While I myself do not actually attend a crossfit facility, a number of my female friends DO work out in the Crossfit scene. There is no question that female crossfitters are some of the strongest women out there, so I took it upon myself to actually sit down with someone I knew personally that fell in love with Crossfit. Welcome to the interview with Lisa Joseph, avid crossfitter, violinist, and graduate student in Chatham University’s Physician Assistant Program.
Lisa and I met at the “Gather” Book signing a few months back and became really good friends over the months that passed. She was even nice enough to have me come to the crossfit gym she attends to have my first shot at a WOD. After many nights of talking about body image, strength training, nutrition and athletic performance, I decided to actually sit down and talk to this hardcore crossfitter about why strength training had become an essential part of her lifestyle. Here’s what Lisa has to say.
Lisa Joseph: I think that strength can partially be about aesthetics, but in CrossFit we have a saying “Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general”! I totally agree that strength is what gives me the confidence and energy to go about my stressful life. I like being able to carry 35 pounds of kitty litter or all the groceries and not worry about my back hurting. Strength training had greatly reduced my back/neck pain that I had for years as a violinist. It evens out muscular imbalances. I think that strength training should be appreciated for what it is, and not as a means to an end.
Janelle Pica, RKC: I completely agree! So what lead you to strength training in the first place? What motivates you to continue getting stronger?
Lisa Joseph: I have a gymnastics background and I have always liked the idea of being “a strong girl”. But when I found CrossFit and Olympic lifting, I fell in love with strength training. I LOVE how I feel after lifting heavy, and I LOVE the confidence I feel when I set personal records. The personal pride and satisfaction of reaching new goals is what motivates me to keep getting stronger.
Janelle Pica, RKC: I conducted an interview with my friend in the fashion industry who fell in love with strength training to help her overcome her own body image issues. Out of curiosity, was there ever a time that you felt you had negative self image? Did training help you overcome this negativity?
Lisa Joseph: I had a very poor body image as a teenager and in my early 20s. I always thought I was fat and should lose weight and struggled with a pretty severe eating disorder for several years. I am happy to see the female aesthetic of beauty changing from skinny to strong being desirable, but I also think it’s important to be confident regardless of what your body looks like. Knowing that I am healthy, happy, and making really good progress with lifting has definitely helped my body image. I am proud of my strength, and I literally NEVER look at skinny girls anymore and think that I wish my body was more like theirs.
Janelle Pica, RKC: So glad to hear you overcame such a terrible problem in your past. THAT takes some serious strength! Speaking of which, what are your goals for this year in terms of your own strength training?
Lisa Joseph: My goals are really just to increase all of my current personal records, especially in the core Olympic lifts (Clean and Jerk, Snatch, etc) along with my deadlift, back and front squats and overhead squats.
Janelle Pica, RKC: Awesome! I have personally seen you do those lifts before, and it always surprises me how you and all the other females I see at Crossfit aren’t particularly “bulky”. Lean? Yes! But you all aren’t “body builder” types so-to-speak. What would you say to a woman who is worried about strength training for fear of “gaining weight” or “bulking up.”? I have found in my professional career that women are still, to this day, a bit too hung up on the fat loss area of fitness while not fully understanding the role of strength training for fat loss. It seems like a huge misunderstanding, and I am super curious about what your thoughts are on this “bulking up” subject. What’s the deal here?
Lisa Joseph: Women should know that having more muscle increases your metabolism, which not only burns fat but also keeps you warmer and generally makes you feel better. I would also say to women who are hesitant to just give it a try. The *second* they think they’re getting too bulky, they can drop the weights back down. But in reality, almost all of them are going to love the changes they will make to their body and their new muscle definition. I guarantee it. They will probably also start getting comments from friends and family in a couple of weeks of real strength training about “have you lost weight?” and stuff, and in reality they may have gained a few pounds but the improvement in body composition will be noticeable. Just give it a chance.
Lisa Joseph: By eating too little and trying to lean out, women are going to really hurt their strength gains and overall athleticism. I also think the goals of someone are important. Why are they training? Are they training to get a six pack because they lack self confidence? Are they training to try to prove something or get approval from someone (including possibly themselves)? Or are they training because they love the sport (in my case!) and strength training while fueling and resting adequately makes them feel strong and alive? I also think it’s important to not become obsessed with diet or training. For example, if you can’t go out and enjoy a meal with friends, that’s a problem. If you beat yourself up mentally over taking a day off from the gym, that’s also a problem. Training should enhance life, not stress you out and make you miserable. Let’s be real here, you WILL be stressed out and miserable with too little body fat!
Janelle Pica, RKC: Excellent point! Ok, last question. If there was one thing you could say to a woman interested in serious strength training, what would it be? How would you encourage her? Where would you have her start out and why?
Lisa Joseph: I am biased toward CrossFit obviously, not only for its well-rounded approach to fitness, and the fact that the workouts are always different and therefore fun, but also for the supportive community. Women will be introduced to barbell work and other strength training there, and may very well fall in love with it! I would tell a woman to keep a journal of what she lifts and be excited when she breaks her first personal record to get the energy going! To sum it all up, I’d just say this “Strength is empowering, any why wouldn’t you want to be empowered?”
There you have it folks! I would like to thank Lisa Joseph for helping me out with this blog post and being so willing to sit down and chat with me about strength training through the eyes of a serious crossfitter. Be on the look out on Thursday for an interview from another strong female who is a level two RKC. Get excited! Yinz ain’t seen nothing yet! I LOVE the discussions on the blog this week! I hope you all do too!
Remember to eat smart, train hard, and enjoy your life!
Janelle Pica, RKC