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Who are you training for?

by Brent Marks September 13, 2016

Who are you training for?

Author - Ellie Bowden, Coach at CrossFit Wandsworth, London

Who are you training for...?

As coaches, we love to hear people’s success stories through CrossFit.  No story has touched me more than the following very personal blog from one of our In2 members.

This blog is not aimed just at women – body image can affect us all to differing levels and negative body image can present in many different forms.  However, it is traditionally women who present to CrossFit with a negative body image and the instructions that they ‘do not want to gain any muscle mass’.

I’ve been lucky enough in my life to be surrounded by people who encouraged a positive body image, so it does still surprise me when my body gains negative attention both inside and outside of CrossFit.  Outside of CrossFit often comes questions such as ‘but don’t you want to be pretty?’ and ‘don’t you miss feeling good in a dress?’ Even from inside the gym, questions arise like ‘wouldn’t you be better at gymnastics if you carried less weight?’ or ‘wouldn’t you feel more comfortable with your shirt off if you were smaller?’

My answer to all the above is a strong no.   Everyone at In2 is working hard every single day to create a body that can perform to its best ability.  We are doing amazing things that we wouldn’t have dreamed of prior to starting our CrossFit journey, and it’s important that people come forward and share stories like the following.  We are stronger in numbers than we are apart, and CrossFit has done more positive work for women’s body image than I think they ever thought possible.


Below is a moving and honest piece of writing from someone who you all train with on a daily basis:

  “I wasn’t going to write this – but something changed when I realised that perhaps these thoughts and struggles are not just my own, but shared by many.  So here goes.

I work in branding and advertising and I analyse culture for a living.  We look at what people want and need, and map how this changes over time.  A year ago, we were asked to look at the future of femininity – which is where my story begins.

Anyone that has seen the videos posted on CrossFit’s YouTube channel about women and strength and beauty could tell you that in the last few years, something has changed exponentially for women.  I’m not talking about pay gaps and equal rights; I’m talking about how it feels.

When you have spent your life being considered as an object (to be admired), and then you understand that instead you are a subject of action (to do epic shit) you rewrite the blueprint of femininity.  When you are an object, you must look a certain way to be successful at being said object.

When you are a subject of action, your success is defined by your performance.  That is what CrossFit has done for women.  That is what CrossFit has done for me.

Around a year ago, I walked into In2, analysing how well I was doing as that object.  How did I look? Did I fit here? Did everybody like me? Should I be thinner?  I’ve spent years asking myself that last question, and I spent years starving myself to get a different answer – I can tell you the answer never comes. Even when everybody is begging you no more, it’s never enough.  You can be a bag of bones and you’ll feel just like one – empty.

But In2 said something different.  They said, how well can you perform?  How much can you grow?  Not for the sake of admiration but for the sake of performance itself.  How well can you perform for you?  In the box you work on yourself, by yourself and for yourself.  About a month after I arrived I realised I wasn’t there for anybody but me – I was there because it felt good.  It felt like I was building myself up rather than tearing myself apart.  It wasn’t about criticism anymore; it wasn’t about needlessly changing aesthetics.  It was about growing. It was about strength.

So the next time you wonder if your arms look bulky, ask yourself not how they look but how they perform – in action.  Ask if you want them to be a certain way for yourself, or for somebody else’s (out-dated) idea of what a woman should look like. Are you object or subject?”


Photo Credit: Michael Coppola Photographics 

Ellie Bowden is an ex-elite water polo player and law graduate, who is now a fulltime CrossFit Coach at CrossFit Wandsworthin London, UK.  Ellie loves competing and we will hear from her about community, women and competitions.

Brent Marks
Brent Marks

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