So often you hear the advice of trainers and/or fitness experts on what we all “should be” doing in the gym. Who’s to say what’s right for one, is right for another? ‘Strong is the new skinny’, ‘Be lean and mean’, ‘gains’, ‘nothing tastes as good as thin feels’ …and I could go on but I’m sure you get the point. We all live by our own mantra and yet there are so many people that point the finger at people who don’t “train” the way they do or have the same goals.
Let’s back up for a moment. I have always been an active person. I played softball, soccer and did some cheerleading. As I moved on in my life (getting married/having babies), I had to find ways to get some movement in that worked with my husbands schedule AND my newborn & toddler’s schedule. Why did I feel the need to get movement in?? Well, to be completely honest – it was to make sure I didn’t get fat. I mean, really …at that time in my life, that was the sole reason. I would either go for a run before my husband and kids got up or I’d go late in the evening when my husband got home from work. I also joined jazzercise & aerobic classes (WOW! DID I JUST DATE MYSELF OR WHAT???!) just to make sure I “didn’t get fat”. I give you all this tid-bit of information because this is where my “obsession” of body movement came about. I will admit, I soon became a huge lover of running and being outdoors so it really became a love of mine and the way my body looked physically, wasn’t my main focus as to why I got out there and ran.
Running vs. CrossFit
So fast forwarding and after many years of running, I decided to dabble in CrossFit. I never even imagined I would love it nearly as much as running but I did — and do! I get the same “runners high” and more! There are sooo many reasons I love my gym. The workouts in it of itself are why I keep going back but the people & friends I made at my gym are right up their at a close 2nd! I don’t know, in some ways maybe it is more the people because I don’t necessarily love working out at other gyms when I’ve had the chance to. The people at our gym definitely keep you pumped and motivated to keep going and it really makes a difference when you want to stop and be done! If you do crossfit, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Whereas running in the wee hours of the morning is a completely different vibe ….I’m just one (with my doggie) and usually some music or a podcast and watching the sun rise. No one needs to push me to keep going and while I love the camaraderie at the gym, I am definitely not a fan of running with partners. I really do like that alone time.
CrossFit as a Competition or Simple Fitness
Crossfitting carried a whole different meaning for me in terms of why I chose to use that avenue to get my body moving. At the time I joined the gym (about 5 years ago), it was more to gain a little strength and support my bones. I had just started peri-menopause and to be honest, my yo-yo dieting and lack of nutrition for many years had me worried about how my bones/body would hold up to “the change”. I didn’t join crossfit to compete but I did find myself trying to get 1 rep maxes and test my strength on a weekly basis. I felt (and feel) amazing! I had a couple of coaches scoff at the fact that I still ran and had their fair share of reasons why running ‘isn’t good for me’ or cardio is not the way to “train” and/or pushing the fact that lifting is they ONLY way to become fit, if you will. I actually had a coach (who is no longer at our gym!) add some weights to my bar – unbeknownst to me – while I was out on a 400 meter run! I came in to do a thruster and was blown away at the difference in weight. My form was way off because I didn’t expect it and paid for that surprise addition in weight with back pain for the next few weeks! He said he felt the weight I was using was way too light and wanted to push my abilities. <*sigh>. I love moving my body by way of crossfit but I certainly don’t lift like many folks in the gym nor do I want to. I admire those who strive to break their 1 rep maxes or push themselves to lift even just 5 pounds over what the guy/girl next to them lifted BUT that’s not for me. I simply want to be fit, healthy and strong enough to carry in groceries without making several trips to the car.
Don’t Judge Me
So here’s where my problem lies. Crossfitters for the most part, are not runners and runners for the most part, aren’t heavy lifters. I enjoy both activities. I used to run marathons but now I just enjoy the 3-4 mile ‘early morning meditation’ time and likewise, an afternoon ‘burst of energy’ crossfit session. I don’t want to bulk up. I don’t want heavy looking thighs or a big a**. I don’t care if I have traps for days or lack of a thigh gap — or feel the need to have a thigh gap! When I hear bloggers or fitness elitist talk about leaning out or bulking up and what’s working for THEM and make it seem like it should be what I want, I cringe. Being strong looks different to me than it might look to you. My strength lies in making sure I am strong enough to get through a workout (with modified weight most of the time), carry in groceries, move furniture around to clean my house, lifting my grand baby and honestly, just making sure my muscles surround my bones to keep them safe as I age. I certainly don’t need to do a 250 pound deadlift or snatch 150 pounds in order to live the life I want live. I personally just want to live the rest of my life as actively as possible, without injury and with as much tone to my body as my “lifting” will allow me to get. I am not trying to acquire a certain look or make sure I hit a certain weight — I am content with going with the flow of the day and doing what feels best FOR ME.
Thick or Thin
My body is naturally long and lean. I really do like that I have gotten some definition with lifting weights but my personal aesthetic isn’t to look like a weightlifter. I am also not a big fan of the waif look. Do I work out to keep the look of a certain physical appearance? No, I do not. My movement has become more of an emotional and mental thing. I love my morning runs. I will never give those up. I only run 3 days per week and I look forward to those days — the sun isn’t even out yet and I really enjoy starting my day with that kind of movement. Running probably keeps me leaner than if I was just lifting and I’m ‘ok’ with that. It’s what works for me! 4 times a week, I do crossfit. It’s a totally different high that I crave after work. I love the people at my gym, love the loud music and the way we all push one another and/or support each other in our daily workouts. At one time I did have to find jeans to fit my thighs …..they were thicker than ever and found it so hard to find pants that fit my waist (too big) while my pant legs were too tight! I didn’t mind having that body – it was just a product of how I was lifting at the time and that was ‘ok’. After dealing with the back issue from the surprise added weight and the as of late, frozen shoulder, I had to back off quite a lot in terms of weight amounts and even certain movements. I am at a different place right now. I don’t care if I do a workout Rx – I just want to be able to move freely through the workout. I don’t care if I max out on an olympic movement – I just want to be able to do the movement. I don’t care if I have a body that looks like I lift or a body that looks like I run – I simply want to know that I can run and I can lift, within my own limitations and then again, pushing myself when I know I am confident enough that it won’t set me back a few days with a pain or worse, an injury.
Summing It Up
This blog post isn’t to shame either side of the coin. It isn’t to come down on those who want that 1 rep max or look like they lift heavy or to come down on those who want a waif looking body and/or don’t like to move at all. This is to point out that I do ‘me’. I would hope the same for you. Strong isn’t the new skinny for all. And being thin isn’t for those who want serious strength. We all have our own goals and reasons for what we do. In hopes of living a long, thriving and active life, I make my decisions accordingly and to shame me for not wanting to be bulky is simply wrong. Or vice versa, shame me for having muscle definition vs. a smooth feminine physique is equally as wrong. I want to enjoy life as the healthiest version I can be ….be active til the day I die. I hope to be rollerblading with my great grand babies! Why not?? So I guess when I say that I don’t have goals for hitting a 1 rep max, I do have goals to keep moving as long as I possibly can. These movements and activity fit my lifestyle perfectly because I found what works for me. My hope is that you all just do what works for you and what makes you feel best. Just be you.