Female fitness is fast on the rise. More and more women and girls are getting off the couch and in shape. Hell we even have female rugby back in the Olympics so if that doesn’t tell you the rise of the strong woman is upon us then where have you been? Moreover, I’d like to welcome you to the new age as the saying goes. Women are flooding powerlifting, weightlifting, crossfit, running, cycling, and many other sports. What a time to be alive in fitness.
For those who are unfamiliar with me, I’m Stephen or Coach, I have the ultimate pleasure of coaching 40+ of the most badass women you could hope to meet. They vary from very beginner to 4 Nationally Qualified powerlifters and 2 of which are IPL World Qualified. While those titles are earned they don’t make anyone of them on my team any more important than another. They all have different goals even though some do share similarities. They come from incredibly differing backgrounds, which is a testament to how fitness is not a vacuum of certain types of women. Being in a niche coaching 90% women on my team I have seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and the truly disappointing in female fitness. When you coach so many ladies who all have social media accounts you tend to get sucked into hashtag holes, see idiotic comments from both genders, and the blind leading the blind. Indulge me if you will, as I ramble and rant on why female fitness is hindering its progression and maybe even offer a piece of advice or two.
I’m going to start with the simplest “annoyance” I’ve seen in the gym or heard. I had the absolute horror of having a Twitter account for far too long if I’m being completely honest. I no longer do because the stupidity outweighed any true benefit I could find. In my travels of the Twitterverse, I came across a repetitive theme in tweets. Ladies would get upset when a gentleman offered them a spot. These ladies would be so indignant that a man would do such a thing. Now ladies, I’ve been lifting since I was 15 which gives me 17 years of toiling in a gym and I have offered such help the entire time. I would afford a man the same courtesy. It’s not because I think either person is weak, I just don’t want you to get stapled by the bar while I’m around. Now that isn’t to say there aren’t chauvinists in the gym that are trying to exert some alpha male bullshit because it is the gym and those people do exist. However, let’s pump the brakes before we assume that the guy offering help is just being an asshole. It’s not hard to kindly say that you don’t need it but if you do you know who to ask. Ask yourself who the real asshole is, the one offering a spot or the one assuming they are just thinking you are weak? On the flipside, you gentlemen that offer help need to have some situational awareness. If you’ve seen this lady lift before and it’s clearly not a heavy load, just go about your workout. You’re not needed. Move on. Mind your business. It’s hard enough for coaches to get these ladies in the gym and strength training. You gentlemen just make it that much harder for them to want to.
This next part addresses the elitism and exclusivity that runs rampant in female fitness and hinders feminism within it. I will preface this by saying I’m not the most prolific feminist you’ll find. It’s not that I don’t believe in, it I’m just not as read up on it as other people. To paraphrase Hank Moody, I love women and have all their albums. You are the greatest creatures walking around on this spinning rock but you are holding yourselves back. This may be the section where eyebrows will be raised or disagreeing will happen, but seeing as this is an Op Ed piece this is just how I see it.
There is an incredible amount of elitism and exclusivity in female fitness. For a gender yearning for equality you’re not even trying to bring each other along in the process. Bodybuilders present this elite mentality whether with physique or bullshit title of “Pro.” That’s like having a record in a powerlifting federation. Who gives a shit? Yeah, you worked hard and earned it, but there are so many federations for both disciplines that the words “record” or “pro” are more watered down than drinks on two for one night at the bar. Then you have the strength side that claims superiority because of how much weight they can move. As a powerlifting coach that’s great, but that’s no reason to think you’re better than another woman in another discipline. Apples to oranges ladies. Don’t get me started on Crossfit. I may joke a lot, but I actually do enjoy Crossfit and many of their workouts that are coached by COMPETENT people. I take issue with this nonsensical bullshit mantra of forging elite fitness. Calm your tits, Crossfit. Like any other lifting discipline, you have 10% that may be elite and 90% hobbyists to intermediates.
Instead of knocking one for their style of fitness, be it lifting or cardio, why can’t there be an encouragement. “Yeah do your thing, girl.” You don’t have to share the same styles to encourage each other. I have 40+ women, but when it’s meet day for one of them the whole team is cheering even if they don’t powerlift or even have a clue what the updates mean. This is the team environment I’ve fostered among them and it’s something that women, as a team, should really strive for. Who cares if you have different backgrounds or training styles. None of that matters. You all share a common goal which is to better your health, physique, and hopefully your mind.
Another area of exclusivity that really pisses me off is this new hashtag I’ve been seeing on Instagram. The first version I saw was #girlswhoactuallylift. Now as I stated, I’m no scholar on the topic of feminism, but if this isn’t setting back the movement in fitness then I don’t know what is. Girls who actually lift? Merriam-Webster defines the verb LIFT as raising from a lower to a higher position. So whether it be your body weight, a 5-pound dumbbell or a 500-pound deadlift by definition you are all lifting. I challenge any elitist reading this to explain to me what in the actual fuck #girlswhoactuallylift means. You people are the reason that beginners don’t want to step in the gym. You are the reason that women have image issues. How do you expect to further getting women into fitness when you differentiate who’s actually lifting and who isn’t? Please just do all of us who are trying to get women in the gym to better themselves a favor and shut the hell up. You’re not part of the solution. You’re just furthering the problem.
Like the kitchen, men and women belong in the gym. It’s a great way to be proactive about your health, create a better self-image, and instill an active lifestyle. I’d like to think those are all things we want. I don’t speak for everyone, but I want equality between both genders and within the female gender. Let’s start by not focusing on differences, but rather uplifting each other for having the same common goal. Do your part to not be a shitty person to one another and I promise we can accomplish so much more together.