For most of you reading this, and following us, i have to assume you’re pretty switched on in Women’s Health issues and are striving already to do your best by these clients. However, you are the exception – and most PT’s have not only never thought about a woman’s body being different, they’re also completely in the dark about why some women stop training with them, or at their gym.
Let me give you some insight from my own experiences (and there’s even more on our IGTV here!):
- When i ruptured my disc in my back after lifting my bodyweight with an exercise physiologist in my first session… i stopped returning her calls and never went back.
- When i had a prolapse scare, i went to a physio that specialised in the condition, and cancelled my gym memberships without warning or explanation.
- When i leaked during a skipping exercise at a women’s only crossfit box, i told the instructor, and she gave me box jumps instead… I had to openly disobey her to keep myself safe – something i was very uncomfortable with, and i never went back.
- When i was punished, in front of the entire class, with 50 burpees for not doing my jogging homework at a boxing gym, i never went back…
- When i had to program my own fitness component of the martial art i participated in, i got frustrated with “working” in my downtime, cancelled my subscription and never went back
You get the gist.
There are millions of women like me.
Some of them won’t even start exercise because of back pain, continence issues, or lack of confidence. Many of the ones that do will be encouraged to train through dysfunctions – because the trainer doesn’t understand them. Many of those will drop out, never to be seen again.
If you’d like to make some inroad’s in to retaining more of your female clients, here are my top tips:
- Educate yourself on women’s health – do you know that heart disease affects more women than men? That women succumb to heat stress earlier than men? That women’s fluctuating hormones will affect their perceived pain levels? That women don’t respond to fad diets the same way as men, and things like fasting could actually cause them to GAIN weight? The book Roar, by Stacy Sims is a good place to start.
- Create an open environment – do your female clients feel comfortable expressing their concerns over one exercise or another? How do you react when they make a mistake? Who you are, and the environment within which you train are massive for her being able to reach out when she’s in trouble. She might love you and your studio, and be fearful she has to leave if she tells you she’s leaking during your sessions. An open environment will go a long way to making sure everyone, including your female clients, are ok.
- Ask the right questions – we live in a culture where if you don’t ask, the client won’t tell. It’s uncomfortable, even taboo for some women, to bring up their pelvic health. It is up to you to open the lines of communication, and ask the questions that will bring up a red flag if there’s one there. More on this in our free course here.
- Trust the client as her own expert – and get curious! If they haven’t gone running, why? what alternatives are there? What is she more comfortable with? This approach brings trust in to your relationship, where she feels you value her body and where she’s “at” on any particular day. Sometimes, she won’t know why she’s off (when women ovulate, for example, their core body temperature increases and they’re more at risk of injury. But if they’re not measuring they’re cycle, they won’t know).
- Educate your self on common issues affecting women’s physiology – and on your client’s stories specifically. We vaguely know the pelvic floor is an issue for mums, but do you (or your female clients for that matter) know what symptoms to look out for? Back pain is the most common pelvic dysfunction I’ve every seen, and almost always exists in a “pair”; such as incontinence, prolapse, neck pain, or diastasis. You can enrol in our next course here.
- Educate the client – if they know you have the tools to help them in any situation, be it hernia, back pain, pregnancy, etc. They’ll be more likely to reach out when they need help! If they know they symptoms of pelvic dysfunctions, and that they do not have to stop training if they develop one, they’ll be more likely to tell you earlier. You’ll then retain this client, with dogged loyalty for life.
Not knowing is no longer an adequate excuse for contributing to women’s illness. We are health professionals, and it is our duty to care for our clients. This is not only an obligation – it is fantastic for your business. You will retain more clients, you build trusting relationships with your local physio’s and GP’s, and generally create a more rewarding business!