The secret to how I was able to improve my physical condition without giving up is: training with women. I started with my girlfriend at home. The goal was to get in great shape for a trip to the Caribbean we had booked. We had 5 months to achieve this goal. Even though my girlfriend was already in enviable shape, one thing I’ve learned about women is that they always seem to have a goal. That is the first advantage of training with a woman. Any occasion can be seen as a reason to exercise. A trip to the beach, a wedding party, New Year’s resolution, summer is coming, the office Christmas party. Anything. With that kind of mindset, there are a few concrete deadlines throughout the year that are mostly invisible to my male friends. So, it was this type of mindset that helped me keep on track during the hardest period: The first year.
Another huge advantage of training with a woman, especially when starting to exercise, is that they are more self-conscious of the effort they put in. Men, on the other hand, have a huge disadvantage: ego. We need to appear strong to other male friends who are also working out. As a result, men end up training the strongest part of our bodies (generally pecs and arms) in order to put as much plates as possible. The consequence of this is an unbalance in the proportions of our bodies, targeting the wrong areas, and adopting bad habits in terms of technique.
Women, on the other hand, care a lot more about the way they look when they do an exercise in the gym. This means that they emphasize on form over weight. When I started working out with my girlfriend, we used an old steps video (probably the original steps video) and followed it at home. It was by looking at her that I learned to control my speed in order to focus on the correct form of the exercise. A by-product was the ability to actually be able to work out the next day without having sore muscles all over the place – as guys often do after their egos have killed them the day before in the gym.
I then joined the gym and pledged that I would limit my time there to 15 minutes, in order to make sure I went every day. Remember: consistency trumps intensity. Once there, I dared to try the group classes, where men are few but brave. For the most part, I was the only guy there. But the experience changed the way I saw my gym time. It transformed it from being a serious, lonely, often times mindless act, to a much more enjoyable, mindful, group workout. First was military-cardio, then group boot camp, then I went to the very end of the spectrum and tried Zumba. The result of combining these group classes with body weight or weight training was fantastic. I was seeing gains a lot faster and was more motivated than ever, given that I felt like I was part of a club. So thanks to my workouts with these women who prioritize the group classes over the solo training, I get to burn fat and avoid missing going to the gym.
Furthermore, women tend to focus more on lower-body type of exercise and flexibility. This helped me lose belly fat. If you are a regular guy like me, in terms of athleticism, then you probably have more belly fat than you wish. Lower body training is the best way to burn calories and fat in that section of your body. If you want to have 6 pack, then pay attention to what you eat and train your legs in many different ways.
Flexibility is another point almost always forgotten by the big gym guys. In my own experience, as soon as I started working on my flexibility, thanks to my training with women, I discovered that the post-workout recovery time was considerably shorter.
Finally, I was reminded of an advantage to being a guy by a female coach. One day, during a group training session, she lost her patience a little bit with the women in the class and said: `stop looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking about how you look to others, you gotta train like a man, because each of the guys here do each movement thinking they are the best and completely unaware of anything else`. This made me laugh, but also think about how well males and females complement each other when it comes to working out. We tend to give our best in the presence of the opposite sex.
In conclusion, training with women will:
- Motivate you throughout the year with very concrete deadlines
- Help you focus on improving form and technique
- Improve your mindfulness during the workout
- Improve your cardio
- Improve your flexibility as well as lower-body and core strength
Also, try group classes for motivation and fun! In my case, I improved coordination and found it was an excellent way to give my mind a rest from work. If you are brave enough to try Zumba, maybe you can also improve mental coordination and even learn how to dance (big advantage in social settings)!
Thank you women for letting me workout with you!