Big quads, so what? These CrossFit girls don’t care

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The plan was to do a group feature for my weekly Yahoo #Fitspo column, but after speaking to them, I realised there was a greater story to tell. These girls exude an air of confidence about their bodies, which the average girl lacks. They readily agreed to posing in bikinis, without hesitation. To be frank, I was expecting some kind of resistance, but there was zero concern.

Fully aware they do not have bodies they are expected to have – skinny with a small waist and flat ass according to society – these girls are proud of their bodies because they earned them. The training they go through in CrossFit pushes them to chase for performance that aesthetics no longer become a priority.

Having been someone who suffered from body image issues before, I felt that this was a story I had to tell. This is where I want to say; it’s not the numbers on the scale, but the numbers on the bar that matters! Read the full story on Yahoo here: These 5 Singaporean CrossFit girls are not afraid to be ‘quadzillas’

PROFILES

Annie

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CrossFitting since 2013
Age: 23
Nationality: Singaporean
Status: Single
Occupation: Student
Height: 158cm
Weight: 55kg
Diet: High protein with lots of vegetables; tries to reduce carbs
Training: 4-5 times a week at Crossfit Statera
Sports background: Soccer, touch rugby, boxing, CrossFit
Competition record:
Manila Throwdown 2014 – Women’s Big Category, 11th
Sin City Invitationals 2014 – Women’s <55kg, 4th
1RM (one repetition max): Snatch 55kg; Clean & Jerk 65kg; Deadlift 110kg; Back Squat 85kg

When and how did you learn of CrossFit?
I did a lot of gym when I was doing strength training for contact rugby. When I was searching the Internet for some inspirational strong women, I came across a lot of CrossFit women and that got me really interested in trying it out.

How did your first CrossFit WOD feel?
I liked the idea of the challenge. I was tired but satisfied that I managed to complete decently quick – in my intro class, it was just one army guy and myself who completed the workout.

What is it about CrossFit that you like so much?
It’s constantly varied and highly intense, so it hold my interest (I tend to get bored, as you can see from all the different sports) and there’s always something new to work on. I also really love the kinds of values that tend to come with a CrossFit community and how people can be massively competitive but also incredibly encouraging to each other.

How confident are you about your body?
One of the key aspects of CrossFit is the idea of functional fitness. While some of us do revel in the aesthetic, our main focus is always on the output- whether we’re getting stronger, faster, more efficient. So even though we sometimes wish we looked leaner or had better abs, we’ve got a greater hunger to perform well and improve ourselves as athletes- the aesthetic aspects are secondary. I’m proud of my big quads; I think having a body that reflects its own strength and capacity to move is a wonderful thing.

How can we get more girls into CrossFit?
I think many girls are intimidated by the idea of CrossFit and don’t feel like they can reach a certain standard or commit to it. I hope to show them that if you want to do something and you’re willing to learn that you can do it. You might not be the best and it’ll take time, but you’ll be better at it than you were before, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself.

Sarah Widjaja

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CrossFitting since 2013
Age: 20
Nationality: Singaporean
Status: Single
Occupation: Student
Height: 174cm
Weight: 76kg
Diet: Eats whole foods most of the time, gluten-free, no counting of calories, eats what the body needs
Training: 5 times a week at CrossFit Fire City
Sports background: Basketball, badminton, volleyball, Muay Thai, powerlifting, CrossFit
Competition record:
Sin City Invitationals 2013 – 5th (individual)
Beast of the Southeast – 1st (team)
Sin City Invitationals 2014 – 6th (team)
CrossFit Games Open 2014 – Top 10 women in Singapore
1RM (one repetition max): Snatch 70kg; Clean & Jerk 80kg; Deadlift 135kg; Back Squat 120kg

When and how did you learn of CrossFit?
I first learned of CrossFit when I moved to Sydney in 2013. My Muay Thai trainer there is also a CrossFit coach, so he got me doing CrossFit-type exercises to supplement my training as a fighter. From there I started doing the ‘Benchmark Girls’ and I was immediately hooked. I was only doing CrossFit 1-on-1 with him so at the time I had no experience of the ‘box life’.

My first CrossFit WOD was a Hero WOD called ‘Whitten’. It is one of the longest WODs I’ve ever done – it took me nearly 45 minutes to finish it, and that was with very scaled down weights. I loved the intensity though, it made me proud to be able to push through and complete the workout. Ironically, when I first started out I thought CrossFit was easy, but the more I do it the harder it gets… and yet I still keep coming back!

What is it about CrossFit that you like so much?
I like pushing my mind to the limit. Most people think that CrossFit is about pushing your body, but your body can only go as far as your mind takes you. I also like watching ordinary people achieve extraordinary things. When you see stay-at-home mums hitting 100+kg deadlifts, you know there’s no more excuses to not work hard. There’s also that tight community aspect that all CrossFitters are familiar with- the people in your box become some of your closest friends and eventually they feel like family. On top of that, no matter where in the world you go, when you visit another CrossFit box you’re immediately accepted as one of their own and they will cheer for you and support you like you’ve known them for years.

How confident are you about your body? 
CrossFit girls complain about their bodily flaws in different ways. It becomes a matter of “I wish I was leaner so doing muscle ups would be easier” as compared to “I’m not as skinny as her therefore I’m not as attractive”. I wouldn’t say that I’m not completely satisfied with my body, I compare myself to other girls as most people do, but once I started CrossFit I’ve learned to prioritise performance over aesthetics. There are many times when I feel much bigger than other girls around me, but then I think “These legs can squat over a hundred kilos, can theirs?”.

I’m proud of what my body can do and it’s important that I accept that, because I want to inspire people to live a healthier life, not just chase a chiseled body. I’ve learned to trust the process and I understand that if I’m training hard and eating right then my body will enter a state of homeostasis and it will change into whatever it was built to look like. That might not mean rock hard abs and guns of steel, but I’m okay with that.

You’d also think that training with guys would make me feel more conscious of my body, but what I’ve learned from it is that they really don’t care about what you look like. You prove yourself with how hard you’re willing to work and your attitude when you step into the box, not how defined your abs are. And just looking at all the CrossFit girls I know, its obvious that there’s no one ‘ideal’ body type. We all look different, we’re all proficient in different skills, but more than anything we’re strong! That’s all that matters. Oh, and we all know we have a great ass, that matters too.

What message do you hope to send out there to other women who are insecure about their body?
Don’t stress over what you look like. As long as you put in the work, your body will turn out the way its supposed to. Focus on other goals, whether it be health or performance or even just acceptance of yourself because people will respect you much more for that. As long as you respect your body for the way it is and don’t abuse it- it will do amazing things for you in return. Instead of being driven by aesthetics, be driven by living a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, exercise, spend time with the people you love and your body will change accordingly; you’ll feel more proud of it than if you short cut your way to getting a six pack.

How has CrossFit helped you develop as a person?
Before I started CrossFit I used to be very self-conscious about what I looked like, how I acted, the things I chose to do. CrossFit changed that for me- I found a place of solace where I wasn’t judged based on what I looked like or who I was. For one hour in your day it doesn’t matter if you’re mum of four or a nurse working night shifts, everybody is treated exactly the same at the box and everyone commands the same respect for each other.

From there I learned that it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I love doing it, because people will respect me more for that. I learned that being bigger than other girls is a good thing, that not going out to party every weekend doesn’t make me a loser, and that I can have friends who are twice my age without it being one bit strange!

Along with becoming comfortable in my own skin came the ease of being able to talk to anyone. I used to be quite shy and unsociable because I was afraid of being judged, but once I became accustomed to “community attitude” that CrossFit brings, I have learned to open my mouth more. In a sense CrossFit helped me grow up – its made me appreciate everyone in my life who has helped me along the way, and I am grateful for all the experiences it has brought me.

Anything else to add?
CrossFit is not for everyone, but if you love doing it then don’t be afraid to pursue it. This goes for everything else- you don’t have to do something just because everybody else is, it doesn’t matter what they think. You don’t have to do CrossFit just because I say its good for you. Find something you truly love doing and turn it into a healthy lifestyle!

 

Tricia Christabel Tan

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CrossFitting since 2012
Age: 27
Nationality: Singaporean
Status: Engaged
Occupation: Assistant Manager, Business Development
Height: 163cm
Weight: 68kg
Diet: Mainly watch carbs and sugar intake, substituting as much as possible sugar for natural sweeteners like honey; ensuring enough greens; no unhealthy overly fried or oily food\
Training: 3-4 times a week at CrossFit Bukit Timah
Sports background: Badminton, CrossFit
Competition record:
Sin City Invitationals 2013 – 4th (individual)
CrossFit Asia Regionals 2014 – 10th (team)
Hong Kong Throwdown 2014 – 2nd (individual)
X45 2014, Kota Kinabalu -1st (individual)
Battle Royale 2014, Brunei – 3rd (individual)
Sin City Invitationals 2014 – 6th (individual)
1RM (one repetition max): Snatch 57kg; Clean & Jerk 74kg; Deadlift 115kg; Back Squat 105kg

When and how did you learn of CrossFit?
I learnt of crossfit through my boyfriend who wanted to try it out. At that point, we were (still are) very different people with very different interests and likes. No common activities that we shared – he likes running/swimming, I hated it and still do – but when he wanted to try it, I decided to give it a go and see if it was something we could do together. This was back in 2012.

How did your first CrossFit WOD feel?
Our first few sessions was brutal – 100 squats for warm up. wall balls, sandbag runs etc. But we carried on since then! At the beginning I dragged myself to the box only because I paid and because I agreed to do it together. It took me a long time (almost one year) to figure out anything – I was still going in after six months and not know what a clean and jerk was, or a squat or what a hand release push up was. I started VERY slowly compared to the other people who got hooked almost immediately. I only got hooked onto it when I did my first Opens in 2013 and it was a burst of adrenaline to be “competing” again. Since then I’ve been training. It’s no longer working out or keeping fit. It’s become a sport and a passion.

What is it about CrossFit that you like so much?
I love going into a CrossFit gym because I don’t feel judged by other girls or other men by my body size so much and that it’s not normal for girls to be lifting weights or squatting or whatever men deem girls should or should not be doing. I have had global gym memberships and whenever I go in there, I get the sense that the men there feel that as a girl I’m here for the yoga stretch classes or the kickboxing and whatever not.

Having trained my whole life as an athlete and been made to rally and spar with boys (my badminton coach used to train boys and he used to make me train with boys only), I have always seen myself as an equal with them and secretly (ok maybe not that secretly) take pleasure in beating and winning them and proving to them that girls too can be equally good.

CrossFit as a sport truly embodies that. Girls in the sport can easily take on any guys and aside from scaling the weight, we can be measured almost apple to apple. Aside from the nature of the sport, being competitive again feels great. It gives me purpose to train and I love being able to feel the adrenaline and pushing myself. It’s something competitive athletes just can’t run away from and find it super hard to explain to those who are not competitive (aka my boyfriend).

Community is something very emphasised in CrossFit. There is community in your own box, but through CrossFit, I have friends and honestly real and good friends around the world that I have made through the sport. Going to a box overseas is mostly friendly and very welcoming; it feels like going to visit a friend’s home and to know we all already have a common love for something makes it even better. It’s truly something and possibly the biggest reason why I love CrossFit.

How confident are you about your body?
I am pretty confident and secure about my body these days. I used to be teased by boys growing up for having “thunder thighs” and hated them. I am naturally pretty big boned too so that didnt help either. After being in crossfit, being “quadzilla” is no longer a bad thing. my thighs were suddenly revered and especially so by guys!

I am actually someone’s “QUAD-IDOL” in Hong Kong (cute white guy) and guys would drool over girl’s quads now because somehow they cant get to that size. not sure why. And as all the other girls must have mentioned this a million times, in CrossFit now, we train for performance and aesthetic is secondary.

We are “judged” not by how we look but by how your body performs. This is very evident in men actually when a new guy comes in and he looks big, all body-builder-ish but when you ask him to do a pull up and he cannot or he is unable to do a ring dip. Instantly, the person loses “cred” if you know what i mean. So end of day, the concerns we have about our body or weight, is to lose body weight ONLY because it makes gymnastics WAY easier and burpees of course. And everyone wants abs come on!

Sarah-Anne Tan

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CrossFitting since 2014
Age: 32
Nationality: Singaporean
Occupation: Business Analyst / Consultant
Status: Single
Height: 161 cm
Weight: 54 kg
Diet: Cuts out sugar, rice and most grains as much as she can
Training: 4-5 times a week at CrossFit Enduro, yoga or Pilates once a week
Sports background: Track, Tennis, CrossFit
1RM (one repetition max): Snatch 32kg; Clean & Jerk 48kg; Deadlift 77kg; Back Squat 64kg

When and how did you learn of CrossFit?
I’ve heard it mentioned on various occasions through friends but never had any particular interest at that time. It did not appeal to me as my overall fitness level was way down as I simply did not have the time to work out since returning home from Australia. Then, more than a year ago, a friend decided to pull me along to observe a WOD session at CrossFit Enduro. Seeing what the crew did, I told myself, ‘Hell no… I’d be flat out in the first 5 minutes’. Over the next few weeks through social gatherings, folks at the box started giving their personal account of how and why they joined CrossFit but I was still apprehensive, thinking I’m not cut out for this.

I decided to observe another event, ‘Sin City Invitationals, which was originally held at Fire City and I came away from that thinking, I’ll never reach that level. A few weeks after the New Year holidays, again I decided to observe another session at Enduro, and this time, had the liberty to chat with Juria about what my concerns were and why I felt the way I did, basically having the mindset that my current gym workouts were more than sufficient in keeping fit and needed time to think about it.

That day, Juria’s parting words were: “Everyone’s got to start somewhere. Take all the time you need, and when you’re ready, I’m right here.” ‘Nuff said. I did a bit more reading on my own and emailed Juria the next day to sign me up for Fundamentals. The first WOD was half TABATA during the Fundamentals and I could not walk properly for days after.

What is it about CrossFit that you like so much?
Being able to do a workout with a group of people who pushes you to want to do better and more each time. You pick someone that is better than you in something and you focus on that skill/technique and they become your benchmarks. Your benchmarks can change every week. That’s how you are able to push yourself and push others around you. Everyone takes responsibility to look out for each other not just the coaches and instructors. Above all else, no matter how good you get, there’s always someone better than you and it humbles you.

How confident are you about your body?
We actually do complain about our flaws! The only difference is we end up laughing about it. Was initially apprehensive as this was my first ever photoshoot and what more, in a bikini! Being generally camera shy, no doubt I was wary of my flaws. But these flaws that I’m referring to were more in line with, I’ve only been in CF just over a year, and these other awesome babes have been doing it much longer and the skills they have acquired… I ain’t got the muscles definition, ain’t got the abs, wasn’t too confident with rig work, but remembering what Juria mentioned before, “You’ve got to start somewhere” and with the mindset that I have adopted through CrossFit, I see these girls as benchmarks and how much more I can achieve. CrossFit has definitely helped me learn to be comfortable and confident in my own skin.

What message do you hope to send out there to other women who are insecure about their body?
Find out what exactly are you not happy with about your body. If it is a health issue, go find out what can be done; perhaps eating a little healthier or finding a proper ‘diet’ that suits you. For example, find out what types of food may make you sluggish, or what particular food source you feel helps with more efficient digestion.

If on the other hand, you are unhappy with the aesthetics or physical outlook, my one advice is exercise. We had the honour of Jason Khalipa visiting Enduro and giving a short insight to his world of CrossFit and the words that resonated most with me were “Earn your confidence”. It does not have to be CF. It can be sports, yoga/pilates or even basic gym work. As long as you keep active on a regular basis and tailor a workout/exercise regime that works for you.

Exercise is key. When you exercise, you will feel you are able to do alittle bit more each time. Over time, you “Earn your confidence” and you will find this is reflected in every other thing that you do. It builds your confidence and self-believe. Keep pushing yourself for new targets and eat healthy. You don’t have to be skinny or slender to be confident. It is what your body can do for you.

Some girls feel that doing CrossFit will make them big, especially the quads/thighs. What do you have to say about that?
I would say I generally have bigger quads for an average girl of my size. But it wasn’t CrossFit that developed them for me. It was my track and sprinting days in high school that laid the foundation. Public misconception and the lack of knowledge/education is what causes such mindsets.

Doing CrossFit doesn’t make you big. It can tone you up and fill you out. It is just like any other regular sport. Developing big quads/thighs or bulking up your biceps/shoulders does not directly associate with just CrossFit. There are many CrossFitters who look like regular folks walking along the street. Those that end up having bigger and more defined muscle mass are a result of a higher consistency of exercise and generally being able to do more movements or lift heavier weights.

But that is what those individuals are going for and what they choose to do as a lifestyle choice. It’s personal preference. Walk into any CrossFit box you will see folks of varying sizes, and all are doing the same movements and workouts. You don’t have to be buff and ribbed to qualify as a CrossFitter.

Landy Eng

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CrossFitting since 2014
Age: 26
Occupation: Personal Trainer
Status: Single
Height: 159cm
Weight: 58kg
Diet: Prepares own food as much as she can, includes good carbs, less or no oil, no fried stuff and less sodium
Training: 5 times a week at CrossFit Mobilus
Sports background: Dragonboat (Team Singapore 2013-2014), CrossFit
Competition record:
CrossFit Team Series 2014 – 5th in Asia (team)
1RM (one repetition max): Snatch 48kg; Clean & Jerk 60kg; Deadlift 110kg; Back Squat 100kg

When and how did you learn of CrossFit?
I only get to know CrossFit in early 2014 when I saw a video in YouTube and I was like wow! The CrossFit workout really caught my attention!

How did your first CrossFit WOD feel?
I tried CrossFit because I wanted to do something new after all the dragonboating for years; I wanted to challenge myself. Along with two dragonboat teammates, we went for an introduction class at CrossFit Mobilus. I did a mini WOD during the class and I felt good! it really challenged me and in that instant I thought to myself, “This is what I’ve always been looking for!”

What is it about CrossFit that you like so much?
It is part of my life now. CrossFit tells you how fit or unfit you are and what your strengths and weaknesses are. It is a immediate effect. Cross also comes with a strong community that cheers and pushes each other. Because I used to be in a team sport, I’m used to having people around me and in CrossFit, the community helps to not make me feel that I am alone doing the workout.

How confident are you about your body?
I have never not been confident about my body. I don’t train because of the shape or size of my body. I train for fitness, how to improve my strength and how to change my weaknesses to strengths.