What is considered “masculine” in fitness?
Men working out. What’s the image? The squat rack? The bench?
What about “feminine” fitness?
Group exercise? Mind body exercise?
In the 28 years I have been in the industry, I have begun to see at least a shift. It is less rare to see women at CrossFit and more common to see men in Pilates.
But I see a lot of work to be done, especially because women and men may have the same interests and desires, in fitness and well-being, but have different bodies and therefore different expressions through exercise.
Take for instance the woman learning to lift heavy.
This is desirable because
- She needs and wants to be strong
- Muscle development is essential to women’s health
- Weight lifting is great for bone density
- Weight lifting is a great confidence and mood booster
But her body needs adjustments in the weight lifting activity itself, usually due to biomechanics. And, her body may respond differently to the same exercises prescribed to men.
We also have to consider the man in a mind-body exercise class.
He is there because
- Mind-body exercise is important for mood, stress, and mental health
- Flexibility training is important for men
- Different perspectives and philosophies found in mind-body work are great for consciousness and leadership ability
But the man may have limited range of motion, especially when he is new. His body is biomechanically different from a woman’s and will behave differently in different postures.
If we take the man and force his body into poses or expect him to stretch into a pre-conceived form, we have lost the value in the exercise and possibly hurt him.
I think we need a bigger conversation around all of it. Beyond “women who lift weights,” beyond “men in yoga.” We actually need to see the person as a whole, discover how different forms of fitness are expressed in different people, and allow for a shift in perception… for them AND for the professional.