Monday, 3 May 2010

It’s A Female Thing

At least here in the West we women live in the most emancipated way ever; but there is a drawback: The phrase ‘Women can do the same things as men’ is often misunderstood as ‘Women should do things the same way as men’.

And there are weird contradictions: In the business world we are told that we should wear suits and use male strategies to get to the top - and we are buying into it, and in the gym we are told we should use flimsy weights and do a lot of balancing work, as opposed to men – and we are buying into it, too.

We should develop more self esteem and find our own ways of doing things. We should accept that men and women approach things differently and that this is a good thing, because it adds a different angle to an issue. We only will get the best out of life if girls and guys work together!

I am not a successful business woman, so I can’t speak for those, but I am pretty good in the gym and hence I feel obliged to set a few things straight:
  • For the girls to consider getting the one or the other muscle themselves, and
  • For my dear male readers to understand their female partners a bit better.

Why Muscles for Ladies?

I have been writing a lot already why muscles are a beneficial thing for women and here I only will give you the headlines, you can find the whole article on Incredible Ladies:
  • Body and Mind Benefits
    • Muscles Reduce Aches of All Sorts
    • Muscles Reduce Osteoporosis
    • Strong Muscles – Strong Mind
  • Fashion and Beauty Benefits - Muscles Give Shape
  • Lifestyle Benefits - Muscles Make Strong
  • Nutrition Benefits – Muscles Increase Metabolic Rate

Where we are different

The one thing that governs all our performances in any sport is that we have less Testosterone than men. All of the below are statistical statements, as one always can find individuals where the reality is the other way round. In average however we are not:
  • as intuitively aggressive in game sports as men, but we can beat the guys with determination, which actually is a more controlled way to achieve a goal.
  • we are not as strong, in some sports we are almost able to compete on an endurance level, though.
  • and with the ‘not as strong’ comes ‘our muscles are smaller and they don’t build up as easily’.

In regard to the latter: Can somebody please explain to me why women should train less, or any different from the guys, given the fact that they build muscles less easily? That is like telling an anorexic not to too eat too much in order to not get fat. Trainers in gyms are too keen to try giving women what they want, instead of giving them what they need. We actually have to train much HARDER in order to achieve similar results to men.

Ahhh, see! That is the thing nobody is talking about, really. Oh well, on female beauty and health sites - sometimes - but not in the open and not in an environment where blokes are listening in. I am rather blunt in those things and addressed a few of the more harmless issues with one of the trainers in the gym. Sooo cute! One could tell he was interested, but he fell from one blush into the other, poor thing.

So guys, here is first hand female info for you to read in your den – no need to blush! It might however help you to understand your ladies a bit better.

The cycle
Everybody knows we have them and almost everybody knows that at times we become bitchy, and a lot of people think it’s just made up to get what we want.

Well, that all might be true in some cases... there however are more severe implications. Trouble is that hormone levels are a very individual thing, and hence it is hard to point the finger onto it and find a fix. What doctors are measuring are ranges, indicating normal or not normal. Within the normal range the effect on individual women can be devastatingly different. Same amounts of hormones can leave one completely unaffected while the other one is thrown into depression, which is barging into her life with a whole conglomerate of physical and psychological symptoms month after month. That’s why it is called a syndrome (accumulation of various symptoms):

PMS – Pre Menstrual Syndrome

I had times where I felt like two different people within those 4 weeks. The first two weeks are cheery and fine, during the second half a big cloud is following me wherever I go and even things I love doing are no real fun. And of course this has an impact on the quality of my training.

There is no one remedy, but there are things one can try, hoping that they will work. Here are my tips:
  • Observe yourself! Knowing allows for work-arounds. I got so good in detecting changes in hormone levels that I now can almost put my finger on a certain hour of a day. My brain feels mushy, I am losing focus and the thoughts are floating rather randomly without ever finding a way into real life and effecting my actions, short term memory is non-existent and I am horribly clumsy. The drive for doing things is changing, the feeling for hunger and appetite becomes inseparable and I am getting greedy, and I am feeling physically weaker.
  • Tell you closest people! Once you are starting to figure out what is happening give your closest environment a warning. In the meantime they are used to me lifting two fingers and grinning a ‘grrrrrr grin’. They firstly won’t be hard on you anymore and it is a relief to not be alone. And they can help shelter you against the outside world towards which one wouldn’t like to explain. For me it was just wonderful to have that pressure off my chest.

  • Condition yourself! I so often found myself ranting in the kitchen about why I ALWAYS have to do things myself, NOTHING is done right,... and it was all about things which at other times would not have bothered me at all. The target usually was dear hubby, the person closest and easiest to reach, but the only person who actually could help to find relief. One is very much in danger to get into a vicious cycle. In my early years I actually shouted at him, later I was just ranting to myself, and now that I know, I take it as a signal and my mantra has become: ’Shut up Rika, it’s just the hormones, another X days and it’s over’. And it always is!

  • Find workarounds! I have lists and notes everywhere during phase two. The important thing is to tidy those up during phase one otherwise it’s getting really messy.

  • Don't start something new induring phase two, if you can help it. Especially not losing weight!

  • Try a dairy (calcium) rich diet! The BBC series ‘The Truth about Food’ looked into a connection between Calcium and PMS, and for some of the test group it made significant changes. I am now taking Calcium+VitD supplement pills. Have a look at the video.
In the video they are frequently mentioning oily fish so ...
  • Try Omega 3! During the same series the connection between Omega 3 and stress was investigated. Have a look at the video. And of course I have the pills in my cupboard, now. I never felt that layed back in my life ever before.
There are many more very interesting articles and videos and some of them are real eye-openers.
  • Try Bodybuilding! An article in the German journal GEO (07/09) is depicting a newly discovered feedback mechanism between brain and muscles. So far it was thought that the brain gives a signal to the muscles via chemical transmitters and that then the addressed muscle moves. It now becomes apparent that on moving the muscle, certain chemicals are produced which go back to the brain and cause the initiation of all sorts of processes which influence every organ in the body. Scientists are now hoping that understanding those mechanisms will help to heal or at least stabilise conditions as severe as Alzheimer disease. This is research in very early stages, it however is established:
    • that there is a feedback loop back from the muscles to the rest of the body which has a bigger impact than ever thought, and
    • that endurance training doesn’t do it as much as resistance training

Even if one is not suffering from PMS, the changes in hormone levels are happening and do affect the body in more subtle or not so subtle ways.


Again it is a very individual thing. There is no point of fretting about why one girlfriend is a killjoy while the best mate’s girlfriend is as chirpy as a bird. Some women can hardly stand upright while others don’t have cramps at all and go straight into the good mood phase. And then there is the handling of those few days itself.

The props a women needs: Gym work – and basically every activity - becomes a nuisance whether one has cramps or not. It’s just awful to feel like wearing a nappy while moving about like a toddler. So press on towels are hardly an option. But not everybody is comfortable with using tampons.

I am pretty sure that especially in cultures where virginity is associated with an intact hymen, the use of a tampon is usually not an option. Although the rupture of the hymen can have many causes, and although usually the tampon should not do any harm if the size and technique is right – there nevertheless is a risk.

Women who have a bit of a lubrication problem and are on the dry side anyway will feel that tampons worsen the problem. The remedy there: Don’t remove it too early, and let it soak full. Works wonders!

And as for the guys: Accept the excuses your lady is having during those days and just be a bit patient. She might say that she can’t play tennis due to a twisted ankle and then shows up in heels for dinner. It’s not always easy to explain those things face to face, especially when the relationship is young. So we tend to make up all sorts of stuff that sounds less gooey. If you really like her and want to help, start counting weeks.

Whoops, someone is not watertight
This was such a taboo subject, even women only talk about it only to very good female friends. Only recently it is addressed more in the media, and it seems that only women who have a baby, or are really old are allowed to leak. They have a medical condition to offer (yes, age seems to be a medical condition these days), so they are excused. The rest of us will get told off by the GP for not taking care of our pelvis muscles and are basically accused of being slackers. Well and that is just not true.

I once got an instruction on testing how waterproof a person is: Drink a couple of glasses of water, wait for half and hour, stand in the bathtub with legs spread and cough as hard as you can!

Duh... I would not have stood that test in my early teens and I was very sportive back then, able to master all sorts of skipping games – not anymore.

Ladies: Don’t let anyone blame you. Sh... happens!

Guys and trainers: Be aware of the problem and help your lady/client to work around it. We cannot trampoline, we cannot skip, and lunges or rattle plate machines may pose a threat to our structural stability.

Again: The second half!

There is one thing, though: Remember that I mentioned before that I am feeling weaker during the second half? I found that not just the muscles involved in holding water, but any muscle tone is less intense during that period of time. So this problem DOES have to do with the darn hormone levels.

On the other hand it IS true that training the pelvis muscles can help to a degree. So knowing your cycle opens opportunities to find a remedy. All those core muscle exercises on a swiss balll are well and nice, but the idea I am following up on at the moment is a bit more drastic.

The theory is that the exercise that is likely to cause leakage is likely to be able to train exactly those muscles as apparently it is putting a lot of strain on it. So I am doing the exercise during the first half testing it to the very limits, hoping that after a while the muscles will be so trained enough to be able to do it in the second half as well – at least with less weight – and that should then be good enough for daily life situations.

My target exercise is deadlifts I found out, that I can do them in the first half of the cycle – given that I pay the bathroom a visit before – and now I am hoping that using that slot for rigorous training will strengthen the whole area, resolving the problem. Will keep you posted on that one!

All the above are the things I know about from my own experience, I however am sure that there are many more issues. If you would like me to address those I am very happy to do so. Just write me and email to rika @ incredible-ladies . com
I will keep your details completely confidential and will only write about the problem itself.

Have a great week!
Always yours,

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