Workout of the Day:
Back Squat
and then,
Three rounds for time of:
50 Squats
30 Yard Bear Crawl
15 Ring Dips

Female SoCal Regional Winners - and a hip thrust.
Female SoCal Regional Winners - and a hip thrust.

Strong Is Beautiful
Written by Mark Riebel 

“Strong is Beautiful.” Such was the writing on the shirts that several of the women from Valley CrossFit were wearing this past weekend at the SoCal CrossFit Games regional qualifiers. You may even catch Dani sporting it around the gym one day. I couldn’t agree more with the slogan or think of better poster-children for it than the female coaches and athletes at CrossFit Invictus. 

It’s a shame that our society enforces an image of females that generally has nothing to do with fitness, much less with strength and power. Popular culture appreciates a woman that is skinny, pretty, and shouldn’t really do much besides look good. What we value at Invictus couldn’t be any more different. We applaud women that lift weights far greater than their own bodyweight, and even if they can’t, we encourage them to work in that direction. We welcome those females that are willing to push and push until they collapse in a pool of their own sweat. 

I know I’m an unlikely candidate for writing a piece such as this, but I grew up alongside very strong women in the pool that would regularly compete with me in practice and were always up for a challenge. A woman like that has a certain attitude that one doesn’t often encounter outside of CrossFit. It’s an attitude of fearlessness and willingness to accept challenge that permeates every aspect of her life. It’s unfortunate that these qualities aren’t more appreciated by our society, but that’s exactly what we’re out to change. While some lesser men can be intimidated by a strong woman, any man worth his salt will appreciate a female who will look at a heavy weight not with dread, but with an attitude of “Yeah, I can do that.”

  • Francisco Martinezcuello (Frank)

    I could not agree more Mark. Nice article – I believe this movement of ours is changing that perception. 3-2-1 Go!

  • My sentiments eggzachary. The past couple dates I’ve been on I couldn’t stop thinking “Yeah she’s pretty, but can she do muscle ups?” Seriously!

    Just a week ago I met a girl that’s been doing CrossFit for over two years that I’m very excited about. We’re having dinner tonight and hopefully, if things go well, we might have a new member at CFI 😉

    I can’t say enough about how appealing it is for a woman to have that athletic aspect to them. I find it much more attractive and much easier to deal with than the ‘princesses’ that just want to look good and play dress up all the time.


  • Wayne

    Well said Mark.

  • Dani

    Thank you for this contribution Mark. I think everyone knows how I feel about this. To me there is nothing more beautiful than a strong and capable woman. A woman who can hold her own. I love this picture of the top female competitors at the So Cal regional qualifiers. These women are beautiful and amazing athletes. Pretty tough to beat that combo.

    “Strong is beautiful” my new favorite saying. Thanks Valley CrossFit. I hope that each and every lady at CFI will embrace this saying…believe it and live it.

  • Cynthia

    Check out the variety of women in the photo above. The first place winner, Kristan Clever, isn’t what you would call a conventional beauty. But she is beautiful in her way–especially in her video when her enthusiasm and love of competition comes out.

    Compare her to the fake, anorexic Barbie dolls in the Miss America pageant the other night. All that make up and big hair and over-bleached smiles….YUK! FAKE FAKE FAKE.

    I’ll take a Kristan Clever on my side any day.

    I wish all you younger gals who look at Miss America contestants as standards of beauty would look at yourself in the mirror, flex your muscles, and tell yourself that you are a gajillion times more beautiful than they are.

    AND tell yourself that you could kick their ass any day of the week.

  • christine

    Men who voice this opinion of women……. are pretty damn sexy themselves. Thanks for the great article Mark.

  • Jillianne

    Yes! Thank you, Mark!
    Here’s the thing: we can’t make ourselves “sexy” in terms of what we’ve been given in build, height, measurements, complexion, etc. But *any* woman can make herself strong! And how cool is it that “strong” comes in so many different shapes and sizes.
    I just read online a “celebrity trainer” rating a reality starlet in a bikini: “She has nice, lean thighs. You don’t have to lift heavy weights for that, but you really gotta watch the diet.” Meaning you don’t have to exercise, but you do have to starve? Come on people!
    Let’s get an order in for those “Strong Is Beautiful” tank tops!

  • Jessie

    Very well written!

    I am with Jullianne….let’s get those tank tops!

  • Katie

    “Yeah, I can do that.” But, do I want to do that? Maybe not and that doesn’t make a woman less beautiful or less strong. Female strength is not measured by how many pounds she can lift. Athletes, particularly female athletes, come in all shapes and sizes and with varying skill sets. A ballerina, a water polo player, and a marathon runner are all athletes. Moreover, neither would likely be very good at the other sport. That fact does not make her less of an athlete nor does the fact that she may not be able to lift that much weight. Similarly, a female Crossfitter may be able to bust out 50 push ups easily, but can she endure an hour of kick-boxing? Maybe not. While you may be thinking…ballet, kick-boxing, those aren’t athletic activities. To that type of thinking I respond: “Can you do that?”

    A woman can be a strong athlete and be beautiful by society’s standards. Gabrielle Reese is a model and an Olympic volleyball player. She is stong and stunning! I’m not saying that a waif figure and bleached out hair is beautiful or that a woman has to be a supermodel to be beautiful. I am also not saying that a woman has to wear makeup or conform to society’s standards of beauty to be beautiful.

    However, there is nothing wrong with embracing being a woman, being an athlete, and being able to walk into a room in a dress and heels, and have every head in the room turn. Men and women alike are looking because that woman looks beautiful. They aren’t looking because she can or cannot deadlift 2x her body weight. If any man says differently, he’s lying. If a woman likes being a girly girl, more power to her! If a woman doesn’t, she’s still beautiful! What’s important to remember is that neither “type” should criticize the other or be so narrow minded.

    People have different values and goals. A woman who wants to fit into her “skinny” jeans deserves just as much credit and respect as a woman who wants to be able to run a half marathon, the woman who wants to be able to finally do a pull up or the woman who wants to be able to lift 2x her body weight.

    On a final note….I agree with Cynthia, Kristan Clever is not a conventional beauty but she is fabulous in her own way. However, I wonder how many of the Crossfit males would walk up to Kristan and ask her out on a date without knowing her first and only because she is “strong”? Sadly, you contribute to the idea that a woman has to wear makeup, etc. to be beautiful.

  • M

    Maybe that’s why I never get asked out on dates.

  • wayne

    Makeup or not, I check to see if a girl has calluses on her hands before talking to her…

  • Mark Riebel

    Katie, I think a lot of what you said is absolutely right. All that we are trying to do is reshape the idea of fitness to be more all-inclusive and not ignore the strength piece of that equation which is often neglected. We want the idea of fitness to be about what someone can do, not what they look like, and that’s what I was trying to get across. Not that a woman shouldn’t embrace being a woman, just that being strong isn’t something that’s reserved for men.

  • christine

    Yes I can do 50 push-ups and endure an hour or more of kick-boxing but does it really matter? The hard work and mental toughness it takes to keep moving forward in all areas is what makes me feel good.

    Personally, I can barely fit into my jeans, my hands are all beat-up and I really DO NOT like weightlifting. I do, however, love the challenge to improve… and I always leave my crossfit workout a happier person.

  • Tabitha

    The wonderful thing I see in the CrossFit women around me is a great balance. I love finishing a brutal work out along side (or rather behind) E.T. and I love getting together for the potlucks and parties where I get to see everyone dressed up with their skinny jeans and makeup on looking beautiful. No matter what our different goals are, it takes a consistent effort to get there and that’s what I believe should be celebrated. That we are working hard to be active, healthy, and physically fit every day of our lives.

    One last thing.. Dani was a ballerina, could easily handle and hour of kick boxing, looks fabulous in skinny jeans, and brought me to tears deadlifting 2x her body weight in the inspiring games performance last year that none of us will ever forget. In reading the varied attributes of a beautiful woman, she kept coming into my mind.

    “Strong is Beautiful” and so are you, D 🙂

  • Ali Incredible

    I second Katie.