The topic of gender and what is “appropriate” behavior for males and females is an ever-evolving part of our society. What is considered “normal” or acceptable for men and women, girls and boys, is going through tremendous change right now. We are seeing women breaking down barriers and smashing stereotypes in all aspects of society, and fitness is one of them. A big part of this has been brought on by CrossFit. Just look at what the women of CrossFit
are achieving, they are amazing athletes!

Men are also seeing changes in what is expected of them, and what is no longer tolerated, as in the #metoo movement. Before you start rolling your eyes and thinking, “No, I don’t want to mix politics with my fitness” just hear me out. This will all tie together, I promise.

Toxic masculinity, overly macho behavior and unrealistic expectations of men is a very real problem in our society. Fortunately, at our gym, CrossFit surmount, we have not seen many issues with this. But there are subtle, more seemingly harmless aspects of it that creep in, undetected.

To illustrate, let’s rewind the clock a bit.
When I was a middle school kid in the 1980’s growing up in the rural South, I remember we had some messed up ideas about masculinity that I still
hear occasionally– from grownups. In those days, these ideas usually manifested on the playground or during PE class. In particular, flexibility was considered a “female” trait, while being strong was considered “manly.”

The idea was that men should be strong, so much so that you’re kind of stiff when you walk. Being flexible was something to be mocked. I remember vividly in PE class, we were sitting in a “v” and measuring how far we could reach. One of the boys was pretty flexible, and immediately another kid started laughing. “Look at so and so, he must not have any junk!”

The other kids fell in line and laughed along. The bendy kid turned beet red.
When it was my turn to stretch, not wanting to get the same treatment, I didn’t try very hard, and neither did the other “cool” kids…

Fast forward to adulthood.
I was recently at a get-together with a bunch of guys in their mid 30’s and 40’s, mostly married with families. One of them mentioned trying a yoga class with his wife.
“Oh no, how was that?” another guy asked mockingly, implying that it would obviously be a horrible experience for a man and that his wife had forced him to go.

“It wasn’t that bad” he replied, “I did pretty well, just not quite as flexible as my wife.”
“WELL I HOPE NOT” laughed the other guy, implying that no self-respecting man could possibly be flexible. I thought, “This feels just like middle school, and here we are halfway through life, still thinking the same thoughts…”

Let’s go ahead and clear this up: Flexbility is NOT a “feminine” trait, nor does it mean you are lacking “junk.” Stretching is KEY to being successful in fitness and also adds tremendous quality of life as we age. Flexibility prevents injury, improves form when working out, and is fundamental to overall health and wellness.

If you have any of these old toxic ideas about flexibilty still running through your mind, I encourage you to let them go, you won’t regret it! We are one of the few gyms that does guided
warmups and cool downs. Take advantage of that dedicated stretch time, really take it seriously, and see how you improve. Just like anything, stretching takes practice and work.
If you think you’re a tough guy, let’s see how long you can tolerate the couch stretch. Let’s see you forward fold and plant the palms of your hands flat on the ground, Clint Eastwood. What’s the matter? Too much pain for you?

All jokes aside, do you see how these old ideas can creep in?
Try Coach Heather’s Yoga class. Over time, this will translate into huge gains in the gym.
Up next we will look into these issues as they relate to women. I see a great conversation coming out of this. See you at the box!

-Coach Doza