Finding the Beauty in Strength by Madeleine Bell

Some days I wish my hands were a little softer. Some days I wish my shins weren’t covered in light scratches and bruises, and  my heels weren’t masked in callouses.

 But that all goes away when I get to the bar.

No, not the bar most college kids spend their weekends (and maybe weeknights?) in, dancing and drinking the night away. I’m talking about 2.01 meters and 15 kilograms of a hard, cold metal bar (2.2 meters and 20 kilograms for men).  A bar that sacrifices some skin on your hands, shins, thighs, collarbones… but also a bar that allows you to succeed.  The bar you load up with as much weight as your body can take (maybe a little more), and you lift it. 


I’m Madeleine Bell, a Newcomb Scholar of the 2017 Cohort. I’m a college student, Marketing major, Management minor, poet and writer… I’m a photographer, musician, animal-lover, Spinning instructor, personal trainer… I’m a tomboy some days, and a girly girl who loves to play with makeup and dress up on others… and I’m a CrossFit athlete. 

CrossFit is the sport of functional fitness. CrossFit workouts/competitions include elements such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), Olympic weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, gymnastics, calisthenics, strongman, and other exercises. Founder Greg Glassman defines CrossFit as, “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad modal and time domains with the goal of improving fitness.” In short, we bust our butts to go as hard and/or as fast and/or as heavy as we can. We push our bodies to the ultimate limit.

A perfect representation of the beauty I’ve found as a female in the sport is show here: Beauty in Strength . “My perception of beauty has changed over the past few years,” Benavidez says. “True beauty … is strength and fitness, and confidence in yourself.”  I’ve found that, since starting CrossFit a little over 8 months ago, my feelings about my body have changed dramatically. And truth be told, I didn’t get serious about competing in CrossFit until this past January, 3 months ago. Seeing my fitness skyrocket, and my body change to adapt to newfound strengths has been a journey I want to be on for the rest of my life.

When someone asks me some variation of, “CrossFit involves weightlifting, right? Why would you lift? That’s a man’s game,”—and  seriously, people have asked me that—I sarcastically reply, “You’re right. Women should never lift weights! Afterall, it can lead to a better metabolism, body image, and self-esteem, for starters. Not to mention feelings of independence, confidence, and success. What a mess that would be.”

IMG_1922To some, the word weightlifting makes them cringe. For some reason, society has associated being strong as a manly trait. I’m 5’9.5, 148 lbs, and yes, muscular. But rest be assured, when I decide to get out of my gym clothes and into a sundress, I look (and feel) great. I lift because strength is sexy, not manly. Strength is beautiful, not testoceronic. Strength is dedication, commitment, discipline, sacrifice, sweat, blood and tears… and I will never be afraid of it. Women can– and should— be strong, whichever and whatever way you’d like to define it. Physically, mentally, emotionally… Strength is not solely a man’s feature.

I CrossFit because I love feeling independent. Powerful. Strong. It’s not just physical– it’s a mindset. Feeling strong physically has allowed my mind to become stronger too.

I’m not the best.  And I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be. But that’s another thing about this beautiful sport. It’s not about being better than the rest—it’s about being the best version of yourself. You enter a CrossFit competition and these women aren’t throwing nasty glances and spewing mean words. These women are cheering for every athlete from first place to last. From the beginner who wandered into class one day to the professional competing at the CrossFit Games. We all complete the workouts. We all push ourselves to our limits. We all support the journey.

We are a community of women who want to see each and every one of us succeed. In CrossFit, you’re competing against your limits. Your body. You.

And when you hit a personal record or shave time off old scores, you’ve won.