your best. I’m seeing that I am stronger and fitter in lots of ways than last year, even if some things (like burpees) feel a heck of a lot harder this time.

Now that I’ve written you my life story and committed the CrossFit crime of incessantly talking about CrossFit, I think I should at least mention the love your body stuff over at Molly’s blog that I’m keeping up with. Yesterday was about feeling sexy–and I feel like my chat on her post earlier in the week does that one justice--and today is a good one, discussing the ways in which our body carries our life story. My favourite part of the post is when Molly talks about thinking ahead to your 80 year old self and looking back on the story of you and your body. Like she says, at the end of our life, I don’t think wanting our thighs to be smaller is going to be part of that letter. I hope that my letter looks back on a life of using my body to do the things that scare me, challenge me, excite me, and fill me up.

crossssfit

 

Happy Monday!

CrossFitters, CrossFit haters, exercisers, writers, personal trainers, coaches: I’d love to hear your take on my thoughts on the magazine analysis and on how we can contribute to a message out there that emphasizes all the good in CrossFit without getting sucked into the bad part of health and fitness writing…thoughts? 

Happy halloweenie

This post has nadda to do with Halloween but I bet you giggled at “halloweenie” – no?

Maybe this will get you giggling then…

If that fails, this one compliments of my sister might do the trick…

Classy.

Other than those photos and a few pumpkin treats, there wasn’t much about my day that suggests it was Halloween. I’m not too upset…

I started my day sweaty, not spooky, with a session at crossfit. Deadlifting day is my fav and today was no exception! My 5RM is up to 215 and I managed to eke out 4 consecutive pull ups again today. That in itself would make for an accomplished morning but we also did rope climbs (love!) and the conditioning was 50 burpees for time or 3 minutes of awesome suck (3:06 to be particular)!

I popped into GFC to get checked and then was ready for a busy day. I also fuelled up with a banana and some raw almonds while I ran a few errands this morning.

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Does anyone else think raw almond suck? I’d much rather have them roasted. And roasted in a nut butter would be best…but in terms of overeating I’m sure it looks like this in terms of worst offenders: peanut butter (roasted, salted, sugary, hydrogenated, etc.) = all holds gone > roasted natural nut butter > roasted nuts > raw natural nut butter > raw nuts. Hmmm…

I think I’ve gone through a half a jar of almond butter this week and you’ll see why if I fill you in on my meals for the day:

  • breakfast: eggs (with coconut milk), almond butter, apple, dried cherries

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  • lunch: pork with kale, squash and raisins and cinnamon

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  • snacks: 2 almond flour muffins (one with chocolate, one with raisins) + a pumpkin cookie I didn’t snap a photo of (but my bootcampers and my fellow CrossFitters approved of my second go at my paleo pumpkin cookie recipe)

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  • dinner: pork chop and almond butter, straight out of the jar

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At least I know what I could have done better: less nuts, more veggies.

I spent the afternoon on campus talking to some of my former writing professors about journalism, grad school, and all that kind of jazz. It feels good to be moving forward with my applications–I’ve got a lot of work to do but I’ve done it before and I am excited to write them again! It also felt good to be on campus, even I dare say it to be in the library working on my next freelance article about the paleo diet and cycling. It’s due in a week so I’ve got to get an outline and a draft together soon–it’s not like I’ve got a whole lot of free time to work on it!

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I did some work but I definitely could have been productive. I got sucked into the Whole 9 website again and was reading all kinds of entries on it when I “shoulda” been working. Whatevs. Now I can share with you the link that got me sucked into the website…it was the blog “Lies We Tell Ourselves” and sheesh it was awesome. I clicked over to the posts about being addicted to stress, which really rocked my socks. I like that they include actionable things in their posts and that they’re personal about their writing. I like that The Whole 9 takes a big ol’ simple approach to things: either something makes you healthier or it doesn’t. Remember my realization that there’s no sideways/standing still in life? Same thing! What they talk about is a lot like Eat by Design and is probably the most user friendly stuff I’ve found in my reading. I have “It Starts With Food” and of all the “paleo-ish” books I’ve picked up, it might be my favourite recommendation for someone thinking about experimenting with their diet.

Anyways, now that I’ve rambled a bit…back to my day! I called it quits on campus mid-afternoon and came home to clean my apartment a bit. I was greeted by my level 1 certificate from CrossFit! I already knew that I’d passed but to have the certificate in the flesh feels pretty legit. 🙂

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This evening I made it to a Moksha Flow class across town by the gym where I teach bootcamp. It was a sweaty hot class (I’m aware this is obvious) and we did lots of hip openers in what felt like an “easier” flow class. I really can’t complain–I probably needed more of a yin class than anything today since I’m pretty sore! The time was perfect though and the owner of the studio was teaching (always a treat!) so this class could become a regular thing for me. I had just enough time to shower and to eat a nanner before I headed across the street (literally) to teach bootcamp. I put my recruits through a tabata workout today (squats, pushups, lateral jumping, running, step-ups or box jumps, and planks). They didn’t like me but I had the pumpkin cookies to win them back over once we had stretched and cooled down!

And now here I am…ready for bed. For a day off, today sure was busy! Tomorrow I’ve got plans to get writing, a bootcamp to teach, some shopping plans with a few lovely lady friends, and a workout in the mix. If I’m feeling too much writer’s block a yoga class in the evening (yin, maybe!) could be just what I need. 🙂

Have a happy halloween!

What’s your favourite kind of nut butter?
Did you do anything to celebrate Halloween?

Zonked

I had a kickass day, but it kicked my ass.

The insane urge I have to go to bed right now (it’s 5pm) and the flu-like feeling that came over me in a bit of a wave this afternoon…not so awesome, even if all things point towards great.

Morning

I woke up hungry hungry hungry this morning even though I’d snarfed a can of tuna with some alfalfa sprouts/mayo last night just before bed. Weird bedtime snack? Maybe, but it works for me.

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I filled my belly with a big bowl of coleslaw and a pork chop. Omnomnom. 20120926-170622.jpg

 

This morning I had my re-assessment at Gainsborough Family Chiropractic. The scans I had done 12 visits (approximately 6 weeks ago) versus the ones I had today confirmed what I already felt–things are getting better! I liked the check in and the chance to see how I’m doing in all of the Life By Design elements.

Power by design — I’m clearly moving forwards in this direction! Eating by design is coming more and more easily and I’m adjusting to things. I’m going to add some probiotics and get more on top of things with my vitamin D — easy. Moving by design is a whole lot of fun with the group classes at West London Crossfit–and I’m finding myself more and more drawn to the kinds of things I actually want to do vs. getting caught in the “I have to _______” (go for a swim, run, do cardio, etc.) trap so many of us fall into. Thinking by design is a huge huge huge piece of the puzzle but it’s hugely important, too! The cool thing is, all of the steps in life by design MAKE SENSE, FEEL GOOD, AND WORK TOGETHER! Beauty.

Today I got sucked into a bunch of youtube videos talking about objectivism and to a couple with Ayn Rand speaking…

tidbit:

“Since man’s mind is his basic means of survival…if a man wants to live on earth and to live as a human being, he has to hold reason as an absolute, by which i mean he has to hold reason as his only guide to action and that he must live by the independent judgement of his own mind, that his highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness…each man must live as an end in himself and follow his own rational self interest.” 

Workout

After my visit to the chiropractor, I had a great chat over coffee with a fellow crossfit-coach to be from the SC. We talked a lot about how awesome Life By Design is, about ideas, and about Crossfit (obviously!).

My workout was…nuts.

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Just kidding. I did snarf some as a morning snack, though. Someone leaked today’s WOD and I got excited and busted out my best Crossfit uniform…

Compression socks and short shorts help and I needed all the help I could get. I think I mentioned that the one thing I’m really nervous about this weekend is having to complete Fran. If you’re not familiar, let me introduce you…

For girlies, the weight for the thrusters is 65lbs. The pull-ups are best performed as kipping pull-ups, a skill I’m not yet a master of.

Notice I said yet?

There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’m going to do this in due time…

Bring on the hard work.

General consensus: the WOD looks deceptively easy on paper but…

You get the point.

Scaled–I used a bar and a set of rings for my “pullups”–it was tough but took just over 4 minutes of wanting to quit.

After laying around and breathing as my main focus for a while, I was good to go except for a runny nose that just seemed to wake up with the workout. Aren’t you supposed to sweat things out?! WTF immune system!?

I got a hefty dose of fresh air afterwards with a hike in Komoka with Cheri. We got a bit lost and ended up trekking and chatting for over an hour, but it was great! I could chat with Cheri all day, so this was great and the leaves just keep on getting prettier on the trails…

off but I could chat with her all day! 20120926-170645.jpg

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Afternoon

After our nature hike, I refuelled with an apple (seriously, my appetite is so off) and then loaded up on Vitamin C. When I didn’t feel instantly better, I moved onto my next best attack: bacon. Joking, but I did eat a bunch because I finally felt hungry this afternoon. I also feel like I’ve got a fever, so I’m taking it easy. I tried to find someone to cover my bootcamp class tonight but no dice. Luckily I can demonstrate without doing a bootcamp class — the beauty of working as a coach instead of being OCD and addicted to exercise like I used to be (i.e. doing every single class, every move, etc.) is that I can do one squat, one deadlift, one pushup, one row, and one burpee and that’s it for my physical requirements! I’m hoping I spring out of bed tomorrow…but this feels a bit like a flu and that blows. Here’s hoping it blows over before my certification this weekend and here’s hoping some kind souls cover my fitness classes tomorrow so I don’t have to spin through snot. Sexy, no?

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kale, turkey, bacon, a bit of mayo = dinner of a queen 😉

What did you do today?
Are you in chiropractic care?
Have you met Fran? 

Scattered

Back at it.

I’ve missed blogging. A lot. And without it, I feel a bit…scattered.

So hi…

Today is off to a great start. After an admittedly all over the place, somewhat emotional weekend, I’m glad to have a busy week with my new job and my crossfit cert at the end of it to just ooze awesome today. Add to it that it’s a crisp fall day and I’m getting back to my happy level again.

Workout

This morning I rolled out of bed after seriously considering crawling back under the covers (I had a hard time getting to sleep last night) and headed to Crossfit for a 7am class. We started with mobility (surprise surprise ;)!) and then did some squats and presses. I’m impatient so working on my ankle mobility, which is not something that will change overnight, is an exercise in patience. I used 95lbs for our three sets of five today but made sure I got full depth with the plates under my heels. The only way to get to where you wanna be is to start where you are…or something like that! We also did overhead presses (I used 55lbs for three sets of five) and a 7 minute WOD that was AMRAP of 5 pullups (ring rows for me), 10 pushups, and 15 air squats.

AM

This morning I officially started back at lululemon! And this morning was awesome. I had a short 3 hour shift where I signed my contract, reviewed some important stuff, and hung out/flexed my working skills for a bit. To be honest I didn’t really want to come home—and it’s not just because there was laundry here waiting for me—since the people (old faces, new faces) are so positive.

Today there was a lot of talk about goals. Did I mention I love working at lulu? I’m hoping to print my recently updated goals out – there’s a lot more emphasis on personal goals and a broader range of fitness/health goals this time around – later this week. One thing that I do have to admit is that when I hear other people talk about their goals, I kind of want to copy them. You cna look at this two ways — one, it’s inspiring vs. two, it’s insecurity (they’re doing it, I should do it too). While it’s awesome to let people rub off on you, if someone wants to run a marathon and you want to find a balance between yoga, crossfit, teaching spin and bootcamp, trail running, and doing exercise that feels good to you, adding a marathon training plan to your agenda is probably one of those things you’re doing for the wrong reasons…if I sign up for a marathon, puh-leeeeeze schmack me!

All that inspiration translated into me adding even more words to my vision board. I think it’s done, but I thought that the other day. If you haven’t made a vision board, do yourself a favour and make one. Then set some goals. Give yourself a vision to aim for, notice the kinds of images you pull out, and don’t be scared to be ambitious. Play some inspirational music in the background and light some candles while you’re at it…

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Breakfast

This morning’s breakfast was consumed at lightning speed in between Crossfit and lululemon. I wasn’t that hungry—which stressed me out since I feel like I overate all weekend long—but I could feel the hangry approaching so I suffered 😉 through my bacon, eggs, and kale. Toss in some caffeine and I’m set.

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Lunch

After my shift, I was craving something warm. I decided on a piece of chicken, some kale (which I neglected and put back in the fridge afterwards), and a sweet potato with cashew butter and coconut. Om nom nom.

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Now here I am ready to read some more of my crossfit manual (my cert is in four days which is ridiculous). I just watched a video that inspired me:

I took some notes yesterday when I was reading over the manual and the one thing I can’t get over is how much freaking sense the whole thing makes. I do have some questions—luckily there are plenty of knowledgeable people around to ask—and the one thing I have to look out for is questioning what I’m doing right now just because I’m reading things. The though that maybe I should plan my own workouts came to me…but for now I’m going to commit to easing into this with group workouts at Crossfit plus my own teaching schedule and the occasional trail run or swim here and there. Trusting that I’m not going to get out of shape or lose my fitness takes some reminders every once in a while but the best thing for me is to remind myself that when it comes to workouts, I should actually want to do them. Just ‘cuz I have an afternoon off doesn’t mean I should run, but if I want to, I can. Etc. etc.

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The other thing I’ve noticed is myself wanting to passive aggressively cut and paste parts of the training manual to certain people in my life (or in facebook status with the hopes that they’ll see it)…

“Curls, lateral raises, leg extensions, leg curls, flyes, and other body building movements have no place in a serious strength and conditioning program…A distinctive feature of these relatively worthless movements is that they have no functional analog in every day life…” 

The reminder here is that their business is their business and if that business is bicep curls, I shouldn’t read their blog anyways.

BAM.

I’m ending this with a quote that came to my inbox today just in time to comfort me…

“When we feel stuck, going nowhere — even starting to slip backward — we may actually be backing up to get a running start.” — Dan Millman

Happy Monday!

Do you find yourself copying other people’s goals out of “should”? How do you stop yourself?
What are you looking forward to this week?