I recently had a 15-year-old girl come to me for personal training to get her back in shape before cheerleading started up again in the fall. Having done cheerleading and knowing just how many issues teenage girls can have with their bodies, weight and over-exercising, I’ll admit I was a little worried about what I might be dealing with.
A Refreshing Perspective
That girl, however, completely blew me away before our first session was even over. Right off the bat she came across happy, confident and comfortable in her body, and it was clear as soon as I’d put her through some basic exercises that she was pretty capable. In the middle of the session, while I was showing her some technique for her pushups, she just looked at me and said:
OMG you have an amazing ass — you look so strong!
For those of you who don’t know me, yes I do have a big butt, and while my legs are by no means huge by CrossFit standards, they’re definitely not small either.
This definitely made me laugh, but the message/mentality behind what she said made my entire weekend. For those of you who don’t know me, yes I do have a big butt, and while my legs are by no means huge by CrossFit standards, they’re definitely not small either. I know since I started CrossFit/lifting I’ve gotten bigger, and I have even had some girls say they “don’t want to look like me” and that’s cool — to each their own. I don’t particularly want to look like them either, because it would mean sacrificing my strength and being unable to do so many of the things I love and which make me happy/proud (rope climbs
, tire flips, heavy squats
, partner carries…).
When I heard her comment, I could only think, “What?! I’m not even that muscular! You want to see muscles? Look at Lindsey Valenzuela or Camille Leblanc-Bazinet – now that is muscle-y … and hot!”
But during the entire session, not once did this girl mention wanting to lose weight or get smaller, nor did she mention any fear of bulking up.
But during the entire session, not once did this girl mention wanting to lose weight or get smaller, nor did she mention any fear of bulking up (or looking like me). Instead she talked about wanting to gain strength;
how annoyed she was that her PE teacher (a football coach who called her princess) never pushed her because he thought cheerleaders were “girly” and “weak”; and how much she loved outperforming the boys in her class.
She asked what I did for sports/training, so I told her about CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting (neither of which she had heard of, but seemed intrigued by). She came back to me after she had watched some CrossFit videos on YouTube and said:
Those girls are amazing. They’re so strong! They’re gorgeous!
I can’t even begin to describe how happy/proud this girl (whom I had met only recently) made me because she gave me hope. Hope that things are changing: that “skinny is sexy” is on its way out and that girls growing up today are looking up to healthier and stronger role models.
Learning a Different Mentality
I went through high school convinced I needed to be skinny, and it wasn’t until my 20s — when I was introduced to CrossFit and weightlifting — that I realized the fact that my natural body type will always be strong (not petite) and began to accept that. Suddenly I was in a world where where the focus was NOT on
- “burning calories,”
- “losing weight,” or
- “being a size zero.”
Instead I discovered that
- performance trumped appearance;
- training was something you did to get stronger/faster/better; and
- you ate to fuel your body.
I’m even more glad that a young girl who has never done CrossFit (or even heard of it) already considers strength way more important and attractive than being a size zero.
For me it took finding CrossFit to finally let go of the “Skinny is Sexy” mentality, and I’m glad that I did; but I’m even more glad that a young girl who has never done CrossFit (or even heard of it) already considers strength way more important and attractive than being a size zero.
I know she is only one girl, and there is still so much value placed on “skinny as sexy”; however, I honestly hope that the emphasis will continue to shift to being strong and healthy instead. I know that in 2, 5 or 10 years down the line, “strong is sexy” will likely get replaced by something else… but perhaps the lessons it has taught us will stick around for good.
Visit Taryn Haggerstone’s blog, Go Hard Get Strong, for more of her thoughts on training. Follow her on Twitter @TarynHaggerston.