If you’re a woman who’s new to the gym, chances are you’ve been overloaded with information and you’re not sure what is the right thing to do. In this blog we discuss the most common mistakes women make in the gym, and what to do instead.
One of the first mistakes women make is thinking they need different supplements and products than men.
Have you ever gone to a local supplement store or scrolled through instagram looking for fitness inspiration, only to see a ton of products or ads claiming they’re made just for women?
Yeah, me too. I went to a GNC recently and saw a ‘just for women’ protein powder. It was flashy with pink lettering and a thin silhouette of a woman on the front. Curious, I looked at the back to see the nutrition labeling. It had less grams of protein per scoop than the other regular brands.
It was even in a smaller container. But it cost about the same. It made me angry because I wonder how many women fall prey to this marketing nonsense!
One of the biggest fitness mistakes women make when trying to improve their health is falling for this BS marketing. Just because it says it’s for women doesn’t mean it’s actually any different. Don’t fall prey and pay more money to get less of a product with the exact same ingredients. Look at the nutritional labeling and ingredients before purchasing. Compare products back to back. Ask questions. Know what your needs are and save yourself some money.
The second biggest mistake is thinking that the best way to get slim and toned is to stick to ‘women’s workouts,’ ie; 2lb pink dumbbells and tons of cardio.
For generations now women have been told they shouldn’t lift heavy like men, because they’ll get too big, or that their uterus might fall out. <– seriously that’s a real claim. Cue eye roll.
As a result, women have flocked to step-class and Jane Fonda style workouts out of fear of ‘training like a man’. I’m starting to think of the movie, The Stepford Wives now where they exercise in heels.
Just say no.
Here’s the truth. Sticking to high reps/light weights and several hours of cardio simply because you’re a woman is also a bunch of BS. The best sets/reps/weight to use is going to be specific to your current strength and your goals. Not your gender.
The training plan should reflect if your goal is fat-loss, building muscle or getting strong. If you’re trying to lose that final 10 lbs stuck around your midsection, but you’re only picking up 2 pound pink dumbbells and flailing around doing donkey kicks every day, you’re not going to get there.
Want to get slim and toned? Getting slim has more to do with nutrition, and getting toned means the same thing as building some muscle. Building some muscle is not equal to becoming the hulk’s female counterpart. Building some muscle means the same thing as being “lean and toned.” Let go of the fear to train “like a man.” You won’t blow up and your uterus won’t fall out either. Scouts honor.
Side note: The women who do get large muscles train deliberately for years and years to get that way. It doesn’t just happen by looking at a dumbbell over twenty pounds. It’s focused work that is intentional and takes discipline and dedication. To the women who do want to build more muscle and train for size, there’s nothing wrong with that either! That’s awesome and something to be respected!
Point being, you should train according to how you like to train, what’s going to get you to your goals and make you feel confident. That’s going to look different for everyone.
Which leads me to a conversation about body image. As women, we’re told our entire lives what’s attractive and how we should strive to look like society’s standard of beauty. Most women spend their entire lives in a constant state of trying to lose weight with dreams of being slim, all the while feeling insecure and never truly stepping into their strength.
We’re told we need to look a certain way if we want to attract a man; be desirable, but not slutty.
We’re told we need to be slim, but not too skinny, toned but not too muscular. We’re told we need to go to the gym to lose the baby weight, but that our bodies will never be the same after having children.
So much confusing and conflicting information… and it’s a load of crap.
Try your best to block out all this nonsense. Take a seat and write down your goals.
What do you want to accomplish? Why are these goals important to you?
Then, create a plan, or find a coach to help you reach your goals.
Once you start training for your goals, you will begin to feel more confident in your skin.
As you get stronger, you will see that strength is beautiful.
With all of this being said, this pendulum indeed swings the other way too when it comes to women training in the gym. Let me explain.
Many professional athletes and even doctors aren’t aware that there are some key differences in women’s fitness!
One of the biggest differences is that we do have ovaries, a uterus and can grow babies!
Yayyyy we’re special…. I got so excited I almost peed myself.
Just kidding… But now that we’re on the topic of incontinence, did you know this is a COMMON thing that happens to women in and out of the gym? As women, our pelvic floor health is unique and absolutely crucial to our health and fitness, especially if you’ve had children.
When a baby grows inside us, our abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles stretch out. Many women sadly have to ‘accept’ what’s known as Diastasis Recti (separation of the abdominal wall) and leaking urine during pregnancy, with little to zero education and guidance from their doctors about recovery post childbirth. Most women never fully recover postpartum, either!
I kid you not, my sisters doctor delivered her baby a year ago and said verbatim,
“It [her abdominal muscles and pelvic floor] will go right back to normal after her six week recovery. It’ll heal on its own.”
Cue my angry face again.
It makes me angry that even our medical doctors aren’t educated on the detrimental and long term side effects that pregnancy and childbirth do to a woman’s body. It’s simply brushed aside like it’s nothing when evidence clearly shows it’s a big deal and something that requires recovery.
The good news is, there is help out there. Pelvic floor physical therapists are staking their claim in the industry. If you’re a woman who’s been hitting the gym and trying to get strong but can’t seem to *not* pee your pants with some exercises, I highly encourage you to search around for a pelvic floor PT specialist. If you don’t know where to start, email me and I’ll refer you to someone.
Incontinence is not a badge of honor (which some box-gyms may lead you to believe), it’s actually a red flag. Your body is warning that your pelvic floor has a dysfunction. Listen to your body and take care of the necessary foundations of strength and in turn you’ll lift safer and be stronger.
As always, do your research, ask questions and if you’re paying more for a product because it’s marketed towards women, chances are you can buy the “mens” product and it’ll be the exact same thing.
Use that money you saved on some new workout pants. I know I will.
Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor & Wellness Coach