Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Radical Women Q & A with 17 year old CrossFitter Darby Nelson

"Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not what others think about you, rather it’s how you hold and view yourself. "  -Darby Nelson

I met Darby Nelson a few months ago at a local CrossFit competition.  The first time I saw her that day she was smiling ear to ear, talking with CrossFit All-Star Christy Phillips.  Most 17 year olds idolize pop stars for their looks, but here was Darby excited to meet Christy, famous among the CrossFit Community for her physical fitness.

After the event I got to talk with Darby more.  I found out she got to participate in the CrossFit Games in 2011,  in the teen competition.  I also found out she is impressively strong; with personal records in CrossFit workouts and lifts women older than her would love to have. 

It was obvious to me that Darby was not your AVERAGE young lady- so it only seemed fitting that she be featured in a Radical Woman Q&A.  She is the youngest, but as you will see from the answers she is very wise for her age.

Tell me about Darby Nelson?
Well, my name is Darby Nelson. I am a 17-year-old female. I’m a senior in high school and a (near) future United States Naval Academy midshipman. CrossFit is a big part in my life, both helping coach and training myself; I also row for my high school and am a huge nerd when it comes to my class schedule.

You are a CrossFitter (with a pretty impressive record I'd say!).  How has crossfit changed your relationship with your body? Why do you think that is?
CrossFit has completely transformed my relationship with my body. I think when discussing bodily changes it is best to talk about nutrition. As they say working out is one hour but good nutrition plays into the other 23hours of the day. I came from a rowing background where (and any rower can attest to this) the more food consumed, the better. We, as rowers, eat before practice, after practice, and there have been a few been times where people have eaten during practice on the water. In the rowing world, socializing over food is the most prominent way of bonding off the water.

Entering the doors of my CrossFit gym, there are these crazy words being constantly thrown around like ‘paleo,’ ‘primal,’ and ‘zone.’ CrossFit has shown me that it is truly important about when and what foods I’m putting into my body. Now, I’m not going to lie, I’m not100% strict paleo… I wouldn’t even give myself the benefit of the doubt to say I’m 80/20, but I do try to follow the guidelines. (Please, don’t belike my father. They are guidelines. Robb Wolf is not God and Paleo Solution cannot be found in the religion section of Barnes and Noble.) There’s a big difference between coming from a world of eating anything to a world of eating anything that’s good for you.  

You like clearly enjoy exercise - what advice would you give other women about how they can enjoy working out?
Do it with your friends. CrossFit is so powerful because of the community we constantly harp about. It’s not just that you have friendly faces to look at while you’re constantly suffering, but you have mutual subjects to chat about, friends to give you grief when you don’t show up, and people to cut your calluses with.

Also, and this is a big one for me, remember to keep it light. We can all get way too enveloped in doing CrossFit, talking about CrossFit, competing in CrossFit, and watching CrossFit videos. Remember: we do it because it’s fun; if you forget this you are probably going to burn out.

How is your relationship with your body different than those of your peers?
I’ll start by reiterating that I am a seventeen-year-old girl. Let’s take a moment to think back about what it’s like to be a girl in high school…

Remember those boy-crazy, make up-covered, high heel-wearing days? Yup, those are my peers and that’s the complete opposite of who I am. Also, being that my arms are bigger than most of my female peers’ legs, I’m quite used to getting judged for my size. Most of my friends and acquaintances think all the stuff I do is cool but I do often get second-glances from people that don’t know me. It is actually quite funny to me because I know of multiple guys that are scared of me for my size, as they probably should be! It’s good for me though, I have a pretty good reputation and no one usually messes with me.

Darby pulling 335lbs for a national record!

What really matters to you in terms of your body?
For my body I want to be strong and healthy as possible. I do CrossFit to prepare for my rowing and to prepare for my time at the Academy, but more importantly to be ready for anything. My friends love to make me help them move because a 335-pound deadlift really comes in handy more times then you’d think when trying to move that couch you’re sitting on!!

What would you say the biggest struggle girls your age have with their body image?  What do you think would change it?
Being attractive doesn’t mean being a stick figure. In this day and age girls focus too much on what the media and popular culture says is “pretty” and “beautiful” rather than deciding that themselves. Media has become such a staple in our lives that it wants us to believe that these “pretty/beautiful” people are the healthy ones, as opposed to those who work hard, eat well, and live long. A man who thinks that Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet and Lindsay Smith aren’t attractive should be slapped across the face. I’d say do some research and make up your own mind as to what the ‘best’ body image is; I bet a lot of girls out there would be surprised at what they found.

If you could convince the little girls of the next generation one thing in relation to health, fitness or body image what would it be?
Strong is sexy - in more ways than just physical. Being able to think and act for yourself is such a powerful feeling. Mental, emotional, and physical strength will support a lifestyle that’s desired by most and held by few. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s not what others think about you, rather it’s how you hold and view yourself.

What makes you radical?
I’ve been in control of my life and unaffected by people’s opinions of me. I am head captain of my crew team, will graduate high school with over a 4.0 GPA, have set a national record for deadlifting, and will become a commissioned Naval officer. I think I’m doing just fine in my own non-traditional ways. I’d suggest you give it a try and see how it works for you!

I am so glad there are young women out their like Darby, moving to the beat of their own drum, challenging ideals, redefining convention.  Thanks to Darby for taking her time to for this Q&A.  I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever is she does in life and that she will have a positive impact on many people, especially other women her age, and in turn the next generation.

Attention CrossFitters…
Coming soon in 2012 the Radical Hateloss Discussion Series for women who CrossFit.  Please take a few moments to complete this survey.  If you or someone you know, would be a perfect special guests for one of these calls- please contact me at Stephanie@radicalhateloss.com


Anonymous said...

I am 30 years older than Darby and work out at the same CrossFit gym she does.
I only know her from the kind words of encouragment she has heaped upon me - and I feel very lucky to know her.
What a wonderful young lady.

Anonymous said...

Upon my acceptance into law enforcemet I worked out with Darby at the same crossfit gym. She is by far an amazing young woman with so much drive, devotion, and an over all inspiration. I'm lucky to not only have her as a gym mate, a coach but a friend.

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