"CrossFit isn't for everyone but it is for anyone".
CrossFit was founded in 2001 by Greg Glassman and since then, its popularity just keeps growing. In 2018, there were more than 15,000 CrossFit gyms in 162 countries and more than 14 million Crossfitters. From that total, 60 percent of CrossFitters were women. Yes, more than half of the CrossFitters in the world are women! Every day, all kinds of women are choosing as their fitness routine a high-intensity mix of cardio, weightlifting and gymnastic movements and they are loving it! Photo Credit: Robyn Elizabeth AllenThe majority of women start out in CrossFit to change themselves aesthetically, but once they have reached that level, their goals are focused on getting stronger and nailing movements they thought they’d never be able to do. Women are no longer intimidated by lifting heavy weights and building lean muscles or doing the same intense workouts as men. With the big interest that women are showing for high-intensity workouts, researchers are turning their attention towards female CrossFitters. They want to know and understand why women are outnumbering men at the gyms, what are the benefits women are enjoying from high-intensity exercises and what are women’s motivations besides of losing weight. Let’s take a look at the results of some of these studies and see how beneficial CrossFit is for women.
Without gender distinction CrossFit offers multiple fitness benefits such as higher bone density, increased basal metabolism, more efficient circulatory and respiratory systems, improved muscular strength and fat burning. Let’s break this down. If we talk about bone density, women should be more interested than men in improving their levels because women tend to have smaller and lighter bones than men. Having low bone density makes bones easier to break and leads to osteoporosis. In 2016 a study showed that 1 in 2 women over 50 years old and 1 in 4 men will experience an osteoporosis related fracture in their lifetime. Plus, don’t forget that menopause with all its hormonal imbalances has a greater effect on women’s bones. But, regardless of the age, hormonal changes, like a lack of estrogen, can cause bone loss in younger women too!
It might not be evident, but when you do strength training you can affect your hormone levels and body metabolism. This study found that women who engage in a long-term weight training program, such as CrossFit, produce more of “biologically active growth hormone”. This hormone allows the body to improve metabolic functions while also building muscle. In short, by lifting weights you are pushing your metabolism to work well and fast while losing/maintaining body fat as it helps you to burn calories.
Improved muscular strength
Muscle mass diminishes with age but you can fight this loss through strength training. This kind of training helps preserve and enhance your muscle mass, regardless of your age. If you’re like me, you have been wondering if doing the same workouts as the men in your CrossFit class will give you similar muscular results. Well, science has proved that when performing the same exercises in the same amount of time, men and women can accomplish the same amount of gains in muscle mass. This is great! We can gain as much muscle mass as men but it may take us more work because of our natural lower baseline muscle mass. Why is it important to gain muscular strength? Because besides getting stronger, it can help you slim down, tone up, and create curves in places that you’ve never had curves before!
Did you know that adding regular strength training into your routine is one of the quickest ways to lose fat? On average, women store about 11% more body fat than men. So women need to work harder than men to eliminate fat of their bodies and weight lifting it’s the perfect way. When we weight train, the muscle loss is minimal-to-none, what we are really losing is fat. In fact, a 2018 review published in the journal Nutrients showed that resistance training (lifting weights, push-ups, wall balls, etc.) helped prevent almost 100% of muscle loss, while reducing fat mass. Luckily, CrossFit program helps us build muscle all over our body, the more muscle mass we have, the more fat it will burn, regardless of where that fat is stored. Go move that body!
Promotes a healthy cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is a major women’s health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American women has high cholesterol. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, states that many women are at risk for high cholesterol and don’t realize it. She said “approximately 45% of women over the age of 20 have elevated levels of cholesterol — but a survey by the American Heart Association found that 76 % of women say they don’t even know what their cholesterol values are”. Do you know what your cholesterol level is? Maybe as part of the majority, the answer is no. But don’t worry, it seems that by doing CrossFit, you are also helping your body get rid of the bad cholesterol. This study followed the changes of cholesterol levels in 20 men who engaged in high-intensity training (very similar to CrossFit workouts) for 5 weeks. The results showed that high-intensity training improves blood lipid profiles having a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
Improved agility and coordination.
In this study, Porcari and Babiash tested the performance of 16 female and male CrossFit athletes in 2 separate WODs. They concluded that women gain significant aerobic fitness levels while getting less injured than men. Women developed agility and coordination skills faster than men. The authors think that this fact can help women stay away from injuries more often than their male counterparts. Think about yourself, don’t you feel that after some months doing CrossFit you are able to move better? I remember that in the past, doing burpees in a workout meant I needed to be very focused on my feet and hands’ movement. Now, I don’t worry about my movements. I have learned how to land and move my feet. It’s like dancing! Photo Credit: Nicola Buchan
Reinventing body beauty Let’s be honest, for the majority of women the ideal slim body is unrealistic. I think it’s even unnatural. History has shown us that women survived because of their strength (few cases because of their beauty) so women needed muscles. Plus, following the ideal of a slim body can lead to unhealthy obsessions and body disorders. What we are doing at CrossFit by training with heavy loads and moving fast, is resulting in strong and toned feminine bodies that are inspiring other women to build and love their muscles.The sociologist Heywood analyzed body ideals of female athletes and he thinks that CrossFit rewrites “the beauty ideal by replacing it with strength – ‘strong is the new beautiful.’” And as a result, women are able “to unlock the potential of their bodies”. By being a female CrossFitter, you are sending the world positive messages about beauty and health. You are helping change the way girls and women are seeing and valuing their bodies. Photo Credit: Kennedy HudsonCrossFit promotes an equal and safe space to workout CrossFit can be performed by people of all shapes and sizes. Normally, the movements of the workouts make no distinction between genders; everybody in the class is invited to follow the same routines. There are scaled versions depending on the athlete level or capacity, but even in this version everyone is expected to complete the same workout. Thus, CrossFit provides equal access and opportunity for women and men to get fit. The benefits that women get from working out in this kind of environment is an emotional boost. Women feel self-determined, strong, physically capable, competitive, and mentally tough. Women at the gyms are not only fighting for a healthy body but for gender diversity at CrossFit and the sports’ community in general.
CONCLUSION Ready to get the benefits of CrossFit? If you’re ready to try a new workout routine, I strongly advise you to try CrossFit NOW! Search for a gym in your area and sign up. If you feel a little anxious about your first class, this article is going to be a great help. On the other hand, if you are already a regular member and badass female CrossFitter, I hope the information above will motivate you even more to get yourself to the gym, give the best of yourself and break some PRs! The benefits that CrossFit offers to women individually and as a community are plentiful so go ahead and keep it rolling baby! Your perseverance and discipline at the gym will award you with a long and healthy future.