Training Women Different in Menopause or at Any Age

Training women different than men is an absolute must. This post originally appeared in Facebook on the Flipping 50 page.
I share it here so that it has more longevity. There is some much-needed information here that you need to have. I’ve been “behind the scenes,” in every possible aspect in the fitness industry since the late 80s. It’s when I began mentoring and training other fitness instructors. 
 

Why Training Women Different is Necessary & Why I Can Tell You

Because of my 3+ decades of experience behind the scenes:
  • Preparing university students for careers in personal training
  • Managing fitness & personal training departments and working with owners 
  • Presenting internationally for fitness conferences
  • Knowing fitness presenters and conference hosts personally
  • Subject Matter Expert writing items for certification exams
… I can offer you the following insight into why training women different than men, in fact different at each age and stage that they are compared to another woman, is absolutely imperative for best results. I share with you here what you need to know, that you might not. 
 
Prepare for the rant. Though I won’t apologize.
 
This is absolutely what is WRONG and the reason your exercise plans in the past have potentially failed you.
 

This is About Women of All Ages

Let’s make clear: I include women of every age in this post post to help you understand that THIS… goes on every single day. Male (and some female trainers and instructors) that have a minimum of education from a certification (which qualifies them for the “minimum viable knowledge required to enter the field” – that is ALL that a certification is).
 
I’ll link to my TEDx talk below – the fastest way to learn more about the amount of research that even exists for you in any one stage of the up to 7 hormonal phases you go through in your life. That will help you understand at some level why this is wrong. wrong. wrong.
The only place the trainer (in the post) is correct on any level is anatomy. Women and men have the same muscles. In his example of butt muscles, yes, both genders have gluteus maximus and medius for instance. A trainer could argue that both have pectoral muscles (however, can we agree they are clearly not the same?).
training women different
 

That’s where similarities end

 
  • Women have a wider hip/pelvis leading to a bigger Q-angle, that not addressed in training – from strength to plyometrics makes them more prone to injury.
  • Women are more prone to injury during certain times in their cycles – when estrogen levels are high. (and during menopause-caused major shift in hormones)
  • Women are better able to utilize strength and power in training at some points in their cycles and respond better with more endurance during other weeks.
  • Women not only cycle monthly through these hormone and training relationships, but they have major phases like reaching puberty, pre-natal/post natal, perimenopause, late peri/early post menopause, post menopause that each DEMAND a very specific change in their training.

Here’s what specifically is different about women:

1) hormones
2) body composition
3) metabolism
4) socialization (Especially if you’re in your 50’s or older now. You were raised in a culture that potentially still has deep-rooted beliefs about how girls exercise or specific kinds of exercise you should or shouldn’t do).
 
You utilize fat for fuel differently than men do during exercise.
You respond to the same exercise as men differently. You are more prone to negative effects of stress (cortisol hormone) at times during your cycle and most definitely at menopause.
 
There is a higher rate of injury among midlife women. Obviously, we link that to hormonal changes, though there hasn’t yet been research to suggest the exact link. Those of us who have served women in midlife for decades know it, see it … and with comments like this from trainers like this, is it any wonder why simple getting “a trainer” is no solution.
 

How Do You Know?

You absolutely need to choose wisely.
 
You’re vulnerable to begin with. Your socialization and work ethic (from parents in a generation who taught that hard work pays off) will cause you to try to do more, more often, harder… and set yourself up for injury when signs of hormone changes include weight gain or belly fat.
But going to a trainer could be no better if you don’t know the questions to ask.
 

What to Ask?

  • Have you worked with women just like me before?
  • How many?
  • What results have you gotten for them?
  • How long have you been working with women just like me?
  • Is that part time or full time (a very important question: no one becomes an expert a few hours a week)
  • Can I talk with some prior clients or see some testimonials?
  • How would my plan be unique for me- what do you have in mind?

Training Women Different Requires a Specially Trained Trainer

Asking, “Are you CERTIFIED?” is not enough.
 
I write exam items for key certification agencies: for Health coaching, personal training, and medical exercise specialist exams.
The instructions to us as Subject Matter Experts is clear: the purpose of the exam is to identify those who successfully have a passing score know the MINIMUM KNOWLEDGE to enter the field.
 
Yet, 90% of the population polled believe that “certified” means totally qualified and don’t ask anything beyond that. A smaller percent, though still high, believe that a trainer working for a fitness center has been screened and qualified by the owner.
 
The truth is, most likely a trainer has some “certificate” or certification from over 500 options- of various levels of competency – that could qualify a trainer to be hired. If they’re popular, and can sell or renew their clients, it may be enough. Most businesses are looking for profitability as much or more as ability to safely transform health.
 

A DEGREE?

Even a university degree doesn’t insure they know what they need to know.
I taught at a university for 15 years – courses for pre-med, pre-PT, students who wanted to be trainers, and fitness owners.
There isn’t time to get a student out in 4 years (a lot of pressure to do that) to cover women’s hormones and training. We’re trying to make sure they know how to train knees and diabetes safely and identify obvious mistakes in form, and fitness test someone with the basics. The time we have with a student each semester is minimal. Imagine it now, online. 
 
If you are a woman, you have female friends, relatives, or health coaches, doctors, or other who would be interested in this post, I encourage you to spread the word.
 
We can do better. So much better by women.
 

Thought to Ponder

Here is the biggest problem. Women agree that personal trainers should be educated. The gap exists because they don’t know how to qualify “educated.” What it is clearly not is “a degree” and or “a certification.” 
 

Final Note on Training Women Different

 
I dislike throwing anyone in the industry under the bus. It honestly throws me right along with them. We don’t need any more controversy about fitness professionals. We need leadership and guidance and consciousness to up level the still self-regulated industry. Especially in times like these when we need positivity and immune boosting, disease-fighting exercise more than ever.
Yet, in this instance, with the amount of research available to everyone at their fingertips, we need to use it. And apply it. I’m not in this group of NASM certified trainers, so I have not seen responses to this post. I will however follow up. NASM however, is an accredited certification and among the top 5 certifications that I would accept as a qualification to work with our program when I was personal training director. 
 
Resources: 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4021014/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439248/
 

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