- CrossFit athlete Katrin Davidsdottir has trained in both the US and Iceland, where she grew up.
- Davidsdottir told Insider that she found the fitness culture for women in both countries very different.
- In Iceland, women are encouraged to be strong, but in the US, women are afraid to build muscle, she said.
Icelandic CrossFit star and two-time ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’ Katrin Davidsdottir told Insider that the biggest difference she’s noticed between Icelandic and American fitness culture is that while strong women are celebrated in her country, American women are afraid to build muscle. build.
Davidsdottir has been participating in CrossFit for 10 years, training both in the US and in her native Reykjavik, the Icelandic capital.
The 29-year-old trained for eight years with coach Ben Bergeron in Boston from the age of 20, but moved back home in 2021 to start working with a new coach, Jami Tikkanen.
Icelanders exercise more than people from any other European country
Fitness culture is “very different” in Iceland than in the US, Davidsdottir said, and being an athlete is seen as “cool and ambitious.”
Icelanders exercise more than people from any other European country, with more than 60% meeting the World Health Organization’s recommendation to exercise for 150 minutes a week, compared to 31% on average across the continent, according to 2017 Eurostat data. US, only 23.2% of adults do the recommended amount of aerobic and strength training, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CrossFit athlete Björk Odinsdottir told Vice in the 2014 documentary ‘The Giants of Iceland’, which explores the country’s fitness culture: “It’s not uncommon for our gyms here to be packed from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. . The people here love it.”
CrossFit is a big sport in Iceland, and ordinary people treat their daily workouts like the finals of the CrossFit Games, CrossFit coach Karl Steadman said earlier.
In the 2021 CrossFit Games, Iceland, with a population of 340,000, placed three women in the top 20. The US had nine, but out of a population of 330 million.
Iceland has many strong female athletes, Davidsdottir said — she and fellow Icelandic CrossFitters Sara Sigmundsdottir and Annie Thorisdottir have dominated the sport for years.
“Women in Iceland are not afraid to be strong, which I think is so incredibly powerful,” Davidsdottir said.
While there are of course many strong women in the US, according to Davidsdottir, they are not celebrated in the same way in popular culture.
As a young woman, seeing Thorisdottir’s CrossFit success encouraged Davidsdottir to get into the sport herself, she said.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s what I want to do,'” said Davidsdottir. “I saw her do it and thought it was so cool.”
American women are afraid to be strong – but it’s changing
There isn’t the same fitness culture for women in the US as in Iceland, Davidsdottir said.
“In the US, I feel like women are afraid of being strong or afraid that they will gain muscle, but in Iceland it’s the norm,” Davidsdottir said.
Research suggests that women in the US are reluctant to lift weights for a variety of reasons, including its association with men.
2006 research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that only 20% of American women did resistance training two or more times a week, compared to 50% of men.
But Davidsdottir thinks the culture in the United States is gradually changing and it’s becoming more normal to be a muscular woman.
According to a 2018 University of Missouri-Kansas City study, the ideal body type among American women is shifting from “thin,” with more and more people aspiring to a “toned” physique. This is also reflected in the “strong not skinny” movement championed on social media in recent years and tagged 9.5 million times on Instagram.
Growing up in Iceland helped Davidsdottir embrace her body, she said
It wasn’t until Davidsdottir moved to the US that she got the idea that some people think women “shouldn’t be that way,” she said.
In this regard, growing up in Iceland was a privilege for the athlete, she said.
“I am very grateful to our culture in Iceland for how open it is, how women are leading the way, and I really want to be a part of that,” said Davidsdottir.
Growing up in a country that celebrates strong women, Davidsdottir not only encouraged gymnastics and then CrossFit, but also helped her embrace her body.
“I was always the strong one, the girl with the big biceps,” said Davidsdottir. “But I’ve never felt like I wanted to hide my muscles or be smaller.”