Embracing Your Own Standards

I’m a little late on writing about this and at this time, I’m sure a hefty dose of people have seen the article “Be a Box Babe, Not a Barbie: The Top 9 Crossfit Female Faux Pas”. If you haven’t, go ahead and read it. Just be prepared to get a little ragey.

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So at first glance, this comes off as a typical “oh look, another bitter internet dude telling women how to look” but then you realize…it’s written by a woman. Who is a coach at a Crossfit gym. At this point, you just go “what the…”. I’m not one to chime in on loooong discussions on Facebook or other social media but I just could not help myself with this one. The TL;DR of most comments surrounding this article involves women being really pissed about it, other women defending the author saying it was just supposed to be funny, quite a few men thinking it was ridiculous, and a handful of men agreeing with the article. Overwhelming, the article failed. Quite a few rebuttals were written, my favorite of which is THIS. There were a few people who attacked the author, but truthfully, I don’t see the point in doing that (note that the “you” addressed in this post is NOT directed at the author). What she wrote is nothing new or innovative – it’s alllll the same stuff that women have been hearing for a long time. It’s stereotypical, judgemental, and catty.  My overall feelings on the article? It does absolutely nothing to help women. Period.

But I’m not here to write a point by point rebuttal on why this article is one epic facepalm. In fact, I think that there is some silver lining to something like that article being published on a large, very public platform – it gave women a chance to come together and say “hey, not cool”. And THAT is really important.

While the notion of fitting into some standard of beauty is nothing new, it becomes problematic when it turns into a mean girls club. Saying “you can’t lift with us!” because of what someone is or isn’t wearing is just plain ridiculous. In an arena where a large portion of coaches, athletes, and passionate individuals work really hard to help women empower themselves through picking up a barbell, it seems downright counterproductive to tell someone to be a “box babe, not a box barbie”.

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I don’t care WHAT you’re wearing – if you’re approaching training with a barbell for the first time, I’m going to be more focused on encouraging you than critiquing your outfit. I’ve been in a few conversations that start with asking what the heck a bunch of us are doing (the gym I go to has a “barbell” program focused on strength and power, in addition to Crossfit classes), what it’s like, and after I wax on poetically about my love for squats (for waaaay too long, sorry  y’all), there is often something said like “I totally want to do it! But I’m kinda of terrified”.  At that point, I’m focused on convincing the other person to talk to the coach about it and that it really is a lot of fun, there is no need to be intimidated, that everyone in the group is really supportive and encouraging, and that they’re going to get some high quality coaching and get better. Those conversations wouldn’t happen if I just had an attitude of being better than everyone else, or some bizarre notion that I’m more “serious” than the next person because my hair isn’t done. That would completely defeat the purpose – I want people, especially ladies, to come hang out and get strong and squat. It also undermines the work my coach does to build a quality program and encourage people to join it.  Why would I want to turn someone away by being judgey?

If you’re focused on encouraging women to pick up a barbell or embrace strength or forget what the media tells them to look like, being catty isn’t the way to do it. The judgmental attitude presented in that article is exactly what SHOULD NOT happen. It makes me sad when I hear women saying things like “I’d like to try Crossfit/weightlifting/etc. but I’m not good enough” or they’re terrified of the judgement they would receive for not having a 6-pack and wearing short shorts. And guess what? They’re not usually afraid of getting this judgement from men – they’re afraid of getting that judgement from other women. How messed up is that?! By endorsing the sentiment of, “you’re only serious about your fitness if you conform to these standards”, you’re also endorsing putting women in another box – it’s a slightly more muscular box, but it’s a box nonetheless. Trading conventional standards of beauty for Crossfit/fitspo/whatever standards of beauty is like trading a pink box for a blue box – it’s the same thing but it just looks a little different on the outside. Would you ever tell a 7 year old girl that she can only be strong and serious if she looks a certain way? Why then is it okay to say those things to other women? When did women in strength sports become a cool kid contest and when did we all stop encouraging women to find and embrace their own standards?

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[oh look, I'm squatting with my hair down and curled, wearing a cut off shirt, and probably some mascara too]

The notion that a woman can’t be a serious athlete if she wears makeup, has her hair done, or heaven forbid, has a matching outfit is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.. There is this idea that as women, we need to make sure that we try hard without looking like we try too hard. We need to look girly, feminine, be muscular, but not all big and bulky (which is just ridiculous #bigandbulkylife4ever), we should be aesthetically pleasing, but not wear too much makeup or do our hair, be a bit provocative, but don’t be dress too scandalously. No one needs to justify what they’re wearing to anyone, period. I don’t have to justify my cut-off shirts and spandex shorts to someone so they can validate my worth as an athlete. My clothes, my hair, and the presence or lack of makeup on my face has NOTHING to do with me being an athlete – it doesn’t make my squat go down, it doesn’t impact my ability move weight, and it certainly doesn’t imply that I’m not strong or not serious about getting strong. Moreover,  it has even less to do with anyone else.  I’ve got goals and standards for myself, and they don’t involve making sure my outfit and eyeshadow is acceptable to anyone else.  So, if you’re concerned about how many coats of mascara I’m wearing while you’re at the gym, you’re doing it wrong. Moreover, if you’re going to stand there and be catty about it, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

If your goal is to encourage women to embrace strength, say “eff it” to standard beauty conventions, and empower them – you should be leading by example and building them up rather than critiquing their hairstyle.  Show them that they should embrace their own standards – not the medias, not a “crossfit babe’s”, or anyone else’s notion of what it means to be strong.

Reebok Skyscape Review #styleneverstops

Disclaimer: The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Reebok.

I’m a pretty simple gal when it comes to shoes – give me a pair of flats and I’m content. My feet however? Not so much. I always prioritize buying great shoes to wear in the gym (hello new weightlifting shoes I have my eyes on) but I often don’t do the same for the shoes I wear when I’m running errands, spending hours cooking, or even just going to casual get togethers. One of the major problems is that, while I’ve always wanted a really supportive lightweight shoe for everyday wear, I could never find any that I liked. They were always too bulky, too boxy, or frankly, just not my style. And then I was lucky enough to get these Reebok Skyscape shoes courtesy of Reebok:

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[SO COMFY and cute!]

I am not exaggerating when I say that I am literally living in these shoes. I love the design – very reminiscent of my favorite pair of Chucks, but about 1000 times more supportive. They’re also so incredibly lightweight that you literally forget you are wearing them. The best way I can describe them? Memory foam clouds for your feet.

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[I spent an entire day running errands, gardening, and being on my feet and I practically forgot I was wearing these shoes.]

In fact, the Skyscape shoes are made from materials commonly used in high-end in lingerie which makes them super comfy and light, weighing in at only 5 ounces! One of my favorite features is that they are seamless so there is no awkward irritating spot when you wear them. AND, they’re machine washable – which makes them perfect for outdoor activities like gardening…or you know, drinking wine by a fire pit.

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I seriously LOVE these shoes and have been singing their praises to everyone.  My mom even wants a pair because of how comfortable they are!  If you’re in the market for an everyday shoe, I cannot recommend these enough. It’s pretty much my perfect casual, laid-back shoe – comfy, simple, and stylish.

Where to find them:

Online: Check out the Reebok website

In Store: Check out Reebok FitHub, Outlet locations, and stores. 

Being Paleo-ISH & Foods for Strength Athletes

 [Note: This post was inspired by Lindsay over at Cotter Crunch. If you’re a gluten-free endurance athlete - I highly recommend checking out her post!]

 *Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, etc. Just sharing what works for ME and my experience.*

I love food. And eating. And cooking. Not only is food just damn delicious, it’s also a pretty critical piece of my goals to get stronger and be better. While I definitely eat my fair share of ice cream, peanut butter cups, and fries – these things definitely don’t make up the majority of my diet all the time (I admit, they do get a bit more frequent as my training gets really hard and heavy). I still maintain that ice cream is magical recovery food, though ;) Speaking of ice cream, there are about as many articles/viewpoints on nutrition for strength athletes as there are Ben & Jerry’s flavors. There is no doubt that protein is centrally important – after all, you have to repair your muscles and give them some fuel to grow! There is also little debate about the importance of carbs for helping foster an anabolic, muscle building environment and fats are key for recovery, getting calories, and keeping hormones and other important factors in check. The debate comes when we examine what exactly those foods and meals look like. Some people swear by a strict paleo approach, others an IIFYM approach (if it fits your macros), and others basically pound protein shakes and protein bars for all their meals. So which way is the right way or the best way? Well, that’s complicated. And there really is no answer because there is no one thing that is going to work for everyone. Period. And it takes a lot of self-experimentation in order to figure out what works for you.

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 Personally, I fall somewhere between paleo and IIFYM – I simply just call it “paleo-ish”. Strict paleo certainly doesn’t work for me from a training/strength gaining perspective and eating a steady diet of ice cream, fries, and chips also doesn’t work for me from a recovery and health perspective so, I try to strike a balance. While I certainly could be more “strict” with my food, I simply can’t eat enough calories and carbs to make progress and not feeling terrible.

With this “paleo-ish” approach, the majority of my diet is made up of pretty predictable combinations of foods and I tend to eat the same things every week. In general, my meals are based around protein + veggies + fats. And by protein, I mean meat. I tried that vegetarian thing too, and it quite literally metabolically screwed me – so I eat meat and lots of it. I also add in carbs around my training sessions. I eat a lot and love to cook, but I rarely have time, or want to, cook a ton of meals all the time. With that in mind, I’ve gathered up some of my favorite foods and meals ideas to help fuel a “paleo-ish”, gluten-free strength athlete.

 

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 BECOME BFFS WITH YOUR SLOW COOKER:  What’s better than being able to cook a huge portion of meat while you sleep? Pretty much nothing. Meat from quality sources (free range, grass-fed, humanely raised) provide a great source of protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) such as leucine which are critical for muscle repair, and they can also provide a good source of gelatin which helps joint health.

Slow cooked pork makes an easy meal with some roasted veggies and avocado. It also makes awesome chili.

You can also braise a big cut of meat in the oven and have it for every.single.meal for a few days. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Or make a chicken and use the leftover bones for some bone broth for extra gelatin!

 

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 CHOOSE GRASS-FED FED OVER CONVENTIONAL BEEF: Two of my favorite easy, make ahead protein sources are meatballs (I’m currently swooning over Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed 2 cookbook since there is an entire section devoted to burgers, meatballs, and sausages!!), and of course, burgers. Use grass-fed beef to get a hefty dose of protein, fat, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which if 3-5 times higher in grass-fed vs grain-fed animals. CLA has been shown to have a number of health benefits including inflammation reduction, which if you’ve ever been sore, is something that is definitely necessary for strength athletes. Grass-fed beef also has a higher concentration of omega-3s than it’s grain-fed counterpart. Pound for pound, grass-fed beef is more nutrient dense than grain-fed and is definitely worth the few extra bucks.

I eat burgers for all the meals. Well..not always, but I definitely could! If you save some leftover burgers from dinner, you can have breakfast burgers. TONS of protein and fat from the egg & bacon.

Beef curry is also a great way to get in some quality protein and fats for little effort.

 

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EMBRACE CARBS: Carbs are an important dietary component for anyone who is looking to build muscle but traditional “paleo” diets can often leave people eating a little less carbs than they anticipated.  Carbs are necessary to help replenish muscle glycogen stores (what your muscles use for fuel during particular workouts) and to create an anabolic or muscle building environment. Not enough carbs and your body doesn’t fill it’s glycogen stores and begins to create a catabolic environment where protein is broken down for fuel and there is much less protein synthesis (aka repairing and growing of muscle).

Personally, I get my carbs mostly in the form of white rice and regular roasted potatoes around my workouts. Yeah, these items aren’t “paleo”, and neither am I, but they don’t bother me like other grains do and they provide the insulin spike I need post-workout to help build muscle. I keep it simple and just have plain white rice and roasted potatoes but I’m working on coming up with some recipes for these items since, you know, plain rice for breakfast can be a little boring. I also eat my fair share of sweet potatoes, especially before workouts.  If you’re wondering what the difference is between sweet and regular potatoes, you can read ALL about regular vs. sweet potatoes (and why there isn’t really that big of a difference!) here.

These shredded sweet potato cakes (which you can also make with regular potatoes) are perfect grab and go post-workout carb sources. Add eggs or meat, and veggies and boom – easy meal!

You can even bake it all together to save yourself some dishes.

 

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COCONUT MILK IS A RECOVERY STAR: Coconut milk often gets a bad rap because of it’s high fat content BUT that is precisely why it can be a great recovery aide for strength athletes. Fats are essential for helping reduce inflammation, regulating hormone production, and helping repair tissues – all things that athletes need!Coconut milk is also an easy way to get in a good amount of calories and fats on busy days – simply make a smoothie with some coconut milk or pour it over some apples.

One of my favorite way to have coconut milk is to make a simple dessert with a touch of fruit like this wild blueberry fool.

Or if you want something more savory, this pumpkin coconut curry is one of my favorite recovery meals – lots of veggies, protein, fats, and some carbs.

 

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EMBRACE EGGS: And of course, EGGS. Eggs are probably one of THE best foods to eat as a strength athlete (if you can tolerate them, of course). They’re cheap, they’re nutritional powerhouses, and they can be portable after a good hard boil.  Eggs are not only full of protein, they also contain important antioxidants like lutein, and contain choline. Choline helps repair your cells and also helps translate nerve impulses into muscle contractions – basically choline is going to help you pick up that barbell. The cholesterol in eggs is also great for your body since your body needs cholesterol to help hormone production (yes, cholesterol is pretty important- in fact, you make it on your own without ingesting ANY cholesterol containing foods).  So eat your eggs – WITH the yolks, please :)

You can bake up a frittata for an easy, veggie and protein packed breakfast.

And these bacon and egg breakfast cups are a favorite grab-and-go option.

 

Anyone else all of a sudden really hungry?