Bored by a monotonous and lonely gym routine, Bennett Kaspar discovered his community box and transformed into a CrossFit fanatic.

Trans athlete

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Bennett.  I identify as a queer person of trans experience.  I was born female, but transitioned to male three years ago. Although I was into fitness prior to transition, it wasn’t until I began hormone replacement therapy that I really gained the drive to train and improve my health and wellness through more exercise.

What has your journey into the fitness world looked like?

I have played sports pretty much my whole life, including rugby and softball. But I didn’t really start thinking about exercise as “wellness” until I started doing CrossFit in 2013.  After I retired from rugby, I tried “going to the gym” to stay fit, but struggled.  What was I supposed to do? Why did I have to work out alone? Why did it have to feel like work? Was I doing it right? All of these questions and insecurities (and misinformation) led me to feeling disillusioned with gym life and being in shape.  

Then, I tried CrossFit through a Groupon deal at a local gym.  I was instantly hooked. To me, it felt like I was an athlete again. I felt like I was playing a sport, like I was part of a culture and a community.  People who criticize CrossFit often characterize CrossFitters as having “drank the kool-aid.” The tackiness of that phrase aside, I have to admit, it’s true- we are a culture. But since when is it a bad idea to enjoy hanging out with other people who are also trying to get fit? If you ask me, more people should join us!

How were you impacted once your journey began?

Once I realized that there was a type of activity that I enjoyed and that challenged me, it stopped feeling like work.  I legitimately enjoy working out and the benefits that come with it, like the lifestyle changes.  Once I got into a good, solid fitness routine, it became so much easier to undo a lot of bad habits and vices that I had let build up over years of a more sedentary life. I have virtually quit drinking.  My diet is healthier than it has ever been before (I keep a 90-95%  Paleo diet), and I feel great. I have even added in yoga to my practice to increase my flexibility and rehab my sore muscles after hard days of CrossFit training.  

Overall, my life has taken a turn for the better.  Not because that’s what I set out to accomplish, but just as a byproduct of doing something that I love.

Trans athlete

How did you get into bodybuilding?

I don’t actually do “bodybuilding.”  I am all about functional fitness. Not to knock bodybuilders, but to me, being healthy and fit isn’t measured in the size of muscles. It’s measured by what I can do. Do I know how big each bicep is? Nope. But knowing how big my arm muscles are also won’t help me get up a rope or finish a workout like “Fight Gone Bad” (look it up!). So it doesn’t really matter much to me!  

In the end, I’m all about being fit as a measure of overall wellness and ability. Being cut is not helpful if you can’t use all that muscle for something. When the zombie apocalypse comes, I won’t be sad that I didn’t spend more time doing bro curls in the mirror!

Are you still doing CrossFit? You pushed back on them in the past for having a trans problem.

CrossFit is unlike other fitness empires in that it is not a franchise. Each local affiliate runs its own show. I have major issues with how CrossFit Corporate HQ (run by Dave Castro) discriminates against transgender athletes by banning us from official CrossFit competitions.  However, my local gym is very affirming, supportive, and welcoming.  And I have always been allowed to participate in local events and competitions.  

It’s a shame, really. We trans athletes put in just as much blood, sweat, and tears in the “box” (CrossFit lingo for your home gym) but can’t compete with our peers in the annual CrossFit Games competition season. Even the Olympics lets trans athletes compete. It’s disappointing that CrossFit HQ and Castro have such a narrow, old-fashioned, and frankly, scientifically inaccurate view on sex and gender, and it’s something I hope they change someday.

Trans athlete

You’re a lawyer and also a blogger. How do you balance a busy schedule and make time for fitness?

This is the hardest thing about wellness- prioritizing it!  Some days, it just isn’t feasible to do everything I have to do and also go to the box. But, because I view working out as fun, rather than just a means to an end, it makes it easy to make time for it.  Think about it.  If you enjoy watching TV, you probably find some time to do it each day. Even for a little bit. Same with fitness and working out. If you’re doing something you like, it’s easy to find some way to sneak it in.  

One of the nice things about CrossFit is that there is a lot you can do with little to no equipment. (Look up “hotel WOD” for some ideas– workouts designed to do in a typical under-equipped facility.)  So even if I can’t make a class, I can always do something. Lately, I have been doing a circuit of push-ups, sit-ups, handstand holds, and handstand push-ups when I can’t make it to the box. That usually helps me sustain myself until I can make it into a real class.

What does your wellness routine look like during the week?

I typically start my day with coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil to kick-start my metabolism. I usually get into the office on the earlier side so I can leave in time to catch a 5 or 6 pm class.  Because I can work from home or the office, I will sometimes leave work to go to the box and then pick back up with work when I get home. If I happen to be working from home, I might take a lunch hour class instead.

I’m usually in bed by 11 o’clock. I eat well, drink lots of water, and try to proactively manage my stress so I can actually enjoy the time I set aside to work out.  While I do not always succeed at sticking to this schedule, it has become enough of a routine that it hardly feels like I have to “make time” for fitness any more.

What does holistic wellness mean to you?

Holistic wellness starts with your motivation for wellness. Why is it that you do what you do? Are you just trying to look good? Or do you want to actually feel good and feel healthy? I used to only really work out for the former, but now shoot for the latter. And as a result, I actually am in the best shape of my life.  

Focusing only on looks is hazardous to your mental health. Body image issues in the gay community are a real thing and we need to be more open and honest about this. But it can also lead you do do things that might not actually be healthy for you at all, like crash dieting, overusing stimulants, etc. If you are approaching wellness based on how you feel, you quickly realize that you have to consider more than just the image in the mirror.  How did what you ate make your body feel? Do you have enough energy? Are you sleeping enough? Dehydrated? Sore? These are all things that should be factoring into what decisions you make about how to get fit and be healthy. Not just the number on the scale or the clothing tag.

Do you have any advice for trans guys looking to get into bodybuilding?

I would give any trans guy the same advice I would give to anyone looking to get into CrossFit or similar style training.  Try it out! Many boxes let you try classes for free, and most have beginner series classes that help. Like anything, quality of instruction and the community is what really makes you successful. Not your natural ability. So check into reviews for different gyms to see what people have to say about them. And don’t be afraid to shop around and try a few out!  

Also, you have to be willing to check your ego at the door. It doesn’t matter how fit you are or what sports you played before you start. No one is a CrossFit expert on their first day or their first 100 days. There are so many different movements and skills involved in the sport of CrossFit that it’s virtually impossible to be a master of it all. If you’re unwilling to struggle to improve, it is not the activity for you.  However, if you like challenges, enjoy learning, want to be a well-rounded athlete, and want to have fun, then give it a go.  You’re only the newest person on your first day!

Trans Athlete Bennett Kaspar

Follow Bennett’s journey on his blog and on Instagram @mx.kaspar.