Ongoing updates on Crossfit HQ commentaries

One of my issues with the way Crossfit HQ treats women is how they call men “men” but can’t seem to call women “women”. Sometimes they say “the females” or “the girls” or “the ladies” but very rarely can they manage to say “women”. I was very sick over the weekend, but as a silver lining I watched nearly all of the Canada West regional live stream and much of the North Central and South East regional live streams as well! If anybody is looking for a drinking game, my suggestion is to listen to the commentary and drink whenever “female” is used as a noun for a human. Drink twice whenever you hear “the females” used in the same sentence as “the men”. But here’s a new interesting trend I’ve noticed based on the hours upon hours of footage I watched this weekend: comments about how some of the women “just keep smiling” or “finishes smiling” or “can smile through that much work”. First of all, it’s being used to describe some women who are, like, not even smiling. But plenty of women do smile as they Crossfit. Where’s that coming from? I am certainly not in the mood to smile while I workout, nor do I have the mental energy to force myself to smile. Some say there’s a psychological advantage to smiling; your opponents will see you and think that you aren’t suffering at all. For example, Annie Thorisdottir (who has won the Games twice) is famous for always smiling. This quick Crossfit interview with her during the year she couldn’t compete due to injury is even called “Still Smiling”. But then I wonder why 0, absolutely 0 of the men smile as a tactical move, and why 0 of the men are ever extolled mid-workout for their countenance.

That is not my mid-deadlift face

That is not my mid-deadlift face

When we’re talking psychological advantage, here is a beautiful example of forcing yourself to show no weakness as a way to get in your opponents head. Kyle Kasperbauer and Jacob Heppner are almost going rep-for-rep during 50 deadlifts. One of them finishes a bit early, but rests when he gets to the next station (box jumps). The other athlete approaches the box jumps and just goes for it. Then they jump while facing each other, while gradually picking up the pace. It’s crazy and so much fun to watch. (Watch here from about 1:47:50 to 1:48:30… or watch to the end of the event. So good. Or Jacob’s face at 1:52:10. That is not a smile, and the commentators love that it’s not a smile. “Look at that effort!”.) Anyway, I’m not sure who I’m point the finger at, or if I’m even pointing a finger. Just a strong trend in the differences between the way male and female athletes (that’s female as an adjective) behave and are commented upon during Crossfit this year.

Upgrade from “females” to “ladies”

So it seems that Crossfit HQ has finally moved on from calling women “females”! That’s great news!

Unfortunately, they still just can’t rally themselves to call women “women” and are using a non-ironic “ladies” instead. Baby steps, I guess.

On Lifting and Getting Big

I’m very tired of hearing this conversation between women:

Non-lifter: I’m interested in lifting weights, but I don’t want to get bulky

Lifter: Oh don’t worry, you won’t! Women can’t get bulky!

Andrea Ager is one who comes to mind as somebody who, in interviews, loves promising women that they won’t bulk up. Girl, I mean this as a complement, but you are jacked! I don’t know that you’re really the best spokeswoman for Team Women Can’t Get Big, you know?

Fit, Feminist, and (Almost) Fifty recently shared this article on their facebook page and it got me a bit riled. The part that was like, “you’re not actually bigger! It’s all in your head, you silly, silly woman!” was just insulting but the part about less than 1% of women being able to get big is just wrong.

There are some women who get smaller when they start Crossfit, but those are mostly bigger women who begin to lose some fat. Smaller and average-sized women get bigger. Like, all of them. Why are we trying to deny this? It’s happening to all of us! Somebody will post a facebook status update about how annoying it is to look for jeans that will fit their newly huge quads and bum and 50 people will like it. Very small women start buying large or extra-large shirts to stretch over their lats. I had to go up an underwear size! Like, leave a comment if you think I’m wrong here, but anecdotally I’m certainly right.

I have a photo of myself flexing while wearing a strapless dress and my traps are so big that my little sister just does not believe it isn’t photoshopped. Because I’m huge!

My point in all of this is not to say that when a nervous new lifter mentions their fear of becoming bulky that we should take their weights away and point them back to the elliptical. Rather, let’s get down to the real issue of why we’re afraid of getting bigger anyway. And why we’ve all accepted that to be feminine and to be pretty means being small and fragile.

Look, I think that most women, by the time they get big, are more interesting in their next PR than in having stick legs. So maybe let’s keep telling our friends that they won’t bulk up so that we can get them hooked on lifting before they know what hit them! Or maybe let’s just be like “you will, but you won’t care.”

3rd lifting meeting: Hokkaio CUp

A few weeks ago, I competed in my 3rd lifting meeting. Like my first two lifting meetings, my goal was to hit my provincial qualifying total (101kg for my weight class) but unlike the previous two, I had huge confidence that I could get it. Prior to the meet, I had snatched 45kg and clean & jerked 63kg, so even if I didn’t perform my best, a 101kg total seemed pretty guaranteed.

However, the week leading up to the meet, I was off my game! I was missing my snatch at 43kg sometimes, and certainly wasn’t hitting 45. I was feeling dizzy at the top of my cleans, and therefore having trouble focusing  on the jerk portion. I decided I wanted to play safe, and planned for my attempts to be low risk. I would do my three snatch attempts at 41, 43, 45 and my three cj attempts at  57, 60, and 63. That way, I really only needed to get a few successful lifts and would still total 101 or above. I didn’t feel confident attempting a PR (personal record).

The big change I made in preparation for this meet was that I didn’t want to cut any weight at all. I wanted to even eat a normal breakfast the morning of the competition! I learned from my 2nd meet that it just makes me grumpy and dizzy and that I don’t even need to cut! I’m safely within my weight category (under 63kg). In my first meet, I weighed in at 60.96kg and I was 60.04kg at my second. So on the morning of the Hokkaido cup, I had a tea, I had a Larabar, and I was halfway through a banana when I decided to check my weight just to be sure… 62.96! Yikes, put that banana down, girl! However, an hour later (on the same scale, minus a few articles of clothing) I was a very safe 61.84kg. Who knew sweat pants weighed so much?

I got the 41 and 43kg snatches, but missed 45. Not a big deal! Then I missed my opening clean & jerk at 58kg (in the video below you’ll see that I press out on the jerk, which means my arms weren’t quite straight by the time my feet landed), which is sort of a big deal to miss your first lift, but I felt confident and decided to go up in weight to 60kg instead of retrying 58kg. I got it! I missed my next cj at 66kg (I was feeling so good that I took a risk and went high, and even though I missed it, I don’t regret it). That gave me a total of 103kg and therefore I have qualified for 2014 provincials!

Here’s video of some of my lifts:

The cheering from my friends and teammates really makes all the difference. I don’t know how anybody could compete as an independent without a coach and a team! The whole team did so well. A few even got medals!

The next lifting meet isn’t until May, which is good for me because right now I am shifting my focus to Crossfit for Feb and March. So I still have about 3 months, but let’s see if 110kg or higher isn’t possible in May!

Introducing The Bar Belles

Over the long weekend, my lifting best friend (Jalene) and I competed in a two-person team competition called Battle on the Border. Before the competition, the organizers asked to feature us, so we answered their questionnaire. But they never posted it! So here it is now, in all its glory!

TEAM NAME: The Bar Belles

AFFILIATE: CrossFit 780, through Prime Strength & Conditioning



We met in fundamentals class in January 2013, so we just celebrated our first Crossfit anniversary!


Lisa: I played soccer fairly competitively ever since I was very young, but also played basketball, skied/snowboarded, ran cross-country, canoed, and even briefly dabbled in lacrosse. Then I got into triathlons during university (I had to take adult-learn-to-swim lessons) and ran some longer distances.

Jalene: I danced throughout my childhood and into high school and did competitive  gymnastics when I was very young. I was briefly involved in track and field in high school and I’ve gotten a bit into running over the past 5 years or so, but overall “athletics” are kind of something new for me!


Jalene: I bought my boyfriend Crossfit fundamentals for Christmas last year and decided to be a good sport and try it too. I didn’t really think I would like it, but after the first month I was hooked!

Lisa: Both of my older sisters do Crossfit and they were always talking about how much they love it. I held off for a while, but eventually, after two ACL tears from soccer and endless hip and back injuries from running, I thought it was time to try something new. So far, no bad injuries!


Jalene: Kelly! And maybe also Diane

Lisa: I like the long ones! Probably Kelly? I like Nancy a lot, too! I also love a good chipper.


Jalene: I love box jumps, DUs, most gymnastics stuff and olympic lifts.  I pretty much just hate kettlebell snatches, or anything involving a kettlebell in one hand!

Lisa: I love overhead work (especially overhead squats), rowing, box jumps, DUs, and the olympic lifts. I don’t like most gymnastic movements, especially T2B.


Jalene: Everything! It is the first type of “exercise” I don’t find entirely boring, and I love how the focus really is on becoming stronger and healthier, and not just looking better in a bathing suit. I love how every WOD starts with intense competition with the people around you, pushing you to do your best,  and ends with everyone cheering on the last person to finish.

Lisa: Doing Crossfit has made me amazed at my own abilities. I have had countless mid-workout moments where I’m just like, “I can’t believe I can do this!” It feels so good to know objectively that I am stronger than I’ve ever been.


Jalene: I just try to eat in a way that makes me feel my best. I never limit the amount I eat, and I have a rule against food rules! I find the more I stress about my diet, the worse I actually eat, so I just accept that sometimes for dinner all I want is a grilled cheese sandwich (with extra cheese, pickles and ketchup) and move on.

Lisa: I try not to eat too much processed food, but I say that as long as I’m making sure to leave room to eat enough protein and a variety of fruits/vegetables, then enjoying some carby starches or sugary bonbons is just part of eudaimonia. (See also: riots not diets)


Jalene: I can’t even answer this! I love food too much to pick one

Lisa: Well, I don’t like the idea that enjoying any meal should be called “cheating”, but I do try to limit the number of frozen pizzas I eat. Those thin crust pesto ones. YUM!


Jalene: 40 kg snatch (I’ve been stuck at 38 for so long!), 91 kg back squat, and muscle up.

Lisa: I want to make it to provincials for weightlifting this year. A 150lb clean and jerk is only a few months away, probably, if I keep working hard. I’m also looking forward to getting my first muscle up soon!


Jalene: Trying to talk about non-crossfit/olympic lifting things in social situations…
Also, having to wash and do my hair everyday now! (lady problems?)

Lisa: Good pain vs. bad pain. Knowing when to take it easy or when to tough it out.


It’s our first competition so we are looking forward to unleashing our inner beasts and seeing how hard we can go. Also we can’t wait to wear matching shirts!


Anything we can split up! All of Lisa’s weaknesses are Jalene’s strengths and vice versa. It’s almost ridiculous. They don’t even make sense.


Currently we lift four days per week and do some conditioning two or three times per week. We’ve been talking about doing two-a-days (adding in some conditioning on strength days) but so far we’re not doing that.


Interesting Reads from January

Here are some things I enjoyed reading this month!

Over at LBEB, a post on Controlled Aggression:

My message is this: be brave when you lift. Be brave when you’re going for a PR. Tap into your inner aggression and do MORE than the minimum required effort to move that weight. When you are performing an event for strongman, or going for a PR in powerlifting or crossfit, lift like your life depends on that movement! Sprint like your soul is on the line. Move weight like someone is yelling in your ear, even if no one is. Be your own training partner when one isn’t there. Demand more of yourself.

Fit and Feminist talking about Women and Pull-Ups:

If we want to know what women are truly capable of, we have got to stop with this bullshit that says physical strength and its signifiers will somehow diminish a woman’s beauty and femininity.  (Ideally it would be nice if we could stop acting as though beauty and femininity are the only things women have to offer the world, but baby steps, yo. Baby steps.) This idea that upper body strength is reserved only for men, and that women shouldn’t dare investigate it for fear of blurring the supposedly rock-solid gender binary (seriously, for something that is supposedly so deeply ingrained in nature, it sure does require a lot of hard work and effort to keep it in place), is ridiculous.

While Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty talks about Women-Only Gyms:

I know too that there are some women-only gyms. I have no objection to them and I don’t think they’re sexist. But I would be interested to know whether they are as well-equipped as inclusive gyms, or if they emphasize a certain kind of equipment that caters more “to the ladies.”  I find that assumptions that women ought to work out in certain less intensive ways do women a disservice.  But if that’s the only way to get some women out there hitting the iron, then it’s a good place to start.

The Believer had the most terrific article ever, called Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and The Spectacles of Female Power and Pain:

DISCUSSED: Weapons Not Used Against Nancy Kerrigan, Factors Likely to Sway an Olympic Judge’s “Artistic Expression” Score, The Triple Axel, Sponsorships in the ’90s, White Trash and Working Class, The Non-Sexualized Female Athlete, Tonya Harding’s Brief Acting Career, Fast-Food Restaurants near the Former Skating Rink in Clackamas County [Ed. Note: if that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.]

And Jezebel took us through the Evolution of Sexy as displayed on Sports Illustrated covers:


Finally, Sociological Images talks about Athletics and the Political Ambitions of Young Adults:

The authors suggest that the mediating factor is “an opportunity to develop… a competitive spirit.”  Sports, they argue, may build or reinforce the tendency to find pleasure in competition, which may make politics more appealing.

While sports increased both men’s and women’s interest in politics, it had a greater effect for women, shrinking the gender gap in political ambition by half.

What are your thoughts on women-only gyms and/or Tonya Harding and/or the tan lines that would result from that second swim suit?

Interview with Rachel, the extremely good badminton player

Rachel and I met when I was an undergrad and she was a PhD student within the same philosophy department. We played on a department intramural team called Nagel’s Bats, GET IT? Not only is she very athletic, but she also has some cool thoughts on women in sports. Lucky for us, she took some time to be interviewed for this blog!


Rachel, on left, wearing purple.

Me: You’re one of the most diversely skilled athletes I know. As a kid, were you encouraged to try lots of different sports or to specialize in one or a few things?

Rachel: Thanks! I can’t say whether I was actively encouraged to play sports as a child, but I was essentially golfing from age 3, and I was a generally sporty kid. Our neighbourhood had lots of other kids and we’d generally spend all our free time playing street hockey, baseball, tennis, riding bikes, football, or some other activity, structured or not. I played little league baseball, tennis, and golf from a very early age. I transitioned into badminton around age 10 and started winning tournaments almost immediately. Although I’ve picked up and even competed in many other sports, golf and badminton were my main focus.

I’ve heard you mention that a bad accident crushed your hopes of becoming a professional golfer. My first ACL tear took me out of sports for about a year, and I really struggled with my identity as an athlete (are you an athlete if you can’t go for a jog?), and I know a lot of people with chronic injuries who say their injury makes them struggle with their relationship to their body. How were you able to come back strong after your accident?

The car accident was pretty devastating. I was barely 16, and it was September. It happened to be the day I was going to get back to training badminton after my month off from the previous season (where I was the BC provincial U16 singles champion). But as a passenger, we hit a telephone pole around 80kph and I badly injured my wrist, back, knee, and neck. I quit golf as a result and I was away from badminton for roughly two years. Unfortunately, those are the years where one’s skill really develops and matures, and I missed out on those. So when I went back to training at 18, I was sorely behind: people I was beating easily were now beating me. I went from being top ranked, to barely making semi-finals (and only winning one tournament, as a fill-in doubles partner for one of the other top players).

Honestly, the accident and injuries changed my relationship to sports in a lot of ways. I was a high-performance athlete before the crash, but not really after. I had to shift away from thoughts of professional golf (which was my career path) and towards academics.

I still consider myself an athlete, but I no longer consider myself high-performance. Just the other week I was at a World Cup speed skating event, and I found myself feeling a little upset that I lost the chance to compete on the world stage. I miss being absorbed by being a high-performance athlete: it really is an identity. I used to build my life around training and competing: now I build training and competing around my life (as a professor).

So I wouldn’t say that I “came back strong after [my] accident” per se. Sure, I got back into heavy training, but nothing like I was doing before, mostly because my priorities had shifted. I used to train 2-4 hours/day; now I play more than I explicitly “train.” But sports, and competitive sports, will likely always be a part of my life: it’s just part of who I am. My back and neck haven’t fully healed from the soft tissue damage. However, they’ve healed well enough for the levels of sport that I compete at, although I can only golf recreationally now.

Continue reading

P&G Olympics Commercials

Here’s the thing. Do these “Moms of Olympians” commercials make cry tears upon tears every time I watch them? Oh heck yes.

I mean, have I spent several hours watching these commercials? Yes, yes I have!

But how hard would it have been for them to be “proud sponsors of parents” rather than “proud sponsors of moms”? It bothers me for two reasons:

1. Most P&G brands are household care and cleaning products (Tide, Bounty, Charmin, Dawn, Swiffer, Mr. Clean, etc.). To target ads for these products only to women is distasteful and regressive. “Oh, laundry detergent? That’s for women!” Come on.

2. What about all the devoted, encouraging, nurturing, wonderful dads out there? When does the media ever show us that love? Dads teach their kids how to ski, dads make sure their kids stay warm, dads wake up at 5am to get their kids to the rink, dads teach their kids life lessons about overcoming failure, and dads cry with pride when their kids succeed!

I still love watching these videos. But for Rio 2016, let’s get some dads in there, P&G!

What does weightlifting competition prep look like?

My friends have lately become accustomed to hearing, “I’m busy that day, I have lifting.” This is because I am ramping up for the Hokkaido Cup, a weightlifting meet on Feb 1, so I can’t miss a single training session!

Usually as we prepare for a meet, we would cut out conditioning (i.e., Crossfit) about a month out because we want to use all our time and energy either for lifting or for resting and recovering our poor little big muscles. But because we also have some Crossfit competitions coming up shortly after, we are keeping up with our conditioning until two weeks out. So, here’s what my training looks like:

Week 1: 5 lifting sessions, 2 Crossfit classes
Week 2: 4 lifting sessions, 2 Crossfit classes
Week 3: 4 lifting sessions
Week 4: 3 lifting sessions (the last of which is very easy), and the competition!

As the weeks go on, we do fewer but heavier repetitions. Some days we do snatches and front squats. Other days we do clean & jerks and back squats. Sometimes we do both. Sometimes we use blocks or practise tall or dip drills. Some days have overhead squats, drop snatches, or jerks from the rack.

Photos from today's overhead squat training. From the shoulders, up above the head, squat all the way down to full depth, stand it back up.

Photos from today’s overhead squat training. From the shoulders, up above the head, squat all the way down to full depth, stand it back up.

Some people cut weight during the lead-up to a competition. This doesn’t interest me, but for the last two competitions I did, I fasted until after weigh-in on competition day, and stopped drinking water at 5pm the night before. This cuts alone cuts about 2-3kg of mass for me, but also makes me feel grumpy and dizzy rather than pumped and ready for the day. I also really don’t need to cut to meet my weight class, as I want to compete in the 63kg weight class, and when I weight myself (during lifting, so at night and with clothes on) I’m about 63.5kg. Also, from my last competition I learned never to weight less than I need to, so I think without fasting I can still be 62.99kg or lower.

For me, one of the most challenging aspects of contest prep is sticking to the programming. On days when the loading is light, say, only up to 80% of our maxes, I just want to go heavier! And later, as our volume decreases to only about 30 or 40 reps in a session, I just want to lift more reps! But I need to remind myself that leading up to the day of the meet, I’m supposed to feel as if I have more in me than my program asked for. There’s no point banging out a PR on Tuesday during Week 3… save it for the big day.

Another challenge for me is not to escalate the consequences of missed reps. The other day I failed at 90% of my clean, and freaked out about how I wanted to OPEN at 90%! If I’m not even able to hit 90%, then how the heck am I supposed to hit my 100% or PR at the meet! All is lost! I’ll never be ready! It’s easier said than done, but I am working on trusting the programming to do what it is designed to do, and have me ready to hit that 100% at the meet. You can’t peak every day!

One of the best parts of contest prep is all the time you have during the tapering of weeks 3 and 4. Running errands? On a week night? Don’t mind if I do!

I’m really looking forward to Hokkaido. Our lifting team has been growing lately, and we will have two lifters who will be competing for the first time. I also think it’s a realistic goal for me to total 110kg  which would be enough to move me out of the Novice category and into a Canadian classification! Ah, but let’s not get carried away. We’re still in week 1 and there’s much work to be done!

Snatch records as of Jan 10
Best at a meet: 41kg
Best in practice: 43kg
Goal: 45kg

Clean & Jerk records as of Jan 10
Best at a meet: 57kg
Best in practice: 63kg
Goal: 65kg

A Crossfit Year in Review

Registration for the Crossfit Open starts soon, and I’m reminded of where I was at this point last year. I started Crossfit in January 2013, and, barely out of Fundamentals, I nervously considered registering for the Open. I knew I’d probably be the weakest competitor at my gym, and I was worried there would be movements I couldn’t do (at that point, I still couldn’t do a pull up). I was talking to one of my favourite coaches, Bailey, bemoaning the fact that I  could barely lift anything and there were so many movements I can’t do. Seeing some nearbly athletes practising  flawless double unders, I pointed out that I couldn’t even string them together! Everybody is so much better than me!

Bailey said, “Yeah, but they didn’t start that good. Good people used to be bad, and then they just practised a lot.” Completely inspired (she’s a great coach), I registered for the Open that night and decided to start doing 10 minutes of double unders on all my non-Crossfit days. At first, I could only get about 40 or 50 within 10 minutes. Eventually I could get 100 in ten minutes, and I decided to try to get my 100 DU time down. I asked around the gym for what a “good” 100 DU time would be, and got the answer of about 2:00. I set my goal at 1:30.

In the past year I have had a lot of exciting firsts, such as my first chest-to-bar pull-up in March during the Open!  And later, I got my first handstand pushup in August, my first bodyweight clean in October, and my induction to the 100lb snatch club in November. The incredible feeling of doing something you’ve never done before (and perhaps previously thought impossible!) happens with EVERY first and EVERY new lifting record. Crossfit is fun because I’ve had measurable success and growth in every way. 

All the while I’ve been working on my 100 DU time. I kept a sheet on my fridge where I wrote every new record. Progress came not without an body full of whip marks (that cable rope really does a number!), and yet, eventually, after almost a year:


Oftentimes when I evangelize Crossfit, I hear that attitude that Crossfit is only for people who are already monsters. People think they’ll be the worst, or that it will be too hard for them. One person said she’s going to join a regular gym first, lose some weight, and then join Crossfit. No! You guys! You don’t have to be good, you just have to get out there and try!

Whether you can’t figure out how to skip or your first time doing DUs you can string them together, whether your first back squat is the empty bar or 200lbs, whether a slow jog makes you lose your breath or you win your local 5ks… once you start, you’ll improve!

My next goal is to get a sub-8:00 2000m row time on the erg. My current record is 8:44. Let’s see how long it takes!