CrossFit Transforms more than the Physical

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Left 2002, Right 2012

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown

Recently I read an article written by a woman whom has had her life changed by CrossFit. She went into great detail of her story. While reading it, it brought back memories of my own journey. I’m so immersed in CrossFit now I often forget where I came from and how I was different before. I’m not talking about the physical capabilities and my lifting numbers. I’m talking about my confidence, ability to stand up for myself, and my overall health and body image.


I’ll start with eating issues. I got to be pretty skinny (128lbs) during college gymnastics because honestly at 5’7″ unless you’re super powerful it’s really hard to be good at that height. I watched what I ate like a hawk and didn’t have pizza or dessert for probably 3 years. That is unless I threw it up. My story just got real huh? Luckily that didn’t happen too often because I knew how bad I performed if I wasn’t keeping food down, but I’m being honest here when I say I was neurotic about what I ate. To give you an idea I still ate close to 2,000 calories a day (highly calculated) so I wasn’t malnourished but I was so lean a bod pod wouldn’t read me, 24lbs less than I am now, and mentally obsessed with food. It’s hard not to be when you’re hungry all the time, but afraid of the majority of foods in the world.


There was a period after college gymnastics of trying to regain a normal relationship with food while still exercising, which I loved to do. Sometimes I wished I was just an alcoholic instead so I could use my all or nothing approach, but everyone has to eat to live so that wouldn’t work. It was hard and while I improved I would say I was still your normal guilt ridden female after eating a brownie. I’d plan extra running in before having Mexican and margaritas, but at least I was able to have them and be ok with it. Ok, well… most of the time. Sometimes I still slipped up. Honestly the slip ups, guilt, and poor relationship with food never completely went away until I started CrossFit.

2008 Half Marathon

2009 Mini-Tri

Even then it was a gradual change. As I got more competitive and concerned with performance goals I started eating in align with achieving those goals. However one great thing in this sport was I didn’t have to be the lightest version of myself possible to be good. Quite the contrary, I wanted to put on some mass! The calories in my cottage cheese didn’t seem to matter. Actually just eating fruit and cottage cheese didn’t fuel my workouts enough anymore anyways so I can’t tell you the last time I ate it. Gradually I learned what did and it’s mostly whole foods (lots of meat, vegetables and starchy carbs), none of which are in the diet version although I still avoid sugar. The beauty in eating healthy and having more muscle to perform well is that I can actually feel my body using food and if I do decide to eat not so healthy my body burns right through it. If I decide to do it for a few meals in a row I also feel like crap and it becomes less and less rewarding.


It didn’t hit me just how much I had changed until this year’s Regionals. They were so body weight based I knew dropping 2-3lbs would help. I eat so many calories now it wasn’t hard to do, but man was it a flash back. Something I don’t care to ever go back to!


My next change was almost as big and is still evolving which is body image. About a year into CrossFit I really loved how I looked. I was strong, but slim, and not stared at in public, but still told I was attractive. As the sport has evolved so have the athletes and with 10 more lbs. of muscle I was probably more socially accepted as a class going CrossFitter, not a competitive one. Let’s just say if I go out in a tank top I get looks. I recently visited a friend who had a baby and used to be a gymnast with me. She is slim, but hasn’t worked out since she quit gymnastics 10 years ago so not muscular like before. She used to despise the muscular comments we got as gymnasts. She was pointing to the skin around her lats and referring to her “flabbiness”. All I saw was a place that muscle used to fill and suggested she try a little strength training since there really wasn’t fat there. She said she didn’t want to look like me or be all muscular, it was fine that I liked it but not for her. I suppose this comment from a friend may have bothered some women, but I’m so proud of what my muscles enable me to do I’d never trade it in for being socially accepted as feminine and worrying about my gasp… “arm flab”.


Another instance where I realized just how much CrossFit has changed my mindset on body image is jean shopping. Jeans fit me now that fit me 15-20lbs ago, which is sort of weird, except they are tight in the thighs and I like it. I even made a comment to a girl friend while shopping that maybe I’d get a pair that were slightly tight and see if I could squat enough to grow out of them! How backwards is that from society? Of course some of that may be due to the fact that I can’t grow my legs to save my life. Someone even commented on a picture of me doing a chest to bar pull-up during the 14.2 announcement, “Someone skipped leg day”. How dare he? Does he realize how often I squat to battle these long femurs? I was actually more hurt by that comment from a key board warrior than the one from my friend not wanting to look like me. Knowing how much pain eating and body issues caused me in the past I can’t help but rejoice at that.

The “somebody skipped leg day” pic. HA!

I swear I don’t skip leg day, see!

Last issue I’ll tackle here is self confidence. When I started CrossFit I was in a relationship that had plummeted my self esteem. There were comments like “why don’t you wear dresses”, “you’re not feminine”, or “sometimes being physically needy is attractive”. It played with my head so much, because I liked to be active and had always been an athlete but I wanted to please. When I started CrossFit I never talked about it because I knew he didn’t like it, but I knew I had found myself again. The rips on my hands and shaky limbs were pure nostalgia from my gymnastics days and it was so exhilarating I couldn’t wait to go every day after work. One of the last straws was when he refused to hold my hand because the blisters I had weren’t “sexy”. At that point I knew he didn’t have a clue who I really was and I was never going to be able to change myself enough to be what he was trying to get me to be. I know discovering CrossFit helped me to leave an unsupportive relationship, and has given me the self confidence to know I’ll never sacrifice being who I am to be with someone again. I’d also be lying if I said it doesn’t make me chuckle to wonder if he thinks I look “unfeminine” on ESPN.



Now that CrossFit, for the time being, has basically become my career, I am reminded of all that it has done for me without monetary value, that is priceless. I hope sharing some of this lets people know that the competitors at the top share similar journeys and struggles to others in the community. After all, I’ve made some of my best friends through CrossFit and I really don’t know any of their strength or benchmark numbers. I love to watch them succeed but their physical gains aren’t as important. Who they are as people is the most important aspect to me. Particularly for women, I feel CrossFit helps us grow into stronger, healthier, and more confident versions of ourselves. It certainly has done so for me.


72 Responses to “CrossFit Transforms more than the Physical”

  • Brooke

    Wow, what an incredible journey you have had, to be half as good as you would be amazing!! Can’t wait to see you crush it this year at the Games! #inspired

  • hoyaslead

    That’s beautiful, T. Thanks for sharing…I hope lots of other gymnastics coaches will share this and start to understand some of the devastating impact our perspective has on the young women whose lives we get to shape.

  • Tee

    Wow, thank you for sharing your journey with us. I can relate on so many levels. Your heart is a beautiful thing. Best of luck at the Games!

  • coachkatriel

    I so relate to this! Even had an ex with the same issues about my hand callouses who gave me an ultimatum: stop going to CrossFit or we were over. I thought about where I’d been before CrossFit and how much better I felt being strong over how week I felt when I was battling disordered eating and made the right choice 🙂 married a CrossFit guy and am growing a baby CrossFitter now! Keep up your great work!

  • emlor24

    Thanks for sharing your story. Seems like the physical transformation subject is a popular one this week. I posted something last night about my constant love-hate battle with my muscles at

  • Belisa

    You are my hero!! Sory for mr english

  • Rachel C.

    Excellent read chikita! Passing it on… & THANK YOU for the true rawness of YOUR story!

  • Andrea Mo

    Amazing, thank you! I can’t wait for someone to tell me “I don’t want to be as muscular as you!” I would love it. I’m aiming to be as muscular as ______ (fill in any competitive CrossFit female).

    Also love the ESPN comment. Boom! In your face. Great blog, thanks girl!

  • MK

    Thank you for being honest, raw and still kicking ass. Thank you for inspiring me everyday. Cheering for you always!

  • Brittany Borges

    This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story. Very inspiring as if you weren’t inspiring enough already.

  • Audrey

    Thank you so much for sharing this absolutely incredible story. I deeply appreciate you referencing my own story I published on my website. You are an inspiration and I am thankful for your honesty and vulnerability. Coming from an athlete such as yourself will be so very, very moving for women.

  • Daisy K

    You’re now my hero! I have a similar history when it comes to the food and have been dabbling with crossfit for a year now With a height of 5’8″ I am always looking for female athletes that are around my height to hear and see their strengthens and struggles and of course motivation, that with these long ass limbs we can still lift heavy shit!

  • Jason

    I noticed most of the positive comments are from women. So here is a mans perspective. I’m a CF box owner and coach. I am glad that there is inspiring, strong, women like you for my female athletes, (and many of the men too) to look up to. And for the record, muscles and calloused hands are sexy.

  • The Get In Shape Girl

    AMEN SISTA!!!! I love your muscles too. And I am with you 100%. I used to want nothing more than to be skinny and I would do all the cardio and restrict as much as I could (within reason) to make sure I was happy with my image, but the funny thing is that I was the furthest from happy in my whole life. I still have my days, but crossfit makes me so happy I love my body way more often than not!

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  • Erin B

    Thanks for sharing with great vulnerability. SO many women need to hear this. I wish you amazing success at the games!

  • Flor

    Omg, loved this! You are an inspiration and motivation!!

  • Crystal

    Happy to see you left that relationship and you stayed true to who you are. You are an inspiration and one of my favorite crossfitters. Good luck at the Games , hopefully I’ll be there to root you on!! Best if luck to you in all your endeavors

  • annette

    You are absolutely beautiful! I too struggled with food to an extent. Except a little differently, since middle school ive always envied the girls who were athletic and built. The problem was that i didnt know how to get there. Looking at bodybuilding web sites and dreaming of being a figure competitor, i thought the key was to eat less, so i did! I remember weighing 105 pounds and thinking wow you can see my muscles (they were bones). I still struggle to gain weight but now weigh a solid 120 with crossfit and every day hope the scale shows more. I love being “muscular” and im fortunate to have a husband who thinks its sexy. You are an amazing athlete and so inspiring. Thank you for writing this!!

  • Lydia

    I love this! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are one of my favorites and it was so exciting to watch you and be AT Regionals. You are powerful and beautiful and so very inspirational!

  • amandasherlock

    wow! what an amazing and inspiring story! We all already knew that you were strong and beautiful but today you have showed us how big your brave is! go get it Talayna!

  • mac

    Wow that was really an incredible read, transparent and encouraging. There is really something magnetic about this blog for me and I think its your honesty about how you feel etc. I’ll be rooting for you to the win the whole thing again this year.

    Oh and for the record as a guy who is happily married I think you should be incredibly proud of the way you look, and guys who don’t like muscles on their women are morons 🙂

    Good luck!!

  • Selena

    Thank you for sharing your journey. CrossFit certainly does more than just change you physically. I love the confidence that it brings to a lot of people too.

    • Kerry Maxwell

      Talayana could I speak to you? You are saving my life tonight! Crossfit has opened my eyes having suffered from Disordered eating most of my life!! I feel a change occurring having been watching and learning about Crossfit for some months now, unfortunately I’m from a rural area in Scotland UK, I have been using Face Book to read inspiring stories like yourself!! Would really really love to be able to speak more to you!! ??

  • Chris Tsiakos

    You’re a rocket! Don’t ever change!

  • Marla

    “Physically attractive to be needy”
    I can’t quite wrap my brain around that one. I wouldn’t be able to be with someone that needed me to be physically dependent for the sake of his ego.
    Beautiful story, it’s inspiring to see how you’ve found happiness for yourself.

  • Pip {Cherries & Chisme}

    I think you look SO feminine right now. Yeah maybe not what you read about in glossy magazines but since when has that been representative of the world’s population? To me strength is feminine – you can see that in your body through your CrossFit and your mind through your writing. Kudos to you! Inspiring story.

  • ricia121

    Love reading this, felt it from your heart.. Very inspiring.

  • Will

    Great read.

    For what it’s worth, I thought your legs looked pretty damn fine in 14.2!!

  • Sheryl

    Thank you so much for sharing! Your an inspiration!

  • Mackenzie

    Thanks for sharing your story, especially when it’s so scary to be this open and vulnerable. As another tall female athlete, I really appreciate your perspective!

  • Cam

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. So inspiring.

  • Mariah

    I agree. If you look at, well “look at”, women from 100 years or more ago, they were strong. They had more physically demanding chores back then. Id like to see the women with small arms churn butter the old fashioned way =P
    On another note….I like having strong arms as well cuz I was able to hang with my dad, he taught me how to lift weights, and I can stand along side with the guys. Most of my friends are guys and I like being able to do what they do. Plus no one messes with me if they think i can break their nose =P

  • Stephanie Smith

    This was so amazing to read as a lot of your struggles have mimicked my own and that came as a surprise to see a top level athlete had been there to. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  • Hazel

    I’m so glad you got rid of that douchey boyfriend! At the same time, as a mental health professional I sincerely hope you dealt with the underlying causes of your disordered eating prior to becoming competitive in crossfit. I see many young women who simply exchange one obsession (food) for another (excercise) and I see stories like yours as both potentially inspiring or damaging to the youth I treat

    • Steven Voboril

      As a mental health professional did you not see the health, the recovery in her words. She is fine with her size, she eats heathy, she left the bad guy behind. Don’t over complicate this – she done good!

      • Hazel

        Not over-complicating, simply observing. Crossfit is, by nature, something that may easily lend itself to obsession. I read her words very carefully, and they were very body-positive. I just encourage caution when mental health has previously been involved. I have seen marathon runners, for example, who replaced eating disorders with running miles and miles, obsessing over intervals. Their bodies recovered from anorexia and bulimia, and their eating habits became much healthier. They looked better and became less critical of themselves physically. On the other hand, the same issues of perfectionism and control that were beneath the disordered eating remained. It is important to think critically about these issues, no matter how happy a person seems in their blog.

  • Tucker

    maybe I’ll get a tighter pair of jeans, and see if I can squat enough that they don’t fit.

    That is absolutely awesome! As someone who squats 2-4 times a week it a curse having to go up in relaxed fit jeans to get them to fit your legs… But it is fun to know you’re improving. Way to be healthily and develop a healthy body image. It’s not all a number on a scale, and that is an important lesson to teach our young girls, congratulations to you for helping to tell them it’s ok to be strong. Keep up the good work.

    All jeans are skinny jeans when you squat.

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  • Michele Keppley

    Awesome story!! With a great finish! Truly inspirational. Im glad I got to read this! Thank you for never giving up!!!

  • pvcs

    Reblogged this on Fit Girls Look Good and commented:
    I’m happy Talayna wrote this. Lately, I’ve been struggling with unhealthy thoughts about my weight. I’ve been quite small since I got sick & I think I got used to that. I have actually struggled to gain & keep weight on & been unable to. For 8 months, I would put on 5lbs, lose 10, gain, lose, gain, lose. This month, I started eating more on the zone side to fuel my training a bit more & increase my strength. My strength is going up but so is my weight & I panic. It’s nice to hear a female athlete’s prospective & to be reminded that the number on the scale is far less important than the number of pull ups I can do.

  • rotorheadmeg

    Talayna! I’m so glad someone said it.
    Screw the nay-sayers! Go get your dreams, haters be damned! We will be watching and cheering for you. 🙂

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  • Diane

    This resonates with me so much as an ex-gymnast who found Crossfit and it’s benefits. Sexy arms and jeans that don’t fit in the butt and thighs are great, but it’s the friends, confidence and restored body image that are what I love the most!! Thx for sharing!

  • ekneuer

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your honesty and willingness to delve into personal struggles you’ve had with body image and eating disorder. You are an incredible role model of strength and beauty and for myself personally dealing with similar body image issues it’s amazing to hear your story and know that you were able to come out a stronger person because of it.

  • xfitinyogi

    Thank you for sharing your story and experience! Beautiful.

  • JNZ

    I for one think you have a beautiful perspective, wonderful story and an outrageously hot bod. Thanks for sharing all three,

  • The Strenuous Life Project

    This is such an inspiring story, thank you for sharing!

  • michelle

    I don’t understand that ‘missed leg day’ comment. Why people feel the need to drag others down is beyond me. We all have different body shapes and that’s ok.

  • Rolyndia

    Thank you for sharing your story. I started Crossfit in October and LOVE IT!! I struggle with my eating and hope I can get it figured out. You inspire me. Thank you again!

  • Laurie

    Good read. Right on Talayna!

  • Hazel

    Who’s John? I only see positive comments here.

    • Talayna Fortunato

      Just someone saying mean things. :/

      • ekneuer

        some people are just plain rude. His comment was stupid and unnecessary. You look incredible and more importantly you are healthy and strong. You’re one of my role models and I would be beyond thrilled to have your body! Haters to the left

      • Belisa

        The most important here is that you are happy with all you do, living your life, enjoying, with people who love you inconditional, millions, I say MILLIONS people who look at you like a role model, fuck whatever a moron say about you! Or what you do… more the people sayind good thing than bad
        For the moron .I.

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  • Summer

    This hits so close to home. I, too, was a tall gymnast who developed an eating disorder, and never fully recovered until finding Crossfit. I also left a guy who would get upset that I would rather WOD with a community of amazing athletes, than sit at home and watch tv. Pants with a good stretch around the thigh are a necessity, and I know I can eat a bowl of ice cream and not freak out about how many more minutes I need to run to make up for it. You are amazing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Mark

    TF–You’ve always been one of my favorites since I started following the games 2 years ago. Good luck in July!

  • Elisa

    So true, I have almost the same history of eating disorders….however I was a competitive swimmer. Crossfit completely cleared my mind of the goal of being skinny. After 3/4 year of Crossfit I decided it’s time to get over being skinny and bulked up for 1 year, now I am a competitive weightlifter, with some success for a small country as mine 😀
    However, I would be interested in: How did you manage to gain muscles that (relatively) easy after being a gymnast? For me, as former endurance athlete, it’s really a tough time, I can train 30hours a week, and would gain just half of the strength others would….

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  • Erica

    Thank you, thank you Talayna. I can certainly relate to having someone who would rather have a girl in a dress than sweaty work-out clothes, and a girl with softer hands as opposed to my calloused ones. I walked away too. Without CrossFit I don’t think I would have had the courage to do so. Thank you for putting this out there and letting us know that we are not alone in this fight.

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  • MMR

    Great read for a novice crossfitter like myself. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Robyn

    I just saw you on a YouTube regional video. I had to find out more about you because of that video. Now I read your story and just have to say own it girlfriend.

    People who say things like you’re not feminine enough (especially guys) are really talking about their own crippled body image. Don’t allow it to make you think you’re not incredible. Because you are. I’m 59 and only wish CrossFit had been around in my 20s. I’m inspired to start working out, I’ll never compete, but if I could be in half the shape you are, I’d be happy. Wish me luck! But I know it’s not luck, it’s hard work nd I’m getting started.

    Thank you!


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