I never knew I wanted to be physically strong, actually I wasn’t aware that it was even an option.
I was a teenager in the time of Mary and Kate Olsen, Lindsay Lohen and Nicole Richie – for those not harking from that era, it was a time where skeletal, verging on eating disorder, thin was very much the “in” look. Protruding hip, rib and collar bones were incredibly desirable, and it was popular to wear clothing that looked like it was still draped on a coat hanger. This was what I thought was expected of me if I wanted to be attractive or popular, and as a teenage girl dealing with the inevitable hormones and insecurities of that age, I wanted to be both.
During my teens, when I was pursing this acceptance from society, I did many horrible things to my body. In an effort to be less, smaller, waif-like, I treated my body poorly and felt a great tide of hatred and disappointment in the way I looked.
Now I’m, unnervingly, considered middle aged, I have a full-time, office based, job, a son and a mortgage. And while I unsuccessfully chased skinny for many years in my youth, I have fortunately changed directions as an adult. On top of my more typical lifestyle choices of employee, mother and (soon to be) wife I am also a Crossfit athlete.
In between work and children I train as much as I can, where possible I even get to train twice a day, and I am a complete convert to the notion of chasing strong! With the discovery of Crossfit in my late 20’s, came a complete mind shift towards how I looked and the body that I am very lucky to have. It opened the door to the option that, as a woman, I am worth more than simply what I look like. Being capable, being competitive, being goal driven and striving to improve my physical abilities became available to me through the medium of Crossfit.
I have been fortunate enough to grow up always feeling that academically, and professionally, I was on a playing field that was slowly, but inevitably, becoming more equal, but in the world of sport and physical activity I had never felt like I had any place. Crossfit afforded me that place, it gave me an opportunity to take part, learn and eventually thrive in the arena of physical activity. Whilst the gymnastics movements seemed to come naturally to me, and my desperation to be thin had helped develop a reasonable engine (all the hours on the treadmill paying off) I have never been “strong”.
Developing strength, for me, has been hard, it can’t be faked (well, not in a way my moral compass allows) and it takes dedication- to the movement, to recovery and crucially dedication to your diet.
I have been a “Crossfitter” for over 10 years now, however it was only after having my son in 2020 that I found a renewed purpose and drive in my training, and a clearer view of the importance of eating and recovering properly. I was the fittest I had ever been at the time of the 2021 Open, due to lockdown I was running six times a week, clocking up 40kms, and doing as much in my kitchen and in my back garden as possible during maternity leave. After the first two Open wods I was placed well within the top 20 worldwide in my category (35-39), and then the last wod came out, a gorgeous two part workout with a max lift complex. The result of that lift dropped me from 15th to just outside the top 200 overall (placing somewhere in the top 2,000 for the complex). That is when I looked to ICON Nutrition and started putting some serious thought into my strength goals and what I needed to do nutritionally to hit those goals.
Since I started taking my strength goals more seriously, my main go to has been Hibernate (casein) and creatine, which I go through at a rapid rate! I also increased my overall calorie intake, removed alcohol (for the most part) and drastically reduced the amount of running I was doing. Gaining strength does not happen overnight, but in 18 months I have seen huge improvements. From hitting multiple cleans at 80kg in competition (with a 1 rep max of only 85kg) to getting a personal best in my snatch, deadlift and strict press after years of plateaus. But the biggest indicator that this time, focus and delicious evening snack (2 scoops of hibernate, 1 scoop of creatine, 200 ml water and a handful of berries, popped in the fridge after dinner for 45 mins and consumed approx. 30 mins before bed) was paying off, was my result in this year’s Crossfit Age Group Qualifier (AGQ).
In the Open I faired very well with the workouts, they were all light, gymnastic focused and right in my wheelhouse and I finished 31st in the world and 2nd in the UK. But the real test was always going to be the AGQ, where there was a purely strength-based test. After finishing in the top 2,000 for the strength-based test in 2021 I was eager, and nervous, for the Crossfit total (your combined weight for back squat, strict press and deadlift) and even though it was my worst finish of the five wods, it is the result I am most proud of, placing a respectable 209th in the Crossfit total worldwide and 62nd overall after 5 wods.
But here is the crux of it, by chasing strong; challenging, respecting and loving my body, I look far better (leaner, fitter and healthier) now in my mid thirties then I ever did as a teenager or woman in her twenties! I don’t look “big”, I’m actually 10 kilos lighter than I ever was, but most importantly, I am comfortable in my own skin.
So, this is for all those teenagers, young ladies and grown women, who are still chasing skinny. Who feel disgust or disappointment in their bodies, who are trying to berate themselves into a diet or exercise regime that makes them feel worthless. There is another way, a better way, and it doesn’t have to be Crossfit, it doesn’t have to involve lifting weights or getting strong. But it does involve moving in a way you enjoy and stretching and testing yourself to see what your body is capable of, regardless of how it looks doing it.
I’m chasing strong, what are you chasing?
@llamamunn // Llara Munn