A couple of months ago I was at the gym and decided to start tracking my workouts. I made a couple of notes in my phone about how much weight and how many reps and sets I did on the pull-up assist machine (still working on the real thing), how heavy my kettlebell was and how many swings I did, and what new exercises I did on the TRX (a recent qualification of mine). I stopped and smiled to myself at the end of the workout when I realized that I had paid zero attention to how many calories I thought I had burned. Acknowledged the fact that those squats were probably not going to make my thighs and butt any smaller, and did them anyway. I walked out of the gym with a little bounce my step and feeling strong as hell. Looking back, I wonder what took me so long to get to this place. In a previous life, I would stayed on the cardio equipment for an hour. I’d huff and I’d puff and read a magazine on the elliptical or stair climber until the display showed I had burned some ridiculous amount of calories, and then walk out tired and frustrated that the scale still showed the same number. Does that sound like you too?
Based on the marketing that is thrown at women in regards to fitness and their appearance, I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Pulling up some of the latest magazine headlines this afternoon, these are just a few of the things that we women are consuming on a daily basis: “7 Yoga Poses That Burn Major Calories”, “Why You Weigh Less In the Morning”, and “9 Tiny Tweaks To Make If You Want To Lose 10lbs or Less”. All of these are pictured around a flawless fitness model who 90% of us couldn’t look like if we tried. Actually, even she doesn’t look like that naturally, because she’s PHOTOSHOPPED. When this is all we see, it seems impossible to measure up (or down).
Looking at the article titles on a similar men’s magazine, this is what the guys get: “44 Awesome Drills That Make Your Body Faster and Your Mind Sharper”, “You’ll Get Chills Watching This Guy Squat 1,005lbs”, and “The Right Way To Do A Sumo Deadlift”. Ummmm, not fair. The boys get to have all the fun. They get to become stronger, faster, AND smarter? And I am supposed to spritz my salad dressing from a spray bottle and make chair pose my new favorite asana? No savasana?! No thank you. I’d rather do it like a dude. In fact, don’t tell the workout police, but I’ve been trying it out for a few months now, and I have to say it’s felt pretty awesome. I may not have discovered “The Best Way To Get Bikini Ready in 7 Days” or lost “50lbs in 6 Months” but I did start learning how to do bada$$ things like deadlifts and Turkish get-ups that make me feel like a BOSS. I didn’t “Drop 2 Dress Sizes This Month”, but I did start to feel better about the way I look in my current dress size. You can too!
All women are naturally built a little differently. When we try to change our bodies to look like someone else’s, we set ourselves up for misery and failure. The best we can really do is practice self care and try to be the most excellent versions of ourselves. Sometimes that means doing back squats, and sometimes it means eating some chocolate in the middle of the afternoon while writing a blog post. I’d argue that when we say we want to lose weight, we actually want the things that come along with it. To feel healthy, strong, and capable. To feel like a rockstar in clothes that fit us well. To have more confidence, and to feel like we are accomplishing our goals. To me, it seems like the guys have a better grip on this. After observing the way I see men working out, and doing a little self experimentation, here are some of my suggestions for how you can start to feel better about yourself by taking a slightly less “traditionally feminine” approach to your fitness routine.
- Pick up some heavier weights! So many women are afraid of getting bulky. The science says that we don’t have testosterone to do that, but I know that some of you might beg to differ. I get it. I build muscle pretty easily too. Allow yourself to get strong and see what your body does with it. If learning to do pull-ups means you have to buy a bigger size top to account for your new super strong lats, you might surprisingly be okay with that! And if anyone gives you a hard time about it, no worries–because with those guns, you could easily beat them in a fight. 😉
- Set a “non-scale victory” goal and see it through. See how many pushups you can do with good form, and try to increase that number each week. Do a handstand every day. Find someplace interesting that’s only kind of nearby (like a cool park or trendy ice cream shop) and take a long bike ride adventure to get there. Sign up for race or challenge at your favorite workout place that doesn’t involve body shaming or weigh-ins.
- Try a new class! I’ve been really into strength training lately, but if that’s not you, how about trying a new class or activity? If you’ve never tried paddleboard yoga, cardio hip hop, rock climbing, flying trapeze, or WHATEVER, what are you waiting for? Lots of fitness, yoga and dance studios offer complimentary classes for new students. Step out of your comfort zone and try something different. It’s exciting and your body will thank you! Learning new skills is a serious confidence booster.
- Invest in a few sessions with a personal trainer who has a background different than yours, and see what they can teach you. Even if you have been working out for years, or are even a fitness professional yourself, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Someone with different life and athletic experiences can help you step up your game and feel super smart about your workout choices.
As women, we need to be more aware of the message that the media and even our society in general are trying to send us about our bodies. Take it with a grain of salt, and maybe push back against it a little. Or a lot. Men get to build themselves up, and we are supposed to shrink. Guys high five each other for their gains, and we’re over here trying to get “toned” with little pink dumbbells. If you’re tired of feeling inadequate and not seeing the results you want, maybe it’s time for a mindset shift. Fitness can and should be fun and empowering, not defeating and draining. Join me on the other side. Do it like a dude. 🙂