When I attended the RKC in October 2009, Pavel Tsatsouline said something that moved me;
“We are turning you into better men, even the ladies.”
As a female athlete who also personal trains females from all walks of life, this struck a major chord with me.
I have always valued strength, power and athleticism, and have always strived to perform my absolute best with the body I have inherited. I grew up playing sports, so this sort of mentality was ingrained in me as a child. I was bred to be intrinsically motivated. I was bred for competition and to accept discomfort in the pursuit of accomplishment.
I have experienced this mentality en masse at every RKC event that I have had the privilege and honor to attend since that first grueling weekend in Philly. I have witnessed, in awe and admiration, the tremendous work ethic and perseverance of RKC women. These are women who don’t believe that serious strength and conditioning is limited to men. These are women who believe in their ability to use their bodies in exceptional ways, who exceed limits imposed by the fitness mainstream and harbor a mental toughness that propels and motivates them. I am incredibly proud to stand beside these strong, empowered females.
How many of us can affirm that our female clients share the same mental fortitude and passion for serious strength?
In my ten years experience as a fitness professional, I have encountered a handful of intrinsically motivated females. There are some who train purposefully, fearlessly and intentionally. Most, however, have required some convincing, and it is through the power of persuasion that I have had the unique pleasure of watching countless women experience a paradigm shift.
I have witnessed their immeasurable personal growth and saw them progress from timidly approaching the bar to confidently getting under it. It is hard work convincing a woman that the same things she is cautioned against for fear of bulkiness, are in fact the things that will give her the lean, sexy body she desires. It’s even harder work persuading her to shift her goals from aesthetics to strength and power, if she ever wants to find the body she covets.
The same thing that she is cautioned against for fear of bulkiness, are in the fact the things that will give her the lean, sexy body she desires
Initially, you may encounter a significant lack of work ethic amongst your female clients. There will likely be an intolerable amount of whining and excuses, as well as a profound disparity between actual and perceived potential. Most of your female clients are going to scoff at the things you ask them to do:
- They are most likely influenced by mainstream women’s fitness magazines that teach them how to “melt away the fat without sweating” and “tone your trouble zones.”
- They are inundated with all the nonsense fitness advice that celebrities freely disperse and ultimately, they just don’t BELIEVE they can do it.
- They don’t believe it because there are so many pockets that depend upon a woman’s lack of confidence in order to stay full.
- They don’t believe it because they’ve never been educated in a way that speaks to them.
- They don’t believe it because they simply have never tried
The most important thing to consider when encountering opposition from our female clients is that it is not their fault. They have been conditioned, falsely educated and downright lied to. It’s OUR responsibility to change it.
We want our female personal training clients to “man up”, but it isn’t always that simple. There are some who respond to such tough love, and others who require delicate convincing. As trainers and coaches, we are ultimately responsible for instituting a ban on whining, complaining, and “I can’t” attitudes.
We must take the necessary steps towards developing a woman’s intrinsic desire to be powerful in mind and body. We must prove to them that athleticism is not just about physical feats, or aesthetic goals. It’s about creating a strong inner self and gaining a sense of satisfaction and empowerment from our bodies’ capabilities.
So what makes me such an expert on the subject? Why should you listen to me about how to transform your female clients mindsets?
Because once upon a time, I was that female. As I mentioned earlier, I have always been an athlete. I have always possessed an intrinsic motivation and a passion for athleticism. But what I did NOT possess was education; what I lacked in excess was confidence. Not only was I completely misinformed as to how to achieve the outcome I was looking for; I did not have the confidence necessary to achieve it even if I knew how. I was busy plugging away on the elliptical, loading up the leg press and fooling around on a Bosu ball.
Like most gym goers and let’s face it-most personal trainers-I was completely clue less. I was carrying around a lot of baby weight that I couldn’t seem to burn, while feeling lost and almost hopeless. The sad fact is, I just didn’t believe in myself. It really never crossed my mind that I could squat and deadlift. I never envisioned doing a pullup or pressing a heavy bell overhead. It wasn’t in my paradigm. It wasn’t me.
Somewhere along the way, I began to shift that paradigm under the tutelage of my mentor. He literally made me do things that I had no motivation to do. He’d tell me to put more weight on the bar and I’d look at him like he was crazy, but I’d do it anyway.
He’d put a heavy Kettlebell in front of me and I would doubt him, and ultimately myself. But I’d swing it. And then I’d realize I had swung it, and swung it well.
Every time I was asked to do something tougher, more advanced, more uncomfortable, I took one step closer to my true self. Every time I realized I was capable of accomplishing something with my body, I gained more confidence. Before I knew it, I was strong, powerful, and lean. But that meant absolutely nothing in comparison to the self worth I had gained.
Where there was once an insecure, weak girl, there was now a bold, fearless WOMAN. I didn’t seek out training like a man, it was literally forced upon me-and it changed my life forever.
The human body is a magnificent machine, capable of incredible feats that go far beyond what most personal training female clients believe they can achieve. They don’t believe that they can train like men, and they don’t see the value in it either.
They need us to believe in them. They need us to educate them, to show them the light at the end of the power rack and the empowerment within the Kettlebell. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince women to seek strength, but are we showing them we believe in them? Are we truly putting our confidence and faith in them with our actions, words and body language? Does our coaching exemplify a simultaneous resoluteness and tenderness that encourages our females to step into the unknown?
They’ve been conditioned not to step into this unknown world of sweating and grunting, remember? They’ve been told for years to avoid heavy lifting in favor of soup cans, compound movements in favor yoga, and sprinting in favor of step class. It’s not their fault, and it can be reversed.
With the right mix of encouragement, firmness and visual evidence, our female clients can recondition their perception of exercise. If I can go from a chubby new mom reading shape magazine, to performing a 16kg Pullup-anyone can. I am no one special, I just had the good fortune of being mentored and coached by someone who truly believed in me more than I did myself.
There is something to be said about a strong, efficient female.
They move with grace and confidence, and carry their beautiful strength with humility. The strength and power that the body achieves permeates the mind, and this “gym confidence” inevitably translates to other aspects of life. A woman who loves how her body feels will love how it looks too-and in turn she will love herself.
How Do We Help Our Clients?
One of the most simple and effective tools we can utilize as trainers to convince our females to embark on the journey, is the example of other females. As a female coach, I get to use myself as an example a lot, which is helpful, though not always sufficient. Those of us with children know all too well the power of another adult’s authority over your child. Children will take advantage of their parents, particularly Mommy, and will push the boundaries.
When under the care of a non-parental adult, they often have the tendency to listen and obey more easily. This is human nature, and does not get lost on clients. Sure, they will listen to you. But they will be more likely to believe you if they hear it from someone else too. This is especially true for male trainers working with female clients.
Show them other women, athletes, trainers, and moms who have transformed their bodies training like men and given more purpose to their lives in the process. Take the time to not only educate them with the science of muscle building, but to refer them to articles and blogs with first person testimony from women just like them. They need the proof and the reassurance in addition to our constant encouragement. We are in a unique position to change their lives and we must not take it lightly.
Believing in someone more than they believe in themselves is integral, but only half the battle.
Through my extensive experience with female clients of all types, I have outlined some simple strategies to ensure their success:
- Listen more, talk less. This holds true with just about any interpersonal relationship but is especially important with female clients. They want to feel as though their concerns and desires are being heard.
- Determine the primary goal. This is the focus, whether or not you agree with her choice. This can range anywhere from wanting to lose body fat to building stronger bones. The way to help her reach it is the same regardless, but the way to convince her of the validity of the path will vary based on her perception.
- Weed out the thoughts and ideas that hinder the goal. Removing the negative is sometimes more important than adding the positive. Gray Cook illustrates this idea brilliantly by using the example of a client who smokes, drinks and eats terribly, but asks if it’s a good idea to put flax in his cereal. Removing the negative actions and thoughts will allow you to shift her mindset more effectively.
- Educate with the science behind muscle building as well as personal testimony from other females. You will not find success legitimately strength training females if you fail to educate them. Some require little education, some much more. Send her articles and videos and ask existing clients to tell her about their experience. It helps to have before and after pictures of your female clients to prove that your program will give her the type of results she is looking for.
- Introduce strength training in a way that will appeal to her primary goal, as opposed to “this is the way we do it, and you don’t know what’s best for you.” She needs to feel as though she is a part of the process, not a robot being programmed and manipulated.
- Empower her. No matter how small the feat, recognize it and celebrate it. If one of my female clients does a Turkish get up with weight, no matter how light, for the first time, I congratulate her. If she presses or swings a heavier bell during class, I announce it to the group. If she does something impressive, I video it and share it on my blog, Facebook and YouTube. She is amazing, and she needs to be told so.
- Let her be “her.” Once you make an impact, you may always expect her to be a super woman. She is going to have days when she isn’t feeling it. She is going to have distractions, fluctuations and emotions that affect her training and she is not always going to live up to the standards that you may have inadvertently created for her. Let her be her. Let her have bad days. Being a fabulous female client isn’t about being perfect.
Most importantly, me must remember that we get to be a part of this process, to witness their momentous transformations.
It is a privilege and an honor to join them on this remarkable journey, and we must treat it as such. We have front row seats to their metamorphosis from unassuming to extraordinary. I am incredibly humbled to find myself in a position in which I can motivate and empower other females to find a sense of self worth through physical accomplishment.
If I can encourage every woman I encounter to find their inner beast, perhaps they will continue the cycle, and help others do the same. I intend to use every outlet and resource I have to move females to train for the sake of not just their muscles, but their minds as well.