Running Ideas

Men and Women are Different!

In this tip, I’m not going to go into who is the smarter, cleverer, and better sex...we all know the answer to that…but this tip is going to look at how we are different physically and how that affects our fitness and running.

One of the reasons I am writing this tip, is that I have been doing lots and lots of running for my ultra-training, and most of it has been with a man, Anton. So I am noticing differences in how we run and I am wondering why. One major difference between Anton and I (and we are similar matched in endurance and pace) is the way he runs down hills, he goes down like a billycart, straight and full on…meanwhile I am tip toeing down from side to side like a ballerina. Is it fear, strength, our different physical shapes, is it a boy /girl thing? I know I catch him back up on the uphill or on the flat, but I will never get him on a downhill. I was discussing it with Cathy on a run last week and she said ‘oh for sure men have a different centre of gravity to us’ is this why?  I decided to do a bit of research on that and other differences between the sexes...when it comes to fitness and running

Men and women do have different centres of gravity. Women’s centre is around about our hips. We have a larger pelvis and hips than men and mostly women are heavier below the waistline than above. Men on the other hand due to their physique carry more weight above their hips, so their centre is higher, usually just below the sternum and front rib cage.

However, this doesn’t mean it makes women more likely to fall, it actually should mean that we don’t fall as much as our centre is lower to the ground. The theory is that men rely on their muscle strength, they trust it more and use brute force when approaching a challenge and go for it. Women on the other hand can’t rely on the muscle as much so we use correct form or gather together our core strength, this means we slow down a bit to get it right, rather than going at it like a bull at a gate…like the boys do.

Their muscular strength also gives men  confidence to take risks, they don’t tend to weigh up the consequences when it comes to physical challenges the way women do, they just take it on and hope they come out on top. Whereas women weigh up the challenge a lot more, and decide what the best approach is and then go with that. For me, who has had a few falls with running, I say take it slow and don’t fall and catch up elsewhere, whereas Anton’s theory is there is nothing better than zooming down a hill, passing everyone and then waiting at the bottom looking up and saying ‘come on what’s wrong with you’. Yes I know they are also very competitive and childish, but I will discuss that in another tip…I may also add here that another physical difference is that men do have a thicker skull than women, one of the many reasons that men are often called knuckle heads!

There is another factor in the downhill running as well. Women are more emotional creatures; they rely on their emotions, express them more and use them to figure things out; men on the other hand tend to suppress their emotions. Fear is an emotion, so women deal with the fear of falling or crashing way before it happens, men can suppress the fear emotion and tend to deal with the consequences if anything does happen. Now don’t think I am knocking men, I would love to be able to take the handbrake off and go like a billycart too, but of course like many woman, I am ruled by my emotions!

One more thing on falling; women fall more and suffer minor injuries as a result, however, men fall less but are more likely to die or suffer major injuries from their falls, once again it comes back to risk factor and I’m sure a little bit of the knuckleheadiness too!

The major thing that makes men and women different is of course our different hormones, men have Testosterone and women have Oestrogen

Testosterone is the reason men have bigger muscles and are stronger. If a woman and man of the same height and weight worked out for the same amount of time with the same resistance the man would end up with bigger muscles and lose weight more than the woman….as unfair as it sounds its true. The Testosterone works on growing the muscle and in turn a big muscle has a better metabolic rate and therefore burns more calories.

On the upside though girls, we have more flexibility, which oestrogen gives us, so we suffer less from stiffness and therefore suffer less from injury.

And get this girls, women are stronger than not in muscular strength but we are better survivors, apparently our hormones make us less likely to suffer illness and injury and we cope better with shock!

Ok I will be nice to the boys now. No woman has ever equalled any athletic record set by a man…even a female horse has never beaten a male horse in any race at the top level.

Back to girls…we are more co-ordinated than men, no surprises there…not so much with big movements but small refined movements. And it’s well documented that women are more adept at doing more than one thing at once...that is why we can dance, do aerobics types of classes better than men because we can move different parts of our bodies in different directions, meaning we can do two things at once. If men are asked to move their arms and legs in different directions, they have trouble co-ordinating them. They are far better at moving the legs, stopping and then moving the arms. So they are good at running, catching a ball, stopping and throwing the ball back, all done at different times and one at a time.

Men have larger hearts and lungs, and their higher levels of testosterone causes them to produce greater amounts of red blood cells this translates into differences in intake and delivery of oxygen in some aspects of performance, therefore when a man is jogging at about 50% of his capacity, a woman will need to work at over 70% of her capacity to keep up with him.

Men sweat more. Another funny thing between the sexes, women have more sweat glands than men, but men sweat more. Fit men perspire the most, significantly more than fit women, especially during more intense exercise. But athletic men do not use more sweat glands. Fit women have just as many glands active and pumping; they produce less sweat from each gland.

The value of sweating is to cool the body down, and fitter people do sweat more and start to sweat sooner as their bodies have taught themselves to start the cooling process quickly. In other words, the women are less adept of ridding themselves of body heat by drenching themselves in sweat. However, Women also lose heat through their skin as a way of cooling themselves down more so than men, which is why we get redder in the face more than men; the heat is evaporating through our skin rather than sweating out.

However, women can last longer! Women have fewer slow twitch muscle fibers (the muscle cells that work best for endurance activities) However, because women have a higher percentage of body fat than men means we can supply fuel to our muscles longer than men. Research indicates that in an analysis of world-record times in events on land, in water, or on ice, the longer the event the better the women perform in comparison to men.



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