Recently I was in the Rec and I did something we all tell ourselves we very courteously will never do in a gym: I looked around. Indeed, everyone else seemed to be doing the exact opposite of that. The people in the weight room were focused on counting their reps and the people on the cardio machines were focused on watching their paces. Or, rather, the men in the weight room and the women on the cardio machines. There were a few exceptions to the trend, but the split was drastic nonetheless. This divide certainly has been observed and commented upon prior to this article (Estrogym, anyone?), usually followed by a typical discussion of why women would tend to prefer cardio while men would tend to prefer lifting on this campus/in this society/etc. Instead, this piece will focus on the aftermath of such routines on the body and why the benefits of changing the stereotype extend beyond breaking societal barriers.
Beginning with “the runner” – the individual who hits the treadmill/elliptical like it’s his or her job. The biggest issue I’ve noticed with this kind of gym-goer is boredom. Too often I see people scrolling, reading, or otherwise disengaging from their workout when machine cardio is all they do when they could be enjoying their workout instead – all in the name of burning fat and staying lean. In truth, this kind of cardio with no cross-training can lead to muscular imbalance and injury. From this perspective, “the lifter” is actually a lot more on track with working out in a way that is safe for his or her body, as long as lifting does not lead to muscular imbalance as well (i.e., targeting solely upper body while neglecting the legs).
Social implications aside, it truly is more beneficial to the body to explore different kinds of movement and exercise, no matter what your choice of exercise for the day may project about you. Whether you identify as female or male, you identify as human above any other label. Humans were made to move – to run, jump, and lift heavy objects. Not to go to the gym. But, in a world where moving and having a gym membership are becoming increasingly synonymous, all we can do is strive for balance– holistic workouts to complement the multidimensional people we are.