Is the gym the same on Mars and Venus?
Why do you workout? Did you ever think it varied between guys and girls or even had a basis in.. gasp.. science?! There are so many differences between men and women that can be seen in so many aspects of communication, leisure activities, relationships with friends, motivation at work. It only makes sense that motivation for working out varies between genders and I’ll explain why you should care.
Let’s go back, way back, to when we lived in caves, relied on hunting and gathering and had to watch our backs for a real-life Jurassic invasion. We weren’t so sophisticated back then, so our hormones and basic motor functions ruled our actions and instincts. Our whole lives as humans were dedicated to survival and recreation. Women had protective instincts to raise their children, uphold the family structure and help others in their family and community (it takes a village, right?). Women judged their success on finding a strong mate, growing and nurturing a family and connecting with others to share their skills. Men put all their time and energy in to hunting, protecting the flock and finding safe ground. Men often had to beat each other to claim land and fight off predators. They had to be strong, vigilant and clever to survive and be successful, which was often practiced in sport.
Only the strong survive, so you can imagine the favorable traits of successful humans were passed down and amplified through the generations. Fast forward a few thousand years and you still see the same traits but in
different ways. Women value skills and looks to attract a strong mate. Men thrive on competition to be the strongest, fastest and a winner. Speed this science lesson up to modern times of social media influence, constant connectivity and availability and both financial and social gains from these strengths, and you have two very different motivating factors for being in the gym.
My theory actually has evidence to ring true in today’s time and boils down to your motivating factors, some of which you can’t really control. In a study including almost 200 college-aged voluntary participants, researchers found differences in amount of exercise, motivation behind exercise and quality of life as shown through questionnaire responses. Women exercised more than men, cited toning and weight-related reasons for motivation for working out and had a higher quality of life. Men were found to work out for leisure and enjoyment.
So what does this mean to you?
Differences between men and women go far beyond just physical abilities in the gym. Yes, there is usually a different ‘Rx’ weight for men and women for a reason – our physical strengths are different in degree, but not need. Unfortunately, there is not a ton of data for women in strength sports, or in sports period until the last 50 years or so. Biologically, women have less muscle mass than men on average. However, women tend to be more flexible. These are just two of the ten general physical skills that is one of the models of fitness in Crossfit. Imagine how the genders can vary in all of the aspects of fitness!
We all should care about our differences because we can learn from one another, both physically and mentally. Men and women bring different perspectives to the class atmosphere, which can help everyone evaluate
their own strengths and weaknesses and continue to develop and refine them. Men typically value routine and stick to the same movements they are comfortable with doing. Women often value the community and connectivity that a group class can provide, as well as the variety of exercises and settings to keep them interested in a workout program for a long period of time. Men can help show women that they are capable of more than they may realize and sometimes you need to push yourself to failure just to see where your limit is. Women are often afraid of failure, being driven more by the self-consciousness of not succeeding than the satisfaction of achieving a new goal they may not think was possible. Men often turn off the ‘safety switch’ in their brain that holds them back from trying a heavier weight or going faster than they have before.
Who knows if men are from Mars or if women are from Venus, but I bet the gym on each planet looks quite different from the other, just like men and women have different reasons for working out and workout styles. I
encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and take a page from the other genders’ book!
Written by: Tina Elgin
For: Locomotion Fitness, 2019
Int J Lib Arts Soc Sci. 2014 Jun; 2(5): 65–76.