Crossfit, People

“The aim of CrossFit is to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness”

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Credit: CrossFit Instagram.
“Armless athlete Daniel Ritchie performing a modified deadlift. Photo: Austin Aycock, CrossFit Wilson (NC)”

Jennifer Hargreaves, in her book Sporting Females, discusses the aspect of disability in sports, or more specifically, its exclusion from sports. She writes, “It has been argued in capitalist societies, disability is individualized and medicalized…and in common with the conventional image of the aged, the popular image of disability embodies physical inability and is associated with the idea of sports for therapy” (Hargreaves 268).

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Credit: CrossFit Instagram.
“Davey Lind – Former Recon Marine and #CrossFit L1 Trainer.”

Eli Clare, a writer who focuses more specifically on disability, believes that activists, but I think everyone involved within an institution like sports, should “add disability to their political agenda” (ix). Largely, he argues that disabled people have been “institutionalized” (x). Rather than thinking of ways in which society can adapt to different identities, our society tends to reject and ignore these identities and they become marginalized. The image of disabled people and fitness is tied with sports or physical therapy, as Hargreaves notes. However, “disabled sportswomen [and men] are rejecting the conventional concept of the handicapped participant and are keen to be recognized for their sporting abilities and successes and not their problems” (268).

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Credit: CrossFit Instagram.
“”The bottom line is that everyone is very different and yet again strikingly similar. Often the genius is to know where to look for similarities and where to look for differences. Everyone needs to deadlift – in that regard we are similar, but not at the same weight – in this regard we are different.” – Greg Glassman. Photo: Aaron Wyche.”

CrossFit is a forerunner in this “issue” for a “political agenda.” Although other sports, like individual running, have seen the included disabled athletes, CrossFit is sport and a fitness regime that is unique from those other sports. CrossFit allows for athletes to adapt themselves to the workouts, or reversely, the workouts can be adapted to a person’s level of fitness and ability.

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Credit: CrossFit Instagram
“Gustavo Marquez (@gmarqx). #Repost from @garret0329. #CrossFit”

Chris Stoutenberg’s YouTube Channel demonstrates the ways in which the workouts can be adapted to different levels of ability. In one video, an athlete demonstrates a burpee from a wheelchair, and at one moment has everyone cheering him on to complete the ground to overhead movement. This moment shows the power and adaptability of the human body because the athlete must get the weighted bar overhead. Nondisabled people are able to generate power from their hips to move heavy weight from the ground, rather than expending more energy with other, smaller muscles, like in the arms. But here, the athlete essentially deadlifts the bar while in the wheelchair, and then flips the bar position to get the bar overhead. The movement, although different, is just as invigorating to watch as a nondisabled person’s execution of the movement.

It remains to be seen whether the CrossFit Games will included a division for disabled athletes, but that isn’t keeping athletes from adapting workouts to their ability, rather than being excluded for not being adaptable to the movement.

EDIT, 12/19/2013

If you follow us the by this point you should be familiar with Steph and the obstacles she has overcome on her Path to Fitness. For those not in the loop, (@iadaptfitness) Steph has Cerebral Palsy and is the first CF L1 coach with CP. She has competed as an adaptive athlete and was just featured with our CEO on the CF main page last week. Here's a video today of her doing unassisted sit ups (modified) for the first time. She is encouraging others to hash tag #thinkicanthursdays to highlight something you achieved that you never thought you could. List your accomplishments here and DM us your videos or pics and you may get a repost to highlight your achievements. #adaptandconquer #thehammer #cpcantstopher #crossfit #crossfitgirls #wodlikeagoddess #wodgod #achievements #inspired #neverquit #girlsthatlift

A post shared by The WoD GoD (@the_wod_god_apparel) on

This is another demonstration of exercise being adaptive to other athletes. “Steph has Cerebral Palsy and is the first CF L1 coach with CP. She has competed as an adaptive athlete and was just featured with our CEO on the CF main page last week. Here’s a video today of her doing unassisted sit ups (modified) for the first time. She is encouraging others to hash tag #thinkicanthursdays to highlight something you achieved that you never thought you could. List your accomplishments here and DM us your videos or pics and you may get a repost to highlight your achievements,” from the_wod_god_apparel on Instagram

“The aim of Cro…

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Crossfit, People, Women and other Sports

Christmas Abbott, CrossFit, and Changing Tires

On the official website for CrossFit, it describes its philosophy as “the aim…to forge a broad, general and inclusive fitness. We have sought to build a program that will best prepare trainees for any physical contingency — not only for the unknown, but for the unknowable.”

That inclusiveness has led to men and women competing in the intense CrossFit Games that have been conducted for several years now, including workouts with ocean swims, burden runs, and skillful demonstration of heavy Olympic lifts.

But CrossFit doesn’t just prepare people for its unknowable events in the Games, it also prides itself on preparing people for and strengthening their skills in other avenues of their lives. Specifically, CrossFit has aided in including women in areas typically dominated by men.

Eric Adelson, in his article, outlines the first woman’s break into a NASCAR pit crew. Adelson dramatic subtitle–“where few women have gone before”–indeed captures the impression of Christmas Abbott’s determination, which she claims is partly derived from her involvement with CrossFit, in the pit of NASCAR.

picture from Adelson’s article

Adelson details the physical strength needed within a pit crew: “the laws of physics explain why there aren’t any female members of a NASCAR pit crew: The average woman of 5-4 weighs around 130 pounds, and the average racing tire weighs between 55 and 70 pounds. So physics explains a woman of average size would have to lift and move half her weight – twice – and bolt two tires in 12 seconds or less to succeed in a NASCAR pit. Physics never met Christmas Abbott.” Or probably any other elite athlete from CrossFit. Her interest in changing tires for NASCAR was able to be conceivable from her training in CrossFit.

In a related article, Matt Fitzgerald describes how Abbott’s interest in NASCAR “strengthens female presence in racing.”

CrossFit’s potential in re-imagining gender is not focused solely within the fitness program itself, but also in its influences in other aspects of life. Because of the training and instruction she receives, not only is Abbott challenging typical gender norms, that women are not athletic (though expected to be somehow magically fit), she is applying herself to areas of work where women aren’t present. CrossFit is disrupting common notions of gender by challenging its members to achieve new but also applicable levels of fitness: women are then armed with the fitness and the instruction to aid their body in new and challenging ways, which can involve entering spheres of work that men dominate. Although Abbott made the team, she left a few months later. Reasons for why aren’t known yet, but the videos demonstrate her ability to be part of a pit crew team.

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People, Theory, Women and other Sports

The Perfect Female Shape?

This post caught my eyes a few days ago because it provides a stunning array of the female body under different levels of conditioning. Truly, this collage shows us the capability of the human body to adapt to what it is given. The women here are tall and short, slender and graceful, powerful and strong. Their sports are different: the skills, the demands. Their bodies are different: the facticity, the achievements. What no one can deny is that they are all athletes, and the beauty is in what they can do.

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People, Theory

“The female athletic body was and remains suspicious because of both its apparent masculinization and its position as a border case that challenges the normalized feminine and masculine body.” – Cheryl L. Cole

My initial thoughts about my first post on this blog, “What is Sport, What is Beauty,” had me primarily focused upon the latter part of the title: beauty. I had not quite realized why I included the first question, “what is sport?” I’ve had time to rethink my reasons for the title of the post, and I realized that our society throws the word “sport” around so easily. But what does it mean? Just as the narrator in the video from the first post challenges athletes to define beauty rather than describe it, I believe we need to think about the definition of sports rather than its descriptions. If we focus on its descriptions, we will be caught up in our expectations and assumptions of what sports are: something that men do, something that men are good at–something that women shouldn’t do and who wouldn’t be good at it. Instead, we should turn to scholars like Cheryl L. Cole for the definition of sport: “a discursive construct that organizes multiple practices…that intersect with and produce multiple bodies…embedded in normalizing technologies…and consumer culture” (6). In other words, Cole defines sports as an institution that is a crossroad for intersectionality. Sports involves bodies and technologies that have to be privileged in other ways along with gender; good gymnasts have the class privilege of being able to afford to go to practice, as an example. In a similar vein, primarily able-bodied people are expected to participate in sports; or, rather, that disabled people cannot.

“Sport” is a word that our consumer culture throws around all too easily. Football comes to mind, maybe baseball. Soccer, if we push it out of national boundaries. Primarily, those athletes we are discussing are men. There are those who will argue that men are “just” biologically better at athletics. It makes sense, then, how the anxiety about women in sports arises. When a culture nourishes one sex with these expected “traits,” it becomes abnormal, wrong, threatening, even, when other genders approach it. Women in athletics make our society uneasy. These women are doing something they “shouldn’t” be doing. Instead of becoming the matchsticks in magazines, they are becoming strong (stronger), like men. Something becomes physically wrong with them; they are imposters. They are trying to “be” like men. The focus of sport moves away from dedication and discipline and entertainment and to demands of biological determination. These people rely on the descriptions of sports rather than definitions–it’s easier to say that sports are for men because our culture lets men make them up. Cole reminds us of what sports really are: a construct, not biology.

Above quotes are from Cole’s article “Resisting the Canon: Feminist Cultural Studies, Sport, and Technologies of the Body,” in Women, Sport, and Culture, edited by Susan Birrell and Cheryl L. Cole (1994).

“The female ath…

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