The “X-Factor” When It Comes to Convincing Women to Lift Weights?
What an awesome weekend.
Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this post, I first wanted to offer my gratitude to Randy Martin and his staff over at POWER Fargo for not only inviting me to speak but for being amazing hosts during the 3rd Annual Sanford POWER Strength and Conditioning Clinic.
Not only was it an eventful two days filled with top notch training and nutrition information catered towards fitness professionals (there were roughly 200 attendees, mostly strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, with a spattering of Bert Blyleven fans* ), but – and I know this is a random point to bring up – the food spreads were on point!
You know you’re at a strength and conditioning event when all-you-can-eat deviled eggs and chicken/pineapple skewers are part of the experience. It was meathead heaven!
The only thing that would have made it more meat-headed was if they included creatine as a condiment or John Cena showed up and started a pig roast.
Note to any future seminar/conference planners: this needs to happen.
Game time for me was all-day Saturday. I spoke a total of six times – two presentation (one on squat assessment, and the other on shoulder “stuff”) and four, 30-minute long hands on sessions, where I discussed some of the shoulder care exercises we use at Cressey Performance with the bulk of our overhead athletes.
The latter of which you can learn in more detail HERE.
And by watching this video (my apologies for the lighting, it does get better as the video progresses):
Needless to say by the end of the day Saturday my brain was mush. Annnnd I lost my voice.
Now I’m sitting here in the lounge area at my hotel Sunday morning writing this blog before I head to POWER to get a quick lift in with a few of the coaches there, and then it’s off to the airport.
So if you’re reading this post on Monday…….I MADE IT HOME! YAY!!!
Also, as a quick aside: Can I just take a second to say how lovely, in general, people here in the Mid-West are???
It’s been so refreshing to make eye contact with people, have them smile, and say “good morning.”
Sometimes I feel as if you can do the same thing in Boston (say hello to someone) and you’re more apt to be challenged to a knife fight than someone reciprocating.
Thanks Mid-West, for restoring my faith in humanity!!
The “X-Factor” When It Comes to Convincing Women to Lift Weights?
It’s no secret that I’ve encouraged and longed championed that women can and should lift (appreciable) weights. I say “appreciable weights,” because pink dumbbells don’t count. Those are paperweights. Doorstoppers. Bookshelf holders. The things that are relegated to the Tracy Anderson’s and Gwyneth Paltrow’s of the world (when she’s not dissing working moms of course) who are ignorant, prefer to placate into women’s fears about fitness,and/or want to sell DVDs.
NOTE: For those interested, HERE’s a link to a bunch of female-specific blog posts on my website. Stuff that’s actually useful, educational, empowering, and is gluten and botox free.
There’s no shortage of reasons why women should lift weights. For all intents and purposes they’re the very same reasons why men lift weights: to improve performance (whether in their respective sport(s), in daily life, or in the bed room. BOM CHICKA BOM BOM), to improve health markers (increased lean body mass, improved bone density, offset metabolic disease, to name a few). to (hopefully) prevent injury, to look and feel like a million bucks, and/or, simply, because they like it or want to.
I recall several encounters my girlfriend, Lisa, has had at the commercial gym where she trains. She’s a pretty serious lifter. She deadlifts, squats, performs hip thrusts, push-ups, can crush strict bodyweight chin-ups for reps, and on more than one occasion she’s been approached by both men and women who ask the inevitable question:
Are you, like, training for something?
Her answer: “Yes, life.”
It’s in that light that I wholeheartedly LOVE it when women just train to train.
The question, though, is why do so many women refrain from hitting the weights in the first place despite knowing the gulf of benefits it provides?
Some of the the battle, I believe, is just getting through the intimidation factor. I can understand why the bulk of women are reluctant to mosey on over to the free-weight area, what with all those guys grunting and groaning (it’s 40 lbs dude, relax), not to mention the redolent, gaseous, plume of Axe Body Spray one has to contend with.
It’s nasty. I can’t say I blame them there.
A larger portion of the battle, and something many coaches don’t recognize, is the gender differences between men and women (Quick Refresher: boys have boy down there parts. Girls have girl down there parts.) and how they use the power of comparison, for better or for worse.
This is something that Registered Dietician and strength coach, Dave Ellis, touched on over the weekend during one of his talks at the POWER Fargo Strength Clinic.
He noted that one of the marked differences between men and women is that women are more societal comparitive, and men tend to be more temporal comparitive.
Put another way: women judge their current state against others (women), while men judge their current state to their own past current state.
If that still doesn’t make sense: women (not all) compare themselves to other women, while men (not all) compare themselves to themselves.
It’s uncanny how much this makes sense.
In the weight-room guys are always trying to lift more weight, competing against themselves, judging their progress by what they did in the days, weeks, months, or even years prior.
Conversely, women (again, not always) judge progress by comparing themselves to other women and it’s toxic at times.
I once had an older female client – in her 50s – who would regularly kick-ass in the gym – only to disregard her progress because she didn’t look like the 22 year-old former Division I athlete who trained at the same time as her.
And this was a woman who had a few years of good training under her belt and knew better.
What does this say for those women who have little to no training experience?
Maybe the initial intimidation factor, and what prevents some women from seeing progress, isn’t so much the dudes walking around with their tubs of protein and cut-off shirts, not to mention the learning curve and trying to figure out what the pulldown thingamajiggy does, but rather the notion that many are comparing themselves to other women; some of which are younger or just have more training experience?
It’s human nature to compare – that’s not the issue. But when it serves as the main litmus test to gauge progress, and it’s done all….the…..time, it can become problematic.
I don’t know the exact answer to this conundrum – I’m a strength coach not a psychologist!! – but maybe if we (as fitness professionals) made a more concerted effort to tweak or “nudge” women’s mentality and to try to get them to compete against themselves, we’d see a bit more of paradigm shift?
It’s something I try to instill in my female clients from day one. Rather than gauge progress by comparing themselves to what other women are doing or how they look, I try to get them to focus on THEMSELVES. Once they recognize, understand, and accept that any progress is progress, that’s a massive mountain that’s been conquered.
– Maybe they’re doing push-ups from the floor now, whereas four weeks ago they could barely eek out one from an elevated pin position. Win!
– Maybe they’re able to perform a clean looking squat pattern now, whereas before they could barely do it without falling over. You go girl!
– Maybe they added 20 lbs to their deadlift! Baller!
– Maybe they can fit into their favorite pair of jeans now. Holla!
– Maybe they can get through an entire training session without having to take a break, whereas before they had to stop every five minutes. Fantastic!
– Maybe they don’t call you an asshole as much during their training session. Until you make them push the sled….;o)
All of those accomplishments should celebrated – regardless of how trivial they may seem – and should serve as a way to empower women to see that it isn’t about what other’s are doing and comparing everything to them, but how they’re making themselves better.
It’s about you. Simple as that.
* For those who have no clue who Bert Blyleven is. He’s only the Minnesota Twins’ all-time leader in pretty much every pitching category there is, including rocking the high stirrups.
He was also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
Since I was speaking in Minnesota I made sure to win the graces of the crowd by giving tribute to my Twins knowledge and not make too many references to the Red Sox. I busted out a few Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti, Kent Hrbek, and Danny Gladden references.
And Tom Brunansky
And Jack Morris
I’ll keep going dammit……………
Chuck Knoblauch, Joe Mauer, Frank Viola, what!