By Amy Sullivan (Tyler’s lovely wife!)
Savanna Wilson was bored with her traditional gym workouts.
“I was always athletic and did every sport you could imagine throughout high school,” she said. “When I graduated I was at local gyms trying things I read about in magazines in addition to running on the elliptical but it was always the same thing every day.”
Then Wilson found Crossfit. Crossfit is a strength and conditioning program utilizing cardio and weight lifting techniques for time. “I was like, … This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.”
And so far she has. Early 2010, Wilson participated in the Ohio Crossfit Sectional, where she came in 7th place out of 55 competing women. She moved on to the Crossfit Central East Regional competition where she placed 18th.
“As a woman, I love the competition,” she said. “I love the rawness of the sport. … I despise machines now.”
So what is the appeal of Crossfit vs. traditional gym workouts?
“The biggest difference between Crossfit and traditional treadmill and weights is, treadmill and weights focus on looking good, while Crossfit focuses on being good,” said Doug Price, owner and trainer at Crossfit Utility (www.CrossfitUtility.com) in Green, Ohio. “Someone once put it to me this way –relating your body to a car. Everyone wants a Lamborghini, and many people achieve the look of that Lamborghini — nice butt, big arms, tan. But when you lift the hood or put the pedal to the floor, what happens? When you ask someone who has the Lamborghini body to run a mile for time, or lift something heavy, how do they fare? Crossfit starts from the inside out, not the outside in. The looks are a byproduct — form follows function.”
And why should women do it?
Crossfit doesn’t take a lot of time.
Joanna Paxos Volas, mother of three, sticks with Crossfit because (among other things) it fits in her schedule. “I used to alter all of my children’s schedules in such a way that I would make it to the YMCA 4-5 times a week for at least 2 hours each visit. And the whole two hours I would take a class, do the machines, run the treadmill, do the elliptical trainer, meet with a personal trainer, etc. I have done it all. It was exhausting and cut a lot of time from my schedule and the kid’s schedules. Now, with Crossfit, I am in and out of the gym in one hour or less.”
Most Crossfit workouts (or Workouts Of the Day – WODs) are designed for speed. You perform movements and lifts for a certain number of sets. The quicker you do them, the quicker you are done.
Because Crossfit utilizes Olympic-style weight-lifting, with the right form, women can lift heavy – maybe weight they never thought they could move. “Crossfit gives them a chance to break away from the traditional skinny-mini body type that is held in such high regard by most females,” Price said. “”After training in Crossfit for a month, you see for yourself what a colossal waste of time most traditional body part routines are. In Crossfit, it’s much cooler to see a woman deadlift over 200 pounds, or collapse in exhaustion after a tough workout as opposed to doing tricep kickbacks with 5-pound dumbbells.”
However, some women are afraid to lift heavy because they fear getting bulky muscles. “Unless they’re taking anabolic steroids it just won’t happen,” Price said. “Females don’t produce enough testosterone naturally to get big.”
Price also mentioned there is no such thing as “toning or firming,” contrary to the heavily marketed fitness apparel and equipment. “There’s two ways to look at the situation,” he said. “You can get learner (lose body fat to show more definition) or you can build somewhat bigger muscles.”
Price sees w omen at his gym start Crossfit to simply lose weight. However, after a month or two, things change. “The focus is no longer on just losing weight,” he said. “They realize being strong as a woman is OK. They don’t need their hubby to lift bags of mulch for them anymore. The focus is healthy — inside out — the looks are a byproduct. I think changing this way of thinking is one of the most valuable aspects for women — empowerment.”
Crossfitter Maria Paxos agrees. As a woman she feels powerful doing the Olympic-style weight-lifting. Crossfit women also participate in the advanced moves of Crossfit such as pull-ups, ring dips, handstand push-ups and more.
“Crossfit really showcases my strength and I feel so strong,” she said. “Seeing the high (weight) numbers on the board, shows everyone else that I’m no one to mess with.”
“I still get nervous when the coaches yell: ‘3-2-1 GO!,’” Volas said. “The whole thing can be very intimidating. But, you have to remember you are doing this for you. All WODs can be scaled to fit your fitness level and you will still reap great rewards.”
Scaling a WOD means adjusting the prescribed weight or move to accommodate your skill level and strength. For instance, instead of a handstand push-up, a female could elevate her feet on a stack of weights or do push-ups on the floor. Pull-ups could be done with band assistance or with rings instead. These tweaks often provide the stepping stone females need to feel not only successful in their workout, but also grow their strength to eventually perform the prescribed weight or move.
In addition, men often out-number women in the Crossfit gym. “Most women I talk to are afraid or hesitant to work out with men,” Price said.”But, after one or two classes, it’s no longer an issue.” At Crossfit Utility, the women are trained and encouraged the same as any man. “We have mothers, nurses, a teacher, a hair dresser, a lead singer in a band, a lawyer — all walks of life,” Price said. “They are all top notch. They are the most coachable, hard working, and strong bunch of women I know, I can’t say enough about them.”
So how can you get started?
Many women agree – Crossfit provides them the best workout of their life.
“Just dive in,” Crossfitter Cheryl Sigler said. “Put your fear aside and try it.”
Price encourages interested women to call the owner or trainer at a Crossfit affiliate and ask if they can call a couple of their female clients. “I wish more women would do this,” he said. “This way, they could hear the good and the bad from a peer – not a gym owner trying to sell the gym. Or they could just show up and get started. All that’s required is effort.”
“During these workouts, you either find out really quick how weak or how strong you are,” Paxos said. “The important thing is to dig deep within yourself and never give up.”