Molly Collins is a PE teacher at Pennfield High School in Michigan. She has shared countless stories and lessons on the PLT4M blog!
I want to start off this article with a quick activity. Can you list the characteristics of a person living an unhealthy lifestyle? Go!
Now, list the characteristics of a person living a healthy lifestyle? Go!
Does anywhere on these lists say, male or female? How about strength training?
This brings me to my point. An unhealthy lifestyle isn’t based on gender, and neither is strength training. We, as women, may not have the same anatomy, but we have the same needs to stay healthy. I believe part of that process is strength training.
But why is it that women and strength training aren’t spoken about or seen together often? Granted, strength training for women has been talked about more recently, but it is still not a comfortable combination for most.
For women to feel confident and comfortable in strength training, there needs to be an opportunity to learn and succeed in an environment built to do so.
Women’s Fitness Class
This need is why I created a class called Women’s Fitness. I designed this class to promote a healthy lifestyle for females. Its main goal is to teach students the foundations of fitness and overall wellness. This way, outside of our school walls, female students are more willing to take their health into their own hands.
I created this class because almost 90% of my class rosters, if not more, were males. Whether it was a traditional physical education class or a weight training class, it was almost always all boys.
By creating a class with all females, we break down the barrier for stereotypes immediately. The class slowly introduces girls to fitness through foundational movements and body awareness.
I structure this by introducing activities like yoga, dance, and calisthenics. After that, we progress into strength training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). We focus on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health in each unit.
With the confidence built in the Women’s Fitness class, women then feel comfortable transitioning into mixed-gender weight training or other physical education classes.
I have noticed the women that have taken and excelled in my women’s fitness class are more in touch with the way their bodies move. Some of the best form and technique from students in my weight training classes comes from those women who took Women’s Fitness. It goes to show, mastering the foundations, trusting the process, and putting the focus on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health all play a huge role in creating a healthier generation for the future.
Training Males and Females – Same Or Different?
And while there are different variables to consider, I want to explore a frequently asked question: Should males and females be training the same?
Yes! I do believe males and females can train the same. Unfortunately, males and females learn gender stereotypes early, and it is hard to rewire these assumptions. These stereotypes make teaching strength training to females or yoga to males both hard to do. I have not let that challenge deter me from exemplifying to any student, male or female, the importance of understanding how your body moves and works.
Women 100% belong in the conversation of strength training, just as much as males belong in the conversation of yoga and dance. Who are we to tell young women and men what they are supposed to do to be considered healthy?
Instead, we need to provide them with many different tools to make them stronger in all aspects of health. Developing those four aspects of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, then help students to make decisions for a healthier future.
So, take those lists you made at the beginning and rip them up. We, as educators and coaches, need to lead by example and show and respect that women and men can train shoulder to shoulder with one another. Learning and challenging one another to be healthier as a generation and society.
We can all learn from one another. We just need to start somewhere. For me, it was with Women’s Fitness.