Oh no! We don’t want to get bulky!

Each week our Mona Vale gym hosts 60 high school students for school sports. In that hour, we get to showcase CrossFit, how it works and how it benefits their bodies, both in the short and long term.
One day, a group of 3 girls were pressing the 1kg dumbbells with such ease and I could not help but think that these were not much heavier than their iPhones. I walked over and told them that they should give the 3 or 5kg dumbbells a go.
“Oh no! We don’t want to get bulky.” Say what??!! (insert jaw drop here!)
I was completely dumbfounded. I could not believe the belief they would get muscular from shoulder pressing very light dumbbells for 3 sets of 8 reps!
Is this really what these girls think? Where did they come up with this notion? Is this what the majority of the population think? Not just about CrossFit but of weight training in general?
As a CrossFit coach and competitor, I do hear this all the time, especially from women who come into the gym for their first assessment. “I’m just scared of getting bulky,” “I don’t want to look muscly” and the occasional “I don’t really want to look like you.”
Ouch! Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I know what I want from my training and to be honest I don’t think I’m muscly enough.
But let’s break it down and see where this idea of “bulky” or “muscly” has come from.
Over time, we have been taught to believe that we do cardio to lean-up and weight training to achieve muscle mass. And we tend to do these in isolation, you must choose one over the other. And if we need to do some weight training, we gravitate to the lighter weights, as anything heavier will surely make us “bulky”.
The reality is that for overall well-being, health and fitness, you need to incorporate both. You need to be able to move well and at the same time develop and maintain strength. Why? Simply put because in the game of life – playing with your kids for longer, picking them up when they are tired, helping out at work or home and even giving your body the strength to stand up from a chair in your older years – are important activities that require a solid foundation of strength and movement.
No quality CrossFit gym will put an emphasis on muscle growth and body building unless it is a specific goal of yours. The real focus should be on quality movement patterns and developing and maintaining strength. We want you to squat well, have full range in your shoulders and body to help you achieve your goals, but also perform well at the game of life. At CrossFit Athletic, our Base and MetCon programs address these goals, with an ideal combination of strength, general fitness and skills.
“I hear you, but I’ve seen some women that do CrossFit and they are pretty muscly.” That is right, around 1% of the CrossFit community is made up of professional CrossFit athletes that compete at an international level that push their bodies to ultimate performance. These athletes, both men and women, are exceptional individuals and competitors, truly amazing to watch them compete and train.
Their training will normally be 20+ hours per week of high-volume activities, complemented with a well-structured diet and supplementation plan. This is a lifestyle choice that requires serious dedication, commitment, sacrifice and time. Your body will adapt and physically change and perform. And they have become the image of CrossFit.
But most of our members, train 4-6 hours per week, work on balanced fitness, become part of a community and get results that get them closer to their goals. And for many of them, it becomes a case of “I want to see what my body is capable of achieving” and this is a great way to throw away the body image dialogue away.
Do yourself a favour. Try CrossFit for 3 months and enjoy the rewards that achieving your fitness goals in a community of like-minded people can bring to you. Click on the link to contact CrossFit Athletic.

by Natasha Kazmierczak, CrossFit Athletic Mona Vale

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