One of our members was wearing that shirt the other day and she was wearing it proudly. In my 5 years coaching, the concern I get the most from my prospective female clients is “I want to start crossfit and get strong but i just don’t want to look bulky.” At first, it just seemed silly to me and I laughed it off… Why wouldn’t you want to show the world that you work hard and what your hard work earned you? I wrote them off as someone who just didn’t want to lift anything heavy. As I’ve progressed in my coaching and daily interactions with members, i realized that was a very legitimate concern in the minds of female clients and one of the biggest barriers of entry.
Unfortunately this has been perpetuated for years by the fitness industry. There was the trend through the 80’s and 90’s of aerobics classes and get “toned.” Now there was nothing wrong with that because women were still out there empowering themselves by staying in shape and feeling good about themselves. The adverse effect it did have was make a lot of women think that anything more than just running or picking up a set of anything more than a light dumbbells or strapping on some ankles weights would cause them to somehow turn into the female bodybuilders. Let’s not forget the friends and family that, as you mention to them that they are thinking about crossfit, their first words might be “why would you want to look like those girls?”
Fast forward to now, and the fitness methodology with the most exposure is crossfit. The games are on TV, popping up in commercials and there’s a crossfit box on what seems to be every corner. Popularity has exploded. With this, the people most exposed are the Games athletes and while most of us already entrenched in the crossfit community see beautiful strong women who have decided to make this sport their profession and we understand the painstaking training, eating and overall commitment it takes to get to the level, those outside the community see them and wonder why they would want to work to put themselves through these workouts and as a result develop that certain musculature.
What myself and others in the community have to do as coaches is dispel the long time perpetuated myth of lifting anything heavy will cause women to grow muscles like these women or like men. In doing so, we have to be sensitive to the newcomer female client and let her know that you understand their concern and that for the majority of the population, achieving that female Games athlete body image is not a reality unless you have a certain amount of genetic disposition to it and are willing to put in the type of 2-3 workouts a day regimes. For the majority of our female population, yeah, if you work hard you will grow muscles in your legs and your arms might become more defined and your wardrobe might need to get updated to fit your new curves and that’s ok because that’s your physical expression of strength and it doesn’t only come in the form of outward appearance. That Mom can now carry all those groceries for her family up the flight of steps without help. A sister can now be ok helping move furniture around the house, and a daughter can go to the gym and workout alongside her brother without feeling lost or inadequate. And that’s all ok, because strong is beautiful.