Exercise, Sweet Machine

Quick hit: Olympic-level bodies

Via Broadsheet, check out this NYT slideshow of several Olympian athletes. As Catherine Price of Broadsheet says, “it’s nice to see proof that being strong takes all kinds.” This version is almost like an Olympic addendum to the BMI slideshow, though we’ll have to do the calculating ourselves. I love the picture of Cheryl Haworth, a weight lifter who happens to weigh 300 pounds. I also dig this quote from track star Shawn Crawford:

When I lift, my chest and arms develop quickly and are easy to get stronger and bigger. I have really small lower legs — and no matter what I do, they get stronger, but not bigger.

Next time you feel inclined to beating yourself up because some exercise you do that makes you feel happy and energized didn’t also skinnify your thighs or what have you, remember that quote. Even one of the fastest dudes in the world can’t change the shape of his legs through Olympic training. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, even the strongest ones.

75 thoughts on “Quick hit: Olympic-level bodies”

  1. I saw an Olympics-related story on Cheryl Haworth on a plane a couple of weeks ago (captive audience–I don’t usually watch sports things), and I was pretty much enchanted with her. :) She enjoys her sport so much! And what a physical specimen. She’s built for weightlifting, and she’s great at it.

  2. It’s possibly a bit sad that I noticed this, but the 103 pound runner and the 300 pound weight lifter have the same daily calorie consumption. Isn’t that interesting?

    I’m just happy the Olympic committee decided to allow Oscar Pistorius to compete in the 400 meter. For anyone who hadn’t heard about the argument, they initially disqualified him for the “unfair advantage” of his carbon fiber prosthetic legs.

  3. I wonder if Cheryl will have to pay for two seats on the airplane that she flies on when she goes to China. Some how I think not.

  4. Hey, I’m getting in at the top of a thread! whoo!
    @ emmy – “but the 103 pound runner and the 300 pound weight lifter have the same daily calorie consumption” – that’s probably true of any randomly selected pair of 103 lb person and 300 lb person, so long as they have similar levels of activity. File it under amazing but true.
    @Lu – just spotted my monster, which is just perfect, because after I grow up to be Nanny Ogg (a la T Pratchett), I want to grow up to be something green and scary with big teeth. But, just wondering, that thing coming out of my green middle is an umbilical cord, right?

  5. scotlyn, I think it’s some sort of proboscis.

    And we all know the weight-lifter must be LYING because it’s all about CALORIES IN and CALORIES OUT and ARGH MASSIVE TROLL SEGFAULT

  6. Scotlyn, that’s one of those things that I knew, but the visual illustration of it just really drove it into my brain in a new way. Here are two world class athletes, who obviously work their bodies hard, eat the same amount, but one is nearly three times the size of the other. And one of them is never going to be told she should eat less than half of what she eats now, while the other has probably gotten that exact advice at least once in her life. Which is completely rotten.

  7. FJ, do our monsters stay the same forever? I never clear my cookies, so mine probably won’t change, regardless.

    and I love this: “And we all know the weight-lifter must be LYING because it’s all about CALORIES IN and CALORIES OUT and ARGH MASSIVE TROLL SEGFAULT


  8. I really enjoyed these pictures.

    And, Lu, I got the green triangly comment monster. I don’t like green. It was sorta sad when I realized we were stuck together, this little green avatar-body and me…and also sorta ironic given the subject of this blog. :) Don’t mind triangles much, though, so there is a bright side.

  9. atiton, your avatar is cute, too, IMO. :) It’s like a happy little green heart. A healthy, Olympic-weightlifter heart pumping healthy green Vulcan blood. ;-)

  10. Emmy, you’re right. What I meant to say was – it IS still pretty amazing every time you think about it – isn’t it?

    And Fillyjonk – glad to hear its a proboscis and not something else you’d find not a million miles away in the dictionary – no longer worried, and intend making full use of it in future. No longer shouting “let me through, I’m a nosey person,” I shall be able to declare, “Proboscis alert – coming through!”

  11. I constantly surprise people with how strong I am. I don’t work out, I don’t lift weights and yet I easily lift children and small adults.

    Seriously, people! Our outsides have very little to do with how well our insides work!

  12. FJ, but if I change my email address, doesn’t that mean I have to also exchange my soul or something?

  13. I’m so confused. Not one of those people look like a photoshopped model or movie star. I thought “health” = “looks like a photoshopped model or movie star.” Isn’t that the whole point of having a body that can do amazing things — that, in a roundabout way, it will make you look more like a photoshopped model or movie star? Clearly the Olympics has low standards.

  14. Clearly the Olympics has low standards.

    I laughed out loud at this too! It’s not the jokes — it’s you!

    atiton, I think changing your email to get a new monster is less about exchanging your soul and more about lying to WordPress.

  15. oh i ADORE that picture slideshow. Its just so spot-on. I also love how not one of them eats below 3500 calories, but ‘healthy living’ for us is more often than not less than 2,000 and a large chunk of the same activity level. Even taking into account the fact that they are professionals and so train for a living, this still shocks me a little, considering we’re pretty much told to think anyone who goes over the 2000 and 2500 RDA is a piggy piggy pig pig.

  16. @apricotmuffins – rest assured – its a “proboscis” and not a dubious appendage at all at all, silly. And my “proboscis” is much longer than yours – does it need more calories/exercise to keep it healthy?

  17. Did anyone else notice that Haworth’s waist measurement is the same as the oh-my-god-she-was-gigantic-fat Queen Victoria’s underwear that was all over the news? Powerful women, people…

  18. Sweet Machine’s observation on an earlier post that (according to BMI) even President Bush is “overweight” inspired me to put the height/weight of these athletes into an online BMI calculator. Of the six pictured, only two are considered “normal weight.” One is underweight, and the rest are overweight or obese (including the sprinter, Shawn Crawford). The rower is almost overweight. And Cheryl is clearly about to just keel over because of her morbid obesity-ness. I agree that these should be added to the BMI slideshow – and I wish more people would be aware of how ridiculous the BMI standards are!

  19. Well, Kua, Haworth IS oh-my-god-gigantic, doncha’ know? She MAY get a free pass from the Fat Patrol, though, because she is CLEARLY a deviation from the normal fatties. She actually exercises, which none of us do. You got that memo, right? :-)

    God, that underwear thing was terrible.

  20. Yeah, she must be one of those “very, very few people” who the statistical geniuses in other sites’ comments threads are always talking about — the ones who are fat for reasons other than never doing anything but sit on the couch and eat, but of course the majority of fat people still are, because I said so!

  21. You know what’s so funny? My best friend Dan is on the Olympic rowing team (with Bret actually) and he is one of the few of my friends who actually gets FA. I think it has something to do with using your body for a purpose rather than thinking of it as a still object, something to be observed and judged.
    Also, the calorie consumption thing – I stayed with these guys once and the amount of food that these tall, thin boys put down is AMAZING. Somehow they seem to have gotten the message that when you need energy, you get fuel. Huh. Who’d uh thunk it? ;-)

  22. Oh, and Lu, I like thinking of myself as a green heart rather than a green triangle. Works better. Thanks!

  23. I love, and have loved, Cheryl Haworth for years. I’m a sometimes-weight lifter, but no matter how hard I train, I’ll never squat 495 pounds. My frame’s not big enough (Haworth is 5′-9″).

    For me, the most remarkable thing about that slideshow is the marathoner’s resting heart rate and V02max. 28 beats per minute? Her heart must be, like, the Incredible Hulk of hearts.

    I read somewhere that athletes in general tend to have less problems with eating disorders, and I think it’s probably related to what CoryBetty says — actually using your body gives a better understanding of how it works, and thus better resistance to estupido cultural expectations of how it should look. Although, my guess is that nobody’s completely immune to that anymore.


  24. One of my oldest friends (“The Beast”) is a power lifter and hammer thrower, and she works out twice a day with a professional trainer. Her BMI says she’s obese, but actually, she is fucking hoss.

    Does having large breasts skew the BMI? I imagine it would. Back when I was still hating myself and at my all time thinnest (and sickest), I couldn’t get my BMI lower than just into “Normal,” and I drove myself crazy trying to make it lower.

    *shivers* I’m SO glad I don’t think like that anymore. What a horrible waste of my youth.

  25. So I’ve been reading this blog for awhile and this is my first time posting. I’m a pretty hardcore athlete so the olympics are my obsession. People that push their bodies to a limit I can’t even imagine.

    I will say that of the people I’ve met. The ones that hate working out but force themselves on the treadmill every few days are the ones that are the most concerned their weight and the most judgmental of others. It’s the extreme athletes, my friends who run ultramarathons and hike half dome on a whim that care the less. As long as our bodies do what we ask of them we are good to go. What else matters?

  26. @fillyjonk – Sneakers FTW! I love that movie.

    @Carleigh – Large breasts definitely increase your BMI. My aunt is ‘morbidly obese’ by those standards, but they don’t take into account the ~40 lbs. contained in her J cup breasts.

  27. You know, I really really needed this today. I have been arguing for what seems like years with two posters on Gawker regarding calories in/calories out. It is very difficult when A. You get ganged up on and B. Everyone seems so positive about the whole calories in/calories out equation. They act as though I am the idiot for daring to question their age old knowledge.
    Seeing these athletes and getting so much information about their weight and calorie consumption is mind blowing, and I wish more people, athletes or not, would do the same thing. It is so freeing and honest and really goes towards dispelling myths.

  28. I love this slideshow! But I love athlete bodies. Like the track cyclist! Her legs! It is really fascinating to see the natural variation in bodies.

    Good luck to your friend CoryBetty–I think you’re probably right about the athlete/FA thing. I mean–when you are born with a talent that puts you in like .05% of the population in terms of ability you really begin to realize the natural limits and capacities of your body and realize that other people have them, too.

  29. Oh, and I loved the slideshow. Thanks for pointing it out! I’m not trying to lose weight, but I’ve been exercising a lot lately, and I’ve been frustrated that my body doesn’t look, I don’t know, amazingly ruggedly buff or something. :)

  30. I like the cyclist. I am a cyclist and I remember when I first started to increase the amount of cycling I was doing daily (8kms up to 20kms), I was talking with another cyclist about body shape and the distribution of fat. At the time, I was upset because the fat around my middle had not decreased even though my leg muscles had increased. This cyclist told me (and bless her for doing so!) that it doesn’t matter what your middle is doing on a bicycle because it’s your legs that are doing all the work. That really put it in perspective for me … it’s the joy of being on my bike that is important, not the shape of my body on my bike. That was the beginning of me learning about HAES. And, big surprise, I can cycle over 20kms without thinking twice about it now, I have legs made of iron, and I still have lots of belly fat … and I am damn proud of my body. It’s good to see images of fit people … really really fit, Olympic fit!, people who are different shapes and sizes and weights.

  31. One of the reasons I love the Olympics is the wide range of body types on display. There are short and slight gymnasts, tall volleyball and basketball players, incredibly lean runners and sturdy weightlifters. And they are all elite athletes.

    Come to think of it, though, the body type that seems to be missing is big-busted women. I guess that’s because boobs just get in the way and/or change your center of gravity.

  32. Also, how do you combat those “statistical genius” trolls?


    No, but seriously: I think the best thing to do is ask whether they know that, or whether they’re guessing. If they say they know for a fact, they’re lying, and you can ask for a citation.

  33. Also, the calorie consumption thing – I stayed with these guys once and the amount of food that these tall, thin boys put down is AMAZING. Somehow they seem to have gotten the message that when you need energy, you get fuel. Huh. Who’d uh thunk it? ;-)

    They’re BOYS. Boys are generally allowed to ingest fuel as they need it. Boy athletes get fuel for energy, girl athletes get eating disorders.

    I’m a touch out of sorts today, don’t mind me.

  34. I love the slide show, though I’m still troubled about how it reduces everyone to a bunch of numbers – measurements, percentages, calories, achievements. I wish we could see people as whole people instead of a collection of numbers.

  35. The slideshow just reinforced what I’d observed when I was watching the Olympic Trials: not all bodies are the same, they’re not all optimized for the same activities, and that’s part of what’s wonderful about being human.

    I’m also a total Olympics junkie, I love watching the more obscure sports as well as the swimming, and one of my life goals is to attend a summer Olympics (we went to the winter games in Salt Lake City and had a wonderful time!)

    And can I just comment that the shotputter is HOT?

  36. I miss lifting. I really need to find some sort of physical activity that I can do (and ENJOY) with this bum leg. Oh, Cheryl Haworth, how I long to be you. :)

  37. You know, next time somebody screams ZOMG THE BOOGA BOOGA OBESITY PANDEMIC IS OUT OF CONTROL, I’m going to link pictures of Cheryl Haworth and Brett Newlin to them.

  38. I really needed to see this today after seeing a truck on the highway, a kind-of beat up truck that was lifted up fairly high driven by a shirtless skinny dude with a mullet, with a sticker on the top of the back window that read:

    “Raised. ‘Cause fat chicks can’t climb!”

    I’m just learning this FA thing and my god, all of you are wonderful for making sense, reading statistics as they supposed to be read, and for showing items like this ridiculously logical slideshow.

    I’m liking this body more and more every day. Bet your ass I can climb, but what woman would want to climb into that guy’s truck?

  39. OMG. So, Cheryl Haworth? I showed her to my fiance, and said, “You know what? That woman and I have the same percent body fat.” He was a little amazed. We’re both amazed by the shotputter with the 15% body fat, and the marathon runner who’s apparently dead or in hibernation, according to her heart rate (28 bpm).

    I think I’m in love with all of them.

    Yeah, I guess it’s reducing people to numbers, but still — it’s possible to be 335 lbs and in Olympic shape! We have proof!

  40. There’s a quote from the Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster that has stuck with me since the day I heard it:

    Tuppy Glossop, praising a girl he’s just met and fallen in love with, “Oh, how different she is from those hothouse artificial London girls! Would they stand all day in the mud watching a rugger match? Would they know what to give an Alsatian for fits? Would they tramp ten miles a day across the fields and come back fresh as paint?”

    Bertie Wooster replies, in all innocence and seriousness, “Why should they?”

    That exchange pops into my head whenever I’m beating myself up for not doing an Ironman or sewing my own formal gown or whatever: Why should I?

  41. What a fantastic link – I’m also going through one of those “working out just because I like working out… but why am I not losing weight also?” phases, and this is the perfect reminder that functional (BEYOND functional) bodies really truly do come in all shapes and sizes. Including mine. :)

  42. I love, love, love this! Who would have thunk it? Even elite sportspeople come in all shapes and sizes. I particularly like the picture of Christian Cantwell – a sexy strong man with a bit of a tum tum despite obviously working his guts out each day.

  43. I miss lifting. I really need to find some sort of physical activity that I can do (and ENJOY) with this bum leg. Oh, Cheryl Haworth, how I long to be you. :)

    Tried swimming? I took it up a couple of years ago because the old joints can’t take the beatings I give them on a regular basis anymore. It’s been over a hundred degrees F where I live for the last couple of weeks and sometimes I don’t even swim laps, I just go get in the pool to cool off. But when I do swim laps, it doesn’t hurt, like some other things do, and it’s harder than it looks (i.e., good exercise).

    Plus, I totally do my Fat Princess Strut at the pool — from reading this blog, I have learned that I am actually hot, so I pretend that my figure is the culturally desirable icon, and walk that way from the poolhouse to the pool, feeling pity for all those people who aren’t built like me. Yeah, it’s kind of infantile, but it’s fun.

  44. K, I tried swimming for the first time since the accident on Sunday, and it wasn’t bad. Kicking does hurt, though, and I have a tendency to go for broke when in the water, forgetting that weightless does not equal massless. I overdid it pretty badly and was flat most of the day Monday as a result.

    Hate to admit that I’m also pretty uncomfortable with the amount of help I need getting in and out of the pool. They have a wide set of stairs at one end with railings but I still need to take my forearm crutch part of the way in with me then hand it out, likewise have someone hand it to me before i get out. Then I get looks, which I didn’t mind when I was just fat but bother me a bit more now that I’m fat and scarred and sorta helpless.

    That’s something I’m just going to have to work on though.

  45. I remember seeing Cheryl Haworth in some teen magazine (Teen People maybe? Or the defunct Jump?) back when I read teen magazines (this was somewhere between 7-10 years ago). There was a whole article about different teen athlete, but I always remembered her because in that magazine article she commented on being able to do splits as well. I thought she was awesome then, and I still do!

  46. Thank you so much for posting this. I loved the slideshow. They look much more ‘real’ than what I’m used to seeing in the media. And these people are elite athletes! It was tremendously helpful for me to see this.

  47. buttercup — Sorry, I didn’t realized you’d been injured! Feh, to heck with exercise, I say, until you’re fully healed. Especially if it hurts. Healing thoughts coming your way… K.

  48. Thanks for linking to this… it’s great.
    I’ve been swimming a little more intensely lately, and it makes me hungrier, and this helps remind me to be so glad of what my body can do, more than what it weighs or what it looks like.
    I’ve been an admirer of Cheryl since I first heard of her about 8-9 years ago. I would love to do more strength training, I think I build muscle and strength relatively fast, I just need plenty of time to recover (like 3 days between sessions). And I can’t take advil or any NSAIDs so when I’m sore, I’m stuck. But still, I love being strong. And I can swim faster when I’m stronger, too. Fun.
    (I was the least athletic kid imaginable and came to physical activity for pleasure on my own in college and after)

  49. Thanks!

    I’ve been running and using a leg press machine and have been a little disappointed that I still have fat legs, I was hoping for those calf muscles that look like my knee is choking on an orange or something. Of course, those muscles may be in there, but masked by a hearty layer of chub.

  50. scotlyn –

    water aerobics.

    they use these foam barbells that, when kept under water, provide AMAZING resistance. Better than regular weights in a lot of ways because they provide the resistance in every direction, plus they work you UBER hard without straining your joints or muscles.

    Jelly-arm warning, though. lol

  51. K, no prob, I’m adjusting to it myself. Unfortunately, there’s not going to be much more healing as a great deal of it is permanent. I’ve yet to come to terms with my reduced mobility but I do need to find some kind of physical activity that I can do and enjoy at this level just in case this is all there ever is.

  52. Also, there’s Christian Cantwell. Shot-putter, he weighs 335 lbs.

    Of course, his quote “I used to do it for the chicks, but now I do it to be good at my sport. It’s kind of cool how that’s worked out” is a tad douchebaggy, but wev.

    In general it’s interesting to see how the different body types go with their sports. The distance runners are very tall and lanky. The shot-put/weightlifters are heavy. The cyclist is a “normal” weight but has very large thighs (that I assume are SOLID muscle and that she could kill me with them).

  53. @buttercup – this really is the catch-22 of an injury – we know activity is healing, but it sure as hell hurts. First, may I say, when all else fails, LOL – really! a really good belly laugh out loud works every part of you from the inside out. Second, try intuitive movement. Move whatever can move without pain in whatever way feels good. Maybe turn on some music and experiment with it. Use water – but don’t limit yourself to just swimming. As @Liza, there are water aerobics, but also you can just walk through water, jump around in the water, twist and turn your arms, just experiment with moving naturally and without pain. For a sciency-bit, I read about an experiment (yes, with rats) where they compared recovery rates from injury between rats fitted with a rat-wheelchair, and rats who were allowed to move as they wanted. And second group did come on much better, over a period of a few weeks. Is the statement “just in case this is all there ever is,” a mental wheelchair that may be stopping you moving in an intuitive way? Don’t know if this helps, but let me know if it does – it’s highly relevant in my own line of work – acupuncture – to find more ways my injured patients can move and regain comfort and pleasure in their bodies. Would welcome any feedback on this issue. Remember 99.99% of bodies are nor Olympic standard, but still come in every shape and size and with every kind of challenge.

  54. Scotlyn, no, the fact that my knee doesn’t bend beyond 80 degrees max any more and the permanent nerve damage in my lower leg and foot from the dual emergency fasciotomies is more what keeps me from moving in an intuitive way.

    I do love water and swimming and plan to do more of it but getting in and out of the pool is a bitch. Pre-accident, I would do resistance and flexibility exercises in the pool along with the flat out lap swimming. I’d like to get back to that eventually.

  55. @ buttercup – yeah I hear ya. And I really, really, hope that “this” ISN’T “all there ever is” … for what it’s worth, I’m sending you lots of good wishes – sounds lame, I know, but anyway….

  56. I read somewhere that athletes in general tend to have less problems with eating disorders

    This is entirely dependent on the sport. Any sport that has a weight class (wrestling, lifting) or where being lighter is a significant advantage and/or aesthetically pleasing (rowing, gymnastics, figure skating.) tends to have a bigger problem with eating disorders.

    At my university, some of the teams would have a weekly weigh-in just to make sure no one was losing too fast.

  57. @buttercup – ta very much:) will take whatever’s on offer, but am aware I sometimes need an “off” switch on my babble channel. Take good care of yourself.

  58. That was fucking awesome – I love how with athletes, you’re ALLOWED to have different body types, i t’s not just all Barbie dolls, and they are always so powerful-looking. Like when they do spreads in magazines and use the Williams sisters and I think “now there, that is an ass I could get behind dreaming of having”.

  59. Just found out a local connection–Cheryl Haworth is from our local Savannah area–my bf was a freshman at their high school when she was senior, just before she went to the Olympics.

    Learn something new all the time!

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