the spaz of fitness has arrived

Built for Nothing

In Training on September 28, 2012 at 11:22 pm

It is my delight to respond to a recent article penned by a friend of a friend and fantastic blogger, Caitlin from Fit and Feminist. The piece is entitled “Should Women Run? You’re Damn Right They Should” in response to what sounds like an outrageous blog post discouraging women from running. Here are Caitlin’s opening paragraphs:

I’m a runner who doesn’t look like a runner. I am a six-foot-tall woman who has hips and broad shoulders. In fact, I look more like a basketball player or a swimmer. Yet I happen to be a pretty good runner. I regularly finish in the top 10 percent of local races, and I’ve even come close to winning a couple of 5Ks. I love running, and I can’t imagine my life without it.

So when I read a blog post entitled “Why Most Women Shouldn’t Run,” in which the author wrote that only women with narrow hips and flat chests should run, I was confused, because clearly she couldn’t be talking about me. And when she went on to say that the rest of us should just stick to the StairMaster, my confusion turned into unadulterated rage. I would rather strangle myself with the laces on my running shoes that step foot on a StairMaster.

I am, perhaps, Caitlin’s opposite. At 5’3″ and flat and narrow all over, I’ve often been asked if I’m a runner. The truth is, I rarely log distances longer than 400m at a time. Most of my cardio is confined to 100m-200m sprints or 250m rowing repeats. My hours at the gym are spent primarily with barbells and pullup bars. Ironically, I like lifting heavy. My favorite CrossFit movements are the explosive ones– power cleans, kettlebell work, etc… and I also enjoy the slow satisfaction of my max effort days–sets of one to three with long rests, the feel of triumph when the once-impossible heap of iron and rubber clears the ground.

Again, 5’3″ and flat and narrow, I’m not build for heavy loads. And with my aforementioned brain/body coordination issues, I’ve certainly struggled with “explosive.” It took me months to conquer box jumps, and my cleans stalled for just as long because I could not drive the bar with my hips. In fact, if I chose my physical activity based on what I were “built” to do, I’d be confined to a chair… for the safety of world and myself. Actually, because I allowed myself to be limited by my body– to be discouraged by my asthma, frustrated by my lack of coordination and endurance– I spent most of my life avoiding physical activity. One of the many things for which I owe CrossFit: it taught me that it’s okay to suck. I learned to accept coming through the door last, having the lightest weight on the bar, and flailing awkwardly from the rig. I learned to just enjoy it for me, regardless of times or rounds or numbers.

I know that, a year ago, when I started telling people that I wanted to be a CrossFit coach someday, I sounded ridiculous. I was 88lbs; I couldn’t do a box jump or a pull-up. I couldn’t clean 45 lbs. It’s been a little more than a year. I’m 27 lbs heavier, and almost all my lifts have doubled (or more). I can do pull-ups– strict, kipping, and butterfly. I can do chest-to-bars. I can do handstand pushups and rope climbs and pistols… things I never imagined would ever be in my realm of possibility. I have a long, long way to go still I know. And I’m greedy about it. I want a heavier squat. I want a muscle up. I want a faster 400m time, and I want better endurance… but I’ll keep working on it– not because I expect to be the best or even particularly “good,” but because I enjoy it. I find it fulfilling, and it’s good for me– physically, emotionally, mentally (I’m really not fit for human company when I haven’t been allowed outdoors or physical activity for more than 24 hours). I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made these past 15 months… and grateful even more for the patient coaches that have worked with me even when it seemed impossible– when I spent months falling off the same box and dropping the same 50lbs. Sometimes I get frustrated with my training because it feels like I’m fighting my body. I am small, which means my stride is shorter and my pull on the rower is shorter, and the amount of mass I’m throwing against the barbell is… sometimes laughable. I don’t put on muscle easily and I lose it even faster. As I’ve discovered in the past months, if I neglect a lift for two weeks, my numbers plummet. If I engage in endurance-based activities, all my lifts stall. There are many moments when I feel as if my brain is screaming at my body, but my limbs won’t obey, my joints can’t coordinate, and I lose all dexterity. But you’ll still find me at the gym the next day, falling off the rings just before the muscle-up transition.

Caitlin says that running has made her more confident, braver, tougher, and I maintain that CrossFit has done the same for me. My build does make things tougher… I still find myself envying girls that come in and throw 95lbs onto their shoulders like it’s weightless when that same achievement was a long, yearlong slog for me. But I’m not going to let that stop me… because I’ll strangle myself with the laces of Caitlin’s running shoes before I trade CrossFit for half-marathons 😉

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  1. […] yesterday’s post, today provided a truly satisfying reminder. I don’t give a shit what my body was or […]

  2. I’m playing catch-up on my blog reading, and when I read your most recent post – about how your coach pushed you to remember what it is you love about CF – and you wrote about how some might not think you were “built” for CF, I was like OMG I just wrote about that! hahaha.

    anyways, I love this post (and the Bitchslapped one). Even though we are on different sides of the spectrum in terms of the sports/training we do, I think that at our core we have more in common than not, as we have that internal desire to push ourselves beyond our limits, even if it means we have to fight against these ideas about what our bodies were and were not built to do. I mean, can you imagine if we were limited to doing the kind of training our bodies were purportedly best suited for? I’d still be playing basketball and you’d be like a gymnast or something.

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