Monday, June 4, 2012

Why Iceland Women are Ridiculous CrossFitters

In case you haven't done so, go check out my recap of our visit to CrossFit Reykjavik and meeting Iceland Annie. If you have, read on.

from Davidsdottir, Thorisdottir, and Helgadottir (l to r) all qualified for the CrossFit Games
A few months ago, an article came out about the Icelandic women and how they absolutely DOMINATED the Europe region during the Reebok CrossFit Open. (see "The Icelandic Advantage" by Jane Holgate) The top 3 women out of all of Europe are from Iceland: Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin Davidsdottir, and Thuridur Helgadottir swept the top spots. Hjordis Oskarsdottir followed closely in fifth. 

Guess what. During the European Regional Competition in May (yes, ALL of Europe was a region), the top three repeated: Annie first, Katrin second, and Thuridur third. Hjordis came in eighth. Astounding consistency and showing of fitness for a country the size of Ohio.

The above-mentioned article cites 3 main reasons why these Icelandic women dominate the scene: genes, mental fortitude, and culture. Emma Keen, a non-Icelandic athlete said in the article, "“I think their general attitude to their well-being is much more serious than in the UK where a lot of people's expendable income here is spent on alcohol and socializing and begrudge £30 gym membership,” Keen says. “The Icelandics think nothing of spending a lot of money to benefit their health.”

[Warning: this has absolutely no scientific steeping, but purely speculation and observation. So for you geeky scientists that need proof, you can look elsewhere.] I absolutely think culture has a lot to do with it. I saw evidence of it during our trip to Iceland.  Besides visiting CF Reykjavik and working out with their team going to regionals, here's why.

In one of the hotels we stayed in, we were flipping through channels and came across this Icelandic game show that pitted high schoolers against each other in fitness skills. Even though it was in Icelandic, seeing these young teenagers doing push ups, dips, max holds from a bar, and other movements was unlike anything that you'd see State-side. It was clearly a normal thing for these high schoolers to be involved with physical fitness in more than just a "40-minute-walk-around-the-track" PE class. Anywho, here are some screen shots of the events. 

obstacle course involving monkey bars, cargo nets, and other activities

lifting "stones" - looked like rubber balls filled with sand

this was the biggest difference between Iceland women and American women: max DEFICIT push ups

boys held their own in a max dips contest

max hang = mental fortitude
I did say why the Iceland women are ridiculous CrossFitters. Why not men? My theory is that while the teenage boys were in the competition, they were doing similar things that other males across the world do. In the US, it's socially acceptable for a guy to be doing dips, push ups, and pull ups. If you are a female and you do these things, then good on ya, but let's be clear you are probably above average in terms of strength. 

Do you think the US could ever get to this point? Would this even be something you would like to see? Working in education, I see gym classes being cut left and right to give more classroom time, so I think the attitude of Americans would have to change a great deal for fitness to play a bigger role. 

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