First establishing herself in the world of cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a keen photojournalist who is equally enthusiastic about fitness and sports. More of her at CherylTay.sg and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (cheryltay11).
They may not have the bodies of societal standards – skinny limbs and small waists – but these CrossFit girls are proud of their bodies.
As their bodies changed, clothes that used to fit weren’t so comfortable anymore – jeans felt tighter, sleeves became too small, and other clothes felt smaller.
But all of these don’t bother them one bit.
These women focus on performance and not aesthetics – getting stronger, faster and more efficient is more important to them than having a slim hourglass figure.
CrossFit is a strength and conditioning programme that consists of constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity across weightlifting, gymnastics, rowing, running and more.
These girls are able to perform Olympic weightlifting – think snatch and clean & jerk – at weights near or more than their body weight.
Performance over aesthetics
“One key aspect of CrossFit is functional fitness and hence our main focus is always on the performance and output. I think having a body that reflects its own strength and capacity to move is a wonderful thing,” said Annie Set, a 23-year-old student.
Set is able to deadlift 110kg, which is two times her body weight.
Sometimes, Set admits, she wishes she was leaner or had more defined abs, but there is a greater hunger to perform well and improve as an athlete – and so the aesthetics of how her body looks become secondary.
“Before I started CrossFit, I used to be very self-conscious about how I looked and how I acted, but CrossFit changed that for me. I found a place of solace where I wasn’t judged based on what I looked like or who I was,” said Sarah Widjaja, who started out in CrossFit as a form of training for her Muay Thai.
“I’ve learnt to prioritise performance over aesthetics. You prove yourself with how hard you’re willing to work and your attitude when you step into the box, and not how defined your abs are,” said the 20-year-old student.
“There are many times when I feel much bigger than other girls around me, but then I think of how these legs of mine can squat over a hundred kilos.
“I’m proud of what my body can do and it’s important that I accept that, because I want to inspire people to live a healthier life, not just chase a chiselled body.”
Likewise, business development manager Tricia Tan, 27, enjoys CrossFit because no one is judging her body size and it is normal for girls to be lifting heavy weights.
“I am pretty confident and secure about my body these days. I used to be teased by boys growing up for having ‘thunder thighs’ and I hated them.
“However, after being in Crossfit, being a ‘quadzilla’ is no longer a bad thing to me.
“We are ‘judged’ not by how we look, but by how your body performs. Ultimately, the only concerns I have about my body is to lose body weight only because it makes gymnastics and burpees easier,” Tan said.
Earn your confidence
Sarah-Anne Tan was initially apprehensive about CrossFit because she thought she was not fit enough for the intensive exercises.
“Everyone has to start somewhere and I have learnt how to be comfortable and confident in my own skin. As CrossFit Games 2008 champion Jason Khalipa said, ‘Earn your confidence’. Find something that you enjoy and makes you feel good about yourself,” said the 32-year-old business analyst.
“You don’t have to be skinny or slender to be confident. It is what your body can do for you.”
It is also the strong community aspect of CrossFit that helps to boost these girls’ confidence.
“CrossFit emphasises a lot on community and there is a lot of support and encouragement for each other. This helps you to feel you are not alone and no one is there to criticise you for how you look or how different your fitness levels are,” former national dragonboater and personal trainer Landy Eng, 26, explained.
“For one hour in your day, it doesn’t matter if you’re mother of four or a nurse working night shifts, everybody is treated the same at the box (a box is a Crossfit gym) and everyone commands the same respect for each other,” Widjaja added.
“From there I learnt that it doesn’t matter what I do as long as I love doing it, because people will respect me more for that. I used to be quite shy and unsociable because I was afraid of being judged, but the community attitude of CrossFit has helped me to open up and to love myself for who I am.”