This is one of my favorite videos that captures and emphasizes the values of CrossFit. Not only does it exude the awesomeness that is slow motion, it also demonstrates at the same time feminine and masculine qualities found within typical gender expectations of sports. I’ve described in an earlier post how feminine sports like gymnastics emphasize skill and grace and masculine sports emphasize strength and precision. Here, I think the video shows the meshing of these two qualities. And not even in this video, but in the movement of the Olympic lift, performed by men and women, these qualities of strength and grace are demonstrated. Here is where CrossFit is challenging men and women to make the best of themselves, and to be feminine and masculine as they do it. The movement doesn’t have to remain within the elite sport of Olympic weightlifting. It can be instructed, with caution and guidance, to everyone. The limitations of people’s fitness based on gender will be dismantled.

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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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Crossfit defines itself as a “core strength and fitness program” but this video breaches an entire conversation of feminism and sports, of masculinity and women. I believe this video has to be the first post on a blog that challenges the field of sports with a feminist curiosity. Crossfit is not just about fitness; the arrival of this new method of exercise and sport has to acknowledge the culture that birthed it–one that is extremely critical of its citizens and has a strict definition of beauty. Here, the athletes, both men and women, define what beauty is for them, aware of the expectations that a patriarchal society demands. Women shouldn’t be bulky. Women shouldn’t be sporty. Although the video is not direct about the issue, the undertones are there. Crossfit is stirring the pot again; the issue of women and sports resurfaces. The video redefines beauty, but it is also challenging what it means to be an athlete, what it means to be a woman.