In a fitness world where we’re bombarded with constant claims of the best deal and the most fun and the best results and the easiest plan… how are you supposed to know how to sift through it all to find the best for you? Because it’s all about YOU. Your friends, family, teammates, coaches, chiropractors, physical therapists might make recommendations, but in order to bring YOU toward YOUR goals, it has to be about YOU. YOUR body, YOUR mind, YOUR goals. So just like always, if you ask me the question, “Hey Carina, what’s the best women’s fitness program out there?” I’d reply with more questions: “where are we starting from? Where are we going? Most importantly, what do YOU like to do?” And then we start sifting.
As women, we need different principles in our training and should consider our options differently. Because it’s not just about how fast or how heavy or how long we’re at the gym or how much we can pack into our workouts. (Shouldn’t be for guys either, but that’s another article…)
So. What DO we look for? Let’s come up with a checklist. Check most of these items off the list, first one for sure, and you’re on the right track.
- It’s something I like to do and it fits. Fitness has to be fun. Has to, otherwise it’s a chore. You dread it, or even during the workout you can’t wait for it to be over. There are many many modes of exercise, activities you can choose to bring more fitness to your life. But something about it has to feel good as you lay out your clothes the night before. Something about it has to boost you to push a little harder mid-workout. Something about it needs to pull you back to train again. If you hate running, running is a terrible fitness regime for you. If the only pool for laps is 30 minutes in the wrong direction after work, swimming isn’t going to cut it. If it’s at 5 am but you’re up till 11 every night, it won’t work long term. Trust me, I’ve been there. It has to FIT into your life.
- Find a TRIBE. I love this, not only because I come from team sports and great family and have always loved being part of a network of love and support through ups and downs, but because TRIBE means the team, it means we fight together and work for each other and we all grow because of it. Your workouts can be solo if that suits you better, your tribe will be in another aspect of your life. As women, we crave connection and community and we thrive when helping and supporting as much as when we need and feel the support from others. We also need a place where it’s ok to be vulnerable, to strive, to fail, to need help, and to ask, to yearn. This has always been a huge challenge for me. To let others know about my needs must mean I’m lacking something: strength, knowledge, experience, capability… But really, finding a place (online training communities are amazing for this for many folks) where you can be real and honest and ask for help means you too get to learn and grow and actually achieve what you set out to do! Reach out, lean in, and go for it.
- It’s not just men’s training in a cute outfit. We have different bodies, different minds, and things we don’t even notice set us apart so drastically that we can’t follow what the guys do. It’s NOT that women need lighter weights, or less intensity, or a less competitive environment. No, no, no. We DO need to lift heavy, to push hard, and to let those around us and that badass athlete between the ears to take us to another level. (And of course, it’s FINE to train with guys! Mixed classes like boot camps are super fun, very effective, and with a completely different energy than when it’s just girls. But you asked about women’s fitness, so…).
- Hormones should be considered. Yes, it’s OK to talk about your cycle and you should. Any trainer or coach who asks you about it is not getting unnecessarily personal. He or she is really wanting to tailor your training so you get the best out of each session, which will change week to week and day to day. IT MATTERS. So pay attention. The detail is a topic for another article (if you want more, let me know) but this is the gist of it: https://www.facebook.com/glamour/videos/10154657322060479/
- It’s got to taste good and be real. Nutritional guidance comes along “included” with many fitness programs these days, and often there are recommended supplements that go along with it. Just wanted to bring this up, since sometimes the focus becomes promoting products rather than promoting YOU. Keep your nutrition plan simple, because your food should be. “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Michael Pollan has said a lot of other interesting things about food, but these 7 words might be his most powerful. Nutrition can be complicated, but shopping and prepping shouldn’t be. Get stuff that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Corn on the cob? Awesome. Corn that’s been ground up and smashed into a tortilla? Good, as long as it doesn’t have much else added to it. Corn that’s been diluted with other fillers then fried and doused in colorful flavorings I can’t pronounce and put into a snazzy bag? No thanks. If you have young kids just learning to read, take them shopping. If there’s an ingredient they don’t know or can’t sound out, it’s not food and it should stay on the shelf.
So really, if you want to search for info on women’s fitness programs, there are as many options as there are colors in a farmers market in the summer. You’ll be met with hundreds claiming The Answer: the cheap, fast, easy way. Well, you are what you eat, so don’t be cheap, fast, or easy. Be real, be honest, be whole.
So think it through, test the waters, check off the list, and have some fun!
Here’s to you,
You can find more information from Carina Abrams over on her on Instagram @drivesportslab or on her YouTube Channel Drive Sports Lab!