Earlier this week, a sucessful golfer from the 1940’s and 50’s, Frank Stranahan, passed away. I had never heard of Mr. Stranahan, but when I read the article about him, I was amazed. What was amazing to me was that he was also a dedicated bodybuilder & fitness buff. While bodybuilding wasn’t unheard of in that era, it wasn’t as common as it is now. For a golfer, it was unheard of. In golf, just as in baseball, the thinking was that lifting weights was a no-no. Most felt that this would bulk an athlete up. This would then lead to a decrease in flexibility and performance in their sport. Now it is common for athletes in both sports to regularly lift weights during both the off-season and in-season.
I grew up in the 1970’s in Central Florida. I remember going to the local high school with my Mom and Grandmother so that they could lift weights. Yes, in the 70’s this was pretty much unheard of. Women didn’t lift weights. I was at such a young age that I didn’t realize until years later how rare this was. However, we had a unique situation in our town. Since I grew up near the headquarters of the Nautilus fitness company, some of our local coaches were influenced by them. One of the local high school coaches began to open the school weightroom in the evenings for local people to workout. This was before the days of Planet Fitness, etc. There wasn’t anywhere else to workout in our town. The Coach was able to convince my Mom and Grandmother to lift weights to stay in shape. I basically grew up believing that weightlifting was normal for everyone. Heck, I remember walking into a bar on a bench and splitting my head open once. I also remember falling off of a multi-exerciser (that I was goofing around on AFTER having been told to stay off of it lol) and getting the wind knocked out of me. I saw my whole 6 year old life flashing before my eyes. I thought I was a goner for sure lol.
You didn’t see things like this years ago
Obviously weight training wasn’t popular for most people in the past. Fast forward to today. Now I have some athletes that I can’t keep out of the weightroom. I have female athletes that I tell to get in the weightroom more if they want to get better. We look on TV and see women doing all sorts of things, some that many men can’t handle. Isn’t it amazing how far things have come?
One of my favorite magazine/journal covers ever comes from an old issue of Training & Conditioning. I love the title “Barbie Doesn’t Play Sports”. To me, it promotes a hard working, tough image. To me, that sums up my feelings about successful female athletes. They aren’t afraid to work hard. They aren’t afraid to work hard on the court or the field. They aren’t afraid to work hard year round. However, as important as it is, sometimes it is hard to get these same females into the weightroom. Why is this? I think that this is largely because of it being an area that they are unfamiliar with. Strength training is scary for a lot of females. Many of them have been bombarded by images from female bodybuilders. These pictures always depict some lady who is loaded up on every supplement (legal & illegal) that she can pump into her body. Unfortunately, this is the image of strength training that gets burned into many females minds. They quickly decide that if lifting weights makes you look like that, they don’t want any of it. Unfortunately, females need to be in the weightroom. Why?
Injury prevention – Just like male athletes, females need to develop strength to help prevent injuries and limit the severity of those that they do get.
Improved performance – A stronger athlete can run faster, jump higher, accelerate quicker, and decelerate more effectively. These all lead to better sport performance.
Correction of weaknesses – Females who haven’t ever taken part in a solid strength training program tend to have various muscular weaknesses. These then add to injury problems and limit their performance potential. Strength training can quickly start the athlete down the road to correction.
College preparation – Any high school athlete that wants to go on to play in college needs to strength train. Not only will it help their performance (and therefore their recruiting), it will make them stand out once they get to college. If the first time that an athlete has ever lifted is when they show up to college, they are already behind. In my mind, if a female shows up on day 1 and is already comfortable and proficient in the weightroom, she has set herself apart from many of the other incoming freshman athletes.
So, how do you get females into the weightroom? Educate and market. You may have to teach them about the benefits and get them to realize that they won’t end up looking like the female Hulk. You are also going to have to really make a motivated effort to get them started. Once they start to see some benefits, the marketing should take care of itself.