Why I Stopped Doing CrossFit

why I stopped doing crossfit

I love CrossFit. Like, love it.

I think it’s one of the coolest, most challenging workouts around today. I love its focus on functional fitness. I love the variety. I love the community aspect of it.

In fact, I did CrossFit for nearly a year before I decided to give it up. When I was living in Brooklyn, I went to the most amazing CrossFit gym, CrossFit Virtuosity, and had the time of my life.

The people were cool. There were both men and women, and no one expected me to work less hard because I was a chick. And the coach (as they’re called in CrossFit) was inspiring and just, well, awesome.

But when I moved to San Francisco, I decided to give it up. Here’s why:


If you’re not familiar with the workouts, CrossFit combines movements such as sprinting, jumping, rowing, bodyweight exercises, and climbing rope to make some short, intense, ass-kicking workouts, not altogether that different than the ones we do here on 12 Minute Athlete.

The main difference between my workouts and the Crossfit workouts is the Olympic style weightlifting they do in their workouts—including lots of heavy squats, shoulder presses, jerks, snatches, deadlifts and cleans.

I loved the high intensity work. I didn’t love the heavy weightlifting.

You could certainly say it’s because I’m a girl that I didn’t like it, but I’ve talked to others who have had the same reaction: I just got too damn sore from it. So sore I didnt have the energy or desire to do all the other active things I wanted to do. So sore that sometimes I could barely move for days afterwards.

Obviously, I could have pushed a little less hard and given myself a break more often… but that’s not how I do things.

And yes, I could have taken some extreme recovery measures… ice baths, weekly massages, etc. but in the end, it just wasn’t worth it to me. I don’t mind being sore, but I didn’t want to be so sore that I couldn’t do any other workouts or activities the rest of the week.


CrossFit gyms follow the Paleo diet, which if you’ve never heard of it includes mainly meat, nuts and veggies—any form of grains are frowned upon, and more extreme Paleo followers won’t even touch dairy, some fruit, and alcohol.

As a vegetarian (I’ve been one since I was six years old), this leaves me with pretty much nothing to eat. I can’t survive on nuts and veggies only!

(It has been done however—see Susan Lacke’s vegetarian paleo experiment on No Meat Athlete to learn more.)

Some CrossFit gyms are more lax about diet than others, but the ones I’ve been to have all been pretty extreme Paleo. And for good reason: all that meat no doubt helps with recovery and performance, but I just wasn’t willing to change my diet completely for the sport.

I felt it put me at a disadvantage—and also like I had to hide my diet from my fellow CrossFitters.


Although most CrossFit workouts are fairly short—ranging from 5 to 20 minutes on average—an entire CrossFit class lasts for more like an hour. That combined with getting to class early to stretch and warm up and staying after to foam roll meant the time commitment was more like an hour and a half a day, four to six times a week (or however many times I could handle it).

That’s a lot of time to devote to just exercise. Doing CrossFit on a regular basis meant I rarely had time to do the other active things I love – hiking, various sports, and exploring the Bay area outdoors with my dog.

Also, as a side note, I noticed doing CrossFit would cut into my work time since I’d get so spent during the workouts (I couldn’t help but push myself as hard as possible every single time) I’d have trouble re-focusing for an hour or two after a morning or afternoon class.

Body composition

All right, guys, this is where I’m going to lose you, so feel free to skip this section. Because while CrossFit builds (in my opinion) a pretty awesome male physique, as a female CrossFitter, I began to quickly hate the way my body started to look.

I have nothing against muscular physiques—I love a strong body more than anything and I feel best when I’m as lean and strong as possible. But I naturally have fairly broad shoulders, and not surprisingly, CrossFit made them even broader.

They got so broad I had trouble fitting into normal shirts… And I definitely lost some of myfeminine appearance.

In fact, when you look at the CrossFit women such as the ones in the CrossFit games, you’ll notice that this is a pretty standard consequence of the sport.

Obviously, appearance isn’t the only thing that matters—but after realizing I was constantly sore, always nursing an injury, and didn’t like how I looked because of it, I decided my days of regular CrossFit were over.

(This was also around the same time I began creating 12 Minute Athlete workouts, which I now do six days a week, and feel better and stronger than ever.)

I love the community but…

This isn’t to say I’ll never do Crossfit again.

In fact, nearly every time I go home to visit my family in the Portland, Oregon area, I go to a CrossFit class or two with my dad or brother—and I’m happy to say that I still beat most of the guys.

It’s always fun, and challenging and extremely grueling, and the community is always fantastic.

But every time, I’m always happy to return to my 12 Minute Athlete workouts that leave me stronger, more focused, and injury-free—with plenty of time and energy to do other fun things.

Because to me, that’s what exercise is all about.

74 Responses to Why I Stopped Doing CrossFit

  1. obagaar January 28, 2015 at 3:34 am #

    I know every one has preferences, but all I got from the comments is a lot of negative criticism about being a muscular woman or “bulky”. Women come in all shape and sizes, if some one works hard and has the musculature to show I don’t see why they should get bashed just because it’s not society sandards. Other wise its a good article and good insight.

  2. aed939 January 12, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    So I think the issue with soreness from CrossFit is the fact that everybody has to complete the workout even when you start to slow down. It is when you can no longer perform the reps with speed when your muscle fibers begin to break down. You would be best to stop the exercise when you just start to slow down–at that point, you have stimulated your neuromuscular system for adaptation, but you will not have days of soreness after. CrossFit programming often results in inefficient, unnecessary muscle breakdown and rebuilding. Tell the coaches, you want to stop the workout at the point where you are slowing down, as a form of scaling (rather than scale the weight, scale the reps), but do not predetermine ahead of time. Some coaches will not like it because they have the attitude that you must be encouraged to complete the predetermined reps.

  3. Lori January 10, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this. I started Crossfit at 35 years old (as a marathon runner) three years ago at 5’3 weighing 115lbs. I now weigh 132 pounds and look like I can pick up a small car. I ditched crossfit and am back to training as a runner using weight training to supplement.

  4. AJ January 9, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    I just quit my box today after over a year and a half of Wall Balls, DU’s, HSPU’s, EMOM’s, AMRAP’s, METCONs, Chippers, Benchmark WODS, Hero WODS, Is this Paleo? and… ugh… I’m tired

    The BIGGEST problem with Crossfit that I never hear anybody really talk about is that the paradigm ITSELF does not distinguish between “Exercise” and “Training”. There is no periodization whatsoever. Training is meant to be temporary. Because human beings can and will break. But every time in the Box, we go 100% with heavy weight as fast as we can go. “Just scale”, “Take more Fish Oil”… yeah right.. that is not the Crossfit culture everyone tries to lie to themselves about. Almost none of us are ever going to the games. Come on, be honest now. Unless you can RX Elizabeth in under 3 minutes and do loads of unbroken muscle ups, you’re not going to the games. So why kill yourself everyday until you inevitably get injured!? Not smart.

    Secondly, you’re not sore, you’re injured. Almost everyone is. Shoulder Impingements, bad knees, bad backs, tennis elbows, torn rotator cuffs. Someone is always complaining about how their shoulder hurts or their knee or elbow hurts.. Always, every day. They are not the huge blow out injuries from Football games, they are slow, nagging and degenerative.

    “You just need to find a good box”… please refer to my first point.

    And the pullups… Christ on crutch with the kipping pullups! One of my fellow Crossfitters asked me once “How many kipping pullups equals a strict pullup?” I was like “ummmm. zero.”

    The reality of Crossfit:

    – You will get ripped
    – You will make tons of friends
    – You won’t go to the games
    – You’ll injure yourself
    – The intensity level is not sustainable long term.


    I’m going for a run.

  5. Abby January 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I am so glad I found this article/website. Actually, I came across this post a few months ago when contemplating whether I wanted to continue with crossfit or not. Needless to say I’m finding myself in the same boat two months later. I started crossfit with my husband almost exactly one year ago with the hopes of building lean muscle and becoming more fit. When I started I was around 135 lbs. (I’m 5’6″) and now a year later weigh almost 148 lbs. But it’s not just the weight gain that has got me contemplating leaving crossfit.

    While I know I have more muscle mass and am definitely stronger than I was a year ago, I find I’m having the some of the same issues as stated in this article. I spend way too much time in the gym for the minimal results I’m getting, I’m constantly sore, I don’t feel like I look lean or feminine, and I generally feel my body is exhausted/inflamed. Don’t get me wrong, I really love crossfit and all of the people at my gym but I just don’t think it’s what is going to work for me long term.

  6. andy December 21, 2014 at 12:49 pm #

    Do you have any photos of your shape when you were doing crossfit and after? My wife has been doing it with me for nearly a year and is now struggling to get clothes even though she is stronger and in more athletic shape than before…plus loves Crossfit.

  7. M December 14, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    Thank you for sharing this!!! I’ve been doing Crossfit for three years now, and I’m feeling a little bit disillusioned. When I first started Crossfitting, I was 5″3, 125#s and wore a size 4/6 in pants. Before Crossfit, I rode my bike and ran a lot and that kept me pretty trim. Despite this, I decided that I wanted to get strong, and signed up for a Crossfit program.

    And although I’m definitely stronger (I can clean over 100#s, deadlift over 250#), I look like a LINEBACKER. I’m the biggest I’ve ever been in my life — almost 140#, which does not look great on such a short frame like mine. My traps and arms are huge, but not defined, giving me a bulky, hunched-over gorilla look. My thighs and butt are even BIGGER — I have to wear a size 8/10 in pants now, but while they’re tight in the thighs and butt, they’re so loose in the waist area that it looks like I have an air bubble in my crotch area!!! Nothing fits right, and I don’t look feminine at all — just bloated and heavy.

    There’s not a whole lot of posts like this out there for women — it’s all Crossfit dudes saying the same thing, that Crossfit doesn’t make you bulky, that it’s a myth, and that even if it does, why should you care because strong is beautiful, etc. But I’m here to tell you that is NOT true. Crossfit does make you bulky, and, although it makes you strong too, it’s mostly up to genetics as to whether you end up looking good or not. Like it or not, women face a lot of implicit and explicit pressure from society to be small and feminine, and Crossfit can’t just ignore that.

    Now, after 3 years, I’m officially throwing down the towel on Crossfit. I love the workouts and the intensity, but if I continue down this road any longer, pretty soon, folks are going to think I’m a dude. Any recommendations for post Crossfit workouts that will get me back to my original 125# frame?

    • C December 18, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      M, I am exactly where you are at right now and have similar proportions. Almost have 4 years of Crossfit under my belt and and I have been completely frustrated and confused until reading all these comments. If I’ve got all this muscle and I’m all strong and can do all this fancy stuff and, most importantly, I eat well, shouldn’t I be lean too? Wth? I started CF to lose 10 pounds (gained b/c of medication which I had stopped before Crossfit) and to make some friends. I lost the pounds and was lean and fit for about 1 and half years. Then I started to blow up and am now 10 pounds over the 10 pounds I had lost! I gained muscle, yes, but also more fat despite getting stronger and doing more. My diet didn’t change – it was the same way of eating as when I lost 10 pounds!! I was told to eat more because of the muscle, I did – healthy stuff, and that didn’t go well either.

      Over the last year or so I’ve been back and forth with Crossfit, mostly b/c I love it, and the people and Coaches there. I was never pushed too hard but I guess I’m similar to Krista, I go in saying “I’ll take it easy and just have fun” and come out of there pushed to the limit by me, myself and I. I never needed to be pushed, trust me.

      A light bulb went off when I started reading these comments. I’ve read this post many times but b/c I was so brainwashed (about women getting bulky and other things) I didn’t put 2 and 2 together – or maybe didn’t want to. The body does crazy things when it is stressed out and inflamed. I used to do dumbbell circuits, body weight movements and running. If I was gaining weight I paid attention to my food and it was gone in a couple weeks, no worries. My body and I were friends. Now, I feel like I am so disconnected from my body. It doesn’t respond anymore to anything – even trying to get stronger.

      I’ve started doing my own thing and it’s not easy to change. I have been doing what I used to do before CF and it turns out, I’m looking forward to my workouts again, instead of just the people. I wasn’t enjoying Crossfit like I used to and it became difficult for me to go because I was so frustrated with my body. I won’t even get into the injuries I’ve had over the years which are totally my fault. I didn’t listen to my body, I listened to others and let their progress be my motivation. But now that I’m bulky and overweight – regardless of how strong I have become, it’s not worth it b/c I just don’t feel healthy. It’s hard to put down the barbell but that’s exactly what I’ll be doing for a while. I’ll be signing up for some races and doing some good old body weight and dumbbell circuits and using 12 minute athlete as a guide for some workouts. I hope this helps to give you a place to start. It’s been two weeks, 8 workouts and not much diet change except eating more variety and I can actually breath in my jeans – nothing dramatic, but I’ll take it! At the end of the day you have to not only enjoy what you do but also enjoy what it brings to your life.

      • Ang December 19, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

        Thank you all for saying the stuff that is taboo to say… I have been doing Crossfit for about a year and, while I have loved doing it and all the people at my box, I don’t like how my body is changing. I love being stronger, but I also am naturally broad in the shoulders, and now my clothing is starting not to fit. I just feel uncomfortable. I don’t think I’ve lost much fat, so, after a year and A LOT of effort, I’m basically the same size as I was before–not my intention at all. The workouts often wipe me out, and I can’t figure out how to eat appropriately for the activity level. I also think I’ve been inducing pretty regular inflammation in my body, because I feel bloated and puffy for a day or two after attending a class. Thanks for sharing all the insight! Time to move on.

  8. Sharon December 9, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Very interesting post, I found this while looking for info on what is normal body weight for athletes in crossfit, I am very petite 52kg (114lb) and extremely lean, I find that I’m naturally good at most gymnastics work because I’m light, but I’m actually quite stong aswell compared to my size, I’m convinced genetics have a lot to do with if you will bulk out or not, I would love to bulk up and gain muscle and look stronger but I’m making very slow progress with body weight and still look very skinny, in some lifts I lift as much as some girls who are a stone heavier and have done crossfit far longer and train more than my x2 -3 a week! Hopefully in my second year I will see more weight go on!! Maybe I’m doing too much Metcon wods and cardio which keeps me thin? Since many of you girls seem to have bulked out, has anyone any advice on how to put on weight?

  9. Kel November 27, 2014 at 9:01 am #

    Good post and some great comments! My story: I am 37 yrs old, 2.5 years in at CF, the transformation has been really cool and I love my body and how strong I am. I did reach a crossroad after 1.5 yrs where my coach sat me down and asked me about my goals at that point. Did I want to geek out on the lifting and really get into it (he identified risks involved with the changes I would see RE: getting bigger, less-defined etc), or did I want to maintain what I have and focus just on being the fittest version of myself with good diet and reasonable exercise? I chose the latter and though I can do the RX weight for most WODs, I often scale it down slightly, and I don’t go crazy with the lifting. Still do the olympic lifting classes, but its more because I love learning the proper technique and form and hanging out with my friends, not to nail a huge PR. Diet is crucial for me in controlling how I look – I am not paleo, but I really pay attention to what I am eating and notices that even a couple of days of eating well or eating poorly shows on my body and how defined I look. I’m truly surprised to hear that people are “scolded” at their gyms for not going heavier – it would never ever happen at our box, unless someone wanted to be encouraged in this way. Everyone does what works for them and it falls in line with their particular goals. All this to say I see now more than ever the value of a good coach who will work with you 1:1 on your goals and help steer you in that direction. This is what we pay for at CF! I fully agree that if you are working as hard as most of us do at the box, then you should absolutely be happy with the results you are getting – it’s definitely not for everybody!

  10. Robin November 25, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    OK YES! This is the blog post I’ve been looking for. THANK YOU!

    I’ve been doing Crossfit for just over a year and had to stop last month because I’ve become very self conscious about my body–in particular, the broadness of my shoulders, neck, and back. I feel like the manliest woman of all time! Ugh. This was a tough decision for me, because I loved the workouts, the people, and the coaches.

    I’ve always been a long distance runner. I kept that up while I was CFing, but my runs were slow and sore. Always. Since I’ve stopped, I’m cruising at much faster speeds and am able to run distances comparable to what I was running pre-CF. Very happy about that!

    I’ve leaned down a bit in the last month, but would like to get my body back to a pre-CF look. Healthily, of course. Does anyone have any recommendations or suggestions? I’m currently running 45-60 minutes each day and doing some very light weight training 1-2 days per week. What else might help? Yoga? More cardio?

    • Sue December 11, 2014 at 5:47 am #

      Hey Robin- I’ve been doing a lot of research and here are some tips I found (that seem to be working).
      – Work out on an empty stomach in the morning if possible
      – Despite our conditioning to eat protein all day everyday, back off a bit and eat fewer meals, spaced wider apart.
      – cutting back on calories obviously will help yo lean out faster
      – more cardio, yes- but longer and moderate intensity (think long distance run vs. sprints)
      _ stretch!! Especially your quads, arms, shoulders after your workout.

      I havent lifted anything overhead for like 2 months and I’m finally losing my overdeveloped traps and back… I’d like to get back to lifting eventually, but much lighter weight.

      Good luck!

    • Cate January 3, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

      Hey there, not sure if you will read this but I have been where you are at at the moment. The very best way to muscle atrophy, which is what you need to do, is to stop working out entirely for around a month to six weeks. There are no exercises that will make your muscles smaller, because every form of exercise bar yin yoga or stretching will build some muscle and all the places you have too much muscle in now will be the first to gain, because of muscle memory. You could try power walking for an hour to 1.5 hours at a time because long steady state cardio does burn muscle, plus yin yoga to try and stretch out those short tight muscles. Perhaps also try a few days of juicing per week to lose further muscle. When you have leaned down a bit, you can start your normal routine of running, flow or power yoga ( NOT too much chaturunga, this will just build your shoulders up again). I lost all my muscle I didn’t want but have to be constantly vigilant, even too much yoga, unweighted squats or aerobics and my thighs come back. I have also had a lot of success with the Tracey Anderson method. Running doesn’t get me big but too make makes my arse huge!

    • Nikki January 13, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

      I’m in the same pridicament you are in. I want to quit crossfit, but I don’t want to turn to flab. I just want a smaller version of myself. How has your workouts changed since you quit crossfit? Are you happy with your results?

  11. suzan November 3, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    I replied below about stopping because of bulkiness, but I want to say that I LOVED crossfit. Loved the people, loved the wods, loved the high, loved the way I felt after a workout. If there were alternate wods that were only running/rowing/jumping/pushing/burpees/pullups/situps/toes2bar/light kb, I’d probably do Crossfit for the rest of my life.

    • Meredith November 15, 2014 at 3:12 pm #

      I am so glad I found this blog. I have been so frustrated about my size and weight 3 years into crossfit. When I approached the coach about it he basically told me that I was delusional and if I wanted to modify my workouts then I should not workout with the other ladies at it would “cause confusion!?!” So much for crossfit not coming across like a cult. It seems like everyone has drank the koolaid and put aware the scales and mirrors. I loved crossfit and I have always been in athletics and have an athletic build ( which is fine) but I could not stand being that big anymore. i am in the process of leaning out again. Running / rowing everyday. I hate to loose muscle but I just dont know how to do this.

      • suzan November 22, 2014 at 11:17 am #

        Hey Meredith- I so feel you. I’ve been doing cardio on the elliptical at the Y every day, 30 minutes, NO INCLINE, but intensely so I’m sweating. Then I do 10 rds of 10 situps, 10 squats, 10 pushups. Then I REALLY stretch. especially the quads. After a week and a half, I’m already feeling smaller. I’m sure running would do the same thing.

        I havent been to my old box in like a year, but when I see pics of the girls on FB they’re all HUGE. Tried on a shirt today that used to be my favorite but a year ago made me look massive: it fits right again because after a year of not lifting heavy, my traps have shrunk down.

        I think there are genetically thin women who this will never happen to, but for those of us with an athletic build, it’s inevitable. And I agree, a shame that you’re “Looked down on” if you chose to scale.

  12. suzan November 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    OMG FINALLY!!!!!! I’ve been googling “too bulky from crossfit” and all I ever find is the same old line “No you WONT get bulky, that’s a myth!” Ugh. I’ve been crossfitting for 4 years. After year 2, I was thrilled with my body. I had lost about 15 pounds and I was trim and toned. 2 years later I HATE how I look. My thighs are huge, I don’t look feminine in shirts anymore… I’m very solid and toned, but overall I look heavy!!! Tried my first Bikram yoga class today- I’m going to try this for a month to try and lean out. Thank you, thank you for posting.

  13. Peter October 18, 2014 at 12:56 am #

    Despite my gender I don’t like getting bulky and all muscled up since I do long distance running and kayaking. I simply don’t want to carry another 5-10 kg of muscle around a marathon or long distance trail run. But I do like the intensity and feel of the crossfit workouts. Sore? Yes, occasionally which comes from changing exercises and hitting your muscles in new ways. Knowing yourself and scaling is key, don’t let everyone else’s ego get to you. You can train on and enjoy your days when they are all injured and busted up! Having passed 40 I do crossfit endurance, which is less heavy lifting, less technical and more cardio – but still gives me the crossfit feel and fantastic physical results. With a demanding job, a family of four and far too many hobbies and other interests ;-) the less go-go-go-way suits me better. I simply want to enjoy all the workouts that I do manage to fit it, instead of “punishing” myself for not hitting a 120 pct. everytime. Less macho? It takes a real man (or woman) to live a healthy and balanced life!

  14. Brant October 16, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Very modest approach in your writing on this subject. Excellent presentation of your blog too.

    As a Personal Trainer I train a variety of Women aged 16-83 and all of them have the same concern of not wanting to “look like a man”. Heavy Weight + High Volume = Big Muscles. Many women here seem to be surprised by this repercussion of crossfit training methods…it startles me. I don’t want to accuse anyone of being dishonest but we have to look at this objectively and try to understand where this misconception comes from as to why women are being told that they wont get bulky, when clearly lifting heavy weights, performing olympic lifts and generally training like Advanced Athletes train will certainly make you look like an Amazon!

    My advice to any women looking to scale down their physique post cross fit.
    1.Lighten the weights and keep your workouts short, to around 30-45 min.
    2. Stretch and warm up at least 5 min.
    3. Try a Body Part Split instead of WODs.
    4. Try Dumbbell Circuits.
    5. Eat enough calories. Never go under 1200 k/cal.
    6. Do try Yoga and Pilates
    7. Limit your Cardio sessions to 1-2x a week if you want to keep your boobs and butts. (keep it short)

    All exercise, when done correctly IS FUNCTIONAL. So don’t let anyone poison the well by telling you only a certain type of exercise program or class is functional training.

  15. Carol September 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I started CrossFit 30 pounds lighter than I am now. Yes 30. I was a former competitive swimmer and long-distance runner so I was always very lean. I was reassured by the coaches at my box that I would not get “bulky” and that it was all a myth. Well I’ve gone up 2 clothing sizes and can hardly fit into any of my clothes. I eat a very clean diet and carry more muscle than fat but my composition is hardly favorable to me right now. I currently crossfit 5-6x a week and still swim a few times a week but right now I am looking at easing up on the weights as I would definitely appreciate a less bulky look.

    • Michelle October 17, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      I can relate! I started CF a year ago at a size 6, 145 pounds. I now weigh 160 and am a size 10. I didn’t change my diet either. Nothing fits right!

      I am trying to lean up as well by lighting my weight load. However, it’s very hard when you have coaches calling you out and saying you can lift more. Then when you tell them you are purposely lifting less so you won’t bulk up, you get the same old line, “that’s a myth, you won’t…” Then there are the girls around you who think you are “cheating” a WOD by lifting less when they also know you can go heavier. How do you tell those women, “sorry, but I don’t want to look like, well…you!” Lol

      Sad to say, but I think it’s time to give up CrossFit. I just don’t get the same “high” from it that I once felt. :(

    • Liza Loo December 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

      OMG! Me too! After 18 months I have gained 30 lbs, my stomach sticks out, my calves are huge as are my thighs and my arms and traps… Forget about it! I found this typing in “crossfit and getting fat!” I thought it was because I’m 50 and maybe my hormones are going haywire but I’m always sore and feel inflamed. What’s even worse is I’m a CFL1! I really either want to quit or just do body weight for the wods even though I love the challenge of Olympic lifting! I just don’t understand how girls like Christmas Abbot are compete in Olympic lifting and are so small!

  16. Aine September 12, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    I am at this point right now!I started crossfit eight months ago with ten pounds to lose and have gained at least that and maybe more.I am finding it very difficult to get clothes to fit ,and really only feel comfortable in gym clothes at the minute.Any time I mentioned to the coaches I was struggling to reduce my weight or maybe gaining I got told I wasn’t training hard enough ,eating properly ,I wouldn’t be able to ‘bulk up ‘as a female and that when I got stronger the fat would drop off me !So i persevered .I am so happy to read this post because now I know I’m not imagining it!I think that the workouts also stressed me in a way that made me more prone to weight gain ,because honestly my diet was no worse than ever before!

    I am struggling now and would really like to know how long it took anyone to lane out again ,and what type of diet ,workout routine they followed?

    • MarkkoCat September 17, 2014 at 9:03 am #

      So I’m on month three (or so?) after leaving CF. In the first month after I stopped, I lost a bunch of water weight. My knees still looked swollen, though, and my body still looked flabbier than when I started CF. I was still 1.5-2 sizes larger than when I started. In the second month out of CF, I counted calories (which I HATE doing), and following my TDEE, tracked at around 1300/day. I’d get 200 or so more on exercise days. I was following IIFYM, so I would eat carbs if I had the calories for them. I wasn’t refeeding. I tracked everything. For exercise, I was running at a moderate pace a few days a week and doing some light weight exercises like squats and lunges, some core work. I didn’t lose a single pound in four weeks. In fact, my weight would shoot up 3-4 pounds and then drop back down. But no actual loss. My energy was LOW. I went to the doctor for bloodwork, and everything seemed normal except my blood pressure, which was high. I’ve always had low BP, but the doctor said that the high BP could be because my body was still repairing itself and retaining water. She also noted that I could have high levels of cortisol, but I didn’t do a hormone test.

      In this last month, I’ve adjusted my diet (high protein, very limited simple carbs), stopped counting calories, and dropped 11 pounds. At last, my clothes that fit LAST summer, pre-CF are starting to fit again! For exercise, I’m lifting (low rep, high weight) twice a week and cardio (spin mostly) twice a week. That’s it. I’m in the gym maybe 4 hours a week. My friend who is still going to my old CF box is always sore, so sore that she can’t do much of anything else and she ends up sitting on the couch and snacking, so her weight is staying the same. She says that the WODs are so intense that she sees stars.

      I’ve come to learn that, for my body, intensity does NOT equal a productive workout. But it’s taken me about three months to get my body back to a place where it responds to nutrition and training in predictable ways. I have to say, CF really did a number on me. It sounds like other people have the same experience.

      • Krista Stryker September 17, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

        Thanks for sharing your story. Glad you found something that works better for you!

  17. Amy September 7, 2014 at 7:13 am #

    Thank you for sharing this. Everyone told me I wouldn’t, couldn’t, bulk with Cross Fit. I’m here to tell you I was positively huge after six months. Genetics maybe? I don’t know, but I quit and I feel like a quitter, but I just couldn’t handle hating my body. I’m now in recovery mode: losing bulk and trying to slim down while keeping strength. Thanks for your website! It is such an encouragement!

  18. Kathleen August 13, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Yes! Thank you! Everyone out there says “Women should lift heavy weights, you won’t get bulky. It’s genetically impossible to get bulky.” Guess what: I got bulky! My clothes didn’t fit in the shoulders and legs and I didn’t like the way I looked. I now do yoga, dance, tennis, walking, some running and some strength training but mainly with body weight or light weights. For me, the type of body I want is more dependent on the foods I eat (I eat primal) than exercise.

  19. Kath July 30, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    Oh my goodness, thank you for this post and all the replies. I have been freaking out for months because my weight has been going up with my cross fit classes (not quite a year yet). I can see more muscle and am more defined, but my clothes doesn’t fit well anymore because I am increasing in muscles where, yes, I never had them before, but it’s not helping me feel feminine!

    I kept searching and searching for information on-line and thinking maybe I’m crazy and just doing something wrong, because everyone and everything I found said you will not gain weight or bulk up, just tone up. So, reading what everyone says here makes me feel sane again!!!

    I have always been fit as a long-distance runner, and lean. I just wanted to be more toned. I didn’t think I could get larger, but I have been, and it’s making me crazy. Watching the scale go up when I should feel fitter but can’t fit my clothes makes me wonder what I am doing wrong! I have always been a healthful eater, but like others, I have never had to really think about what I eat – until now with the Paleo approach. Other than this new clean diet and working out with cf, there is no other explanation for why my dresses are tight in the rib cage area!

    I agree – too much cf can cause a female body to start, well, losing those curves. I feel so much better after finding these posts, so, THANK YOU. I am not going crazy – even if I can lift more, if I don’t feel feminine, it’s not what’s right for me. Everyone has a different idea of what makes them feel good, and I like to fit my clothes, not have to buy new clothes in larger sizes.

    • lori August 21, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      I have been having the same problem. I thought it was me I was bugging out. I love being strong but I can not deal with being larger. I am so glad u am not the only one

  20. Jenna July 29, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Loved your article! My husband does crossfit and he looks amazing now. In fact, he looks so much better than when we got married and he just turned 40! I tried it after he wouldn’t stop raving about it. I’ve always been in shape and in fact was a competitive gymnast for over 10 years. Within 3 weeks I was so injured it wasn’t even funny. Due to my years in gymnastics I suffer the inevitable consequence of arthritis in many areas of my body and weakened joints from countless sprains and strains as a result of the sport. I slipped a disc in my neck while doing crossfit and was laid up for close to a MONTH! While at the gym however, I did notice that the women looked like men, IMO, and I would get scolded for scaling down my weight because I had no desire to look like a man. Needless to say, my doctor and chiro told me to stop crossfitting immediately and go back to my regular cardio, yoga, and sensible weights that had kept me lean for all the years prior. I’m not putting down crossfit by any means. After all, it has given me some great eye candy in my husbands appearance, but I have always thought it wasn’t the best for women. Maybe if they came out with an option for “lean” muscle workouts instead of a one size fits all routine?

    • Diana August 30, 2014 at 5:02 am #

      After reading this I have decided to walk away from crossfit. I have been doing it for a year now and I have gained weight and to me my thighs look bigger. I kept telling my trainer I didnt want to be bigger and he kept saying you look fine. I knew I didnt because my clothes where tighter. Thanks for the information.

  21. TND May 21, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks for this. I’m a month shy of completing my first year and think I may want to quit also. I love the community and find it super fun, but I just don’t like the way it’s developing my body. It’s not a feminine physique in my opinion. My goal when starting was to lose a dress size and 10lbs, but a year later I am 10lbs heavier and roughly the same size. I do feel firmer and stronger, but by no means leaner. I’ve never been a dieter and I feel like if I’m spending close to 9 hours a week on exercise between crossfit, yoga and jogging I should pretty much be able to eat what I want in modest portions… However I feel like I need to diet more than ever before. I feel puffy and bloated, and the only way to alleviate that is to restrict carbs from what I understand. Also just my personal makeup- I’m someone who’s butt & thigh is not exactly in proportion with my waist measurement making it tough to get any of my pants to last a year without ripping. Squatting 150lbs is not helping me in that department.

    • MarkkoCat June 26, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Thank you so much for posting your experience! We have a lot in common, it seems. I joined CrossFit in November 2013 to drop 10 pounds of body fat. I’m 5’9″ and weighed around 165 when I joined, a solid size 8. After 8 months of CrossFit, I can’t squeeze into 10s. I weigh 176-7. I’ve gained 2 inches on my thighs, 1.5 on my biceps, 1 on my calves. My waist measurement has stayed the same, and by BF% is roughly the same or maybe a little lower (depending on the method: BEI pegs me at 25, bodpod at 24). I noticed about two months ago that every part of my body was bloated, especially my thighs, knees, and hands. The cellulite on the fronts of my legs was OUT OF CONTROL, far worse than it ever was when I worked out at the globo gym. I wasn’t eating crazy amounts of food, either. The sense at our box was that you feed the body when it’s hungry. I didn’t go full paleo, but I did limit carbs to one serving and then usually a sweet potato. This very same diet in the past has led to weight loss, but I just kept getting bigger.

      I think the most irritating thing right now is that my quads are so developed that not a single thing fits. Since I’m already bottom heavy (40 inch hips, 36 chest), this is not a flattering look on me. I quit CF when I mentioned now much I hated that my thighs have gotten bigger and was called out for buying into the mainstream skinny ideal. Um, I’m not skinny. I just want my pants to fit. And I get so very sick of people telling me it’s because I eat too much, because women can’t get bulky. I did.

      • leigh July 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

        wow, this is really interesting. I too am very bloated – my hands have been swollen for 12 months now and I can’t get on any rings, some of which used to fly off when my hands were cool. I don’t subscribe to the paleo/low carb diet anymore but I did for a good 10 months – which i thought was the reason for all my water retention and inflammation. I’m wondering now if it is the actual weight training… have you noticed a decrease in the bloat since cutting back?

        • MarkkoCat August 1, 2014 at 11:03 am #

          Yes! Leigh, I’ve been away from CF for just over a month now, and I’ve lost five scale pounds that I know must have been water weight. My fluid retention was so bad that I could *see* it, pockets of fluid on the insides of my thighs and across the top of my stomach, above my belly button. For the record, even when I was 50 pounds heavier, my stomach was the last place I gained any size. The deciding factor for me was when my hands and feet both swelled up and turned hot and itchy, just randomly on a Saturday. (I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything out of the ordinary, so I don’t think it was an allergic reaction.) My body is back to what I would consider normal now, and my blood pressure has dropped back into normal range. (All that fluid must have been making it high.) It took about three weeks of LOTS of water. I only did light recovery-style exercises for the first week after CF. Lots of walking, some BW squatting, planking, stretching.

          I think CF can be great for lots of people, but it didn’t fit my specific chemical makeup. I’m still working out, lifting heavy 2-3 days/week and doing cardio 2-3 days/week. I don’t have any of the inflammation problems that I had when I was CFing, and my periods are even easier. Good luck!

    • Raquel July 12, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      Thank you for posting this. I also tried CrossFit. There were a few things I noticed. First, most of the women were bulky and did not have feminine, enviable physiques. Not saying that the whole point of exercise is to look good, but if we are all honest with ourselves, we all want to look fit and sexy! The girls had massive, muscular thighs, big arms… And since we women carry fat no matter what we do, it was almost like they just put muscle under their fat, and they just ended up looking bulky. You will hear instructor after instructor reassuring you that we won’t get bulky as a woman. I have found that to be true. And those who do not get bulky definitely don’t seem to actually lose any fat or become smaller. Another thing I noticed was that there was too much damn rest in the class. The class did take an hour, but we were probably only actually physically active for about 15 to 20 minutes of that time. We would have intervals of one minute of work, then a minute of rest, then a minute of comparing our records with one another, then a minute of instruction for the next exercise. It just seemed like an awful lot of standing around. If I’m going to work out, I want to work out. I don’t want to just sit around and wait while my heart rate gets back down to baseline. Just looking at all the rest and the format of the whole workout, it’s no wonder CrossFit isn’t really a great way to lean out. Although I enjoyed CrossFit, I am starting to think that is a little overrated. If you’re looking for something fun that will make you strong, go for it. But if you are a woman who wants to be thin and lean and have decent cardiovascular fitness, it’s not the best thing in the world.

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  23. Amy Robles March 21, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    You for got to add: TOO EXPENSIVE. I paid about $200/month! I did crossfit for 3.5 years and was getting really good at it. I lost body fat but gained huge shoulders & back. I couldn’t fit into my shirts! Because I would get intense during WODS, I often got sore and had about 4 injuries requiring treatment. There were months I couldn’t even bend over to put my socks on or tie my shoes. In the end I just decided to quit this expensive torture and give me body a chance to look feminine again and feel normal again. Crossfit is not for everyone, and that’s okay. As long as your workout give you the results you want/need, then it’s all good!

  24. Erica March 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    Thanks for this post. I am 2 weeks shy of completing 1 committed year of CrossFit, and I hate my body more than ever! Like you, I have broad shoulders and a broad back. Now? I look like a sumo wrestler or football player. I decided to take a hiatus from CrossFit and get back into running which I’ve always enjoyed and kept me looking and feeling lean (leaner than what CF has).

  25. Valerie @ fitval March 1, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Great post! I have been interested in trying crossfit because I would like to build some muscle but I have heard a lot of negative things about how the lack of focus on form and extreme workouts can cause serious injury. Thanks for posting your view— it kind of gave me a like at both sides of cross fit.

  26. Junior January 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Lol all credibility was lost once I read “I decided to give it up. Here’s why: Soreness”

    • Vic February 13, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

      No, I see her point.

      If your workouts have you feeling constantly sore or too tired to do anything else with your day then it’s time to try another workout regimen because the whole point of working out is to improve your lifestyle & feeling constantly sore or too tired to do anything else is the opposite of that.

  27. Carrie Martin January 24, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    I’m glad I read your blog. I too tried Crossfit for 3 months. I’m 55 years old, but beat many of the young members when running was involved. I would get so sore after every class, and I have always worked out. I also lost a lot of definition in my back and shoulders. I actually thought it was my age, but now I see that other woman feel the same. ( I am in great shape, especially for my age.) I can spot a Crossfit guy on any given day, but the average crossfit gal never seems to really get a nice shape. I don’t mean thin. I hate that. I just mean a nice healthy and evenly balanced shoulder, hip, and thigh ratio. Thanks again for the blog.

  28. Shari January 9, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    I am so confused!!! I started Crossfit and Paleo eating about 6 months ago and love the results. The box I am a member of even used my before and after pictures to promote their facility…. But I scale down all of the weights for each WOD, I never Rx, not once… Now I am being told everyday that I need to add more weight to the bar and it is getting old fast!!!! I do not want to look like some of the other women at my box who are getting bigger looking and some have muscles men would envy by lifting heavier weights. I look like a woman and would like to stay that way and enjoy the CF community and workouts but I don’t want to be told every day to go heavier!!! And why scold me now after posting my pictures when I got these results by not Rxing??? Why didn’t you post the other women’s pictures if I am not doing it properly? Then I hear “Don’t you want to get stronger?” Well, a couple of weeks ago we had to hold our handstand for as long as possible and I beat everyone in my group, both men and women. These folks have been doing CF for over a year…. Ok I am beginning to ramble… Sorry. But I am ready to quit and I don’t know if I am over reacting…

    • Julia January 30, 2014 at 5:44 am #

      Thanks for your post! It sounds like you really enjoy crossfit and like the changes in your body, so do what feels good to you. Just because ” they” are encouraging to use heavier weights doesn’t mean you have to do it. It is your body, your decision, your life ;-). I also do crossfit, 1 1/2 years now, but only twice a week. I also do yoga and bootcamps and some aerial stuff. One very nice cf coach once tried to encourage me to clean 100 lbs and , yes, I have the strength,, but didn’t feel comfortable to go from 88 to 100. There is a very competitive culture in cf and many people get injured! It’s very important to listen to your body and intuition! Don’t quit, just do your own pace! Have fun and enjoy!

    • Kamiele April 3, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

      Great comment. I totally get this at my box. “You’re stronger!!!! Add more weight!!!” I suffer from sciatica and radiculopathy, so my lower back is tender ALL THE TIME. Shari, my advice is do not give IN or UP on CF. Know your limits and what your goals are. I, too, want to continue to look and feel feminine in my clothes. People can look at me and tell I “workout” but no one asks me if I’m on Roids!!!! I’m not interested on Rx’ing either. And if it really starts to get to you, remind your coach that you pay them…not the other way around!!!!

    • mit September 15, 2014 at 8:01 am #

      I think it varies by region and alternative sports in between determines outcome

  29. Manuel Minino December 11, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I just found this blog post when I googled about how CrossFit women look like men. I am concerned about the popularity of CrossFit in my country (Dominican Republic), and some female friends of mine, mostly models, undergoing the risk of turn their model bodies into MEN bodies!!!!… I love how you just cut to the chase on this subject, and show the pros an cons. By the way I LOVE YOUR BLOG!! and your 12 min workouts / dont waste your life in a gym philosohy!!! :D keep up the GREAT work!!

  30. Jennifer December 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    As a former track athlete I what it means to train hard but these Crossfit women take training to a whole new level. They are awesome! Every time I see a competition on tv and the strength that these women have, I’m just blown away. I am sure that they too experienced the kind of soreness you mentioned, but they stuck with it. Everyone has to know their limits and what workouts are best for them. Crossfit isn’t for everyone but the important thing is actually working out and being consistent.


  31. Maria September 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Krista, I am a girl and had all the same issues with CrossFit as you did. I was always sore after workouts, especially the ones that involved heavy lifting. I never had desire to excel at Oly lifting for time, so I joined a Barbell Club to focus on my form. I got fairly good at snatching and cleaning the bar, but noticed how my body started changing: my quads and my glutes got bigger. I have always been a naturally slim and trim woman, so bulking up was not an option (although the CF myth tells us that women don’t bulk up. We do, but some of us embrace it. It is a personal choice, and I admire women who look CrossFIT.) So I quit Oly lifting and went back to doing CF WODs (avoiding the ones that called for high rep Oly lifts – recipe for injury.)

    What triggered my decision to quit was the pain in my arms after performing a WOD that included 100 pull-ups and 150 push-ups. I was trying to keep up with men who knocked out 20 pull-ups in one set while I was kipping 1/2 the time and using the band 1/2 the time. I could not lift my arms above parallel a week thereafter. Putting on a shirt became tricky.

    And then someone I knew got a mild case of rhabdo from muscle strain (he is fine now.) And I realized how easy it is to go overboard doing exercises while the whole gym urges you on and demands “just another rep.” Personal responsibility no longer factors in, and pain signals are drowned out by the collective pressure to perform. You ignore your own body because the authority, the coach, is right there, watching the WOD.
    In CF you are supposed to receive personal attention, but it is not to be confused with personal training. When i was WODing alongside 20 other members, 1 coach was “directing” the class and did not pay attention to us individually. CF IMHO is not worth it for $200 a month when the same WODs are given to 170 lbs men and 110 lbs women. The concept of scaling does not apply to body weight exercises, and even scaled Oly lifting movements performed with bad form are dangerous in more ways than injury potential.

  32. Jholei July 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    I love the honesty and making it clear these are your perspective regarding Crossfit. I left Crossfit as well. My first box had a coach who believed he was god’s gift to women. When I realized I could easily look up a variety of workouts on line and not having to pay $150. a month to watch a coach while he was sexting, the decision to exercise at home became easy. Searching for more workout led me to your blog. With enough motivation, I too, believe a great workout does not have to be lengthy and ‘heavy.’

  33. Grant June 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

    Your comments are entirely accurate Krista..CrossFit is a mix of good moves and bad moves….

  34. Corrie April 17, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Reasons why I love this post:
    1. Your honesty.
    2. Your perspective.
    3. Your honesty. :)

    Especially your honest assessment about how boxed out the female physique becomes. Is this shallow? Eh. I don’t think so. Curves are a good thing, and I like mine.

    Keep on keepin’ on!!

    • Krista Stryker April 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

      Thanks Corrie, I’m so glad you enjoyed it and could relate :)

  35. Deb Bundy April 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    Have just found your blog and i like it very much. I have recently started crossfit and i like it very much. However, the soreness is starting to get to me, we have worked our shoulders every day for 5 days and am starting to move like an old woman. This hiit souns very interesting. Thank you.

    • Krista Stryker April 15, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Glad to hear it Deb!

  36. Kena April 12, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Great, where does that leave me in the family? A bake-off? :)

    • Krista Stryker April 12, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      Haha. You’d definitely win that one :)

  37. Todd April 11, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

    Hmm 12 minute sister. Calling your bro out on the Internet ( smiles ). You are pretty good at that crossfit stuff. When are you going to do a Cyclocross race with me!

    Or maybe a dunk contest?

    • Krista Stryker April 12, 2013 at 8:16 am #

      Haha. Hi bro :)

      Maybe my first Cyclocross race should be with you on a unicycle, I feel like it would be more fair that way :)

      And a dunk contest… I will do that! And I will lose.

  38. Mark Martel April 11, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Good perspective.

    Lots of great stuff to be gained from the Crossfit philosophy and principles.

    But I also agree that for many people, it is possible to seek out and get too much of a good thing – work volume at high levels of intensity – with insufficient recovery time (or work capacity).

    The time element and focus on power is such a great thing. But the environment of pride and competitiveness and even well intentioned encouragement from other athletes can easily lead to bad decisions – extra reps with poor form that can cause injury.

    Every affiliate is unique but from my outside in view Crossfit gyms on the whole should increase recovery time, and focus more on athlete safety and longevity.

    • Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Well said, Mark. I completely agree that there’s a lot of great stuff to learn from the Crossfit philosophy, but that more focus could be given to recovery and longevity. And, like you said, all of the CrossFit affiliates are different – some do this better than others.

  39. Susan Dyson April 11, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Oops! wrong email address on previous post…

  40. Susan Dyson April 11, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Krista

    We reached the same conclusion over here in the UK so we launched something more appropriate for women – http://www.hiitgirl.com. Response so far has been so good that we’re about to open our first London studio.

    Love your 12 minute athlete concept!

    Kind regards

    Susan Dyson
    Founder | Hiitgirl

    • Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

      Very cool Susan!

  41. Krista Stryker April 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    That’s awesome Cristina. Obviously, I feel the same way :)


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