End of term tomorrow - praise be - and today was my last training session of the term with the school mums. I run circuit training classes at school twice a week for a group of ten or so of the mums; it’s open to dads too but the mums have claimed it as their own. It’s something I see quite a lot in my work: women training together, either with a friend or a group or friends. Generally speaking, I think it’s a great strategy: combine training with seeing your mates and you bring a sociable aspect to your session that means you’ll look forward to training for a whole lot of extra reasons, besides getting fit.
But it occurred to me this morning that it’s an approach to training that is almost exclusively female. Very few of the guys I know who take their fitness even remotely seriously, see it as an activity they want to do with a friend. And I think it’s probably down to our competitive spirit and the way we feel about admitting we want to win (because we are all competitors to a degree. I suspect that even those who say they aren’t bothered, are being a little bit competitive by saying they aren’t - they are taking themselves out of the race because perhaps they can’t face losing.) Most of the guys I work with don’t mind admitting they want to trounce the competition. And as someone who can be a little bit obsessive about competing, both with myself and with others, I know how far a healthy dose of fight can go in pushing your limits and maximising your potential.
A lot of the women I work with however, don’t seem to feel comfortable admitting they’re competitive. This morning’s class was a great example of this. I’d brought along the rowing machine and had them taking turns to do a four-minute row while the others completed stations around the circuit. The aim was to see who could row the furthest in the four minutes on the machine. I could see everyone was fired up by the idea and everyone gave it their all, but I was struck by how many reasons these fit, strong women were coming up with as to why they weren’t doing as well as they thought they could be: my legs are too long; I went first; I wasn’t warmed up; I went last; I was tired; this is different from the rowing machines I’ve used before. All these reasons did was show me that they are competitive - they wanted to be the winner - but didn’t feel comfortable admitting it. I see it often: women who have run a 10k together, maybe to raise money for charity, who quietly mention to me afterwards that they wish they’d run it alone as they felt they could have done it much quicker. Why do so many women feel uncomfortable about admitting they want to do better than the others? Does it start at school and the way we teach sport to girls and boys? Big questions. Who knows the answers.
All I know is that next term, I’m going to work on the competitive spirit a little more in my school circuit training sessions. We are going to harness our inner Miss Piggys, and put a little more fight into our fitness. That’s my homework for the Easter break. What’s yours?