CrossFit: where strength
—has no gender
by Sariet Pretz Davidson
I have accumulated a number of subscriptions to daily newsletters and online magazines over the years. They’re a guilty pleasure, something to read during my lunch breaks at work. But I’ve noticed a worrying trend - titles encouraging me to ‘get bikini ready,’ ‘tone without bulking,’ or ‘get a six-pack in five days’ masquerading as health advice.
Why is today’s media still trying to sell us the ‘perfect body’? Times are changing, and CrossFit - the sport of fitness - is paving the way forward in how we view women’s bodies so that we celebrate them for their strength rather than their dress size.
My journey with CrossFit started five years ago, and although I almost immediately fell in love with the sport for a variety of reasons, it’s only since I started coaching that I have been able to look back on my own journey and appreciate the platform CrossFit has given to women.
I started CrossFitting when my late husband, Rob, insisted we find a hobby together. Until that point we went to the gym together almost daily; as soon as we arrived, we would split up as I went my way and he went his. I was a ‘cardio bunny’ working off the calories I had eaten, training to be skinny and never daring to enter the weights section in the gym, too afraid that I would bulk up. The truth is I was reluctant to try CrossFit; I couldn't see how it would benefit me. But Rob pleaded with me to give it a try and the start of a new chapter for me began.
When we started Rob and I were the first members of a new ‘box’ (the nickname for spaces where sessions are run) and were very fortunate to have the support and undivided attention of two great coaches. I watched one – Charlotte - coach, train and lift weights in awe. Despite her size she could out-lift and outperform the guys and had this incredible ability to command a room. It was exactly what I needed to see - a woman not shying away from her strength but embracing it.
Almost overnight my mindset shifted and I totally forgot about the calories I needed to burn and how thin I wanted to be. I started focussing on a new set of goals. I wanted to be able to do kipping pull ups, handstand push ups, snatches, heavy back squats and deadlifts. I quickly learnt that these goals were much more achievable and far more rewarding than what I used to aim for. Over time I saw the small changes that were happening to my body. And, for the first time, rather than trying to hide my new-found muscles, I was proud of them. They were a symbol of how far I had come and what I had achieved.
Over the course of the past five years I have trained with, befriended, and now coach, many amazing women at our box. I have seen what happens to their confidence (and mine) through the process of goal-oriented training and it’s something that carries over to their everyday life.
Until a few years ago you wouldn’t find many women in the weights section at the gym; it was a male dominated zone. I now get to witness an even playing field every single day. The women at the box are not only respected by our male members but also admired for their abilities.
CrossFit has given the world a new type of female role model, especially for our kids, and as a mother of a young daughter these are the kind of women I hope she looks up to. We need to change the way we look at fitness. It’s not a punishment for what we eat but rather a celebration of what our bodies can do and CrossFit has given us a platform to do just that.