This article is the second in a two-part series. Part One is here.
Part One of this series said 40+ guys should take valuable cues from women to refine their fitness-and-health approach for the decades ahead. Women…
- Don’t let competitiveness become counterproductive to fitness
- Focus more on total-body fitness
- Seek out help and support more
- Take nutrition more seriously
I have no intent to perpetuate stereotypes. But these patterns do fit with how many people assume women behave compared to men. So yeah, I’ll admit it in this language: Part One suggested we learn from attitudes and behaviors some might describe as “womanly.”
However you describe them, they have real benefits for lifelong fitness, health and wellness. (But I admit, now having written that “W” word, I’ll block the memory from my brain!).
If anything, this Part Two makes a more cage-rattling point. Some women in the OlderBeast phase of life are “manning up” to fearlessly embrace age and double down on fitness — on “historically-male” fitness turf — more than many guys are.
This isn’t a 4th-grade-style “boys vs. girls” thing, to be clear. The only long-term competitor in the OlderBeast game is yourself, man. So these comparisons and labels are just to (I hope) create an additional spark.
MORE FITNESS CUES MEN CAN TAKE FROM WOMEN
General-population statistics still show men exercise more than women, and more intensely (though the gap is narrowing).
So I’m only focusing here on the subset of women at the “high” end of the fitness bell curve. But if you’re reading this, that’s where you strive to be, so this is a useful place to focus.
Based on my own in-person observations at gyms and studios, what I see published and discussed online, and contact OlderBeast readers make with me – here’s what I see.
1. Make up more than 50% of participants in High-Intensity Interval Training (HITT) and Metabolic Resistance Training classes. I’m talking about hard exercise, including substantial strength work. Yeah, in terms of strength work, the female/male ratio in group exercise classes doesn’t count all the guys lifting on their own. But at most gyms at least, it’s really <40 guys that make up most of the male crowd.
2. Have become the majority of participants in running races. Consider these #s from Running USA:
- In 1990, women made up 25% of running event finishers
- By 2000, they were 42%
- Recently? In 2015, women were 57% of the finishers in organized running events
Running is something most OlderBeasts should do sometimes, And the ladies seem to be more on top of this than us. Especially in terms of using races as a goal-setting and discipline-enhancing thing.
3. Embrace the OlderBeast vision to a surprising degree, despite the male focus and my “your old frat brother who’s now a fitness geek” language. I receive messages from female readers along the lines of “I know OlderBeast is for guys, but a lot of it’s relevant and meaningful to me.” My point? The idea of facing our challenges head-on, of giving a stiff-arm to “getting old,” is something a lot of women really get AND actively pursue.
So where Part One of this article framed things we can learn from women, this section highlights a different perspective. Over the last 20-30 years, and probably accelerating, women have learned from men. They’re in “best of both worlds” mode, guys. We should be too.
IMPLICATIONS FOR 40+ GUYS
If you put together all the stuff from Parts One and Two of this article, I hope you’ll agree. Guys seeking decades-long fitness can gain inspiration and learning from how active, dedicated women are doing it. I know I do.
A WebMD article on gender differences in fitness summed it up well: “Women tend to have a balanced approach to fitness. Their workouts are more likely to include a mix of cardio, strength training, and mind-body practices (such as yoga).”
To at least some degree, this is reflected in the most basic of all health stats: life expectancy, dude.
Men have lower life expectancy for some biological reasons (e.g., estrogen protects against heart disease; testosterone suppresses the immune system). And some cultural/economic ones (e.g., men are more likely to have dangerous or health-impacting jobs).
But experts agree behavioral and attitudinal factors are a big part, too.
Said simply, women take better care of themselves over the long-term, via fitness, nutrition, stress management, and accessing health care when they need it. Borrowing some from women’s playbook helps with all the OlderBeast goals: feel great, look our best, keep getting happier…AND especially “live long.”
Think of the phrase “over the hill.” One way to think about OlderBeast is related to this: let’s push the top of that hill later into our lives, brothers. And make the far side of it not so steep after all.
Using this metaphor, there are all kinds of signs women do this better than men. As a gender, on average, we go over our hill before they go over theirs. And we tend to let our far side be steeper.
So if you’re reading this, let’s not be average men. Let’s take these cues and lessons from “the fairer sex” and make them part of our own smart approach to maximizing the 2nd half of life.
“A lotta guys try to catch her, but she leads them on a wild goose chase now.” (Beach Boys, Fun, Fun, Fun—click to listen). This link is classic concert footage from 1964.
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