Women in CrossFit Are Breaking Down Body Image Stereotypes
By Clair Baker
When you think about CrossFit, what comes first to mind? Heavy weights? Box jumps? Men with large muscles? What if I told you that women are taking over the CrossFit industry like never before…not only in the gym, but in the media, too. Thanks to these strong, powerful, and capable women, the world is redefining what it means to look like a woman.
With the rise of CrossFit came a new era of fitness culture - drawing the attention of many females - athletes and non-athletes alike. This ultimately led to an increase in popularity and support for women's athleticism. This, however, wasn’t without its faults. Even with Title IX opening the door for women in so many different sports, women still face criticism in sports across the board, especially those that require a very muscular physique. Nevertheless, the changes in women’s workout culture began to catalyze a change in women's body image standards and expectations.
The commonly accepted and celebrated woman’s body type has been, and still tends to be slim, toned, and youthful. A study done in 2019 asked women to reflect on their body image before and after their CrossFit journey. Before, the ideas they had for their bodies were much like many other girls: “skinny” and “fit”. But after their participation, it shifted into descriptors like “strong” and “powerful”. We are beginning to see more of these kinds of characterizations through women in CrossFit, the media, athletic apparel companies, and our very own athletes. With the increase of women in CrossFit came a decrease of the idea that there is an “ideal body type”. The push to not conform to these standards is being championed by the women who have already broken them. It isn’t a matter of how women look, but what they are capable of and moving beyond what is known as “socially acceptable”.
Social media has played a major role in breaking the mold and veering away from firming and toning to power and strength. Female athletes have used social platforms to tell their stories by educating women of the true meaning of being comfortable in your own skin and how they have accomplished it through CrossFit. Fitting into a mold is a thing of the past, but it is not only social media that plays a role in breaking down barriers for women.
Athelo group athletes, Dani Speegle and Michelle Basnett, have first-hand experiences of how CrossFit has broken their own idea of what a woman's body should look like and how their confidence has grown as a result. Speegle has spoken about the changes she sees in herself, especially when it comes to body image. She said, “It’s amazing how much clarity and growth you can accomplish when you’re not worried about how your clothes are fitting or how your legs are jiggling or how other people are looking at you.” Basnett has also spoken out by saying “I choose to have muscle because I like it, it gives me confidence and I enjoy learning what my body’s capable of… do what makes YOU feel good because at the end of the day that’s what matters.” By being a positive advocate for women in sports and to encourage women's health, it breaks down stereotypes of what a woman's body should look like.
Other women in the industry have spoken out publicly about stereotypes in the CrossFit industry. CrossFit athlete Amanda Barnhart is an advocate for health and body positivity. She said, “Life’s way too short to be constantly chasing ‘the perfect body’. And I encourage you all to remember to love yourself despite your insecurities and to please give yourself a little forgiveness when you aren’t perfect because trust me NO ONE is.” Women in the industry have created a safe environment for anyone struggling with their body image and CrossFit has become their way of sharing their own stories of striking down body image stereotypes.
As women in CrossFit break down body stereotypes in the media, there is also a push for athletic apparel to keep up. Typical athletic apparel in the past has been made to fit a women’s body based on past ideas of what it should look like, but with the growing popularity of CrossFit and more muscular female bodies, this apparel just doesn’t cut it. Brands like Reebok are looking to evolve their collections. By conducting 3D body scans across 300 different CrossFit body types, Reebok can determine how to create functional apparel for these powerful women. As more companies enhance technology and their knowledge of CrossFit, and all women in sports, it will boost their brand image. Stepping into the future of women greatly enhances their step forward in the world of sport and seeing it through a new lens.
CrossFit continues to grow and attract women every day. Strength, power, and body empowerment in women is on the rise. As the media and apparel companies continue to support this, the ultimate hope and goal is that there will be no singularly accepted female body type. Women in CrossFit are making a move, breaking down barriers, and telling their stories. Following their lead will take us into the future of supporting all women’s body types, not just one size fits all.