This article was inspired by a recent chat with a friend, during which we discovered how similar our experiences with strangers giving unwanted advice at the gym are. And while I meant for this to be a funny article, it turned out to be more of a this-pisses-me-off-so-much article. Oh well, I hope you are able to see both sides of it. Here are my top 4 (brace yourself!):
1. “You look good now, but if you keep exercising like that, you’re going to start looking like a man.”
I bet at least 90% of the women who have ever stepped into a gym have heard that. What’s implied is that if you use higher weight and keep adjusting the resistance to your continuous progress, you will – get this – become bulky and “men-like”. I’ve heard all kinds of variations of this statement but the one above must be my “favourite”.
Two things that get to me about it: First off, I just “love” how some random guy assumes that not only is he entitled to rate my (or anybody else’s) body but he’s opinion of MY(their) appearance and the way I take care of MYSELF (themselves) is so important that he needs to share it with me and I need to take it into consideration. Sounds logical, no?
Second, the profoundly wrong idea that women shouldn’t train the same way men do. We should stick to the popular “lower weight, high reps”-scheme because, God forbid, you might actually get some muscle definition.
The reality is this – a well-balanced strength and endurance training program benefits you in many ways (regardless of your sex). It improves your health, your posture, makes you less prone to injuries – in and outside the gym, can slow down some of the common side effects of aging, and contributes for an improved mental health and confidence. This is just naming a few. Sadly, what I often see in the gym are women stuck with the same exercises at the same resistance for months, if not years. And not surprisingly – their physic never changes, their strength never improves, their endurance is never challenged. In other words – they never improve. The body is extremely adaptive, which is why you need to constantly increase the resistance and/or intensity of your workouts in order to keep up your progress.
Finally, no – it is highly unlikely that weight training will make you look men-like, unless you are making conscious efforts to do so AND you are taking the appropriate supplements for it AND you are following the right nutrition plan to support building all that muscle mass. But yet again – “bulky” is very subjective. What seems “bulky” to you might not seem the same to me and vice versa. But here’s the thing – it is nobody’s business to decide that for others. So I hope more people keep their opinions on others’ bodies for themselves and focus on their own.
2. “You shouldn’t use such high weight, believe me, you’re gonna regret it when you’re older and everything hurts.”
Ah, another favourite of mine (yes, unfortunately I’ve heard that more than once). Although similar to the priceless “advice” before, this one implies that resistance/weight training can cause you various pains once you reach certain age – joint pain, back pain etc. Seems like this is a widely spread myth. The truth is quite the opposite – weight lifting strengthens the muscles around your joints, helps your joints to stay naturally lubricated and prevents bone loss. The benefits are countless. Of course, the catch is that you should always keep a good form while performing an exercise.
3. “You shouldn’t squat that deep – if you go so low you lose the tension in your quads and the exercise becomes pointless. It is also bad for your spine!”
Oh.my.god. I just couldn’t believe that when I heard it. Here’s what happened – I am doing my back squats (I believe I was doing sets at 75kg that time), had my headphones on, minding my own business. Then this guy approaches me and gives me a sign to remove my headphones. I’m not thrilled about that already but I still do it and he asks me if I’m a beginner. Because – you know – any female beginner starts squatting at 75kg. Anyway, I tell him that I would not exactly call myself a beginner. Regardless, he proceeds to explain to me that watching me squat so low made him cringe, since it was so bad for your lower back. Not only that, but it was also pointless to do so, because when going into a deep squat, you would lose the tension in your quads. He demonstrated to me what he thought was a good squat form.
I was really baffled that with all the information out there, someone could be as confidently ignorant as this guy.
The squat is one of the best compound exercises and, as such, it involves many more muscle groups other than just your quads. It’s a complex exercise and requires attention to many little form details. Most importantly, a squat is only a squat when your hip crease is below your knees. Check my article about the different types of squats, if you have any wonders about what a proper squat looks like.
4. “Women should focus more on cardio.”
Yeaaaah….no! Just the opposite! Unfortunately, I still see people coming in the gym just to spend 30-40 minutes reading a magazine at the stationary bike. Nope, that’s not bringing much to anyone, regardless of whether it’s a woman or a man but I guess I already rambled enough about how beneficial a well-rounded training program is. Furthermore, I would suggest reducing the traditional steady-pace cardio (such as long treadmill runs or similar) and instead implementing more HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts in your routine. HIIT is much more effective in boosting your metabolism, burning fat and increasing your energy levels. And these are just a few of the advantages. I promise you, it is worth giving it a try.
I know encounters like that will not cease. But it doesn’t matter – I usually just nod, smile and keep doing what I am doing. Bottom line – information is all around us and it’s our own responsibility to do our own research.
What about you?
- What are the most absurd things you’ve been told at the gym?
- How do you react when someone interrupts you while training?
- Do you accept advice from strangers at the gym?