Monday, September 5, 2011

Never be more then 12 steps from chocolate

No, I'm not joining a 12-step program for choc-aholics! Today I am going to Belgium to assist the Canadian Junior National Cycling Team for their training camp this week and this quote is one of Belgiums claims to fame. I am excited to see another country, it is only 20-minutes from here but hey, it is another country. I will be serving as a chaperone and massage therapist for the team. I'm excited to ride around in the car with all the equipment while the athletes train and race across the countryside. Before I leave for Belgium I will be teaching two classes at UM sport. I was told to expect about 70-participants for my classes. This is going to be amazing...I can feel the energy already :) At Canadian Universities the weight room is packed this time of year. Classes are more popular in Sept and Jan but never as busy as the fitness centre. At the University of Maastricht it's all about the fitness classes. The weight room at UM Sport is the size of a high school weight room with few free weights and at 6:30pm last night there were only 5-people in it. I've observed that there are very few male participants in classes here and that they tend to participate in the conditioning classes that are more like metabolic circuits as opposed to the aerobics, zumba, or workout mix classes. In the spin classes I have observed an even split between men and women which is different then Canada but I think it is because cycling has no gender bias here. The weight room in Canada is predominantly male dominated with few females lifting free weights, doing squats and my personal favourite, chin-ups. It begs the question "Why is there a gender difference when it comes to participation in fitness?". I know that it isn't a physiological difference. We can all achieve strength and endurance improvements with training. The muscle mass we gain is different because of hormonal differences but this is no explanation for lack of participation. For women, I think it's the fear of getting big, bulky muscles, not knowing what they are doing and feeling like they are being "checked out" by male participants. Well, I've been training for years and I have seen great strength and endurance benefits and guess what NO BULK! I think more then being checked out people stare because we are a minority in a weight room. When it comes to fitness class participation I've heard from instructors and men that it's the inability of men to keep to the beat of the music. I know myself that dance style classes are a real challenge for me. I feel like I don't get a great workout because I'm trying to figure out the moves. There are a number of classes that don't have this as a requirement; Body Pump, Strength Challenge, Circuit etc. So, what is it??? After being here and seeing that the gender divide exists across the pond the same as in North America I have come to the conclusion that it's the stigma of the old school fitness classes and the lack of accessible female role models. Currently, female role models are professional athletes, body builders, and fitness instructors but where is the girl next door? The average, relatable women? Ladies, we need to get in there and inspire each other to be in the weight room because if you're not lifting weights you are missing out. The benefits are endless; psychological and physical :) For fitness classes I think it's the perception that only men who like to wear spandex and shortie, short, shorts like Richard Simmons take fitness classes. A strong male role model in front of a fitness class makes all the difference. So guys, for the health of your fellow man, get out there and start teaching.

1 comment:

  1. great post, Alana! the social construction of masculine/feminine bodies and the way we work to achieve that (even if perhaps common ideas about how to achieve those bodies are incorrect).

    How about different motivations to work out? I think many women are motivated by losing weight and many men are motivated by gaining muscle, which may contribute to different preferences.

    Your point about fitness role models is a great one- I would venture to say many people are uninformed about many intricacies of exercise (myself included) and just copy what others are doing, or go with a friend and learn from doing what they do, potentially perpetuating the gender divide.