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.

Crossfit, People

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

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).

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).

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.

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…

Crossfit, Women and other Sports

You Handstand like a Boy….Oh…

A common adage heard throughout childhood: “You throw like a girl.”

“No one, male or female, throws like a girl. They either throw like someone who has had ample instruction on how to properly throw, or like someone who has not.”

Rick Paulas from sums this up nicely. It’s absurd that imagined social constructs are lifted from society and placed onto young girls, thus discouraging them from sports before they can see what women can do in sports.

The adage that we probably all heard as a kid has drastic implications: what does it mean to throw like a girl? Could “girl” be replaced with other nouns? How might that change the power of the sentence? Throw like…_____? Imputing race would be atrocious. Cultural references, too, abhorring. Imbecile? Idiot, moron, freak? Isn’t that what we’re saying? But the phrase isn’t amplified to much degree in society. It maintains social ideals for boys and girls which were based off of incorrect biological assessments in the 1920s: a “medical report was a reaffirmation…of constitutional overstrain…By compounding the social with the biological, the discourse of the report shared the ruling class’s moral concern for social progress and national welfare” (Hargreaves 7). Women in sports used to be unheard of.

But women can be hurt, injured. Their bodies can’t handle it. They shouldn’t be exerting themselves. They must “conserve [the body’s] energy for the great work before it”  (Elliot-Lynn).

So from the time girls are born they should be stowed away to be protected? Sports are dangerous but being a kid isn’t?

Obviously, times have changed and women’s participation in sports, as it went long unrecognized, broke those “biological limitations.”

Instruction, too, has to be incorporated (for the most part, some people do have natural talents) for anyone to become skilled at something.

Take, for instance, handstands. Typically sequestered within gymnastics–often considered a sport appropriate for girls–handstands require flexibility and strength: motor skills are needed to balance the inverted body stacked over the shoulders, and the shoulders have to be flexible and strong enough to support the weight. Since girls are seen as “more” flexible than boys, couldn’t girls torment each other in the gym? You handstand like a boy. Sounds ridiculous, of course.

A handstand is a good example, I think, of a somewhat standard form of fitness that is also able to strip itself of typical constructions of gender upon the body. Gender expectations collapse within it as it requires a “masculine” trait of strength (to hold the body up) and a “feminine” trait of flexibility (to invert the body). This combination of gender “traits” creates a “gender-neutral” movement at the same time as it removes gender performance from the body. Many men can do handstands, even handstand push ups (whether free or kipping against a wall), and handstand walks. Oh, and women can, too.

The 2013 CrossFit games had a handstand walk as a part of its final event. The walk not only strips itself of gender, it even warps our common views of how the body moves. Watching people handstand walk can be strange; we don’t see the body move like this every day. The lower body is on top, and the legs often bob this way and that. The handstand walkers move their “feet” in stiff, awkward movements. The walk itself demonstrates the skill needed to maintain a handstand and the strength to mobilize the body in that position. The handstand walk is a movement that is strange to be in, and strange to watch. And that’s what I think has the chance to change the representations of the body and how gender is created out of it.

Once we realize that the body doesn’t have to move according to strict, rigid demands of gender (women are graceful, men are strong) I think we can begin to move past gender (inequality) within sports.


Hargreaves, Jennifer. “Olympic Women: a Struggle for Recognition” Women and Sports in the United States. Eds. Jean O’Reilly and Susan K. Cahn. Lebanon: Northeastern University Press, 2007. 3-15. Print.

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…