|Becky Conzelman - USA Cyclist turned CrossFitter and mum of two!|
Something occurred to me the other day as the hubby and I walked past the window of the local college gym. It was packed with students pumping iron. Mostly guys in their early 20s working on looking buff, the aim being to pack those Superdry T-shirts with as much muscle as possible. Chin ups, barbell rows and tricep dips seemed to be king, less popular were any leg exercises like squats or dead-lifts, the bread and butter of most athletes. My hubby’s only baffled comment as he looked on was “I didn’t even know where the gym was when I was in college!” and I had to agree – in fact I don’t think there was one.
Its not just guys. A new trend has emerged in women’s fitness. Something I read the other day on a women’s fitness website got me thinking about this change. Apparently “strong is the new skinny”. As more and more celebrities get into body sculpting and pumping iron, the masses follow. Much as I think lifting weights is great for women, it shouldn’t be something they do with the sole purpose of looking good. What happened to feeling good, like enjoying the buzz of endorphins you get from aerobic exercise? It’s concerning that women are getting into weights just to enhance their optics while cardiovascular and functional fitness, which is so much more important, seems to be taking a backseat.
This shift is epitomized by the recent phenomenon of CrossFit, a workout regime based on Olympic weight lifting and other strength exercises. It purports to be about getting fit, but when you scratch the surface what it’s really about is making your body look good. It’s not just CrossFit, but gyms everywhere who are fueling the craze. After all there is a lot more money to be made from people lifting weights in a gym then when they go for a run in the great outdoors at no cost.
I’m not sure if the CrossFit revolution is a symptom or the cause of this shift, but all of a sudden you can’t get a squat rack in the local gym for love or money. Olympic lifting is now considered the thing. Moves that were once a dark art practiced only by a minority of hardcore weightlifters, are now fodder for the masses. People can drop words like snatch and jerk into everyday conversations without getting shocked looks or being admonished for using foul language!
To satisfy my curiosity, I went to the CrossFit site to look at the open workouts. These are a series of routines that enable CrossFitters world-over to flex their muscles at each other. Each routine is made up of a number of different strength / weightlifting exercises, the aim being to complete as many reps as possible in a given time frame. As I watched an impressively muscled girl do push presses, dead lifts and box jumps over and over, I wondered why it didn’t sit quite well with me. After all, I did many of those exact moves as part of my routine in the gym. Then I realized what was – the driving force behind it was body sculpture.
It made me think about my training and why I do it. What I do is functional training, every lift or plyometric exercise is about getting stronger. To go faster. Simple as that. The stronger I am, the more power I can deliver into my bike to propel it forward. This is what I’m thinking about when I’m at the bottom of a squat in the gym trying to summon the strength to return to the start position. Each to their own, but I would like to go back to that gym and ask Superdry guy,"what are you here for? To look good, to feel good or to be good at your sport?" I think I would know the answer.