Written by By Taryn Newman, for CNN
Fitness trends often start off as men-only fads, just as women were first introduced to flip-flops, skin-tight jeans and denim-on-denim. What we end up with, ultimately, is a culture that works to turn the game-playing, stick-to-itiveness of childhood into adulthood.
The most commonly-used exercise is our first, manly as if running 26.2 miles in one go is a relentless pursuit.
Subsequently, we come to care more about our mental performance. Hence, “men are trained in mental resilience to cope with difficulty” and a “level of emotional stability we find difficult to achieve,” according to one published report on mental health across sports.
As men’s mental health spans the whole spectrum, sometimes even relating to perception of ability, this approach is a highly subjective assumption.
Photo courtesy WPklass
As for the figures surrounding sporting performance, it remains unclear just how “manly” they actually are.
According to the 2011 Australian Mental Health Survey, men were approximately 2.1 times more likely to have suffered from depression than women. Similarly, the same survey found their suicide rate was 3.1 times higher than it was for women.
As men become more reliant on their bodies for maintaining their health, they are entering the gym to fight for a smaller pot of gold.
Particularly with the advent of barbell fitness, this does not necessarily require the same mental acuity to successfully train and reach a fitness goal as it would for a male. But some issues are still part of the equation.
For example, according to a 2014 report, “Medically trained women were at an advantage to more physically amenable men in basic endurance training.”
Also, “Men’s analysis of the health and fitness changes between males and females are significantly different.” This is particularly evident with gym “signature strength training,” which sees the participation of five to ten times more men than women.
‘I don’t do cardio like women do’: Athlete Alex Lukashenko reveals a surprising truth about exercise Women and men aren’t the same when it comes to exercise. Here’s what the world’s strongest man has to say about why.
But the majority of men participating in these higher-end types of fitness are not hiding this fact. In fact, researchers note that men and women typically “acknowledge they still have work to do.”
So how can we encourage more men to realize that fitness should mean more than sweat it out on the treadmill? First, we could all be better at looking after ourselves.
This could be improved by keeping a food diary to help identify habitual triggers, eating in portions smaller than you may have, sleeping well and keeping active throughout the day.
If you are a man who has struggled with stress, anxiety, depression or addiction in the past, then you have an obligation to face these issues and support others who are struggling in their own ways.
Finally, I would strongly urge fitness experts and coaches to be on the lookout for a gender gap in their training programs.
Unlike the typical approach in other sports, where the coach is foremost, the power of a sports coach is ultimately through teamwork and performance.
No one athlete is going to win every game in handball, or sit volleyball.
These teams are made up of swimmers, boxers, wrestlers, martial artists, soccer players, hockey players and other sportsmen (and women). There is no “dominant” team.
So as we move forward in the age of sports culture, the question we need to ask of the fitness world is: who is the coach?