Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is it too much?

So, the other day I was doing back squats with Brendan and a few of his training buddies. I've been doing them for over two years now so the weight on the bar has become just another number. But that day I had to step back a realize what I was doing.

My back squat for 1Rep is 260. That day I was doing multiple reps at 240, easily. The only reason I stopped going up that day is because Brendan brought it to my attention that I was out lifting more than his friend.

I don't know who was more freaked out - his friend because he was lifting less than a girl or me that I was lifting more than a guy. I think it was me.

Way back when I started CrossFit I looked up to the women who were lifting hundreds of pounds and had big muscles. But the deeper in it I get the more I realize what my priorities are.

I want to be strong, but when is enough enough? How strong do I really need to be?

If this is really about preparing yourself for real life, then wouldn't the realistic thing be to work on being really cute so my boyfriend will want to lift all the heavy things for me???
I have a boyfriend who can lift over 500# off the ground. Why does it matter if I can lift 250?

I know there are plenty of women that can lift tons more than me and 260 may seem like a toothpick to some of you. Some of them may be hot as hell, too. But, I won't ever compete in the CrossFit Games or do any other kinds of fitness or strength competitions. So what's my motivation?

Does anyone know about elevated testosterone levels in women with heavy lifting? What really happens inside a woman's body when they get so strong? I'm really curious about this subject. Any information would be appreciated. I'll surely be doing my own research.

I'm considering easing off on the lifting. I've always put an emphasis on strength training, because I think it's important to be strong and healthy.
But have we decided if there's such a thing as "too strong"?

I'm half kidding, but really.....
What's worse: having a weak squat or having your picture posted on Androgen Friday!?


sierra said...

Being a Crossfitter who's petite with no boobs, I can say that I think it's all about working as hard as you can and having passion. Big deal if some people get more muscular; I work out in Oakland with beautiful and amazing women whose arms are bigger than my thighs. It's pretty disappointing to read about you knocking these women who work so hard at Crossfit and, God forbid, get muscular doing so.

AllisonNYC said...

Sierra, this post was specifically about my goals and what's right for me.

I didn't knock anyone. In fact, I'm impressed by the dedication of the women you mentioned.

Body Focus Fitness said...

Allison, from my point of view, no one has ever suffered harm by being "too strong" if there can be such a thing. That being said, there does come a point where an honest assessment of your goals is warranted. I no longer strive to push maximum weights, but at age 46 work more to maintain what I've spent a lifetime building. I'm no longer driven by ego or insecurity like I was when I was younger, instead being content with possessing a large degree of functionality and fitness. You may have reached a point that pushing more weight just doesn't hold your interest like it used to. There's nothing wrong with that.

Dave said...

I love your blog and I'm a big fan of Crossfit. You should be proud to be lifting 260, but it really is all about what is right for your particular goals. That being said, your boyfriend isn't always going to be with you at every moment . . .

The back squat is a great exercise, but things like sandbag squats are more "real world" and really tax balance and are more "whole body." One-sided are brutal!!! If you ever start doing one-sided, over the shoulder, sandbag squats at 260 call the NFL scouts.

I think parkour is just about tops when you think of the real world applications such as getting away from bad people or wild animals. Parkour isn't the type of activity that bulks you up.

And grip strength is also REALLY important. In a fight, the person who gets the gun or knife will likely be the winner. Sledgehammers are amazing at training the grip.

Jay Ashman said...

well-written, Allison... its about personal goals ultimately and living up to the standards you set for yourself.

Andrea S said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AllisonNYC said...

Hey Andrea,
You've seriously misinterpreted my post and you're putting words in my mouth or thoughts behind my words that are untrue.

Please clarify where you think I've insulted anyone. I haven't.

I'm just as impressed as you are by women who work hard enough and choose to have bodies with developed musculature. All I've said is that it's not for me.

In fact, I know it's not for a lot of people and there's nothing wrong with recognizing that and saying it out loud.

You're saying that by me expressing how I want (or don't want) MY body to look that as a result I'm disrespecting someone else's choice. That's simply untrue.

I've been thinking about this topic for awhile now because one of the first things most women say to me when they come into the gym, a little scared and nerous about what to expect, is "I'm scared that I'll get big muscles from doing this."

They said they saw women on the CrossFit site and they don't want to look like them. They're entitled to that and so am I.

Just because that look isn't for me, doesn't mean I don't appreciate and admire the women who DO look that way.

It's just a different look.

Would you be up in arms if I said I didn't want to be 100# because I like to have some curves on MY body or that I didn't want to be 300# because I like looking kind of fit?!

I'm not saying that being being feminine (and there are lots of versions of that based on personal opinion) is more important than being strong or vise versa.

But, let's be realistic.. there comes a point that most women's bodies start to make a shift. Most women, including me, won't have a 315# deadlift and look the way I want to. Some will! And I wish I was one of them! I'd kill to be have the same CF Total as my BF and look like Heidi Klum in a bikini. That would be awesome!

The point of my post is I'm deciding what is more important to ME.

I have tremendous respect for women who "Look Strong" and think they're very beautiful and impressive to look at. But I have different goals for my body and life.

Maybe you should consider not knocking my choice. I'm entitled to it and I'm not alone.

Bobby Dig. said...

What's Androgen Friday?

Tall M said...

I'm not sure if there is such a thing as being too strong, but there is such a thing as overtraining. I doubt you are in any risk of becoming masculine looking no matter what you do (at least not judging from the pictures). But you may be overtraining in the sense that yes, there really is no reason to get stronger at some of these exercises. And there are some reasons to slow down a bit. In some exercises you may have reached a great strength level for you body and it might be time to not push it much farther in those areas.
First, you have to recognize that even though you know what you are doing, the bigger the weight you are dealing with the bigger the chance of injury. That's probably only a small risk considering how much you know and how much the people around you know. But it isn't a zero risk, especially with some of the exercises that are part of crossfit. Second, you may want to move away from some of the exercises that you are doing so well at and instead focus on others because it will be more fun and because other muscles may not be as strong. I'm not saying you stop doing squats. But you drop a set or two because you aren't trying to make gains instead you are just trying to maintain as far as those muscles are concerned. There are lots of exercises out there (as you know) and many will continue to be a challenge for you. As a big guy, I find corebody exercises really challenging and they rarely involve throwing around big weight, aside from myself, which is a pretty big weight. ;-) They might be a fun thing for you to do these days.
So yes, I don't suppose there is really any reason for you to head toward 300# squats. Your time would probably be better (and safer) spent on other exercises.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really understanding the jump between outlifting one guy and becoming a muscle grotesquerie. I thought the images of overbuilt women (and men) were a product of steroids/work and grease and no-salt/no-fat diet. I thought muscular expression in CrossFit women was influenced by genetics (secondarily hard work/diet).

Now, I haven't seen you in person but you seem gloriously feminine AND strong. However, if you're growing muscles beyond what you consider feminine and you want to be what you consider feminine, then I guess it's time to back off.

IGX Fan Club Presidente said...

Training is all about maximizing personal physical potential. Some people are born to be tanks, some are born to be greyhounds.

ANYC, since it's your destiny to be built like a relief map of the Himalayas, clearly your training is working the way you want it to.

MK Crossfit Daytona said...

Does the way you look really give you a better sense of self worth than being strong on the inside?

Anonymous said...

@ Bobby dig, who wanted to know about andro friday, start here:[]=2&sc=1&sf=all&sk=t&sd=d&sr=posts&st=0&ch=300&t=0&submit=Search

and here:[]=2&sc=1&sf=all&sk=t&sd=d&sr=posts&st=0&ch=300&t=0&submit=Search

God bless @fit's Andro Broads, every one.

Mike said...

I agree withthe above comment, the picture of too musculine women that really make you go "uh.." are usually a result of steroids.

I'd also guess that unless you have both a workout routine and a diet designed to increase muscle size, you'll probably never become too muscular.

With that said your goals are your own, and a 260 back squat is quite impressive already. You could always switch to more cardio based work outs and get a challenge from that rather than trying to lift more and more.

However I would guess that as long as you are doing thing naturally (no steroids) you'll always look feminine no matter how much you can lift.

MG said...

Allison, do what will make you happy. It’s as simple as that. As others have said, it’s your life and you need to live it as you see fit. I don’t see your post as being offensive to other women crossfitters. Everyone is different and I have nothing but respect for women who push themselves to such goals. I see your blog simply as an example of confusion as to the next step in your own journey in life. I’ve often contemplated the same thing. Why am I crossfitting? Like you, I have no desire to ever go to the games. My full-time job does not require that I be able to back squat my bodyweight or deadlift nearly 300 pounds so why crossfit? For me personally, I have found the answer to be simply that it helps me in my everyday life. It depends upon your own personal goals. Perhaps what Tall M suggests may be a good way to continue your training until you figure out what it is you really want to do. If this scenario with you, your boyfriend, and this guy squatting bothered you, there's probably a reason why and you need to reflect on what exactly unnerved you so you can take action to change it. It may be that you need to find a goal that is not sustained by crossfitting but rather aided by it. Heck, crossfit is functional fitness so there are a ton of activities that are aided by being able to run, squat, lift, and pull. Use your imagination. Be creative. And make sure you blog about it.

stacey said...

you go girl

Anonymous said...

Alyson, drop that scrawny monkey and come give Fat Cat a big, soft titty-hug. I am your density.

Anonymous said...

I often lift wearing the same outfits you wear, except I rock a skullcap more. Fierce!

Anonymous said...

Women who lift big weight without drugs look beautiful and feminine. It's only when they start steroids or starvation that they look manly or skeletal.

Everybody should avoid fauxhawks and tribal tattoos though. Those are the bell bottoms of the '00s.

Anonymous said...

Allison, I "think" I completely understand what you are saying and never interpreted your post to be negative. You were merely stating that you want to be as healthy as possible without raising your testosterone level (which may in fact be unhealthy).

Endocrinology is a fascinating subject with regards to training. In fact I struggle with super low estrogen/progesterone levels from training so intense.

Keep listening to your're a bright girl trying to educate yourself!

Anonymous said...

I appreciated your post. I have recently become bored with crossfitting after 2+ years of it. I wonder about raised testosterone levels as I noticed changes to my appearance comparing pictures of myself pre-crossfit and post-crossfit (and I am just referring to the face). Now that I haven't been crossfitting for about 3 months now, I feel a lot more feminine, and a lot more like myself. I love being able to do pullups and deadlift and run fast, without the bulk, constant soreness, and fatigue that crossfit gave me. I have much more energy and enthusiasm for my 4 kids as well. Don't get me wrong, I have respect for all those who crossfit and work hard at it. It's just that for me, there is more to life than being uber fit.

I would love to know the science behind the hormonal effects of different types of exercising. I'm sure it must vary from person to person as well.

Btw allison, you seem to retain your feminity quite well externally. But I guess only you know what goes on inside.

Anonymous said...

I will not agree on it. I assume precise post. Specially the appellation attracted me to review the whole story.

Anonymous said...

Jees, Allison, you are one of most feminine-looking women on the internet, let alone in Crossfit. What is this obsession you have for being ultra-hot? Is Brendan really going to leave you if you are not quite as cute? We are all getting older, anyway, and will continue to look older through time. One day you and Brendan both will be 64 - wrinkled and creaky - will you still appreciate each other?

Most women are never going to look as feminine as you do. We do our best to look fit and well-groomed. Try to appreciate your singular beauty without putting down women who are just average but hard-working. Be a role-model and encourage us to be as fit and strong as we can be.

P.S. It's not your fault that some guy is weak! That is all his problem. He'll work harder because of you! Brendan is far stronger than you are, anyway. He needs you to be strong, to protect family and friends when he is not around.

Josh Hillis said...

Outside of CrossFit, most people work out to look good.

It's actually totally normal for a girl to not want to look like a dude.

I've gotten dozens of clients to look like models, and they could do about five pullups (not kipping), five dips (also not kipping), and deadlift 1-1.5x bodyweight (I don't know, do CrossFitters kip on these?). That's it.

They're strong by big box gym standards, but not by CF standards.

But you pair that with eating clean, and you end up with a girl who looks hot.

It's actually ok to want to look like a really fit girl, AND have that be THE GOAL.

I train my clients to win the games they are playing.

If they are training for the CrossFit games (they aren't) or powerlifting (they aren't) then I would train them specifically to win that game, and that would take precedence over looking hot.

The game my clients (and most girls in the gym) are actually playing is to look hot.

If they use kettlebells, it's not to become a kettlebell sport champion, it's to look hot.

If they race 5k's, it's not to be a 5k champion, it's to look hot.

What looks hot is actually surprisingly different for all of my clients. Some want lean and tight and cute, some want to be athletic, some want to be andro friday jacked.

I don't impose my view of what's hot on them...

...I just train them to get what they want.

You should get whatever you want, and you shouldn't have to take any shit from anyone about it.

Josh Hillis said...

And just to be clear - the thing about kipping deadlifts was a joke.

Could be obvious, but I got missunderstood on the internet this one other time.

loulion said...

It is not about strength or a squat PR. It is about your looks. Once you start looking like a dude it is probably time to back off.