Fitness is all about staying healthy, with looking good a bonus side effect.
When it comes to working out, there is a certain truth to American relationship counsellor and author John Gray’s theory that men are from Mars and women from Venus, as both genders have different ideas on how to stay fit.
Women are more likely to have a holistic approach to fitness and are willing to try new routines, while men tend to focus on bulking up as the end goal.
As cliché as it sounds, bigger is not necessarily better, guys.
So, here are some pointers you men might want to consider addressing or adding into your routine.
Increase your flexibility
Generally, men are less flexible than women, but they still shy away from stretching and Pilates/yoga classes; they just don’t think it is important.
The male wants to focus on building his upper body muscles, especially the shoulders, chest, arm and back muscles, but does little to stretch them out afterwards.
Stretching muscles regularly will help you move more efficiently and stay limber as you age.
It’s also a way to destress.
A tight muscle is a weak muscle.
This is different from the muscle stiffness or achiness that increases to a peak between 24 and 72 hours post-exercise, then subsides by seven days after – this is a sign of muscle conditioning and improving fitness.
Sore muscles after physical activity, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), can occur when you start a new exercise programme, change your exercise routine, or increase the duration or intensity of your regular workout.
A tight muscle, on the other hand, can occur during periods of prolonged inactivity, during exercise and after exercise.
As many of you are weekend warriors with desk- or sofa-bound jobs during this pandemic, your hips are in a flexed position when sitting.
This puts the muscles at the front of the pelvic bone (hip flexors) in a shortened position, and the muscles at the back of the hip (gluteals) in a lengthened position.
Chances are, your posture is also improper as your neck sticks forward to look at the computer screen.
Thus, your chest muscles (pectorals) will be in a shortened position, while your upper back muscles (rhomboids) will be in a lengthened position.
The more stressed you become, the more likely your posture will change such that your trunk will shorten and your shoulders are slouching or lifting up towards the ear.
Over time, this can result in muscle imbalances with the shortened muscles becoming “tight” and the lengthened muscles becoming weak.
Come Saturday, you toss work aside and head out for a run or a game of futsal or badminton.
Halfway through, you experience a painful cramp or spasm – that’s one of the signs of a tight muscle.
Other reasons for the cramp could be fatigue, inadequate hydration or nutrition, and lack of sleep.
Don’t forcibly stretch the muscle when it is in such a tight, contracted form as this can tear the muscle fibres and lead to injury.
Allow the muscle spasm to relax and recover before attempting to stretch out the cramp.
If you continuously stretch your muscles, it will help relax them and minimise the risk of getting cramps.
Try a group fitness class
No, this is not female-only territory. You boys can give it a go as well, no matter how uncoordinated you are.
Having two left feet is not an excuse not to try.
You might be intimidated in a room full of hot-looking females and don’t want to make a fool of yourself.
Chill, my friend! You can always attempt a class virtually and turn your camera off if you’re afraid of being judged.
For gym-goers, bring a buddy along if you’re feeling insecure; if you step on your own feet, put on your best smile and continue.
Engaging in different types of exercises means you’re working your body in different ways, and in doing so, the brain is also forced to work out the choreography and steps.
So, in addition to improving your physical appearance, the brain is also being rewired and kept sharper.
It’s true that group fitness classes may feel a bit too feminine for the average Joe, as oftentimes, the instructors are female and shout out instructions to suit the gals, e.g. “Come on, let’s shake ‘em J. Lo booties”, “Lift those boobies!” or “Work those poh poh (grandmother) arms!”
That last one (I’m guiltily facepalming here) is my favourite for my male dance students, but they know I mean no malice and love them dearly!
Even the most self-assured man, confident in his masculinity, would be a little put off by those commands, especially if it’s coming from a woman.
Still, you can always attend a class led by a male instructor.
And if you think Zumba is only for the hip-swivellers, then try a kickboxing class.
Stop being competitive
We all have egos, but men have bigger ones. And they don’t like theirs being bruised too often.
Silently, they will try to redeem themselves.
Men are considered to be fiercer, more ruthless competitors than women, not only in the workplace, but also when it comes to fitness.
Building their bodies is a way to gain self-confidence and appear more attractive to the opposite sex.
If a woman can do a male “task” better, the man feels insecure.
Doing a plank is an example.
From observation, many of my female students have strong core muscles and can outperform the men, who will then train harder to prove themselves.
Once they can beat a woman, their ego is boosted.
Men also tend to have better upper body strength than women, and that’s where their vanity lies.
While healthy competition is good to a certain extent in pushing yourself to the next level, don’t do it to satisfy your ego and slack off eventually.
Please compete with your own self, not with others, as fitness is lifelong journey to be enjoyed – not merely a destination to arrive at.
Many men fall into the trap of thinking that in order to be better and achieve more; they have to perform all of their exercises at a super-fast pace.
Although that’s true when performing some exercises such as high intensity interval training (HIIT), for others, this is just not the case.
Form is often lost when doing things speedily as the body gets fatigued.
Take lifting weights, for example.
While a conventional repetition takes about two to six seconds, a super slow repetition lasts an excruciating 20 seconds.
When lifting slowly, you increase the amount of time your muscles are contracted, which simultaneously increases blood flow.
This longer “loading” period helps develop and increase your muscle mass.
The majority of weight-training injuries are caused by extraneous movement of the body, which can be alleviated by the super slow technique.
So the next time you train, remember that faster is not always better.
Experiment with different speeds to discover what works best for your body.
It’s not always about puffing, panting and heading home sweaty.
Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email email@example.com. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.
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