When it comes to working out, women and men can agree on the fact that there is something very satisfying about a tough workout. However, what is tough for one gender is a challenge for the other. Women, in general, are more flexible and coordinated than men so the types of workouts they find challenging would be different than those of men. For the woman athlete who is looking for a challenging workout, there are some options that may be off the beaten path that would be just the ticket.
Capoeira – Part martial arts and part dance, capoeira is many times referred to as a game; however as a workout, it is rigorous and challenging. Based in the dances of Africans and native Brazilians, capoeira requires flexibility, strength, rhythm – all of which adds to the complexity and challenge of this workout.
While it may take some time to polish a routine, you will get a good workout in class while learning the various moves that are a part of the “game”. Finding an instructor may be difficult as it isn’t as well-known as other martial arts forms; however, by doing a little networking with your local martial arts community should yield a connection to an instructor if there is one in your area.
Bikram yoga – Many women find yoga to be a challenging work out as it is, however, for a real challenge try doing yoga in a room at is an average temperature of 105 degrees with forty percent humidity.
Many practitioners of Bikram yoga feel it is beneficial because the heat helps to relax the muscles and allow the stretches to be more complete. The heat and humidity cause the practitioner to sweat more than a regular yoga workout, increasing the amount of calories that are burned. Many practitioners also find that they are able to deepen the stretches and hold the poses longer in the hot environment. The challenge in this workout comes from the yoga stretches that are done in the high temperatures. Even for the proficient yoga practitioner, Bikram yoga provides a tough workout.
MMA training – Even if you aren’t considering going into the ring, following the training regime of an MMA fighter is a challenging workout. Women as well as men are competing in MMA tournaments so there are different training regimes for each gender. MMA training blends several styles of martial arts with traditional cardio and strength training. MMA training is an intense workout, but it is very flexible and is good for people who enjoy a constantly changing workout. Many gyms and martial arts studios offer MMA training classes targeted to people who aren’t looking to go into the ring but are looking for a challenging workout.
Pilates – While Pilates doesn’t seem like a challenging workout while you are doing it, you can feel it deeply in your muscles later. Many women find the challenge in a Pilates workout to be the focus on building of the core. The core area tends to be a trouble spot as well as a weak spot for many women so Pilates provides the chance to strengthen and tone this area while also providing a full body workout.
Similar to yoga, Pilates focuses more in the isometric benefits of the poses instead of the balance in the poses. For women who are looking for a challenging, low-impact workout, Pilates may be able to provide the right amount of toughness without the hard shocks on the body that are a part of other workouts. For the woman looking for a challenging workout that is a little “off the beaten path”, there are many options to keep your workout interesting and intense.
Parkour/Freerunning – The media has had a love/hate relationship with Parkour. In one way, people were fascinated with this cross between running, climbing, jumping, and hurdling. On the other hand, many people thought it was silly to jump over objects or climb walls while out on a run and that Parkour was just a fad. From purely a workout stance, Parkour is an intense, challenging test of fitness, strength, and agility. Also known as “freerunning”, Parkour takes traditional running and places it in an urban environment filled with obstacles and varying “terrain”. Practitioners of Parkour regularly climb, scale, and jump over obstacles as a part of their routine. While the more advance practitioners are known to take some risks with their jumps and climbs, you can get a good workout form doing a mid-level freerun with several hurdles and climbs mixed in with running. While there is no special need for training, you may be able to find a local freerunning or Parkour club in your area to help you get started.
It used to be that saying a physical activity was “for girls” meant it was less intense and didn’t require a lot of athletic ability. Today, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Women’s workouts are every bit as intense and, in some cases, more intense that men’s workouts.
Ashley Jenkins is a professional blogger that shares tips and advice on health, training and nutrition. He writes for Fitness 19, a leading fitness facility with affordable month to month memberships.