The Final Countdown

Hard to believe that this is already the final passion blog of my freshman year. Woah. Scary.  And guess what, I (unsurprisingly) never ran out of Crossfit things to talk about.  Because this is my last passion blog, I wanted to take some time to really reflect on my freshman year. Of course Crossfit played an important role in it from the beginning.

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This year has been full of ups and downs to say the least.  I have met some incredible and inspiring people and also have met people who I really hope I never will have to see again for the rest of my life. That being said, I was so incredibly lucky to find my nitch in the Crossfit community as fast as I did after arriving to Penn State.  When I first arrived at college, I had no friend group of my own and instead socialized with the few high school friends I had here.  Crossfit provided me with something unique to call my own.  It allowed me to have my own group of friends, my own social events and even my own workouts. Obviously since my first day I have brought various friends to Crossfit.  Some have stayed and some have not.  Either way, no matter who is there now or in the future, it is still something individual and unique that I can call mine.

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The people I have met this year and the memories I have from Crossfit (whether they are from killing it in a hard workout, puking in the bushes behind the Wagner building or giving a sweaty bloody high five after finally figuring out how to do pull-ups) are indescribable.  Looking back on our photos from this year, it truly has been a progression.  I know that I have become more independent and have also gotten physically and mentally stronger throughout the course of this year. No club or group of people will ever be perfect, and I will be the last one to say that Crossfit is the ideal club for everyone.  However, I can’t wait to train over the summer (AND DO MY MARATHON) and come back next year stronger and fitter than ever.  I only hope that I didn’t bore everyone in this class too much with my incessant chatter about everything fitness all semester.  Just imagine how my future husband will feel someday… Thank you all for being wonderful listeners, commenters and fellow-bloggers.  It was AMAZING getting to know everyone, and I love you all lots and lots.

STEM Sexism

On a recent blue loop ride around from East to West campus here at Penn State, my friend and I were quietly sitting in the front of the bus when he nudged my foot and pointed to a girl sitting about three rows behind us.  In a confidential voice he whispered, “That’s the only girl in my engineering class…” I, of course, was shocked to find out that his class was 98% male as the majority of my classes are split equally between male and female students.  However, as a liberal arts student, I had forgotten to take the STEM classes into consideration.  Does sexism play a part in discouraging women to work in STEM related fields? And if so, are women working to change this issue?

The answer is yes.  Even here at Penn State, the majority of women who graduate with an engineering degree, for example, is far fewer than their male counterparts. Some female STEM college graduates even discuss how sexism was prevalent in the classrooms they were part of.  Between working in groups to remarks from male classmates, women often felt shunned in many of the STEM majors.

Some of the pressure to choose non STEM-related fields even begins in high school. Dorlisa Franks, a student at Paquea Valley High School commented in a recent interview about the subject how male classmates refused to partner up with her during specific building projects because “it was like ‘no girl’s going to have to know how to do this. That’s not important for a girl. Men do this.”  Luckily, it did not phase Dorlisa as she and her partner plowed ahead to get the highest grade in the class on that particular project as well as continued to major as a forensic scientist in college.

Dorlisa, however, represents the minority of female students who are not dissuaded by sexism in and out of the classroom about staying clear of STEM related jobs. According to a study conducted in 2012 by Georgetown University, only 23% of all STEM employees are female.  This is in comparison with the 48% in all other fields. Due to the lack of female participating in STEM related material in high school and in college, many schools are taking action to promote engineering degrees and classes to female students.  Leading the way are fellow female STEM teachers and advisors.  Many high schools have developed STEM training programs specifically catered to girls.  Women leading these seminars try to attract girls through interactive experiments like Mentos and Diet Coke.  Colleges, such as MIT, have also developed panels that discuss how to promote STEM jobs to women and girls as well as answered questions for incoming female students about the profession.

Tech classes are also being encouraged in many high schools to help girls discover that they really do have a passion for technology (despite the common stereotype).   A classmate of Dorlisa had this to say about the tech classes before they began: “I’m clumsy, I’m not that smart. If I take a tech course, it’s just going to be me and some guys.”  However, during the course of the tech class, she became more interested and her confidence grew. By the end of the class, she had admitted that something had been sparked and she hoped to one day become an engineer

Hopeful that more female students will continue taking offered STEM classes, instructors and feminists continue to discuss options about how to encourage female participation in more STEM related fields.  Although still faltering in numbers, more is being done today in the form of panels, classes and with teacher mentors to encourage female participation in STEM fields. By continuing to focus their efforts, the percentage of women in those fields will most likely experience a change in the coming years as it becomes more and more equal.  Soon, I hope that my engineering male friend here at Penn State will have more than one girl in his engineering classes.  After all, classes are more fun when there is an equal gender representation.

PSU Crossfit Competes

I have completed my first ever crossfit competition! Our team of roughly 20 people drove down to University of Delaware Saturday morning.  We all stayed at different houses Saturday night (it was a wonderful evening of homemade food, The Great Gatsby and an early bedtime), and then woke up very early on Sunday morning to compete! I of course fell asleep on the hour drive down and groggily woke up around 9 to everyone yelling at me that it was time to get up and WOD.  We competed at Crossfit Hardbat (not sure where the name came from) with the crossfit teams from Villanova and University of Delaware.

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The first WOD was an AMRAP of 8 Thrusters, 8 wall balls and 8 burpees.  Obviously it was a killer first WOD even if it was only 6 minutes.  6 minutes of death that is.  There were 5 rounds and people from the other rounds judged the competitors who were competing. It was so awesome to have so many people there cheering everyone on all at the same time.

The second WOD was 5 minutes to find your max lift clean and jerk.  I of course am not really good at lifting heavy and especially don’t like lifting heavy objects over my head.  I did, however, PR by 10 pounds (130) and watched my teammates hit some pretty awesome PRs as well.

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The third WOD was a brutal 800 run and then 10 minutes to get as many rounds of 30 kettlebell swings, 30 pullups and 30 airsquats. UGH. So many pullups. I was DEAD (and ripped my blisters off once again). Everyone was so tired at this point that it was a struggle to finish, but we all tried our best. Finally, as if we hadn’t done enough already, the top three males and females from each school had to consist in a team event that consisted of a 2000m row, 20 muscle ups, 30 deadlifts, 40 cleans, 50 handstand pushups, 60 toes to bar, 200 double unders and then a sled pull.  Unfortunately, our team got last but we put in a great effort and really did well on the last event.

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The winner of the competition, University of Delaware, was the winner of the Golden Keg (yes it was actually painted golden).  As a team with all of our team points and individual points we placed second (WOOOHOOO).

Overall, I am exhausted but had an amazing weekend.  I am so proud that we as a club were able to compete in our first competition and were able to take home second place. Next year, we plan on doing better and taking FIRST.


2014-CrossFit-Open-14_5-WorkoutIT IS OVER. Well…kinda. The lost WOD (14.5) was an absolute massacre.  No one really knew what to expect and there was a lot of build up to the announcement of the event in California.  A teaser was leaked around noon that stated that in the live competition on Thursday night, guys and girls would be going against each other.  That typically means that the workout would have to be something body weight related.  My crossfit partner, Lexie, and I decided that we wanted to get the WOD done with and out of the way early on Thursday and so showed up right at 8 to do the WOD. It was as follows:


21, 18, 15, 12, 9, 6. 3 of thrusters and burpees. Basically…hardcore endurance and cardio. To make matters worse, the burpees had to be done on either side of the bar.  A better description would be that athletes had to do 21 thrusters and then burpee, jump over the bar laterally, burpee again and then repeat until 21 reps were reached.  Then start all over again with the 18 reps.  I was exhausted before I even reached the 15 rounds and it absolutely showed.  14.5 may not have been the toughest workout physically (although at the end of it my body was shaking and I was covered in sweat) but it was the hardest workout mentally.  The idea of having to pick up the bar when my quadriceps and forums felt like they were dead was very daunting, and there were multiple occasions where I tried to pick up the bar to complete a rep only to drop it back down when my arms could not support the weight.  Lexie, who does really well with thruster movements of any kind finished with a relatively quick time of 17 minutes.  It labored on for several more minutes until I finally finished and collapsed in the typical “crossfit recovery posiont” (aka lying prostrate on the ground unable to move.)

Here comes the fun part. I am DETERMINED to do it again and will be doing it again tonight before the scores must be submitted. I cannot stand the fact that my mind gave up on the workout before my body did and I am determined to pace myself and finish in a much quicker time.  Everyone in my crossfit club thinks that I am totally crazy (which I probably am, but for some reason it really bothers me that I know I did not give my all. I am sure that everyone has had that moment at least once in their life.  So, only 10 more hours until I am officially done with Crossfit Open 2014! It was quite the solid run, and I cannot wait to compete next year.  

Gender Discrimination Around the World

Discrimination is a topic that I, before my most recent google search, had only associated with the workplace in the United States.  Ironically, the first news article that popped up after a google search on discrimination to find this week’s topic, was about Britain.   When considering discrimination abroad, I feel that it is safe to say that Britain is the last place that I would think of as having a problem.  I of course would have focused more on countries in Africa and in India for examples of discrimination due to their being viewed more as developing countries rather than being already developed.  However, as it turns out, like the United States, Britain and many other countries around the world still suffer from constant discrimination.

The statistics emerging from Britain are staggering.  Over a quarter of British women report being discriminated against in the workplace.  This has resulted in an incredible fashion change in the British workforce.  In order to avoid sexual discrimination, women are now wearing longer skirts and less revealing shirts.  Many women also reported that they believe having children is viewed as a setback in the business world.  David Saul, a corporate owner of the newspaper Business Environment was even quoted as saying, “What these results show is that employers are still discriminating against women who choose to have children as well as work. The ‘you can have it all’ generation are being failed by their employers.”  Although obviously a serious problem, not much is being done to change the discrimination and sexism in British society.  Unlike the United States, it is not as frequently reported about online or in newspapers.  There are also fewer support groups for working women in Britain.

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With first world super powers like the United States and Britain still experiencing gender discrimination in the workforce, it is obvious that other struggling first and second world countries such as India, China and South Africa are also suffering discrimination.  China especially has one of the highest gender discrimination percentages in the world.  However, Chinese discrimination is especially acute because of its early beginning (the abortion of female fetuses).  This discrimination continues into the Chinese workforce.  Only 21 percent of females upon graduation last year were able to find jobs within two months.  genderThis was almost half of the 40 percent of males that were able to find jobs.  Gender discrimination in China is also highly sexualized with many women complaining of no getting hired simply because of their physically appearance.

In India, women suffer discrimination due to gender, religion and social class.  It is not uncommon for employers to pay more attention to religion than resumes when regarding future employees.  Similarly, untouchables in Indian society are considered not hirable by many employers.  Due to the amount of discrimination, it is up to the United States, the most developed country in the world, to set the bar involving discrimination in the work force.  Although there are currently laws against discrimination, more attention needs to be brought to the issue.  With more negative attention being brought on businesses and employers that discriminate, discrimination will hopefully become less common in the United States.  This trend will hopefully also continue to influence other governments and countries around the world.

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Obviously, discrimination is not simply localized to the United States.  Females around the world are battling for positions in government and in businesses that are typically primarily male.  The United States has made great gains in recent years to promote the gender fairness and equality.  Now it is time for the rest of the world to catch up and continue to make the workforce free of discrimination.   Although it will take time and effort for many developing and developed countries, equality is something that has to be fought for.

The Reason Why 14.4 Killed Me

Muscle-ups. Gosh darn muscle ups.  For those of you who don’t know what that is….it is THE defining elite move in crossfit. AKA…I can’t do it.  Actually, can’t is the wrong word to use. I STRUGGLE (a lot) with muscle ups.   I was far from thrilled when muscle ups were announced as part of the Week 4 crossfit Open WOD.


Muscle ups are one of the hardest gymnastic movies in crossfit (yes, even harder than hand stand pushups). It involves swinging back and forth on rings and then using the momentum from your swing and biceps to pull your entire body up (basically a reverse dip for those of you who know what a dip is).  I know that is a pretty bad description so I have attached a video below! For some reason, muscle-ups are more difficult for girls.  This could partially be due to our smaller hands, but regardless, only one girl in our crossfit club here at PSU can do a muscle up.

Obviously, with no previous practice with muscles ups, I most likely will not be able to get my first one during the crossfit Open.  I am not even sure of the correct form.  That being said, I am very surprised to realize that I am not really down or upset about it.  Instead, I am looking past it.  Realizing that I have begun to focus more on my skills that I am good at and not on the ones that I have not been able to get yet is a HUGE step in the right direction for me.  Throughout my highschool and college sports career, I seemed to have always focused on the things I needed to work on.  Although that can be a good thing for improvement, it also did not allow me to really appreciate the things that I WAS doing well.

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In other news of Shannon fitness’s whirlwind, I have decided to try and attempt another marathon (or ultra) this summer! WOOOO. I know that I didn’t exactly train the hardest before my last one and am looking forward to actually getting in some good training time this summer.  I will be trying to decide which one to actually do in the upcoming days and then decide on an effective training plan.  I have been bitten by the marathon bug and now there is no stopping me!! Now, all I have to do is convince my parents that no, I will not break my body by running 26 miles. Have a wonderful week people and hope for good weather!!


A Week Without Crossfit

And just like that, Spring break is over. I hope everyone had just as an amazing spring break as I did! It was full of food (wayyyy to much of it) and sun and… crossfit (sob).  I guess my body needed the break but now I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things and my three-a-day workout sessions. After completing the second Open WOD on Friday and being pretty disheartened, I needed the break from crossfit. The WOD was

20 overhead squats (65 lbs)

20 chest to bar pullups

In three minutes.  IF you passed the first level in under three minutes, then you started right away with round 2 which increased each exercise by 4 reps. It increased by 4 reps every 3 minutes until the person “failed” or could not make the 3 minute time cap.

I have never been able to do chest to bar pull ups. Ever. My triceps are much weaker than my biceps and I was forced to do chest to bar chin ups instead which was a lot slower. Unfortunately, I only was able to get 27 reps and I was NOT happy about it.  I planned on redoing the workout on Saturday but unfortunately did not have time before my flight left for San Francisco on Sunday.

I assumed that San Francisco would be a break from everything crossfit. HA. I thought wrong. First of all, the number of people here with crossfit apparel/shoes is incredible. I feel like 2 out of 10 people I passed yesterday were wearing Rogue t-shirts.  On my Monday morning jog, I was incredible lost and trying to find my way down to the water. While I was running I saw about 15 runners ahead of me. I assumed they were heading where I wanted to go and tagged along behind. Low and behold, they turn right instead of going straight and lead me straight into San Francisco Crossfit. Yippee!! I had found my sanctuary.  Unfortunately, I missed the Open gym times on Saturday due to being on an airplane. That did not, however stop me from talking to the owner and buying a t-shirt! According to the owner, the particular gym I was in the only the 26th Crossfit gym to ever open. It is pretty incredible how much it has grown in such a little amount of time. Anyway, can’t wait to do this weeks Open WOD of box jumps and deadlifts. Time to get back into the swing of things!


Let the Games Begin


I know that I have mentioned the Crossfit Games several times in various blog posts.  I, personally, signed up to compete in the Games last Thursday (the last day of registration). To the average, non-crossfit athlete, the Games appear to be a single ESPN featured event once a year. The amount of work and preparation that goes into the Games, however, is astounding. Because this is my first year competing in the Games, I am a newbie.  I know very little behind the entire process and the rules.  Due to my lack of knowledge, I decided to do a little research so that everyone could better understand the 2014 Crossfit Games.

The most important information regarding the Crossfit games is that there are three stages: the Crossfit Open, Crossfit Regionals and the Crossfit Open.  The entire process is meant to essentially weed out weaker athletes (like myself) that have no business competing on a nationally televised ESPN event.

This year quite a few people from the Crossfit Club here on campus signed up to compete in the Open. Registration was $20 and the first workout (WOD) was posted last Thursday. Everyone has approximately one week to complete the WOD and report their highest score on the crossfit site.  To ensure no cheating will occur, all WODs are required to be video-taped and each competitor will have a judge that will watch them to make sure all repetitions are completed.  There are several different Open WODs over the course of several weeks. At the end of the process, the top 45 men and women and teams will advance to the Crossfit regional competition. Because it is only my first time competing my expectations this year are not high.  However, I am hoping that next year I could potentially advance to regionals on a team.

The first week Crossfit Open WOD was a “goodie.” It was 14.1. A WOD that (thank goodness) involves no heavy lifting or gymnastics skills.


10 min AMRAP of

15 Snatches @ 55 lbs

30 Double Unders

I was very pleased with how I did in the workout, but was also extremely exhausted. Before competing in the WOD I was very hungry.  Of course one of the only things I had to eat in my room was a pint of Ben and Jerry’s icecream and so I (stupidly) decided to eat it. I finished in 7 minutes (and icecream eating PR) and then proceeded to vomit up said pint of icecream after I finished my workout. Moral of the story? NEVER EVER EAT ICECREAM BEFORE COMPLETING A CROSSFIT OPEN WORKOUT. I am redoing the workout again today to see if I can better my score before the submissions are due tonight.

Discrimination in the Workforce

Discrimination in the workforce has long been a talked about issue in the United States. Once a hot button topic that many assumed had been taken care of, a clear and definite solution was never given and the problem of gender discrimination has persisted in the workforce today. I was not particularly aware of any discrimination of women of late until I was scrolling through my Facebook page (typical college student, I know), and discovered that three of my very close friends had shared the same article.  Bill O’Reilly’s: “There has got to be some disadvantage to having a female president. Right?” became an overnight Facebook sensation with over 1 million shares.  The quote that quickly became famous deserves to be included in this blog post.

“There haven’t been that many strong women leaders throughout history. But when you’re president of the United States you have to deal with people like Putin, you have got to deal with the real ornery Mullahs in Iran. Look, the Mullahs in Iran, they think women are like subspecies.”

I would also recommend watching the actual video footage of the incident here:

In case you do not have the time to watch the clip, here is a quick summary. In the interview with two other female correspondents, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly asked the women to come up with negative aspects of having a female president. Both looking extremely awkward and uncomfortable (and later frustrated and angry), and replied that there would be no more negativity involved with having a female president versus a male president.  Both tried to make it clear to Mr. O’Reilly that he was being extremely sexist, but he missed their signals.

Curious as to what other articles/new stories about discrimination I had missed, I did a quick google news search for female discrimination in the work force.  I was shocked with the number of recent articles that I discovered. Intrigued, I dug deeper in the source of the discrimination.

Discrimination of women can include any of the following: “Sexual harassment, withholding promotions based on gender, giving a different job title to a woman and preventing women from participating in training opportunities.”  Discrimination against females can occur in several different categories: Pregnancy, appearance, physical availability, wages and consequence to employers.

Many employers will not hire pregnant women due to the fact that they are allotted 12 weeks of leave to take care of the child and the assumption that they will not be able to work as many hours with a family to take care of. Due to this form of discrimination, many who are either pregnant or think they will become pregnant within the year, conceal that fact from their interviewer. A women’s appearance is also a common form of discrimination when hiring. An attractive woman may be more likely to get hired and/or they might be less likely to be hired based on the “distraction” that they could cause in the office. For jobs that require physical strength, a woman might not get hired based on the thought process that she might not be able to complete the physical tasks as fast and/or efficiently as her male co-workers. Women also experience discrimination when it comes to wages. On average women earn 80% less than the average male worker. Although that statistic has been gradually lowering over several years, there is still a lot of work that has to be done to make the wages of men and women equal.

Not only is discrimination on display in many social aspects of daily life (see last blog post) but as mentioned above, it is also on clear display in the workforce. Although Bill O’Reilly was not the first to reinforce the fact that discrimination still exists, his comments brought forth a huge negative out lash from Fox viewers. As American citizens, we all must realize that our modern society is constantly changing. We have to change with it and catch up with the times. It is time for discrimination in the workforce to end (Equal rights (and pay) for all women worldwide.) It is time for the US to set the precedent!

The Crossfit Criticism

As with any sport or workout program, crossfit receives a fair amount of criticism from multiple sources.  Because crossfit and I are basically in a long term relationship at this point, it is hard for me to imagine thinking anything negative about it. However, some of the criticism surrounding crossfit is warranted. Here are some of the post popular negative crossfit remarks.

  1. Girl: “If I lift weights like that I’ll get big.”
  2. “Crossfit? Nope. I will get injured. Like everyone else who does it.”
  3. “Crossfit gyms don’t even have benchpresses. Wimps.”



Almost all of my girl friends who never lift and focus on cardio all seem to share the same thought process.  Weights will make you look like the Hulk. Although the crossfit cover ladies do share a somewhat nauseating resemblance to the Hulk, they are the extreme cases, and I can almost 100 % guarantee that crossfit is not what is primarily making them look that way. In order to look like the Hulk, you have to eat like him too. Gaining and building muscle (and fat) is more diet and a little weight training. Although all girls’ bodies are different, we will never ever gain a lot of muscle by just doing heavy weight training. Some serious supplements would also have to be involved.


Crossfit injuries are a little trickier to deal with. In this category, some of the criticism is absolutely warranted. Unfortunately, crossfit is a sport designed to push a patron to his or her level of exhaustion. In some cases, this can mean injury.  However, the sport as a whole is hardly to blame for this. People who do crossfit need to realize that safety comes first, and performance comes second. May crossfit injuries are also due to bad form. Because it is a sport that is based on competing for time, in many cases (in order to get a faster time) people sacrifice form. This is where coaching come in. There is no such thing as an unsafe crossfit workout. The answer is simply an unsafe coach. A coach’s job is to correctly demonstrate moves and keep an eye out during workouts to make sure that form is not sacrificed to better performance.

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Lastly, the age old complaint about the crossfit gym: that it isn’t a gym.   If a regular person were to walk into the Wagner building (where we lift) he/she would not even know it was a gym. We have ropes, weights, bar-bells, pull up bars and then miscellaneous jump ropes, kettlebells and wall balls. It is hardly the typical gym filled with leg pressing machines and bench presses. Does that mean that crossfit is for the weak? Hardly. Crossfit focuses on mobility motions that are useful in daily life. These are referred to as Olympic lifts. Let’s be real. When is bench pressing ever going to be useful? Deadlifting, however, is the same motion you would use to pick up a heavy couch or rock. Crossfit is all about mobility and function. Not just looking good while doing it people!