Many exercise programs are designed in a cookie cutter and progressively linear fashion without considering differences in men and women. Women have hormonal fluctuations in alignment with each phase of their menstrual cycle; these variations can impact energy levels which can affect the perceived quality of workouts. For instance, if you partake in a regular bootcamp class and feel full of zest on some days, but lethargic on others, you might be inclined to judge yourself negatively. Awareness of what stage of your cycle you are in is helpful when deciding what type of workout is best for you that day. Understanding the physiological process of menstruation can help women stay active in a way that supports their hormones without feeling shame and guilt when they can’t sustain maximum intensity during every workout.
Additionally, women naturally have a higher percentage of body fat than men. When women physically compare themselves to men without considering hormonal and natural body fat percentage differences, it automatically puts them at a disadvantage. The only instance of comparison that might be helpful is when comparing oneself to oneself because only then can all the contributing factors be considered equal or fair.
There are many components that shape one’s metabolism, such as, age, genetics, diet, hormones, lean body mass, etc. The great news is, humans have some control over the rate at which their body burns calories and ultimately how they look and feel. We know, for instance, that lifting weights increases resting metabolism. The key is not to force yourself to go hard during every single exercise session. Instead find a coach/program that understands the differences in men and women’s hormones and energy fluctuations, one who applies those differences, makes you feel good, and delivers sustainable results.
I want to convey the importance of encouraging you to listen to your body as opposed to pushing harder just because you were previously able to do an exercise if it doesn’t feel appropriate now. This applies to both men and women. It is important to listen to the subtle signs our bodies give us. In doing this, we prevent burnout and are more likely to stick to a routine that works for us rather than a constant drill sergeant approach.