Why I'm Not Giving Up My Muscles for Anyone

Vanessa Bennington

Contributor - Nurse Practitioner

Sarasota, Florida, United States



After five years of talking about it, my husband and I opened our own CrossFit gym earlier this year. We started working on our plan early in 2013 and officially opened our doors in March of 2014.


Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time, blood, sweat, and tears trying to make it successful. A large part of that involves marketing, networking, and promoting the gym in numerous ways.



RELATED: Everything You Need to Know Before Opening a CrossFit Gym


As owners of the gym, our appearance is one way in which marketing gets accomplished. As much as we’d like for people to join the gym simply because they want to get fitter, healthier, stronger, or faster, most people really just want to look better naked. And we can’t really blame them. That’s why we started CrossFit, too.


women's fitness, muscles, healthy, skinny, fit, strong, bulky

Me becoming fitter, healthier, and stronger.



Bulky Is Not Marketable

And while I feel like I’ve never looked better physically, my current physical shape isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, I’d venture to say that I’m what a whole lot of women in our area and probably in America would classify as “bulky.” My husband and I laugh about this because compared to the professional CrossFitters, I’m a shrimp. But at 5’4” and 135-140lbs, I am bigger than what most women think of when they envision their “perfect” body.


So, why am I bringing this up? Because I have felt pressured at times over the past year to change how I look to be more marketable. Has anyone said anything directly to me? Not, but no one really had to.


REALTED: 2 Myths About Women and Weight Lifting Debunked



Have I heard “I don’t want to get too bulky” too many times to count when I have invited people to come try out a class? You bet I have. Have I heard secondhand that “those CrossFit girls get too big”? Certainly.


In a geographic area containing quite a few yoga studios, bootcamps, ballet-based barre classes, and fake CrossFit gyms that just do cardio for an hour, I know CrossFit, weightlifting, and the look of my body are not the popular choice. As such, it would be logical to a lot of business-minded people for me, the primary female spokesmodel for my gym, to tone it down a bit. To get skinny. To go for a more “toned” and less extreme look.


"So, why am I bringing this up? Because I have felt pressured at times over the past year to change how I look to be more marketable."

But you know what? Fuck that. My 25-year-old self probably would have succumbed to the pressure. I would’ve gone wild with cardio and limited my calories until I met some arbitrary goal like weighing 120lbs so I fit that more marketable standard. But this 35-year-old woman isn’t going to give in to that noise.


Here's why Vanessa don’t play that kind of crap anymore:


Muscles Are Effing Sexy

It may not be everyone’s preference, but I like the way I look. I was always afraid of gaining weight in the past, but it wasn’t until I allowed myself to gain weight and muscle that I finally actually leaned out.




women's fitness, muscles, healthy, skinny, fit, strong, bulky


I’ve even managed to lose most of the cellulite I let everyone check out last year. Bikinis and shorts no longer scare me. I am empowered by these “bulky” muscles and I think I look damn sexy.


RELATED: Why Female Athletes Should Toss the Scale and Get a New Perspective 


I also think every one of my CrossFit and weightlifting counterparts looks amazing and exactly how a fit female should look. An athletic, muscled female body is a body at its physical prime. How can that not be attractive?


Being Strong Is More Important Than My Pant Size

This is finally a reality for me. I truly no longer care what the scale says as long as my lifts are going up, I can breathe during my metcons, and my gymnastic skills are improving.



"I'm hoping others have found this tipping point, too. Where suddenly fitness isn’t about looking a certain way, but about performing at a certain level or feeling athletic and healthy."

I recently, for the first time in my life, realized I needed to put some weight back on after I lost a few pounds unintentionally and my squats (and pretty much everything else) felt terrible. This was a life changing realization for me. For once in my life, gaining weight was a goal.


RELATED: Why Loving Your Body Is Not Enough


I’m hoping others have found this tipping point, too. Where suddenly fitness isn’t about looking a certain way, but about performing at a certain level or feeling athletic and healthy. If you haven’t gotten there yet, don’t stop until you do. You will not regret the freedom brought about with this realization and change in mindset. Free at last, girls. Free at last.


We Need to Stand Up to the Crazy Beauty Standards

We need more women to stop giving in to the unrealistic beauty standards the world has created for us. Namely, we should stop being afraid of being “too bulky” and accept for our bodies for what they become when we feed and train them the right way. 


women's fitness, muscles, healthy, skinny, fit, strong, bulky


If you can’t take a stand for yourself, then you should do it for the little girl that’s looking up to you. Teach her what “beautiful” looks like. Her, and all the other women she encounters. Because beauty comes in a whole lot of shapes and sizes, and if she grows up to be a gorgeous young lady with thighs that don’t fit into skinny jeans and she doesn’t give a flying you-know-what, then you’ve done your job.


RELATED: Camille Leblanc-Bazinet: Strong, Real, and Less-Than-Perfect


Be Strong, Fit, and Live the Life You Love

So, if our gym grows a little more slowly and we never gain a ton of popularity with the women in our area, that’s okay. I’ll know the people we do have in our gym appreciate being strong and fit over pursuing an arbitrary beauty standard.


I’ll also know I didn’t compromise myself to become something I no longer care to be. I choose to love my body, no matter what it looks like, because it allows me to live and participate in the life I love. It allows me to do things physically I never dreamed possible. And it allows me to be part of a special group of women who are following the same, unpopular path. 

See more about: , , , , , , ,
Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Get updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.