It is no secret that I want to get big. Not toned, not muscular, but hulking. I want to be able to lift with the strongest, and I have been working at it for years. I have dialed in nutrition, upped my training volume, and taken every street-legal supplement out there. Even with the extra time, effort, and energy, I am not massive. I have learned that increases in strength and size are not easy to come by in a 5-class-per-week CrossFit routine.
I recognize that not all women share similar goals. In fact, most women I talk to are hesitant to embrace the strength component of CrossFit for fear of becoming too big. If you are of this mindset, I want to reassure you. The bulk monster is not going to sneak up on you in the middle of the night. There is no need to worry that two or even ten sets of pull ups are going to make your lats too big. Gaining lean muscle is an incredibly slow process for most.
Some women do experience increases in lean mass more quickly than others. While most often long and arduous, the rate of muscle development is variable. There are CrossFit Games athletes, individuals who make up less than 0.001% of the sport, with wildly different body compositions. Brooke Wells vs. Sam Briggs. Brooke Ence vs. Lauren Fischer. I want to reiterate, if you are lucky enough to be an “easy gainer,” there will be signs before you wake up with legs like Kara Saunders. It is my hope, however, that before you decide to skip a strength day, you come talk with a coach. We will remind you that weightlifting is not only utilitarian and healthy, but the ultimate confidence-booster.
This type of advice is the kind I needed growing up. I spent most of my athletic life long, lean, and weak. I thought that to become better at swimming I should always swim, sometimes run, and never weight train. In college, I offered to swipe my teammates meals if they signed me into mandatory lift sessions. I logged extra miles on the track and skirted my recommended caloric intake. As a result, I struggled to get my laundry from my dorm room to the basement washers.
I should have made the strong/fast connection after years of a losing to much bigger girls. Fortunately, I started CrossFit and learned the benefits of weightlifting: regulated blood sugar, improved coordination, heightened perception, reduced stress, increased bone density, and of the biggest surprise to me, improved cardiovascular endurance. After nearly 3 years in a CrossFit gym and 8 years out of a pool, I hopped in and matched a college time just last year. Not only did I feel fast, but powerful and confident. CrossFit did more for my swimming than swimming did.
It has taken a while, but I now know that I need to pick up barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and odd objects to be a well-rounded athlete. I need weight training to be able to surf, climb, hike with the dogs, and haul the cooler. I urge all women to accept a similar mindset. Let’s become the best version of ourselves, no matter what it looks like on the outside. But hopefully, for me, it is really huge.
Some recommended reads: