It has often struck me how much the fitness world is divided by gender...
It has often struck me how much the fitness world is divided by gender, when there is no real need. So many health products and training regimes are specifically aimed at one of the sexes.
Think of how supplements are now 'for men' and 'for women', think of all those fitness DVDs in which a female celebrity leads an all-female cast through a series of workouts. And then there are the catalogue of diets specifically tailored for women. This female fitness market is huge, and is continuing to purvey a segregated message to the public.
The truth is though that this division is unnecessary. When is comes to living healthily, 95 per cent of the time what works for a man will work for a woman and vice versa. There are of course exceptions to every rule. Women for example can struggle to put on muscle as fast as men because of a disparity in the testosterone they have. The problem is that our perceptions of the differences between men and women are difficult to overcome because they are so drilled into our psyche - no matter how trivial they may seem. You can’t escape these enforced views; all you have to do is open a paper, gossip magazine or click open a news app on your phone/tablet.
We think of pink as a feminine colour and blue as masculine because that is what we have been taught culturally. In fact pink was, until the 20th century, considered in many cultures as a masculine colour and blue a feminine one. I certainly regard pink as a manly colour, having worn if for two years playing for Stade Francais in Paris. This is just one example of how we can let fashion; advertising and marketing cloud our judgment.
Last week, I touched on how dangerous so many of the fad diets that are sold to women can be. The building blocks of a good diet are the same for both men and women and it is all too easy to become distracted from this by a 'miracle' diet. I get questions all the time about is this ok for women to do, is this supplement fine for women to take. Most of the time my answers are its fine for them to use. Of course if you are pregnant or the particular supplement in question you are taking contains anything that might affect estrogen then I give a warning. However a lot of the time it is fine for both sexes. There is a massive disconnect between what is true and what is not, in the information being provided.
For example my company BodyFire had to take action as I identified that women weren’t taking my pre trainer and fat burning supplement Hades because of how masculine in looked, and the connotations we are highlighting in this article. So I created Hella, which was much more focused towards the female market. Why should women miss out on a great product.
In training also, gender politics is affecting the decisions we make. Men and women appear to go about their training in very different ways. When in fact what is on offer to them both, is just repackaged, jargon branded training systems. All you have to do is turn on the shopping channel and see all the equipment being market at the separate sexes.
Because stereotypes dictate that a man wants to be more muscular and a woman wants to be thinner, we are sold an idea that that the two sexes must train very differently to achieve their aims. Even though as I keep saying strong is the new skinny for women. No one wants all this thigh gap crap; we want hot well-defined women. In reality, the natural differences between men and women will ensure this happens anyway, or is managed to an appropriate level.
Men and women often share the same fitness goals, so why wouldn't I give them the same sort of training. Obviously a meat head like me is not going to be given the same sessions as a 50kg women, but the principles will be the same. Yet so many women forgo weight training and bodyweight work, which could be of great benefit. Lifting weights is an extremely efficient way to burn fat so it would
be a shame to deny yourself this method because of a misconception. As I have mentioned before women often find the free weights areas of gym’s intimidating, because of the perpetuated notion that women shouldn’t be lifting weights.
Yoga, spinning classes, and Pilates are all perceived as female environments and yet men can gain so much from these exercises. I have already preached the importance of strength in a range of motions and variety within your training. Don't sell yourself short by neglecting certain exercises because you fear you will be the only man in the room. In fact, if you feel confident enough in your masculinity to go to a female-heavy fitness class you may find it a good place to meet women. Just don't pest them up, half way through their workout. This is one of the rules we highlighted last week.
In short, men and women should be doing the same kind of training as each other. Your program should depend on your ability and your goals, not your gender. If you are looking to find out more about training and the BodyFire way, then please visit www.jhbodyfire.com or if you want to see it all in action, then go to YouTube and type Jh BodyFire TV in. You will find a whole raft of key videos.
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