It’s A Woman’s World: Crossfit Women

Vanessa Fung Crossfit Shanghai
Vanessa Fung Crossfit Shanghai

These days you can’t call yourself a proper fitness junkie if you haven’t tried Crossfit at some point. Bros all over the world talk about chippers and kipping. Sounds like a man’s kinda thing. Or not? In comes Vanessa Fung. Born in Vancouver from Hongkongese descent. Let this tough Third Culture tigress teach you a thing or two about training.

When did you first get into fitness?

I have been active all my life. I was the kid who found the school playground as a place of solace. In elementary school I would go to school early to hang on the monkey bars or swing on the tires. I joined nearly every sports team available. For a good eight years of my life I swam competitively at a local level and trained as part of a swim club. In high school I played organized sports like basketball, volleyball, track and field, and soccer. After high school I ran half marathons and made a habit of going the gym almost every day. I discovered Crossfit by chance. A new affiliate had opened adjacent to my Globo gym and my friend at reception asked if I wanted to try something new. After a butt-kicking WOD [Workout Of the Day] with running, wall balls, and sit-ups, I knew immediately, this was for me.

Why Crossfit? What was different about it from other things you had done?

I probably have the same answer as anybody else who is hooked on the sport. It took me out of a boring routine and gave spice to my fitness regiment. It challenged me in ways that I didn’t think possible physically and mentally. It provided me with a community both inside and outside the walls of the box. At the beginning it was most definitely the constantly varied aspect of the sport—it was never boring. As time went on, it became the people that kept me coming back. My goals and aspirations have also evolved through doing this sport. What began as a simple means to staying physically fit became full-time competitive training and immersing myself in the education and teaching of this sport. I crave the knowledge and applicable skills to be a better athlete, coach, and one day affiliate owner. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I feel this sport has opened so many doors for me and will only lead me in the direction of more.

“It is never boring.”

Tell us about the first Crossfit community you joined.

My first box was Crossfit Overdrive in Richmond, BC, Canada. Unlike other boxes in the community, we were predominantly Asian. We didn’t look the part and that was part of the beauty. We went to the regionals as a team in 2011 and shocked everybody by finishing top 10.

You currently workout in Shanghai. Is there a difference in attitude towards fitness?

This is a difficult question because even though Crossfit exists in China, and is growing rapidly, the majority of the participants are expats. It is difficult to say how the local population is approaching this sport because there isn’t enough of a following yet.

Is there a cultural difference towards women in fitness?

Absolutely. I think in any culture you will find that the “feminine” approach to fitness is to be thin and lean. The word muscle is almost repulsive in this sphere. However, there are also people who are more open to the idea of women being physically strong AND beautiful. We will always see different sports falling into masculine and feminine preconceptions. Yoga for example is seen as feminine, and weightlifting as masculine. I mean we can go into a long debate about these two spheres and how culture is directly and indirectly a cause and result of this. But, to keep it short, Eastern views of exercise (particularly in China) are more conservative than those in the West. Sport is not a priority. Muscles are definitely not a priority for women.

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Do you care about how you look?

Absolutely I do. I think anybody who says they don’t care about how they look physically is lying to themselves. It’s a battle for me. Do I strive to look a certain way or do I keep doing what I’m doing and accept whatever happens to my body? There are days of back and forth but at this point in time, performance is winning. I like what I have accomplished with the body that I have right now. Not to say I don’t wake up some mornings, put on my jeans and think “Well crap….they’re tight…this sucks”. Growing up in the west, I did grow up with a different influence of what is acceptable in terms of physical look. We have a greater variance of role models in the west to look up to….from top models to athletes.

What advice would you give to women interested in fitness – especially those who come from a culture where it may not be as “popular” for women to be seen as strong, athletic or muscular?

“All that matters is that you move.”

Being strong is internal. For me, sport has made me strong on the inside because it requires a level of discipline, grit, and perseverance to excel at sport. Staying physically active is just the basic component of health. I don’t care what your views are about muscles, what I care about is that you move. There is a plethora of physical activities out there. Choose one, or two because it is scientifically proven that movement enhances the mind.

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