It doesn’t take a genius to know that men and women are different. Our brains, bodies, and hormones just aren’t the same. So, why are so many women trying to exercise like men?
It’s not necessarily beneficial for women to workout like men do. This doesn’t mean women aren’t strong or that they physically can’t, it just means other choices may be more ideal. But it perhaps it’s important to understand the appeal of these workouts in the first place.
Why Do Some Women Want To Exercise Like Men in the First Place?
Beth Leipholtz is a writer, photographer, and graphic designer who lives in a rural area of Minnesota. She says while there are many gyms in her area, she has found it easy to commit to CrossFit. “With other classes, I didn't feel like I was pushed as an individual or really even known as an athlete,” she explains.
With other classes, I didn't feel like I was pushed as an individual or really even known as an athlete.
Another reason why she likes CrossFit is the structure of the classes. “I walk in each day and I don't have to make a single decision about the workout. It's all on the board and that's that. I like being told exactly what to do, how long to do it, how heavy to do it, etc.” While she is on to something, structure is easily found in any group fitness class.
I Got HIIT Too Hard
As someone who had a pretty good spin and Pilates routine for years, last spring I started to crave a change and tried HIIT. The male to female ratio at my then-favorite studio was approximately 50:50, but working out with the boys made me feel physically and emotionally stronger. I also loved the energy of the room.
Working out with the boys made me feel physically and emotionally stronger.
However, one day last May, in the middle of a jump-roping circuit, I felt a sharp pain in my lower back. To avoid feeling weak, I decided to switch it up and do kettlebells. Then, it was time for abs. This sounded great until I realized I was too injured to do a crunch. I involuntarily screamed in pain, absolutely terrifying the person next to me. I left on a stretcher, and later learned I had fractured my spine.
While I don’t blame the studio for what happened or even the workout itself—for someone who has taken hundreds of group fitness classes, let’s just say I’ve never left yoga in an ambulance. It took months to recover. While I’m a lot better now, I’m far more cautious today. Clearly, something was wrong prior to the injury, but something about that HIIT class was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And I don’t want to be a camel again!
Another Reason Why HIIT Might Not Be a Good Idea
While different women have different fitness goals, it’s safe to assume those goals aren’t to look more like a dude. But, that’s the big problem with HIIT. The exercises and workouts are targeted to improve the male form more so than the female one.
The exercises and workouts are targeted to improve the male form more so than the female one.
For example, while women want to tone their arms, men are generally working towards increasing bicep size. The same goes for toning those legs. Burning fat is just a different program than building large muscles. If you don’t want to look like a bodybuilder, don’t exercise like one!
Another issue with intense workouts is that they can have negative effects on hormones. Excessive exercise can cause the body to stop producing its own energy. This can cause hypothalamic pituitary suppression, which can potentially lead to fibromyalgia. Extreme weight and fat loss can also cause women to lose their periods, which completely throws your hormones out of whack.
Extreme weight and fat loss can also cause women to lose their periods, which completely throws your hormones out of whack.
Best Workouts To Prevent Injuries
Let’s get real—it's possible to injure yourself doing anything. Tripping on a crack walking down the street can break your leg. But some workouts can cause more injuries than others. If you’re prone to injuries, Pilates is a great choice because Joseph Pilates created the program to help rehabilitate injured dancers. It strengthens small muscles throughout your body and especially your core. These exercises also prevent injuries during higher impact workouts. Spinning is also good for the injury-prone because it’s so easy to maintain proper form.
Moderation Is Everything
If you enjoy HIIT workouts, it doesn’t mean you need to stop them completely, but HIIT shouldn’t be the only workout you do. It’s ideal to limit these workouts to once or twice a week. Use extreme caution so you don’t become injured. Mix up your routine with active recovery, or slow it down with deep stretching and yoga.
Mix up your routine with active recovery, or slow it down with deep stretching and yoga.
Exercise is meant to keep us healthy and make us stronger. Let’s be smart about our exercise so it doesn’t end up hurting us!