I Can Put My Toes in My Ears

I love CrossFit. It’s the anti-Curves: No 2-pound pink dumbbells; no scales; no mirrors; no money funneled into right-wing politics. Just weight platforms; weight vests; long skinny weights; fat round weights; weights strung from ropes. Some chin-up bars. Tractor tires.

I don’t hear much dysmorphic body talk among female CrossFitters at my gym. Not a lot of noise re: thigh circumference*.  We focus more on what our bodies can do, and although there is a CrossFit body ideal (defined; sinewy) few women are trying to ensmallen. They do the workouts; lift the weights; and let everything fall where it may. Very good.

But I do notice a different kind of obsessive self-abegnation dressed up to look like passion, e.g. pushing until you get hurt. Injury somehow makes you a serious CF athlete. Many trainers (mostly young men) encourage lifters to push more and more weight — even after they lose their form — while the rest of the class yells “GO YEAH YOU GOT THIS YOU GOT THIS” from the sidelines. (I hate yelling at people as much as I hate being yelled at).

Ostensibly, you’re only supposed to compete against yourself, but each workout is timed — and everyone’s time goes up on the whiteboard for easy comparison. Everyone — big guys/small women; young/old; beginner/veteran — does the same workout. CrossFit gyms love to put up photos of members’ kinesthetic suffering: palms blistered and bleeding from the pull-up bars; shins bruised and scraped from the barbell. Showing weakness or discomfort merits only-sort-of-kidding scorn. Sometimes I hear the word “pussy,” and not like I like to hear it.

Guys brag about hurting their backs while deadlifting 450 pounds, as though it were something to be proud of rather than evidence of a personality disorder and/or a childhood spent licking lead paint.

Lifting too much + Lifting too quickly + Sloppy form = Injury.

Injury = Pain, debilitation, and sidelining yourself for weeks or months.

Even worser: These doods often feel free to comment on women’s bodies via athletic negging: “Your legs look great…but your shoulders are underdeveloped. Work them harder, and you can create a V-taper to make your waist look smaller.” Women new to fitness, or over 40, get tokenized to prove that CF caters to all ages and fitness levels — but the zeitgeist of the place runs them off if an injury doesn’t. To them, I say: Life is sadistic and masochistic enough outside the gym, so pick a place and a trainer that trust you to know your own body.  And: admitting your limitations doesn’t mean a bad or fearful attitude.

And don’t do headstands. What are you, six? Just…don’t.

*Shopping for pants makes me cry, for reals. Size 0’s fit my waist and rear, but my thighs are just not having it.

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8 thoughts on “I Can Put My Toes in My Ears

  1. Hey! Thanks for commenting on my blog! I totally feel you on EVERYTHING that you said. I hate the screaming and the comparisons to other people. I always feel like a huge wimp because I’m not as strong as everyone else 😦

  2. My brother does CrossFit (he’s not a member of a CrossFit gym, as far as I know — just does the workout of the day posted online at crossfit.com); he has injured himself several times. My mom thinks CrossFit is to blame, though I had been more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, that they might post a workout at a particular intensity, but with the understanding that their target audience is elite-level athletes, and that you, the novice or moderate exerciser, will need to scale it down accordingly. I’m annoyed and distressed to see that apparently they *do* have an endemic culture of overtraining/injury-courting. 😦

    The rest of it sounds nice, though! Sounds, like what I look for in a gym, anyway.

    (I have the same problem as you with jeans, although perhaps not as bad. But my thighs are certainly the deciding factor in terms of whether I can get a pair on or not! I actually never used to have a problem, until they randomly decided to start cutting them extra-skinny in the legs …)

  3. Hey! Yeah, let’s make a CrossFit pact: We are NOT getting injured. Let the hyper-vascular crazypantses scream and compare ’til the cows come mooing home, but not us. K? 🙂

  4. The extra-skinny-leg-pants zeitgeist needs to just. Stop. Especially the pairs with super-narrow ankles. You know who looks good in those? Anorexics and flamingos. Everyone else looks about to tip over.

  5. But we’re all supposed to be anorexic now! 😛

    I think we have “skinny jeans” because *gender queer* (read gay) boys think they look good in them. You’ll notice that their thighs fit perfectly into those damn pants!

  6. Thank you for “ensmallen.” Love it. As to the gym mentality, you’ve nailed it. I *love* gyms, but I don’t compete, not even ‘with myself.’ I love that middle-body strength feeling, as if muscles and agility surround the bone-frame of my (nicely fat) body. I love the play of it all, love the conversing with the machines. They ruin it with their linear man-think. With their object-think. Am a living animal, and find great joy connected with my body. What a waste for them, ya know? To strive to be an aesthetic object, when one can be animal-whole, gleeful, motionful, alive???

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