About a year ago I had a big realization while at the gym. I remember that day so clearly. I made a couple of notes in my phone about how I was progressing on my pull-ups (still hard AF but getting better). Then I played around with some new kettlebell skills I learned from one of my other trainer friends. I did some of my favorite exercises on the TRX. At the end of the workout I paused and smiled to myself. Why? I realized that I had paid zero attention to how many calories I thought I had burned. Acknowledged the fact that those goblet 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 have 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. When the display showed I had burned some ridiculous amount of calories, I’d walk out tired and frustrated that the scale still showed the same number. Does that sound like you too? Based on a lot of the marketing in the diet and fitness industry, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

What is marketed to women:

Pulling up some of the latest magazine headlines, 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).

What the men get:

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 with dressing from a spray bottle and make chair pose my new favorite asana? No savasana?! No thank you. I’d love to see the day that gender labels are a non-issue in the fitness world. But clearly, based on the headlines I just listed, we aren’t quite there yet. So until that happens…

I decided I’d rather do it like a dude.

Yup. I may not have discovered “The Best Way To Get Bikini Ready in 7 Days” or lost “50lbs in 6 Months”. That’s ok because I DID learn how to do bada$$ things like Turkish get-ups (they 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 of us 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 only thing we can really do is try to be to be the best versions of ourselves on any given day. Sometimes that means doing back squats. Sometimes it means eating more than 1-2 ounces of chocolate in the middle of the afternoon while writing a blog post.

In spite of all this, many women still have weight loss goals in mind. I mean, it’s HARD not to want that. Being small and “toned” is so idealized in our culture. However, I think that when we say we want to lose weight, what we really want is the things that we think come along with it. To feel healthy, strong, and capable. To feel like a rockstar in clothes that fit us well. We want more confidence, and to feel like we are accomplishing our goals. After observing the way I see many men working out, it seems like they have a better grip on this.  So I did a little self experimentation. Here are some of my best suggestions for how to increase your confidence by taking a slightly less “traditionally feminine” approach to your fitness routine.

  1. 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. 😉

  2. Set a non-Aesthetic goal and see it through. 

    Learn to do one good push-up. Or see how many 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 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 aware of the messages that the media and society in general are trying to send us about our bodies. 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.