5 Ways To Be A Confident (not Conceited) Fitness Professional
I do like to think that over the last decade of working exclusively with women, I have learnt a thing or two. And I know my skill lies in being able to simplify the complicated and sift out the important parts, and share this in easily consumable ways with the learner. However,
I do not know everything… and I am the first to admit it…
But I do consider myself a life-long learner.
A big part of being a learner, is to be an observer. A questioner. And a trend-watcher.
Over the ten plus years I worked in education (my first career before fitness), I observed many teaching trends come and go. Perhaps you can remember back to when you were taught to write? (depending on your age and what country you went to school in). Writing may have started by sounding out words. Phonics were once considered the holy grail. Except children became so focused on sounding out words, that it often hampered their creativity. To combat this, next came the “free writing” trend… encouraging children to be creative and not get caught up on spelling. Until national averages of spelling took a big dive.
The “new” trends of exactly how children learned to read and write where usually dictated by the “who” was the current latest and greatest. Government would get wind of it, tell schools this is what you need to do and the teachers were left scrambling, trying to implement and navigate the new system… often just one step ahead of the kids.
There were some schools and teachers that 100% adopted this new way of learning/ thinking /teaching and often at the expense of the previous system. In effect, they threw the baby out with the bathwater. And the opposite was also true… there were schools and teachers who were slow to adopt and taught in exactly the same way that they had done for the past 20 years.
And the results?
In both systems many children flourished and some did not.
Not one teaching system or strategy catered to all children and their learning goals.
The most confident (and successful) teachers continued to explore new ideas and strategies and quickly adopted the ones that worked, into their practice. However, they did not discount their past experiences in their excitement of new solutions. They simply added to their repertoire of skills and strategies to get the best out of their students.
I continue to be a teacher, with my students now being the women who visit me in my studio, or the fitness professionals who want to learn from the systems I have created.
I often have women seeking me out, because they want to become (or are in the process of becoming) Fitness Professionals. Then often have been motivated by their own experiences and want to dedicate their profession to working exclusively with women, especially mothers.
And often they confess to me about feeling paralysed by the fear of not knowing enough. They are passionate and want to make the difference. And although our fitness education does give us strategies and systems for strength and cardiovascular gains (amongst other things), these standard fitness qualifications do not adequately equipped Fitness Professionals to work exclusively with women.
To pretend other wise, is nothing short of conceited. And if you are reading this and are thinking “I don’t proclaim to work exclusively with women”… exactly what percentage of your clients are women?
Here are my 5 top tips to become a confident (not conceited) Fitness Professional:
There was a time when information around pelvic floor, DRAM, hormonal considerations for women was harder to locate than a belly button on Eve… however, I firmly believe that that is not the case anymore. Even in conferences like FILEX, there has been a significant increase in sessions that differentiate the training for the female client. Chances are, you have either some starting knowledge, or at least, know where to get it*.
And of course, when you start to challenge how you normally do things, there can be fear around change… and getting it right.
That is ok. That is normal. No one expects you to have all the answers.
But what is not ok, is to sit on the information and continue to train women, just as you would train men and not make any exceptions for their hormonal, physical and mental shifts that inevitably happen with pregnancy, child birth and menopause.
As I have written here, your experience as a Fitness Professional and a mother is not enough to understand the full gamete of issues and information needed to fully equip our female clients during the life cycles of pregnancies, postnatal and menopause. But your experience, nevertheless, is important.
Some of the reasons that women don’t act on their pelvic floor dysfunction or pelvic / sexual pain is:
a) they think it is normal
b) they are embarrassed
c) they think they are the only ones, OR
d) no one has specifically asked them.
Being open and candid and starting a conversation is within your scope of practice (diagnosis is not) and incredibly powerful. Personal Trainers are a bit like hairdressers, we are often privy to the most intimate details of our client’s lives. This means we can be incredibly influential in encouraging our clients to seek help and also navigate the “where to go now” situation. Building the relationships with your local Women’s Health Physiotherapist is not only good for your client, is great for you and your business.
If you have never had experience of any sort of pelvic floor dysfunction, then listen to the stories of others. Stories are very powerful and the most effective ones to motivate change, are those that have positive endings. Seek these out.
As with all health promotion and health literacy information we share with clients – make sure your sources are good. Research who wrote the articles or at the very least, share information from reputable sites or choose from official bodies. Such as Continence Foundation of Australia or Pelvic Floor First to name a few.
It is important to remember that research is happening all the time and new findings are being released, so make an effort to keep up to date. The book you bought on training pregnant women 10 years ago, or the short course you took 3 years ago might not cover everything you need to know now. Trends may come and go, but your education should never stop.
There is often not one answer to your client’s questions and it is ok to answer “it depends.”
We are all different and what works 100% for one person, may not work for another.
For example, I often get asked from both clients and Fitness Professionals what are the exercises to “fix” DRAM. The simple answer is that there are not any. There are exercises that can minimise the impact of your insides pushing through to the outside, however, a client’s muscle tone, collagen levels, their awareness of intro-abdominal pressure, their movement patterns all have a significant impact. Does their diet and water intake support their healing? For some women wearing specially designed compression pants or binding their belly, can be a game changer.
Over the years I have literally felt hundred’s of women’s tummies and my fingers can give me an enormous amount of feedback on some of the questions above. But not all. So these are some of the other questions I ask:
- how many children have you had?
- did the gap close between children / pregnancies? (Were you checked?!?)
- do you experience any pelvic or lower back pain?
And very importantly:
- can you feel what is happening in your tummy?
- how do you get off the floor / get out of bed?
There is no one exercise or answer that will “fix” DRAM. Instead, the answer all depends on each individual. And over time and experience, you will be able to provide a number of strategies for your clients, working to get the combination just right for each individual.
PS: I am very much looking forward to Alex Lopes, (Physiotherapists with qualifications in both muscular skeletal and women’s health and the current chair of the Australian Physiotherapist Association) who will be presenting the very latest research on DRAM at this year’s Women’s Health and Fitness Summit… so I may need to amend or add to this section of my blog as I learn more!)
To remain confident, rather than conceited, in being the G0-T0 person in your niche… Stay Curious!
You are the teacher… but alway remain a learner.
Seize every learning opportunity to improve or challenge how you think or currently work with clients. However, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and at the risk of idiom overload… because there is more than one way to skin a cat.
I love fellow life-long learners… and recently via *Presenter Connect* I got to better know Jessica Drummond from Integrative Women’s Health Institute. Jessica has 18 years as a pelvic and women’s physiotherapist and has recently completed her doctorate in nutrition. What makes Jessica extra special (in my eyes) is that she is one of only a handful of people from around the world, who creates education for Physiotherapists, Nutritionists and Fitness Professionals and values each of these roles to create effective holistic approaches to women’s health.
Based in the USA, Jessica will be joining us at the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit, presenting a session on “Using fitness, nutrition and lifestyle strategies to address common pre-menopausal concerns.”
Jessica will also be presenting a full day pre – summit on Friday 27th October covering Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine in Perimenopause and How Low Libido, Belly Fat, and Brain Fog in the 40’s are Risk Factors for Osteoporosis, Cancer, Alzheimer’s and Heart Diseases. What Fitness Professionals, Physiotherapists, and Nutritionists Can Do to Help Women in Their 40’s Live Vibrantly for The Decades Ahead.
This will be Jessica’s very first time in Australia and I am so super excited to meet her!
Check out this video, where our WHFS17 Ambassador Kylianne interviews Jess, so you can get to know her better too!
*Did you know that I have an online course? – Pregnant and Post-natal training for Personal Trainers ($85 and 1 CEC) that is a great starting point. This course will also cover you for your insurance needs if you are training pregnant women.
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