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!

2nd lifting meet: Athabasca Cup

In mid October, I competed in my second lifting meet. It was my last chance to qualify for provincials. To do so, I needed a 101kg total. Going into this meet, I had snatched 42kg and I had both cleaned and jerked (though never clean & jerked) 60kg. I knew I could do it!

But then, I guess I choked. I opened with an easy 38kg snatch, then missed 41kg twice (well, I finished both lifts but pressed out slightly both times, which means my arms weren’t locked by the time my feet hit the ground). I had a big cry in the bathroom because with only 38kg to my name, I would need to cj 63! A feat I had never even attempted!

After wiping my tears and receiving several pep talks, I somehow rallied and had a great warm-up for the clean & jerk. I opened with 57kg and felt GREAT. My next attempt was at 60kg and it went up easily. As I centred myself to jerk, I heard the buzzer sound. I ignored it because I didn’t know what it meant, but then a voice on the mic said “uh… can you please put the weight down?” I was really confused, but it turns out I had caught the clean a little low and when I raised my elbows to prepare for the jerk, the bar moved higher on my chest. This is called an adjustment, and it invalidates the lift. It was a rule I had never heard of (though I have now since read the entire rule book, so this will never happen again). Instead of re-trying 60, I went for 63. My goal was to qualify for provincials, so I figured I might as well risk it. So up I go for my third and final attempt, and I miraculously clean 63, and… buzzer. I had adjusted the bar again. So, with all 6 attempts finished, I only totalled 95kgs.

I stomped off the platform like a grounded teenager (video exists, but I haven’t been able to track it down. It’s kind of funny actually) with my provincials dreams shattered. I was grumpy for days and gave serious consideration to just going back to only doing Crossfit. Crossfit only makes you feel good and happy! In Crossfit, you can always just try again! Lifting is a MEANIE. It has too many rules. But to the gym I returned, and my coach put me on a strength program with a bit of technique work, but nothing greater than 80% of my snatch and cj max. Then, in late November, we retested:

I snatched a new record of 43 and very nearly entered the 100lb snatch club with a 45kg lift that I just couldn’t balance. The next day I finally clean & jerked 60 (with a clean clean) and even cleaned 63, but missed the jerk. So much fun!

I guess a few lessons learned from Athabasca:

1. Don’t cut more weight that I need to. I compete in the 63kg weight class, so really I could have been 62.99 and still only have needed that 101. If two competitors in the same weight class total the same, the lighter one places higher, so technically it’s worth it to be further under. But because my goal was hitting 101, and I didn’t care about my placement in this particular meet, there was no need to cut at all! But, not really thinking about that, I didn’t eat or drink until after weigh in on the morning of the meet. I was 60.04 but thirsty and grumpy. Next time I won’t cut so much. Less than 63 is less than 63!

2. I can keep my goal when things go wrong. In retrospect, I dealt with my first no-lift at 60kg pretty well. Instead of getting flustered, I immediately put it behind me and started thinking about killing it at 63.  That’s nice to know!

3. Weightlifting is not all sweetness and light! When you start, you hit PR after PR. PRs feel great! I love PRs! But sometimes you can’t do the things that you could do last week, and then you feel sad. If weightlifting is going to be my main sport, I’ve just got to get used to that (easier said than done).

My next meet is in February and I think I might be able to hit about a 110? With 45 and 65? Who knows right now, but for sure I’ve got that 101 in the bag. Next year I will most definitely be at provincials.

Girls, Women, and Females

I remember being about 21 or so and sitting with a bunch of co-counselors at summer camp talking Feminism 101. One friend brought up her “new thing”: referring to herself as a woman. Not a girl. A woman.

“I mean,” she explained, “it’s basically an insult to call a man our age a ‘boy’  Isn’t it equally infantilizing to call ourselves ‘girls’?  By any definition, all of us, all in our 20s, are women.”

This was an entirely novel idea to me, and while I completely agreed with my friend’s logic, I had trouble making the change. It felt odd, and sometimes still does. Using “woman” to refer to a woman in her 20’s sometimes elicits turned heads, weird looks, or assumptions that I’m talking about somebody in her 40’s.

In casual contexts, it is quite common to hear people calling men ‘men’ and women ‘girls’ is at this point. I hear it a lot in Crossfit gyms, “135lbs for men, 95lbs for girls” or “count the girl’s bar as 35” or “a lot of the girls beat me”. What a weird and annoying word choice to describe an adult!

I find most Crossfit reporters  make a real effort to avoid the saying ‘girls’ in professional contexts. Great! Perfect start! Yet there still seems to be a real aversion to saying ‘women’. And I sympathize with that! In some situations (like when others are saying ‘girls’) I feel like it would be too awkward to say ‘women’ so I use an ironic ‘ladies’ or ‘gals’ or something. But something I see very frequently it Crossfit coverage is the word ‘females’. And, when paired with the word ‘men’ (as in ‘men and females’) it absolutely kills me.

Today’s example, which prompted this post but which is most definitely not a one-off peculiarity that I happened to find, comes from the Rx Review. The article gives us coverage from the USA Weightlifting Open and first summarizes ‘the men’s half’ and then a few paragraphs later, ‘the female’s half.”

Here’s the thing. ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ refer to people. ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ refer to bodies. When we call the men ‘men’ and the women ‘females’, we’re discounting women’s personhood.

I’m happy with male/female as adjectives, e.g.,  ‘the male athletes and the female athletes’, and I’m okay  with the use of ‘female’ when paired with ‘male’. But here, I’ll do a quick search through 2013 coverage and find some examples of men/females:

“While most of the men moved easily through the chest-to-bar pull-ups, this movement became a sticking point for the females.” NorCal Regional Report)

“Most females got to collect themselves regularly as the men split the work up into four to eight sets.” (Europe Regional Report)

“Our strategy with the guys was to just keep it going, unbroken, and not get caught up in a transition. No rest at any transition. We put faith in the females to finish it,” (Canada West Regional Report)

It’s all over the place! I sure noticed it a lot while watching the Games live, too. Let’s stop saying ‘girls’ or ‘females’ and start calling women ‘women’!

(In pre-emptive answer to “Why does such a little thing matter?”)

November post round-up

There’s so much great thinking all over the web! I thought I would link you to some of my favourite reads of the past month.

If you’re a Brittney Griner fan, I’m sure you already read her profile over at Elle, but even if you’re not, it’s a fascinating read on gender expression and policing in the WNBA.

Elizabeth Akinwale’s response to the notion of “thigh gaps”. The article is great, but my favourite part comes from a commentor who says “them thighs are the truth”!

Sociological Images talks about “the gendered forest” and how hiking gear is needlessly gendered.

10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know About Working Out (most importantly, that it is not about fitting into a dress)

Rowling with a Baby

I really enjoyed this video not because it is fun to watch people taking turns rowing 100m (like bowling, rowling is fun to play, horrific to watch) but because of the dang cute baby!

A muscle dude talkin’ muscles while being a good dad, and then his muscle bros helping out with child-minding while they do sports! It’s certainly imagery we don’t see very much in mainstream media: hyper-masculine-looking men being casually nurturing. I support this!

(Highlights throughout, and at 4:45 at 7:00)