Women’s sport has come on leaps and bounds over the last few post-Olympic years, but make no mistake: the majority of sport still heavily favours the male of the species.
Female sporting teams in disciplines such as rugby and football have long lagged behind their male counterparts in terms of pay, sponsorship and audience. Wimbledon may have finally caught up with the rest of the Grand Slams in 2007 by offering their female winners the same prize money as the men, but the men’s final still takes a precedent over the women’s a decade later. Equestrian sports such as dressage are one of the few where men and women compete on equal footing – but even there, the horse is the centre of attention, not the rider.
Perhaps women should just accept that we will always be ranked second best in sport? That we are not as exciting to watch, not as strong, and therefore less worthy of being cheered on or rewarded the same as men?
Then again, maybe we don’t. This is where CrossFit, the sport of fitness, comes in.
What is CrossFit?
Founded in 2000, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning programme officially described as “constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity”. In practice it is exercise that keeps your body guessing, because you rarely do the same session twice. The movements range from strength to gymnastics via cardio and a significant number of burpees. Most importantly, men and women train alongside each other in the same classes, doing exactly the same movements with weights set roughly 1/3 heavier for men than for women to take into account base strength. Weights are then scaled according to each athlete’s ability, meaning it isn’t uncommon for women to be lifting heavier, moving faster or jumping higher than some men in a class.
The timing of CrossFit’s explosion into the mainstream is no coincidence. You can chart its rise to a stratospheric 13,000 affiliate gyms (also known as ‘boxes’) worldwide alongside the level of interest in fitness across the UK. In fact, gym memberships have been growing year-on-year since 2008 – and so has CrossFit. Women make up a solid 50% of the CrossFit community (according to market research from Rally Fitness) and there are far more female coaches than in your average globo-gym – and that’s all before you get to the competitive CrossFit athletes. Take a look at the CrossFit Games website and it clearly states “The CrossFit Games has and always will reward men and women equally.” Chuck into the mix that the women’s competition is even more hotly contested than the mens and you can start to see that this is one sport where women play second fiddle to no one.
What do women think?
Katrin Davidsdottir, current CrossFit Games champion having been crowned the ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’ in 2015 and 2016, says: “there’s no such thing as a male or female workout—we all do the same exercises. There is no fear of women becoming “too strong.” Men and women compete in the same arena (literally).”
I spoke to some of the female athletes who train at my box, CrossFit Bakewell, to canvas their opinions of CrossFit compared to other types of training they’ve tried.
“It’s friendly, and it’s inclusive,” was the common theme. “I’m not surrounded by mirrors or feel intimidated walking into the weights section, with guys staring at me as though I shouldn’t be there.”
One younger athlete said that “I love training with the girls and guys at CrossFit Bakewell. There’s always someone I’m better than and someone I’m chasing. Gender almost doesn’t come into it – depending on the workout I could RX it and beat all the guys. Sometimes I lift heavier than they do, sometimes I don’t. The top men and women in the sport are so inspiring regardless of gender. I’m proud to be part of a sport that values women as much as it values men.”
What do you think? Comment below.