Yes I did say that! I don’t mean that we should adopt the less savoury behaviours we have all seen at the gym or the meatheads with appalling technique cluttering up the weights area but simply that if women embraced the attitude that men have to weights and training they would get the results – and the body – they really want.
So many of us have seen or heard the old story that lifting weights will make you big or bulky and most of us – god I hope its most of us by now! – know that its complete nonsense. To get the lean, toned, sexy body that most women crave women need to get off the cardio and get into weights but how do we encourage that? How do we break that mindset?
Unfortunately there are an awful lot of women out there who read the latest women’s magazine or women’s fitness magazine and are totally influenced by the plethora of headlines that persist in telling them that they can “melt away the fat without sweating” or how to “tone your trouble zones.” They read about all the celebrities who have had amazing fitness or weight loss results but they don’t believe it can happen for them. Worst of all, the fitness and beauty industry is hugely affected in terms of the bottom line by a woman’s lack of confidence – if she feels bad about her skin, her lines, that she is getting older naturally, she will rush out and buy the latest “lets hold back nature” miracle cream!
And lets face it, how many women were ever encouraged to lift weights at school, by their friends, their boyfriends, their gyms? How many trainers are there out there who still push the whole “cardio is the way to go” mentality for women? So how do we get over that attitude? How do we encourage more women that weights (and I don’t mean pink Barbie weights) are the way to get the results they want?
For me, the most obvious one is to walk the walk. It’s no good talking about weights and not being able to show my clients what to do – women need role models, they need to see and feel that other women do it so its all very well having good looking male trainers advocating lifting dumbbells and barbells but if we don’t see women lifting they wont embrace it. I love lifting heavy and getting the technique perfect so I can lift heavier and better is so important to me – I love the sense of achievement when I beat my personal best and I love confounding the expectations of men outside the gym!
We need to see more “normal” sexy women who work out, are toned, have amazing bodies and who extol the virtues of weights; and at this point I have to bring in my hero Belinda Benn who has a completely awesome body, looks feminine and sexy, is a fitness model and is 46! Show me a woman over 40 who WOULDN’T want to look like her!!
But trainers have a responsibility too; it’s up to both male and female personal trainers to explain and encourage, to listen to all the “I can’t” comments and then get their clients to start small and work up. There is no reason why weight rooms shouldnt be full of women lifting weights every day and yet go into any gym and if there is a women using a weight you can almost bet your life it will be under 5kg, she will do about 5 reps and then go back to the treadmill – I see that almost every time I go into the gym and it drives me mad!
In an ideal world I would have my own gym, I would have equal numbers of male and female trainers BUT my trainers would be role models, different ages, abilities, sizes – the female trainers would be perfect examples of how to get fit no matter how young or how old and I definitely wouldn’t embrace the “if it’s for a girl it has to be pink!” mentality!
Anyway back to the subject! How do we, as personal trainers, encourage our female clients, friends, colleagues and people we meet to step away from the treadmill and pick up a dumbbell? There is no doubt that women are not men (!) and whilst women should train like men there is, I believe, a difference in the way women want/need to be treated; if you can build a woman’s confidence in herself and her surroundings you will empower her to get the results she can only dream of;
1. Women want to talk. They want to feel that you are listening to them, that you understand their issues – for me, an absolutely reason WHY more women trainers should be in gyms, women are just more intuitive, more empathic and they “get” what women want.
2. Work out what her goal REALLY is. Not the one she tells you or everyone else about. But the one she REALLY REALLY wants when she looks at herself in the mirror first thing in the morning. This HAS to be the focus, no matter whether you agree or not, if you aren’t working towards this it doesn’t matter what you do she wont be happy and wont progress. The path to get there may be similar (weight loss, fitness etc) but she has to feel that you are taking her on the journey that she wants.
3. Work on small changes in attitude. Change the poor diet choices gradually, encourage don’t censure. Start with small weights and build up – don’t frighten the horses by going hard and heavy the first time you train!
4. Provide good examples, role models of women; provide good science backing up your theories and don’t fall into the trap of pushing clients to poorly thought out websites that extol the latest fad diet or exercise routine. As a trainer you should be educated, interested and able to explain to your clients and friends WHY they should do something
5. Develop a network of strength training clients, trainers or gyms that you can reference. Train in different environments that show strength training as a norm and not something weird!
6. My favourite – praise. No matter how big and more importantly how small, celebrate her achievements. It doesn’t matter whether she suddenly manages to do ten kettelebell swings rather than 8 or if she loses 4lb or if she trains for longer or harder without getting puffed TELL HER. Praise is never forthcoming enough especially in areas where women don’t traditionally excel, tell her she is amazing, tell her she is doing well, that she looks fantastic, notice when she loses 5lbs. Trust me, it makes the world of difference to her commitment, her passion and her loyalty to you.
I saw a fab quote earlier today which said “A woman who loves how her body feels will love how it looks and in turn she will love herself.” So true!