Is there something women know about health and fitness that us guys don't? I'm referring to the fact that for every running and racing walking event I enter, there are always more women than men. Sometimes a lot more.
At last summer's inaugural Lululemon-sponsored "Sea Wheeze Half Marathon" in Vancouver, over 80% of the 5,900 participants were women. You might say "No kidding, what guy wants to go in a race sponsored by Lululemon?"
But the Lululemon half marathon is just the tip of a North American, if not a world-wide, phenomenon that has seen an explosive increase in the number of female runners. In 1989 women made up just 23% of all participants in USA road races, but by 2012 that percentage had doubled to 55%. In its May/June 2013 edition, Canada's national running magazine, Canadian Running, reported that in the USA "women now account for 55 per cent of all participants in road races and nearly 60 per cent at the half-marathon distance."
These statistics are certainly consistent with my own experience from the last couple of years having run in races big and small in Toronto, Victoria, Nova Scotia, Yukon and Maui. We've come an awfully long way since 1967 when legendary marathoner Katherine Switzer became the first woman to infamously run in the then men's-only Boston Marathon. It wasn't until 1984 that women were allowed to compete in the marathon at the Olympics, but in 1967 Switzer broke a barrier that in the last 20 years has seen a tsunami of women take up running and compete in races across North America. These days, in addition to the thousands of running events that take place across North America every year, a 2012 report by Running USA indicates that there are now over 200 women-only running events annually in USA. Canada too has many women-only events including the Niagara Falls Women's Half Marathon.
So what can men learn from this? For starters, it's certainly not the case that men aren't running anymore. But the huge influx of women into the running scene in the last 20 years is an indicator that women are more committed to health and fitness than men. But it's relatively easy to start to make a commitment to health and fitness. You could begin with something simple like going for a walk at lunch-time at least once a week as well as once on the weekend. Buy an inspirational magazine that focuses on some aspect of health and fitness like Impact Magazine. Consider forming a running or walking group with friends that meets weekly, and plan to have every outing finish with something relaxing like a coffee or lunch at your favourite cafe. Or, sign up for a learn-to-run/walk clinic through your local "Y" or running store. Buy yourself a wild pair of running shoes ─ this season's colours are positively eye catching and even outrageous. Finally, even if you don't really like running or walking all that much, think of it as cross training for other physical activities as well as work and life itself.
So gentlemen, next time you see a group of women out for a run, take heed and follow their example. You'll feel better for it mentally and physically. Your family, friends and work colleagues will benefit too!
Tom Ullyett is the ADM of Legal Services with the Yukon Department of Justice in Whitehorse, Chair of the Legal Profession Assistance Conference (LPAC) and an avid trail and road runner.