Is Women’s Health A Woman’s Job?
And it is equally rare to see men in traditional female roles, such as midwifery and women’s health physiotherapy.
Does this mean that our sex stops us performing these roles?
A few might argue yes. But I think if we were to take off our cultural glasses for a moment, we must all agree that our make up of X or Y Chromosomes can not solely dictate what are inherently good at.
When we are good at something, this has more likely to have originated from an interest in this area (this may have been culturally influenced). Coupled with a dedication to learning your craft and improving your skills, we become proficient. From proficiency comes confidence in what we do. To move from being good, to being truly excellent at what we do, we absolutely must employ more empathy than ego.
But gender wars still exist. Both on a world stage and also in my world of women’s health and fitness. I have been a feminist all my life… though I probably didn’t have a name for it and like many, was socially shamed into thinking this word meant something other that what it does.
Feminism means Equality. Literally.
I remember being confused as a child that I wore my older brother’s hand me downs, rode the motorbike and performed tasks on the farm, just like my brothers… I was even considered a Tom-boy, but then I had extra roles in the house that my brothers did not, and other opportunities were denied to me because I was a girl. I was told that if I didn’t like blood (which I didn’t), then my career path would have to be a teacher (rather than a nurse). So I became a teacher.
At University, the Hand Maids Tale was a shared must-read and I became active in Women’s Studies. I, like many, believed (nearly 30 years ago!) that we were on the verge of a new world order. And I certainly believed that my daughter would not be as constricted by set social norms purely because of her gender. And we would see people as people, and judge them on their individual merits.
[Yes, I was that idealistic]
Gender Wars On a World Stage
In 2016 I presented Feminism and Fitness at FitEx (Fitness Conference in New Zealand). I spoke about being sixteen years old, living in New Zealand, when we got our first female Prime Minister. Jenny Shipley inherited the job and two years later lost it to Helen Clark who was the elected Prime Minister for nearly 10 years. I never once remember either leaders being referred to as a witch. Nor do I remember any sort of negative gender comments regarding her leadership ability. They may well have been said, but I don’t recall watching this on the evening news. New Zealand had their first and second women PM’s Yah! But we were the first to give women the vote, so… Move on and get on with your job.
Nothing could be further from my daughter’s experience. She did experience this:
and then at age sixteen she experienced this:
…and a whole lot more and worse.
Gender Wars in Women’s Health and Fitness
One of the reasons I set up the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit was from sheer frustration of going annually to the largest Fitness conference in the Southern Hemisphere and having very little subject matter to choose from. I was not the only Fitness Professional who specifically works with women. There are whole gyms who specialise in this area. Yet, specific information on how to work with women was just purely missing.
The first step for me to challenge my industry status quo was to NOT attend the fitness business pre-conference. The panel selected were all men and there was literally nothing that related to me running a women’s specific personal training fitness business.
I also shared my concerns of the lack of female specific fitness sessions across the whole weekend with the event owner. Of which he replied; that he had never even thought about it before. (It being the disproportionate amount of female presenters to male presenters and the disproportionate amount of female specific training topics). I am pleased to say, that since this conversation, there has been a significant shift to rectify this.
But what does it matter?
Do women need different training from men? Does that give the message that women can’t go hard like the boys and play into the idea that women are less capable?
When I first joined the fitness industry, these would have been my questions. That was until I trained myself to incontinence and realised I was doing the very same thing to all my female clients. On the verge of prolapse, I discovered that pelvic floor had been completely omitted as a muscle from all my anatomy textbooks and training.
And that matters.
Statistics around incontinence and prolapse are hard to ignore and that may be why this article – Stop Hurting Women with Exercise had over 30,000 reads!
I firmly believe that women are just as capable of being strong and that no exercise option should be denied to them. However, women are different. But luckily you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to learn modifications that can improve health and fitness outcomes for women!
Learning how to adjust training to accommodate these 3 things can make a HUGE impact on keeping women active and injury free for their whole life.
In a nut-shell:
- Pelvic floor: Women have an extra opening at the base of their pelvis that does not have a sphincter muscle to protect the insides pushing out to the outside. Learn about managing intra-abdominal pressure and recognising the warning signs of pelvic floor dysfunction and teaming with a women’s health physiotherapist for correct diagnosis and support will sort this one
- DRAM: All postnatal women (regardless of the age of child/ren) need to have their tummy checked for any abdominal split. If there is one, exercises need to be modified to encourage healing rather than harming
- Hormones: Women have much greater hormonal changes, not only in their monthly cycle, but also the life cycles of pregnancy, postnatal, pregnancy, postnatal, menopause. Learn to work with these, not against them.
Your Words Are Powerful
Not all Fitness Professionals experience pelvic floor dysfunction, have children, DRAM or … are women.
Just as important as the skills that can be learned, is the empathy you demonstrate. A good trainer goes to great, when they are able to not only assess and adjust, but chooses words which enable, rather than words that constrain.
I have a prolpase. I am not my prolapse
Asking questions and listening to stories is an essential skill for any health and fitness professional. Just because you have not personally experienced something, does not mean you are incapable of learning about it and working with it.
This skill set is available to all. Regardless of your gender.
Is this purely women’s business?
You might be fooled to think so.
The Women’s Health and Fitness Summit attracts around 5% male physiotherapists, allied health professionals or fitness professionals. And that percentage is not that much higher at female specific training sessions at other mainstream fitness conventions.
The fitness industry is fairly rare in the fact that Fitness Professionals are not highly disproportionately male or female. However, statistics say that our clients are more likely (63%) to be women.
Yet the skills needed to work with women are missing from our traditional fitness education.
And in the words of the wonderful Annabel Crabb:
But this shouldn’t be a struggle for women.
It should be a struggle for people
Is women’s health a woman’s job?
I say NO!
The more diversity we see in women’s health, the more it stops being called diverse and starts to become just the norm.
My idealism may have felt tarnished over the last 30 years, but I refuse to give up hope that in my life time I will see
- research and education on how to train clients, correctly being labelled as to how to train men
- much more research and education on how to train female clients
- women routinely assessed and exercise routinely modified for pelvic floor considerations, DRAM and hormonal considerations by all Fitness Professionals
- women’s health and fitness will move out of special populations ( I don’t see how 50% of the population is a special population) in both fitness education and fitness conferences
- male Fitness Professionals who train women, attending women’s health and fitness education
- equal gender representation in the governance of the fitness industry
Introducing Antony Lo
If it is rare that Fitness Professionals don’t have access or simply don’t see the need for education around training female clients, then it is rarer still that you have a man developing this education.
Antony Lo is one such man. For those who have only met him online, might consider him a shit-stirrer. A challenger… for the sake of controversy or might even think, that he has no place in women’s health. Because he is a man.
Let us disregard gender and address education. Are we serving women as best as we can? How can we improve? How can we better work together, to stop more women falling through the cracks of health and fitness? How can we keep more women strong and mobile.
And over the years of getting to know Antony, I can assure you that he is extremely kind and extremely honest. He is a wonderful teacher coupled with a fantastic sense of humour. Antony will make no judgement of you and where you are at, but he will delight in taking you to the next level.
Enjoy this interview with Antony… I certainly did!
Antony will be presenting at the Women’s Health and Fitness Summit along with Robin Kerr on both Saturday 28th October and Sunday 29th October.
Antony will also be presenting a full-day pre-summit on Friday 27th October – this is open to all Fitness Professionals, Cross-fitters and Physitherapists.
For all details – including price and how to book – click here!
If you enjoyed this blog – you might also enjoy these – Just click on the images!
This is my story of how I discovered the word prolapse…
and I was already a Fitness Professional working with women
This article has been read by over 30,000 people on my site,
picked up by Mamamia and gone viral many times over!
Want to know more about Antony’s presenting buddy?
This is a wonderful behind the scenes blog about Robin Kerr!