It was 1995, a time when crunches were the in-vogue ab exercise.
Wendy was a high-school student. Desperate for a flat stomach to flaunt during the upcoming summer, she started an abdominal routine in her living room.
Crunching away, she told herself the monotony would be well worth it.
“From pain will come pleasure,” Wendy remembers thinking. Twenty, 25, 30 crunches into her routine, and suddenly her body started to feel hot in an interesting new way. The friction from the constant crunching started to stimulate her pelvic region. Thirty-five, 40, 45 crunches into the workout, Wendy kept getting closer to climax with each crunch.
At 52 crunches, her abdominal session ended abruptly—and involuntarily. She was flat on her back, breathing hard, her body half numb. Wendy had just experienced her first crunch-induced orgasm. In fact, it was her first orgasm ever.
L-Sit Orgasms: Tabata-Style
Wendy isn’t the only woman who can bring herself to orgasm during a workout. CrossFit females around the world have also reported experiencing arousal from certain movements, namely sit-ups, rope climbs and L-sits.
These orgasms are commonly referred to as “core-gasms,” because the movements that bring them on are generally focused on the core or abdominals.
Erin from Calgary, Alta., is a CrossFit athlete with the propensity to orgasm mid-workout. For Erin, it began as a young teenager during ballet class.
“It was something that worked the lower abs. At the time, I didn’t quite know what was happening and thought it was kind of strange,” Erin said.
Workout orgasms disappeared from her life for a while after that, but they re-emerged with greater regularity than ever when she discovered CrossFit in her 20s. By then she was well aware of exactly what was going on in her body as she attempted her first max L-sit hold.
Today, not only does Erin find herself in full-blown orgasm mode after about a 30-second L-sit, but she can make it happen multiple times in a row.
“I generally can do about three or four, and then I can’t physically hold the position to generate another orgasm,” Erin confessed.
Erin goes so far as to suggest that her L-sit ability is intrinsically linked to her ability to orgasm.
“I haven’t been able to get past 30 or 40 seconds of L-sits since I’m not really able to hold an L-sit anymore once I orgasm,” she said.
An Anticlimactic Orgasm?
Females like Wendy and Erin have led to an interest in scientific research about females and exercise-induced orgasms.
In 2011, Indiana University conducted a study that included 530 women. It looked at women who admitted to both exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP) and exercise induced orgasms (EIO).
The article produced from the study was written by Debby Herbenick and J. Dennis Fortenberry and titled Exercise-Induced Orgasm and Pleasure Among Women. It was published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy. One of the study’s participants listed CrossFit specifically as the stimulation that caused EISP, though more participants found general activities such as swimming or biking/spinning to be the source.
Like Wendy and Erin, the women who participated in this study also reported abdominal exercises provided the most common way to climax during a workout, and activities such as rope climbs and climbing poles and trees—whenever there is pressure on the pelvic region—also provided the necessary stimulation. Interestingly enough, lifting weights also ranked as a movement that can lead to orgasm.
As Herbenick and Fortenberry pointed out in their article, there is still so much we don’t know about the female orgasm. But the concept of an exercise-induced orgasm suggests that perhaps female climax isn’t entirely related to sexual experiences.
Evidence of this is the fact that the subjects in this study reported that sexual thoughts and fantasies are not often associated with either EIO or EISP.
“Orgasm occurs—perhaps even normally—outside of sexual settings and in the absence of sexual arousal or stimulation,” Herbenick and Fortenberry suggested in the article.
Dr. Lori Brotto, a clinical psychologist, is both a member of the International Academy of Sex Research and runs a private sexual-health clinic. She agrees that exercise induced orgasms are likely to be—at least somewhat—asexual in nature.
“For the majority of women, psychological arousal and awareness must be present. However, we have evidence that orgasms can also be purely physiological. Many women will orgasm in their sleep, presumably without any psychological awareness. In these cases (as in the case of exercise-induced ones), they are purely physiological,” Brotto said.
It could be very simple, explained Brotto: “Exercise increases sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and has been shown to heighten sexual arousal. Given the intensity of CrossFit, there is likely quite a surge in SNS activity … . For women who are easily orgasmic, this might be just enough of a boost to their sympathetic activity to lead them to experience orgasm.”
Similarly, in 2000, the American Journal of Cardiology published Sympathetic Nervous System Activity and Female Sexual Arousal by Cindy M. Meston. It was the first study that suggested female orgasms contain a “purely physiologic component.”
The study involved 35 sexually functional females, who were asked to exercise for 20 minutes on a stationary bike—working at 70 percent of their maximum volume of oxygen intake—before watching an erotic film.
Although exercise prior to watching the film did lead to an increase in both vaginal pulse amplitude (VPA) and vaginal blood volume (VBV), “there were no significant differences in sexual arousal, positive affect, or negative affect with exercise alone,” Meston reported in the article.
At the end of the study, one of Meston’s conclusions was as follows: “Exercise per se does not simply increase VBV and VPA responses, but, rather, exercise in the presence of an erotic stimulus somehow prepares the body for sexual arousal.”
Furthermore, Meston suggested that there might be an optimal level of SNS activation to generate sexual arousal, and that levels below or above optimal may have less of an impact on—or even an inhibitory effect—on a female’s sexual response.
This could be why Erin can have an orgasm during an L-sit, yet she says, “L-sits are still painful.”
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Have you experienced an exercise-induced orgasm during CrossFit? Which movements caused the orgasm? What did it feel like? Please post your thoughts to comments.
Photo Credit Kim Bellavance Photography & CrossFit Journal