Fitness: What Men Can Learn From Women (Part 1 of 2)

OlderBeast.com exists to serve 40+ men – with friendly, practical advice and occasional inspiration for lifelong fitness, nutrition, and the contribution to joy and fulfillment that these things bring.

But this post is about women: what we can learn from them in pursuit of our manly goals.

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This is Part One of a two-part series. Part Two is here.

OlderBeast is based on the belief that 40+ men can and should “double down” on body-and-soul health, to maximize the 2nd half of life.

And man, here’s a powerful source of inspiration and practical example for this: Women.

I’ve been happily married for 24 years. I’m additionally blessed to have active, intelligent women across the generations of my family – mother, sister, daughter – and some great female friends. So in a general sense, my list of “what men can learn from women” would be quite long.

Within the narrower realm of fitness, nutrition and wellness, here are four things we men can learn from women.

1. Women don’t let competitiveness become counterproductive

In our society, “competitive” is usually a positive adjective (especially for the stereotypical “manly man” persona). Don’t get me wrong.  Striving to be the best we can be, challenging ourselves to improve…these “competitive” urges are great things. That’s what things like the OlderBeast 90-Day Push-up Challenge and the focus on fitness goals are all about.

But competitiveness can also have these two negative side-effects, which women avoid better than men:

  • Prevents you from even doing an activity. Because you’re not in shape for it, don’t know how to do it, or aren’t especially good/fast/strong at it.  This is a lot of what holds back men’s participation in – take your pick — swimming, running, yoga, strength training, interval training, etc.
  • Drives you to overdo. You run too far or too fast, stack too much weight onto the bar for squats, or don’t take enough rest days or intentional “easy” days.  This leads to injury or getting worn down.

This “overdo” risk and tendency especially has been a perpetual challenge for me.

2. Women focus more on overall-body fitness

They’re more likely to work key areas men often ignore: core, lower back, muscles that maintain posture and balance.

Frequent runners and cyclists are among the most at-risk for lack of overall-body conditioning. But many strength-training guys focus on the big “show” muscles, and thus under-attend to overall-body fitness, too.

male-and-female-muscle-anatomy

Women are much heavier participants in yoga, more likely to swim, and more likely to do “toning” multi-muscle exercises. These overall-body things complement other activities men tend to focus on. But we often restrict ourselves to our habitual workouts, and don’t do these complementary things.

Ever (maybe grudgingly) do some kind of “ladies” workout, and then feel sore in a bunch of unfamiliar places? That should be telling you something, dude.

3. Women are more comfortable seeking out and accepting help

When you’re over 40 and trying to take up new sports and workouts, you should want all the help you can get. Same if you’re trying to make sustainable changes in your diet and nutrition. So you should seek out friends, class instructors, trainers, coaches — even writers like yours truly — as sources of learning and support.

But for many men, it’s against-the-grain to act this way. This is perhaps most so for long-time participants in one or two fitness activities (e.g. running, lifting). They’re very strong and proficient in those activities, and thus reticent to be a “beginner” in something else.

Hesitancy to add new, diversifying activity into your fitness routine is a major enemy of overall fitness, man. You’ll do yourself a big favor by getting over this! And being willing to take a class or a lesson, or to even just ask for help and advice from someone you know, is a big part of getting over this hump.

4. Women focus more on diet and nutrition

Let me say this first: some of the reasons for this are NOT good…our society’s differential focus on the importance of appearance for females vs. males, and the various, serious negative effects of this.  I won’t at all attempt to tackle that huge topic here.

Focusing more narrowly on our what-men-can-learn angle…men will benefit from educating ourselves better, and findings ways to be more disciplined, about food.

Women often seem more curious about why and how food impacts our feelings of health, physical performance and (yes) appearance. They investigate more, learn more and experiment more.

Yeah, some guys with a female partner may protest “that’s because she’s the caretaker of the family and gatekeeper on what food we have in the house.” And I’d say back: “Exactly. And in addition to appreciating and thanking her for that role…shouldn’t you take some increased personal responsibility for what goes into your body?”

Take Action

I admit: I’ve painted with a broad brush in making the four “what men can learn” statements here.

But I think one or more of these is likely to apply to most of you. In my case, #1 (bad side effects of being too competitive) and #2 (not enough whole-body focus) have historically been challenges.

Improvements are in-process. I hope they are for you too, man. Take another look at the list above, and think: what changes could I make?

This is Part One of a two-part series. Part Two is here.

“That’s right, the women are smarter.” (Grateful Dead, Man Smart – Woman Smarter — click to listen)

 

If you think this would be useful to others, please help spread the word about OlderBeast by sharing this post with the social media buttons below. THANKS, MAN.

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1 Comment
  1. Drew G 12 months ago
    Reply

    I shared this with my wife, and she certainly agreed! All kidding aside, this is good perspective — thanks.

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