Tag Archives: body

The Naked Truth: Culture, Crossfit and Perception of the Human Body

push up

If I stare at you during a WOD, I’m not checking you out; I’m watching your mechanics.

I am a visual learner.

I can’t speak for every Crossfitter, but during a WOD, there’s no time for fantasy. If I do have a moment to ogle my friends, it’s to analyze their form, not their junk.

I have lived in Europe for nearly eight years, and I suppose I’ve been a little desensitized to the human body, because around any corner, something unexpected can pop out at you. My youngest daughter was still in her car seat when she first chimed out, “What’s Dolly Buster?” I had to explain it wasn’t a place where they sold children’s toys.

The body takes on a certain kind of practicality here. It can be beautiful or ugly, but it is natural, and many Europeans let it all hang out. It’s not a big deal–and it’s not always sexual. It seems more hypocritical to me for a culture to constantly sexualize the body, and then be shocked or offended by actual nakedness.

There’s nothing wrong with modesty–in fact, it’s something I like to instill in my daughters, but the body is nothing to be ashamed of either. It is a body. And everyone has one.

Sometimes our American perception of the body creates problems. For example, we don’t want to take physical care of our elderly because it might include dealing with someone’s nakedness. So, we hire nurses, or stow away the elderly in nursing homes rather than get over our shock at an old, wrinkled body and do the dirty work ourselves.

One thing that Crossfit in Germany has taught me is that the body is just a body. It can do incredible things if you put the time and effort into maintaining it. But there is also an extremely practical side to Crossfit–it enables me to do things like help lift my mom (in her wheelchair) up some stairs so she can enjoy a movie with us; or even place her safely into bed if she’s feeling weak that night.

The strength I gain at Crossfit not only enhances my life, but it improves her quality of life as well.

I’m not entirely angelic here. I DO like the way my body is shaping up; and I DO like feeling more attractive. But the real satisfaction is in being strong enough to help other people.

I may be odd, but I’m not attracted to a person’s body any more than I’m bowled over by flowery words. I’m a writer, so I know how cheap good rhetoric can be. Action is the evidence for one’s beliefs. In a similar way, I’m not attracted to bodies, though I am a sucker for a good set of eyes–the windows of the soul–and a great smile–but mostly, to actions & behaviors.

Having a ‘hot’ body is not the sole purpose for Crossfit: the purpose of Crossfit is to improve your body and mind so that you can not only enjoy this life to the fullest, but to help others do the same. 

There’s more I’d like to say on this subject, but it’s time for me to sign off–I have some people to uplift. 

Bikini Bodies


I’ve been to both Hawaii and Florida, and I know that neither of them resemble the interior design mashup known as Kristall Palm Beach, a spa/water complex outside Nürnberg, Germany.

It is a wonderful place–it just has multiple personalities.

  • Kristall: because of the rocks & natural hot water springs in this part of Germany
  • Palm Beach: American, if you ask me
  • Poloynesia is represented by the hula girls on pedestals and the giant Gauguin paintings surrounding the wave pool
  • The Turkish bath area, with its colorful mosaics and hot tubs
  • The Space Alien waterside area, where the children are happily stowed upon arrival
  • The Egyptian sauna complex, into which I once stumbled for a pedicure and was never the same again

On a trip to Kristall Palm Beach a couple months ago, my tankini was literally billowing around me in the salt tub; and I could have used a pair of suspenders exiting the sprudel pool.

I had put the entire incident out of my mind until recently when, on a whim, we decided to go back to Palm Beach. The only other modest suit I had was even larger than my old one, and would never withstand the rigorous jets of the salt tub.

But there was one more suit. My beloved tankini had come with a matching, more revealing counterpart–the bikini. But because it was on discount, the only size left had been a small. I remember trying it on soon after I got it and tucking it away into a drawer, thinking I could never possibly wear it in public, even though here in Germany, grandmas wear bikinis.

Before I started Crossfit, I would see the old people in their speedos and bikinis getting out of the pool after water aerobics and avert my eyes, but now I am fascinated.

I watch how people move and walk; how they carry themselves; if their shoulders are back; I look for muscle tone and core strength and how their legs work and how they use their upper bodies. For the most part, despite the physical exercise, the majority of these people have not aged well.

I DO give them credit for getting out and exercising, it’s just that I would like to prevent certain things, like the typical hunched back, that I frequently see.

Sure, there may be ailments or diseases you can’t predict; but sometimes the state of a body is due to a steady diet of schnitzel and pommes–and no amount of Aqua Zumba can correct that.

I have two amazingly healthy grandmas, and they BOTH tell me things like ‘eat your veggies,’ and ‘stand up straight.’ My Auntie tells me stories about my grandma wearing hot pants and standing on her head; and exercising in the era of the young Jack LaLanne.

It’s not about how you look in a bikini, because it is possible to be ‘skinny fat,’ but it’s about working what you have, so you can show your great-grandkids how to do cartwheels.

I want to be the eccentric grandma who is standing on her head when the kids walk into the room. I want to take them hiking in the alps or cross-country skiing or go running with them or swimming in a cold alpine lake and not get too tired to play. I want that energy now. I want to sprint and push press and run ultras–who cares how I actually ‘look’ in my bikini?

Yes, I wore the bikini. While it felt strange at first, I quickly lost my self-consciousness about it. In fact, I was LESS self-conscious wearing it than I had been with the billowy tankini.

Not only did it stay put in the Turkish baths, but for the very first time, I felt secure enough to face the Space Aliens with the kids.

After a fun day of waterslides and wave pools and body-watching, I went home and did the unthinkable: I ordered another bikini–size small.

I will be wearing it for a long time to come.