Julia Sipolatti25, started to do weight training in adolescence, but always abandoned training due to prejudice she faced in gyms because she was obese: “I felt like I was in the wrong place”, she says. That changed when the administrative assistant started doing CrossFit and was welcomed by her peers. Next, she tells how she fell in love with the sport, participates in competitions and managed to inspire many people:
“I tried to do physical activity my entire adolescence, but it never happened. When I went to the gym I didn’t feel welcomed, I got a lot of looks, people stared at me, including the instructors, it seemed like I was in the wrong place. differently, after all, I was also looking to be healthy.
It was like that until my 20s. She trained for three months, but had to go every day and ended up giving up, didn’t care and couldn’t find an activity that she really liked.
There I met CrossFit, at the invitation of a friend who is a coach. He said he had a project to change lives and inspire people. He asked if I wanted to know the sport. I trained one day and never stopped.
Today, I go every day, including weekends, but at first it wasn’t easy. I didn’t go in and fall in love, it took willpower to make it a habit. I was anxious when I started the way to the box [como são chamados os locais onde se pratica CrossFit]I asked myself what I was going to do, because I was very ashamed.
But I received affection, people did not judge me, I felt support and it was easier to adapt. Without the discomfort side, I ended up continuing. After 3 months, we fall in love and become addicted.
Now, I don’t miss training. If I know I won’t be able to go at night, when I usually train, I switch to the morning, I fit in a time that I can go, because it seems that something is missing in my day. It’s been like this for two and a half years.
I found exercise at the gym monotonous. If I had to do it now, I would do it out of discipline. It’s different from CrossFit, which I love, I want to improve every day.
I even participate in competition, I don’t know what got into me. I saw that there would be a championship played in trios and I spoke with my sister and my cousin. We decided to go and it was amazing, better than we expected. I said we would be in last place, for physical conditioning. We ended up finishing ninth out of 23 threesomes. It was something welcoming, people encouraged us to complete the tests. Later on, improving the movements, I fit into bigger categories.
This year, I will participate in two more competitions, in September and October. And I also did a weightlifting competition in my box, I discovered that I’m passionate. I’ve always been strong and it was easy to pick up weight, I found myself. Today, it’s the training I like the most, I’ve already made specific spreadsheets to be able to participate in the championship. It is very cool.
After I started competing, I’m in all of them. It’s great to show people that everyone can do it, I get a lot of messages from people saying they feel inspired, that they started CrossFit because of me. And I can extend that to competitions, showing that they can also participate.
I didn’t really want to post videos on social media, it’s just that I started recording and saw that people were inspired, I received a lot of nice messages, and I started to enjoy sharing.
In the past, I was ashamed to show my body in the video, but today I don’t care about anything anymore. I even like people to see my difficulties so they know they can go there, do the movements and also change their lives, because after CrossFit my life changed. And this is much more than losing weight. People ask me how much I’ve lost and I answer that I’ve lost a few pounds, but the change I have on the inside is much greater.
I feel like I’m a different person, because my confidence has improved, in addition to my day-to-day performance. I’m much happier, it helps me control anxiety, even people comment that I’m lighter, it’s therapy. We go to train and feel much better when we leave.
Before, my self-esteem was very low, I didn’t want or have the courage to look at myself in the mirror. I was very ashamed to go out on the street, even though I had always been very extroverted — I’ve always liked clubbing, dancing. It’s just that looks and certain attitudes bothered me a lot, retracted me. I was very ashamed, it seemed that I was wrong to dance because I was fat, that I bothered people because I was where I was.
Now, I don’t care about anything, I don’t need anyone, if the person looks at me wrong, that’s her problem. In the past, it was something that would kill me and now it doesn’t change anymore, I face these problems. Of course, sometimes I get hurt by the looks and lines, it’s just that it’s much easier to get over.
And that reflects even in training. I trained all in hiding, in pants and blouse. Today, I don’t care about that either. I wear a top, shorts, I look just like the other girls. That makes a difference, because we want to feel included. I feel beautiful training and I’m not ashamed to show my belly, my arms.
Everything that happened to me was a process. CrossFit helped me a lot, because it changed my mind. I started to be more affectionate with myself. If I’m afraid to put on some clothes, I ask why I think I’m going to look ugly. Is it because I’m showing some body part and people might look? Is it in my head? I created this relationship of treating myself well.
After I started training, I developed self-care and that made me more vain, which changes my whole life. As I was very ashamed to the point of not even looking at myself in the mirror, I ended up not taking care of myself. Now, I want to take care of myself, I notice myself more. Before, I didn’t have that affection. All thanks to the change that started when I started doing CrossFit. Self-esteem only increases.”
Taste for physical activity depends on what?
To practice physical activity frequently, you need to find out what you like best. This, however, is not always simple and depends on a kind of “physical literacy”, that is, the history you have with exercise.
“The concept includes whether the person was an active child, took physical education classes, everything makes a difference. Physical literacy is having knowledge of different activities, especially in childhood and adolescence, so that you can have a range of options when you go to the adult”, explains physical education professional Miguel Bortoliniteacher of UFAC (Federal University of Acre).
This knowledge influences perceptions and pleasure in practicing a physical activity, shaped by various factors — such as the environment, the incentive to exercise and even the way a person feels in the space. Precisely for this reason, dealing with prejudice in gyms can be a very discouraging factor and can create an aversion to practicing any other activity.
“Feeling integrated is also important. When the gym doesn’t welcome the person, including the instructors, it harms a lot and ends up discouraging the practice of physical activity, which we highly recommend in such a sedentary society”, says Marise Lazaretti Castro, endocrinologist at Sbem-SP (Brazilian Society of Endocrinology and Regional Metabology São Paulo) and professor at Unifesp (Federal University of São Paulo).
According to her, the process can be even more intimidating among women who are intensely strict with their self-image. “We see many difficulties in people exposing themselves in an environment that is not friendly, that is not welcoming. It is necessary to have academies with more inclusive philosophies.”
Barriers to playing sports can start as early as childhood, during physical education classes, for example. Children who were bullied, were chosen last in the formation of teams or even excluded from the dynamics tend to be more uncomfortable and believe that they do not have the skills for the activities. This scenario hinders the development of physical literacy and, consequently, keeps people from staying active as adults.
When looking for a physical activity, the tip is to choose those that give pleasure. If you don’t have a history of playing sports, the person should analyze preferences in other areas of life: are you more introverted? So individual activities (running, cycling, swimming) should be the best option, while extroverts may prefer group training.
“There are people who like to exercise collectively, with a best friend, there are those who like to do it individually, put a song on their phone and don’t want anyone to talk to them”, he comments. Bortolini, from UFAC.