I believe wholeheartedly that this industry that I love has unequivocally failed half of the population. Why is this, you ask? Well, let me tell you. For years, the fitness industry for women has been revolving around two things, weight loss and toning. I guess it’s more of a reflection on our society that the fitness industry has focused on these two things and decided these are the only goals that women should be allowed to have. Fortunately, it’s been slowly getting better, thanks to the hard and relentless work of a few who are actually invested in the health and strength of women everywhere. (This is my shout out to Girls Gone Strong, and the amazing work of all those talented ladies. You inspire me to be a better coach and person in general.)
Let’s talk a little bit about how everyone has decided that weight loss should be the primary goal for women. Take a look in the grocery store, and every women’s magazine has tips on how to lose 10, 20, or 30 pounds. It’s almost always in “Just 30 Days,” to boot. The scale, which has long been the ultimate measure of fitness for women, does not tell the whole story. There are thousands of women out there who are stronger, leaner, healthier, and more badass than they were just six months ago, but the scale has hardly moved, or maybe it’s even gone up. You have to look at other measurements than the scale in order to get the full breadth of progress that you’re making. If you do nothing but cardio, and lots of it, you will very likely lose weight, as long as you’re eating appropriately. However, you will almost certainly lose a decent amount of muscle as well. The scale will reflect big changes, but your base metabolism will actually be slower, and you will be weaker. Doesn’t sound great, does it? (You better be saying no.) If you get leaner with strength training, proper types and amounts of cardio, and well-balanced nutrition, you might actually weigh more because of muscle gain, but you will certainly feel, look, and perform better.
Have I told you how much weight loss being the ultimate goal for women pisses me off? Women, you don’t have to make yourself less than you are. You are capable of amazing strength and power, capable of withstanding immense pain, and capable of shouldering more burdens than you should already. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FIT ANYONE’S IDEAL IMAGE OF WHO YOU SHOULD BE OR WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK LIKE. You don’t have to make yourself smaller. You don’t have to take up less space. You don’t have to be trim and petite. What you do have to do is recognize your potential for awesomeness, and if anyone tries to devalue you based on your size, you have my full blessing to kick them in the genitals*. Now, obviously I want you to be healthy. If your weight is causing health concerns then yes, I encourage you to work on getting to a physically healthier place, but do it for the right reasons. If you want to lose weight because that will make YOU happy, then have at it. Do it for yourself and not for anyone else, and definitely not for this size-obsessed culture.
Now that I’m done ranting about weight loss, let’s vent on toning for a bit. It is one of the most common goals for women but the whole idea of toning is kind of abstract. Yes, I know what you want to achieve when you tell me this. No, I don’t think less of you because this is your goal. But let’s get a few things straight. Muscles don’t tone or lengthen. They get bigger, smaller, or stay the same size. Generally, if you tell me you want to tone, what I hear is I want more muscle definition. This is going to happen by doing two things. One, you want to make the muscles bigger. Don’t worry, you’re not going to turn into a bodybuilder. Women tend to put on muscle at a much slower rate than men do, and the muscle they do put on is normally of a much higher quality (less fluff, more strength). Two, you want to get a little leaner so you can see some separation in the muscles. These two qualities will produce the toned look that for some reason everyone wants. It’s not a bad goal, and the goal itself isn’t what annoys me. What annoys me is the way that everyone’s told to achieve it. This is the point where I’m going to tell you that if you’re capable of throwing the pink dumbbells halfway across the gym, using them in an exercise is worthless. Utterly and completely worthless. Doing 500 curls with a 2 pound weight isn’t going to do squat for you. It’s not building muscle, it’s not burning fat, and it sure as hell isn’t toning your arms. Instead of doing useless curls and tricep kickbacks with a laughable weight, get strong. Get to the point where you can knock out pullups and dips and you’ll probably be pretty damn toned. I know most women don’t want to get bulky, but some of the sleekest women out there are some of the strongest. Getting strong won’t make you bulky. It will, however, spike your levels of awesome. I don’t know about you, but I think badass women should be the rule, not the exception.
Alright, I’m taking a break from ranting for a minute. Shifting gears, let’s talk about the ways that the industry is improving. Groups like Girls Gone Strong are smashing boundaries and helping women get past the mentality that they need to make themselves less in order to be important. As much as people love to bash on Crossfit, (and personally I’m not a big fan of their methodologies) they are producing very strong women who are more concerned about pushing the limits of what they can physically accomplish than just weight loss and toning. More and more trainers are realizing the importance of empowering women over putting them into a little weight loss and toning box. Things are starting to look up in the industry after far too long of being one size fits all.
What is the point of this whole post? It’s all leading to this; my goal is to form a legion of strong, ass-kicking, take no prisoners, badass women who recognize that they are worth more than they ever thought, and how much body fat they carry has NOTHING to do with it. The only question I have is, are you in? Let me know if you want to find out what you’re capable of. I’ll bet it’s more than you thought.
Questions, comments, concerns? Let us know here.
*My blessing to genital kick someone is not a valid defense in court.