All across the world, ladies of all ages and experiences are flooding CrossFit gyms in the pursuit of strength and health. We women know that we have always possessed great strength, and it seems our collective devotion to personal well-being and drive to excel in athletics is pushing us as a whole toward a place of recognized strength, ability and equality.
Still, sometimes we do run into questions, odd looks or even flat-out opposition. Our bodies can be regarded as novelties — a rare spectacle of muscles that look “too masculine” or “freaky.” Ironically, what most women appreciate about their fitness is in the every day. We can unload our cars, carry our children, and get through our days with energy and confidence. We love that we can move with ease and walk with confidence through our days.
We don’t pump iron for the sake of a selfie, a strut or a skimpy dress. Our hard work is a celebration of what our bodies can do for us. Sure, we may get a little too giddy over the release of a new Quest Bar every now and then, but we continue to push because we know that each additional rep and every drop of sweat takes us one step closer to our inner confidence and independence.
Here are six women sharing some of their best strong-girl moments.
Favorite Lift: Bench press
Strong-Girl Moment: This former national-level figure skater is no stranger to intense training and hard work. On a recent trip to the beach with her husband and swole-mate Chris, they decided to rent a couple of stand-up paddleboards for the day. They picked their equipment with the help of the woman running the hut. Feeling ready to go, Dawn began reaching for her board when the woman shouted to Chris, “Are you really sure she is going to be able to carry that 300 feet?” As the current New York State record holder for the bench press with the 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation (190 pounds, in case you were wondering), Dawn’s husband was pretty certain that his lady could manage. “Yes, she can definitely handle it.”
Her deadlift, back squat, clean-and-jerk weights chime in at 345, 300 and 205 pounds, respectively. I would bet money that she is the only person on the planet who can do a triple salchow and turn around and squat 300.
Much to the amazement of her onlookers, she hauled off to the water without any trouble at all. Active rest-day status: expert.
Occupation: Student, farmer, veteran
Favorite Lift: Thrusters
Strong-Girl Moment: Jennifer is a relative newcomer to CrossFit, but even at just a few months in, she is already reaping the “functional” benefits from her training. She and her boyfriend Joey were putting in some work on their goat pen when they decided to build platforms for the animals to jump on. They had cut down a tree in the backyard that Jennifer surely thought was impossible to get all the way over to the other side of the yard, but she said to herself, “I’ll give it a try anyway.” Much to her surprise, she was able to muscle it over using the classic “tire-flip” method. Joey was impressed, and Jennifer felt pretty good about it, too!
Di + MaryAnn
Age: 57 + 53
Occupation: Administrative assistant + Financial adviser
Favorite Lift: Deadift + Deadlift
Strong-Girl Moment: Di and MaryAnn are country neighbors. One day, they were looking out on their lawn and saw that a couple of trees and bushes were in desperate need of trimming and removal. They looked at each other and said, “We can do this!” They hauled off giant tree trunks and carried boulders with ease. Their love for deadlifts helps them to carry bags of mulch in the summer and bags of salt in the winter. Sled pulls make pulling dump carts full of dirt and rocks seem easy.
“I absolutely love that I’m able to do most of my own yardwork projects — with Di’s help — and don’t have to hire people, because I love to work in the dirt! It is nice to go to Lowe’s and be able to load my own car, haul the stuff into the yard and feel strong,” MaryAnn says.
“It is amazing what I’m able to do at my age (which doesn’t feel that old!) that my parents were never able to do at this age,” says Di.
Occupation: Craniofacial and microvascular surgeon
Favorite Lift: Power cleans
Strong-Girl Moment: Regina is a girl who rocks her brute strength. Sled drags, burden carries and squats feature her incredible power and capacity for enduring pain. In the gym, her teammates all recognize her poise and ability, but outside the gym, she doesn’t always get seen for who she is right away. As a female surgeon, she is still considered a gender rarity in her field. When working with an unfamiliar operating-room team, she walks in and often the staff will welcome her and say, “We are just waiting for Dr. Rodman to get here.” To which she flatly replies, “Yes, I am Dr. Rodman,” as she points to her credential badge that states “doctor.”
Regina’s CrossFit prowess helps her assert her true power and strength over her fellow gentlemen. In a professional world where men dominate and women are frequently talked over, being assertive is a must. The feeling of accomplishment after a new PR in CrossFit can transfer to self-esteem in all areas of life. “Knowing that I can squat more than most of the men I work with gives me confidence, and I make sure my ideas are heard,” she says.
In addition to mental toughness, having a strong physical presence helps, too. Just seeing a woman with muscles helps break the stereotype that women are the weaker sex. Regina was told by her director that in 20-plus years of having (mostly male) fellows, she was the first to have bigger arms than him. “I think that helped me earn credibility from the start,” she says. “So now I’ll try to have an occasion to wear shoulder/arm-revealing clothes before starting at each new hospital. Giving a little flex to the good old boys helps raise the level of respect I get."
Occupation: Director of Evaluation and Innovation, Syracuse University Institute for Veterans and Military Families
Favorite Lift: Wall balls
Strong-Girl Moment: Bonnie is a girl who puts in some serious work at the gym. From her days as a collegiate rower, she brings a giant engine and impressive endurance to her WODs. Bonnie is expecting her first child, a baby girl, in December. Recently, she was working on a bathroom renovation along with her husband and a few family members. She was slinging full sheets of hardy board in and out of the house for cutting. She went to reach for a toolbox when suddenly the “heavy load” was intercepted. “No, no, no. You shouldn’t be carrying that!” they shouted. Throughout the day, the family gently inserted help to prevent her from lifting. They could not have fully appreciated that just a few hours earlier, she easily moved through her set of 30 cleans at 105 pounds and was sure she could transport the toolbox without breaking a sweat.
“It’s funny how as soon as you become pregnant, people have all kinds of ideas about what you can’t do — as if the strength I’ve built over years of hard sweat could instantly vanish,” Bonnie says. Genetically speaking, all babies inherit their strength from their mothers. Baby Beers is going to be one fit chickie when she arrives!