When I first started out coaching, I used to get a lot of the same excuses to exercise. Whilst they were completely valid, most didn’t realise that a simple change in perspective could turn that barrier into a motivator, a signal for change, or a desperate request to be more in tune with their body instead of treating it like a machine. Here’s the top 5 I used to get from fellow female runners, and my advice to overcome them today!
Let’s start off here, anatomically we differ to men (that shouldn’t need pointing out) but in more ways than the obvious (more on that later). Breasts are said to be the 4th biggest barriers for women to exercise. From the size and extra strain that imposes on the body, to unknowing support required from your athletic gear (we’re talking sports bras ladies). Being overly conscious can put a psychological barrier to your runs before you’ve even stepped out of the door.
Secondly, women have wider hips than men, this puts connective tissues (muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia) under a misaligned stress. We have increased risk of knee injuries because of the Q angle – Imaginary lines from shin and kneecap. The measurement between them is larger with the female pelvic anatomy giving an unbalanced weight distribution into the knee joint (poor knees get the brunt of it). The Q angle is often responsible for muscle imbalances, altered knee mechanics and plain old knee pain.
Go give the tata’s the correct support. Follow our in-depth guide on everything you need to know about sports bras, from the correct fit and support you need for your sport and workout style here. Having this conversation with other female runners, or athletes will also help you realise this barrier is more common than you think, so feel less alone, and maybe get a killer bra recommendation from your gal pals.
Unfortunately, there’s not much ado about your natural Q angle directly, but there is plenty we can do to stop a muscle imbalance occurring (keep them pesky knee injuries at bay). How? [Click here] for a full understanding of womens running injures and exercises you can do today!
This has to be the biggest one for us all. How to squeeze in a run with such hectic lifestyles we all seem to lead this day in age – and the one thing on your daily list that tends to slip off is exercise, when actually by exercising even for 20 minutes is significant to improve your mental health, physical health, boost your energy levels and improve your mood, so maybe you can then tick three more things off your list; Superwoman!
Overcoming time restraints
This is where pro-active and creativity will help. We can all find a window within the day to be active. Whether that’s getting off the tube at one station early and walking the rest into work. It could be having a coffee date with a friend whilst walking (heck ditch the coffee and have a jog date). You could steal some time whilst your potatoes are boiling for a little circuit in the kitchen. Or, more often than not, we chose to set out alarm a little earlier and fit a run before work (or after the kids are in bed) because if your really clinical with your schedule; you can find 10-20 minutes to exercise.
Oh I know, there is nothing worse than knowing you need to stick to your training plan when your tired. There won’t be a single reader out there who hasn’t felt too tired to run. But what’s odd, if you can just lace up your sneakers and get out of the door, you will return energised. (and in a slightly more uplifted mood than before, thankyou endorphins!)
Just get out there. The hardest part of a run if too often ‘getting out of the door’ so don’t think, just one step out.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to exercise after work, the fatigue levels of being physically rushed around and mentally switched on really tire me out, so I opt to train before I head to work. Either wake up early, or if your working from home; start work a tad later, that quick run is important for your energy boost.
This is a big one. Did you know 69% of women do not feel safe when out for a run, and a whopping 31% of us have stopped running altogether due to such safety concerns? That’s not to put you off, instead how about running smart? It may seem basic common sense to you, but we all fall prey to letting standards slip especially when fatigued.
Overcoming safety concerns
There are a number of campaigns going ahead you may not realise such as #WEWILL is focused on the positive actions men and women can take to enable to run free from fear, be and feel safe every mile. So you could get involved there, the link to their website is here.
But what can you do personally, that’s actionable right now? I’m so glad you asked…
- Stick to the road rules
- Run where you know is safe (you can always run the route in reverse if you’re bored)
- Keep an eye out for dogs and their leash
- Keep your phone on you
Looking for more tips? My in-depth article about women’s safety and the measures you can take are right here
There’s a fair amount of debate around what women should and shouldn’t do around our periods. And frankly everyone is different, but the up-and-coming science has squandered all the myths about avoiding training at your time of the month. There’s so much research now that explains how your cycle doesn’t have to be a drag, you can work with your body (instead of against it) the fluctuating hormones and everchanging energy levels, to make training more fun, more compatible for us ladies and generate greater running performances!
Overcoming your menstrual cycle
Really, its education and menstruated tracking which will change the way which you approach probably everything (and give yourself a break when feeling tired, even at work). I started (and continue actually) by tracking my menstrual cycle within an app (Flo, and Clue are incredible) but also my Garmin watch is tracking it too (how considerate!) The apps will use your data to help predict your cycle length, hormones present and log symptoms to help you understand what going on.
From there its just some simple light reading.
As a female athlete all my life I have had to go to war with my cycle pretty much since it started, but now, finally, I have answers for you. Experience mixed with science and a pinch of humour for this week-by-week breakdown of your hormones, how to train and why here. You’re welcome.
So, there we have it ladies, 5 of the most common barriers for women to exercise and their respective action plans on how to prevent them from hindering your training. Have any more queries? let me know in the comments.