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Body Positivity vs. Body Shaming: The Fine Line, When We Cross It, And How Not To

“Strong is the new skinny” began as a movement for body acceptance. The naive media consumer in me wants to believe it started with the best of intentions. Greater body type diversity in the media by praising women who have visible muscular definition has fundamentally changed the fitness industry and the way that women understand how their body is meant to look. And while the sentiment behind it is nice, the implications that come from widespread acceptance of this mentality can be, and are quickly becoming, detrimental. It is no secret that being physically strong has its advantages, but to replace one standard with another ultimately still places one type on a pedestal, leaving all others as inadequate. This isn’t a body positive way of thinking.

The images that represent the media’s version of strong women are in themselves limiting. Featuring models who are lean as hell and wearing basically nothing, we’re given even more requirements to meet in order to be considered beautiful. These women ARE beautiful, but become the unreachable expectation. Such a beauty standard is just as difficult to achieve as being skinny, and gives us all just another reason to believe that we just aren’t good enough.

No one wants to be called a body shamer. It’s not a flattering look. But when we consider one way of being as inherently better than another (strong vs. skinny), we are still shaming. Supporting one, very narrow body type does not bode very well for the self love community. 

If we aren’t critically thinking about what exactly the media is telling us, it’s easy to get caught up in just another campaign. So I challenge you to be a critical consumer and challenge what’s being put in front of you.

Real beauty is cultivated from taking care of yourself: mind, body & spirit. Eating real foods that nourish your body, maintaining health (in whatever way or at whatever weight that means for you) so that you can move through your day with ease and joy, engaging with people and activities that make you happy. Beauty is not created from lifting weights, and health looks different on every single body.

I am a CrossFit athlete. I live and breathe for strength, function, and the beauty of having muscle. There is no doubt about the importance of being strong for my sport, and the strength I have cultivated in the gym has infiltrated every piece of my strength outside of the gym. I have the phrase “Beauty in Strength” tattooed on my ribs. Not for the reminder that having muscle is sexy and cool, but to acknowledge the emotional, spiritual, mental, AND physical strength I’ve developed over the last 4.5 years. As an ode to the sport, yes, but also as an ode me growing into my truest, happiest, most beautiful self, in my best and healthiest body. From insecure college woman to CrossFitter, the changes I’ve seen in myself are astounding and have, in part, been created from the physical strength I’ve gained. But that doesn’t mean that my body is inherently better than anyone else’s.

Having defined muscle IS beautiful, but so is being every other which way.

Sending self love,

Maggie

 

 

 

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Let’s Call It An Identity Crisis

Close your eyes. Let’s imagine for a little while.

Imagine that you are in transition. Imagine that you have spent the entirety of your young adult life between the same two towns, one of which you grew up in. Now imagine you are leaving both of those places for a brand new one. Imagine that you have no family or close friends nearby (okay, your boyfriend is on the other side of the city). Imagine that you graduate, move out of your favorite city and away from your favorite ice cream place and move into brand new territory and a brand new, one bedroom apartment, all within 24 hours. Imagine that you are starting your first full-time job two weeks after your move to this new place.

Now imagine the details. Imagine that this place you are leaving holds six years of incredible memories and every kind of growing up an 18-23 year old could do. Imagine that you found multiple families while you were in this place. Imagine that one of those places is a gym, and this gym is where you grew into yourself and found beauty in your own strength and the strength of those around you. Imagine that this gym took a chance on you and hired you. Imagine that this job is the first job that you never waited until the last possible second to arrive and always and eagerly spent more time there than was ever necessary. You remembered almost every person’s name after the very first introduction.

Now imagine leaving that place, and imagine that place closing its doors for good. Imagine the feelings of relief that you won’t physically be there when it happens, but also of overwhelming sadness knowing that neither you nor anyone else will be able to experience that kind of happiness inside those four walls again.

Now imagine you’ve come to terms with the changes (or so you’ve convinced yourself), and that you find a new gym in your new town. Imagine that you are incredibly nervous but incredibly excited because this new gym means that something is the same. It means that everything you built in your old gym just moved an hour and a half north and can be transplanted right onto their barbells and pull up bars. It means that you all speak the same language, and that kilos and pounds and power cleans and kettle bell swings are all the same as they were before. It means that you get to create a new community and family.

It means familiarity and identity.

Now imagine that you turn 24. On your 24th birthday you visit a doctor who tells you that you have an injury (a pinched nerve in your neck to be exact). On that same day you find out that you can no longer pick up a barbell or hang from a pull up bar until you are pain free. He says it will take 2-3 months to be that person again. He says it could have been worse. He says if you take care of it and do your exercises you will be back and maybe even better than before.

Cue the identity crisis.

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A picture from the workout that literally broke the camel’s back (er… pinched the nerve)

A few months ago I declared my identity as an athlete and challenged you all to claim your own identities, and do so proudly. I am an athlete. I am a CrossFitter, I am a weightlifter.

In the midst of all of the change and the transition and newness, CrossFit was my constant. I joined a gym almost immediately upon moving because I knew the faster I started, the faster it would become my safe place and my community; where everyone speaks the same, loud, metal-and-rubber language. But with this injury, now even my safe place isn’t all that familiar.

I know it’s only 2-3 months. I know that being injured is a humbling experience, that I will grow and probably be even better than I was when I’m healed. I know that it could have been so much worse. I know, I know I know. But right now, I KNOW that it just plain sucks.

Once I take my spoon out of the ice cream pint I’ll see that there is a lot of beauty in the strength to find the positive in this. And I know I’ll find the positive in this. Happy Mags will turn her frown upside down and smile and laugh through the modifications over the next two months. Everything will be okay. But I think being sad is okay too, just for a little while.

Sending self love,

Maggie

With Calloused Hands…

I love a lot of things about CrossFit. (I blog about it, so I better). I see it as a metaphor for a lot of other aspects of my life, as I’ve mentioned in plenty of other posts.

A recent CrossFit Inc. video posted on Facebook caught my attention this afternoon. It’s a compellation of top athletes and regular box-goers like me, all with one thing in common: they’re all women. And bad ass women at that. The 3+ minute video is set to a somewhat poetic, lyrical narrative about how strength knows no gender.

In thousands of chalk-filled gyms women are killing the preconceived conceptions of their own frailty, and with calloused hands rewriting the stories of expectations.

Y’all know I could preach this ’till kingdom come. To be strong is no longer a man’s game. To be frail, timid and weak is an outdated version of gender identity. To promote anything else would be more than foolish. Quite honestly, I think to promote anything else would mean you’re pretty dumb.

CrossFit gyms (at least those that I’ve been a part of) do a pretty awesome job at promoting this kind of mentality. And this is where it starts. Can you hear me? This is where the change can start.

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Getting to hang out with two of the coolest women I know (well, don’t really know): Olympian Mattie Rogers (above) and Box Owner Jen Agnew (below)!

 

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Videos like this make me really happy. They make me proud of what I do and what I believe in. Of course, videos like this also show the flaws in a sport like CrossFit and a media team that only sees white, hypersexualized females as the women that represent us. We are not all like this. But, I think we have to start somewhere. And this is an awesome start.

Sending self love,

Maggie

Two Years Strong

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I have madly and passionately loved for CrossFit for two years.

Two years. A blink in time in the grand scheme of life. Oh, how life can feel static in two years. I still live in the same city, I am still a student, I am still an ice cream addict, I still worship my dog, I still can’t go more than three days without talking to my mom. But oh, how life can change in two years; how life has changed in two years.

I completed my first “foundations” class at CrossFit Bloomington on November 5, 2012, according to my yellow workout notebook. My max, one rep dead lift was 135 pounds. Today, it’s 235 pounds (soon to be tested and hopefully destroyed!). I can literally lift 100 more pounds off of the ground today than I could two years ago. I am by no means the strongest woman at my gym, but I am the strongest me that I have ever been.

I didn’t realize how desperately I needed a life change until I was about 6 months into working out. My self-actualization came during the summer of 2013: Newly single and totally lost. I vividly remember the workout that I did the day after: The Broken Filthy Fifty. Ironic, I know. It was upwards of 95 degrees in this unairconditioned warehouse after working 9-5 at my internship cubicle, and I was about to do 20-15-10-5 reps of: Box jumps, kettlebell swings, walking lunges, knees to elbows, push press (35 pounds), back extensions, wall ball shots (14 pounds), burpees, and double unders, for time.

I don’t remember what time I finished in… I could barely breathe. All I know is that between the heat and the emotions, I was on the verge of tears the entire time. But I finished. I wiped my face, washed my hands, and had officially sweat out everything left inside of me. And it was time to rebuild from there.

CrossFit was my constant, it was my rock. When I talk about the spiritual awakening I went through, it was the Broken Filthy Fifty that signaled the beginning of it. Physically, emotionally, socially, intellectually. You name it, I changed. Some more significant than others, but all noticeably enough for me to appreciate and realize that I am now a more confident, independent, strong woman than I ever was before. I was building my self-worth. “Beauty in Strength”, as many of my friends know, is my mantra now, and it will continue to move me forward.

Today, I’m generally a happier person. HOW?! You ask! For those who don’t know me, happy is my neutral; happy is my normal. But these days, it is more genuine than ever. I love the way that I look. I weigh five more pounds than I did when I started, have lost a pant size, and have gained some serious self-confidence. I value myself more and the things that I am both good and bad at. I understand that life is always challenging, but if I could back squat 180 pounds 10 times in a row last week, I can probably make it through my first semester of graduate school.

I can’t forget to give credit where credit is due during this two year CrossFitiversary:

CrossFit Bloomington, you made this all possible. Thank you for teaching me the basis for everything I needed to know, and sparking this insane fire inside of me. Thank you.

CrossFit Deerfield, thank you for taking me in these past two summers and giving me a community of extremely talented and passionate trainers and athletes. Thank you.

Stonebreaker Athletics, I love you. Thank you for loving me right back in all of my silliness, and for letting me do what I love (almost) every day. Thank you.

Carl and Q, you raised me! You are major role models and have influenced the person that I am and continue to become. Thank you for constantly challenging me, even when I don’t want to use 95 pounds for my cleans during the workout because I’m too tired. For your high fives, and your constructive criticisms, for laughing at me and with me, and constant belief in my abilities these past two years. Thank you.

I was thinking about this post today and what I should write when reflecting back on my two years. This blog has been, since the beginning, dedicated to my complete obsession with this sport and how it has changed me. The first few posts were a little rough, and I will openly admit it! I was new to the blogging world and wasn’t writing it for anyone but myself. But now, these posts have found their purpose: To not only reflect on the adventures that I take my body through, but to hopefully inspire other people to find something they’re passionate about– literally anything– and let it completely consume them, mind body and soul, and build them up, and prove to themselves that they can always be better than who they were yesterday. This is what I have let CrossFit do for me, and I wish its magic upon every person in this wonderful world.

Happy two year CrossFitiversary to me, now go do something great today!

Sending self love,

Maggie

To find strength, serenity, and cake pops

This week, life is challenging me. It’s giving me challenges in school, in relationships, with the aches and pains in my ankles, feet and shoulder, and the relentless challenge to resist eating every bowl of ice cream, piece of pumpkin cheesecake, and chocolate covered cake pop that makes its way into my sight lines.

These challenges are nothing new; they swim in and out of my brain on a daily occurrence (especially the food…), I just feel them more this week than I have in a while. It’s easy to complain and whine, and I do sometimes. So do you! But it’s when I acknowledge and accept these challenges that a new challenge emerges:

How to find the good within them.

Finding the good in things you don’t like is hard. It’s really hard. But, let’s equate it to a workout since that seems to be a pretty solid analogy for most of life’s situations. 90% of the time, a CrossFit workout is hell. It’s anywhere from three to thirty minutes of solidly AWFUL, sucky stuff. And the next day, you’re sore. Probably in a new place you didn’t know had muscles to be sore. But after a few weeks of hard work, you can do that same workout with 10 pounds more, or finish it 30 seconds faster.  And that is badass and good.

I began my search for the good today at hot yoga. Yes, it rocks. At the beginning of each class, we set an intention for our practice. It’s an intention to carry us through the class, and to leave with at the end and carry us through the rest of the day. When I started going at the beginning of this school year, I didn’t really ever set an intention. My intention is to sweat a lot? Doesn’t seem very yogic or yogi-minded or yoga-y or whatever you want to call it. But today, I set an intention,

To find strength and serenity; to be confident in my independence and my choices.

Pretty effing profound for my first intention! This intention is big, and it’s obviously not going to manifest itself during a 75-minute hot fusion class. But the intention behind the intention is what matters. In challenging times, where can I go to find my strength and serenity? Where can I dig to find the confidence to be independent and, in the scariest sense of the word, alone? The word alone doesn’t have to be scary; it can be liberating- it’s just up to me to find that positivity and goodness in it.

So this week, I challenge myself and I challenge you to find the strength and serenity, in whatever capacity or circumstance. Take what you need, leave the rest. And if life brings you cake pops, it’s okay to eat one. Or three. And Instagram it in all of it’s glory. Because not every challenge needs to be conquered right away.

Sending self love,

Maggie

Finding Beauty in Strength

If there is one thing I have learned from CrossFit it is that no body is the same. No body looks the same, moves the same, lifts the same, runs the same, carries weight the same, metabolizes the same. To think that my body will ever look like Sienna Miller’s is completely ridiculous.

Some women are “blessed” with the thigh gap. They don’t have to worry about chaffing when they walk in a skirt or planning their next bathroom stop to use baby powder to relieve a little pain. They don’t have to worry about unsticking their legs from each other with no one noticing every time they’re sitting and they’re sweaty. They don’t have to worry about pulling down their shorts from riding up the second they start to move in them. But I still say, fuck the thigh gap.

I used to daydream about the thigh gap. It was my goal, though I had no idea how to get there. But when I started CrossFitting, I realized it just wasn’t in the cards for my body to have a thigh gap. It wasn’t how I was made. And I am finally okay with that.

To me, strength is beautiful. Strength in physical ways, but also strength in mental and emotional and spiritual ways. I find beauty in the strength that women, like myself, can say that they love the way their legs look in spandex because we can see the muscles that we have worked hard to build. Women who don’t wish we were a certain way because we accept their bodies the way they are, and understand that we are all created very differently.

This is why I love CrossFit. It teaches healthy habits. It teaches both women and men to learn to love what their bodies can do. Walking into a CrossFit gym, I am a badass. I have muscle, I carry myself with confidence, and I have absolutely no thigh gap.

Now, that’s not to say that if you have a thigh gap that you are unfit or not beautiful. (You actually are extremely lucky that you don’t have to deal with chaffing.) The point of saying “fuck the thigh gap” is to say it on behalf of those women who wish they had one; who have yet to accept their bodies for the amazing machines that they are. I only hope that one day they can say it with me.

And if you need any more inspiration, here’s Elisabeth Akinwale on just how bad ass your thighs can be. Cheers!