As the founder of Fitocracy, a fitness social network with over 1.5 million users, as well as a fitness coach who has worked with over 200 clients, I'm in a unique position. I've been able to see how women have approached fitness differently over time. I also have a keen sense of which fitness approaches actually work, as well as the unfortunate knowledge that the worst approaches are often the most popular.
Fortunately, I can say that the Internet has caused a revolution of sorts in women's fitness.
Women are getting fitter than ever for these 4 reasons.
1. They now have role models
Before the advent of social media and the rise of blogs, women only had one type of role model to follow for their fitness advice – celebrities. Unfortunately, if you're a working mom with three kids and no time, you might not relate to someone making seven figures with regards to fitness. Thus, many women were left searching for someone to resonate with. Fortunately the rise of social media platforms such as Twitter and WordPress has spurned many relatable grassroots-based fitness heroines – like Neghar Fonooni of Girls Gone Strong, or Kellie Davis of Mother Fitness. The Internet has given them a voice, and these women are changing the landscape. Neghar makes disciplines like strength training completely relatable while women like Kellie show you that you that you don't need to be a celebrity to get fit – even busy mothers can do it.
2. They learned to train and eat more "more like men."
When I started training, many more women gravitated towards pink dumbbells, high reps with low weights, and the treadmill. They did these things for fear of "getting bulky," when the reality is that neither of these are particularly effective.
That is, strength training without progressive overload won't build muscle, and simple steady-state cardio isn't effective for fat loss. Even worse, many women, starved themselves with juice cleanses to achieve their goals. Thankfully women today are training more like men, much in part because of new Information from the Internet (and the role models above).
What do I mean by that?
This combination, as opposed to juice fasts and endless cardio, is the healthy way to go about making real fitness changes. Even fitness-savvy celebrities, such as Mallory Hagan, Miss America 2013, are incorporating all of the right ways to go about achieving a healthy body (and body image).
As for women getting bulky from lifting weights? Luckily there's a video on the Internet of this 115-lb woman who lifts 295 – more than most men – that quickly dispels this notion.
3. They band together
The Internet has given birth to many fitness communities whose main goals are to empower women on their fitness journey.
Communities like Girls Gone Strong and /r/xxfitness/ give women a powerful haven to band together. These communities not only provide evidenced-based fitness information but also the motivation to venture into the historically-intimidating, male-dominated free weight area of the gym.
4. Articles like this one are becoming more obsolete
If you are a woman reading this article, you may have been upset. If not, you should have been.
Do a quick search of how many times I mention the words "woman," "women," "male," or "men."
Now think about the major themes that I talked about – fitness role models, strength training, and community. Are any of these themes gender specific? They aren't in the slightest. They apply equally to men as well.
And that's because in the new world of fitness, there isn't a line between fitness for men or fitness for women. Sure, there will always be certain sites or nuances that are specific to women – and that's a good thing – but the overall principles and tenets to achieving fitness will no longer be characterized by gender.
That's because people are starting to realize that road to achieving fitness isn't a gender-specific problem, but a human-specific one instead.