5 Obstacles Only Fit Women Encounter

Here at SparkPeople, we're committed to helping everyone embrace healthy, active lifestyles, regardless of fitness level, capability or gender. That said, there are times when certain groups of people face unique challenges. In that spirit, we'll be addressing our female members for the next few minutes—but, guys, we encourage you to keep reading. Consider it an opportunity to better understand the woman in your life.
So, ladies—given that you're here, it stands to reason that you have an interest in health and fitness. Maybe you'd like to lose a little weight, or a lot of weight. Perhaps you want to learn to plan nutritious meals for your family. Or it could be you're just interested in learning about different fitness regimens and building a stronger, more sculpted physique. Whatever motivated you to start down the health and fitness path, you will almost certainly have to overcome some obstacles along the way.
Let's take a look at some of the most common health and fitness challenges that are exclusive to women, along with some tips for overcoming them and emerging as a stronger, fitter and more motivated version of you.

Obstacle 1: Support for "the Girls" 

If you've ever exercised with the wrong sports bra, you know it can turn any workout into an embarrassing—and perhaps even painful—experience. A supportive and comfortable bra is essential to preventing sagging, stretching and pain during exercise. Depending on your size and the impact level of your chosen activity, there are hundreds of different bras to choose from, across dozens of fabrics, styles and brands.
Don't be among the 70 to 80 percent of women who are wearing the wrong size. Check out our tips on choosing the right support for your needs.

Obstacle 2: Workout Safety 

Safety is an important consideration for everyone, but it's an unfortunate fact that the worry is more pronounced for women, especially when exercising outdoors at night or in secluded places. Below are some smart practices to reduce your risk.
  • Bring a buddy. "Walking with someone can be a great motivator and make the time more enjoyable," says Spark coach Jen Mueller. "But more importantly, there is always safety in numbers." Two people are much less likely to be targeted. You could also run or walk with a dog.
  • Mix up your routine. Instead of running the same route at the same time every day, try to vary your exercise patterns. Not only will this prevent would-be attackers from memorizing your M.O., it will also help keep you more aware of your surroundings.
  • Mute the music. Can't get motivated without your favorite playlist? Keep the volume low enough for you to hear what's going on around you.
  • Run or walk against traffic. This will allow you to see any approaching vehicles well before they reach you.
  • Always carry your cell phone. Make sure it's fully charged before you head out.
  • Consider carrying mace. This running mace has an adjustable strap for easy carrying.
  • Share your destination. If you’ll be running or walking alone, make sure someone has your route details and planned time of return.

Obstacle 3: Getting Hair out of the Way 

For men, getting gym-ready means throwing on shorts and a t-shirt, but women have the added hair hassle. There's nothing more annoying than long bangs flopping in your face during a run, or that feeling of sweat-soaked hair plastered to the back of your neck in boot camp. Here are some quick tips for controlling those tresses so you can focus on your fitness:
  • Pull it up. If your hair is long enough, pull it into a ponytail, topknot or braid to get it out of your face and off your neck. This will remove hair-related distractions and minimize the amount of sweat it absorbs.  
  • Stock up on quality headbands. Even with your hair up, or if you have a shorter cut, you might need to tame bangs or flyaways. Look for a non-slip headband that will stay in place even during the most grueling workouts. When you find one you like, invest in a few different colors so you'll always have one on hand.
  • Try a "bunched ponytail." If you have a long ponytail that whips around during workouts, try adding several ponytail holders down its length to keep hair in place. 

Obstacle 4: Gym Hair, Don't Care 

Well, sometimes you might care a little—especially on those days when you have to head to work or a social function after working out, but don't have time to shampoo. What to do with sweaty, sticky or frizzy hair if you've got T-minus 10 minutes between a spin class and a staff meeting? Here are a few quick ideas:  
  • Refresh sweaty hair with dry shampoo—in either liquid or powder form—to soak up excess oil, neutralize any odors and add body and texture.
  • Spritz hair with a water-based spray gel, then do a quick blowout with a dryer. Your hair will already be damp with sweat (appetizing, right?), so take the opportunity to add some smoothness or volume by styling with a round brush while drying.
  • Pull post-gym hair into a sleek up-do to achieve a polished look without a lot of work. Just be sure to run a comb through it first to get rid of any knots and tangles. To add shine and tame flyaways, you can rub in some smoothing serum

Obstacle 5: That Time of the Month 

For some women, periods come with a host of unpleasant side effects, such as fatigue, cramps, bloating, headaches and depression. All of this can make it tough to muster the motivation to work out, but persistence pays off: Exercise has been shown to alleviate many period-related symptoms. As your body releases endorphins during a jog or boot camp session, you may notice less irritability. Other benefits include less bloating and relief from muscle aches. If you find that your periods are just too painful or heavy to tolerate exercise, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor to rule out more serious conditions.