I am WOMAN, hear me ROAR

When I first came upon The PTDC I was thrilled to find someone finally discussing the difference between a strength coach and a personal trainer. Actually, Nick Tumminello was the first that I saw to start distinguishing between the two. And then I saw The PTDC bringing up the same points. It’s definitely something we need to discuss more. As personal trainers, we certainly can learn a ton from strength coaches…..except maybe how to deal with the average female client with 3 kids, a full time job and a husband that travels, in a commercial gym. Strength coaches primarily deal with athletes in a strength training facility, personal trainers primarily deal with average people in a commercial gym. It’s a whole different world. I have found most of what the PTDC has to offer to be exactly what the personal training industry needs to hear. So I was extremely disappointed and even personally insulted when I read Jon Goodman’s article Why It’s Harder For Female Trainers. I was so moved by this article, and by moved I mean heart-rate increasing and body temperature rising, that I felt the need to address the article point by point. If you have not read this article yet, you can and should read it here first: http://www.jonathangoodman.ca/why-its-harder-for-women-personal-trainers

 1. Cardio Bunnies


I will start off by saying I do agree that movements like Girls Gone Strong are largely just reaching women who already lift heavy weights and that it acts as a means to celebrate their achievements. I also would agree that the majority of females are still cardio bunnies. This is certainly true with the general population. It is even true to some degree amongst female trainers. However, I would like to point out, that even those female trainers who lean more towards “cardio bunny” status as opposed to “weightlifter” status still recognize the importance of lifting weights. We all know this because even our uneducated-about-fitness-doctors warn us about osteoporosis and encourage load-bearing exercise.

I have worked in the fitness industry for almost 15 years and have been training in commercial gyms for over 20. I can honestly say, I have never seen a female trainer not do some form of weight training with their female clients. Now do these trainers lift weights to the same degree a powerlifter or a bodybuilder or a GGS enthusiast does? Most likely definitely not, but they are doing what their certifying body suggests they do. So maybe, where we need to start is at the education level amongst the different certifications for Personal Training. If a certifying body teaches trainers to do 3 sets of 12-15 and encourages things like barely-at-parallel half-squatting and machine-based programs then we are going to have gyms full of trainers who do 3 sets of 12-15 half squats and machine based exercises.

2. Physical discrepancy


I also have a hard time believing that women can make effective trainers for men who’s goal is to bulk up. It’s probably not anything the woman has done herself so she isn’t studied in it.”

This is by far the most sexist and narrow-minded view of the entire article. Women are more than capable of studying research on any subject, just like men are. I recently heard Jon Goodman speak at UofW where he stated the majority of his clientele have upper-crossed syndrome. Since he himself does not appear to have upper-crossed syndrome that leads me to believe that he had to research this issue in order to provide proper programming for his clientele. Why on earth would he imply that women are incapable of the same research? This point also neglects a very simple sociological phenomena. No potential client, whether they are male or female, looking to add muscle and/or lean out, is going to go to a cardio-bunny trainer to reach their goals. They are going to the trainer, male or female, that has the reputation for working with weights (a GGS type) and/or has the body/strength they are after.

Every trainer at some point in their career, and I think often actually, will be presented with a client that has an issue they need to do research on. How often is one presented with a “perfect” client? I suspect not often. Now let’s take this one step further and say that a potential male client does in fact go to a “cardio bunny” type female trainer to bulk up. One of two things is likely going to happen. One, the female trainer knows her limits and passes the client on to a more appropriate trainer…and I do suspect this to be the case more often than not. Look around some commercial gyms and you’ll likely find trainers and clients are actually a match. Or two, that male client is a complete and utter novice (otherwise he would have gone to a more apt trainer in the first place), therefore his trainer of choice is likely more than capable of getting him started based purely on newbie gains and will have a chance to research what she needs in order for her client to reach his goal.

The obvious point I’ll also bring up is safety. I believe that it’s unsafe for a women to spot a novice or intermediate lifter.”

Where to start with this. At this point in the article I think my blood was already boiling. I took this as a direct insult. Now I know I am not the average woman in terms of strength. I also know that a good deal of female trainers are not into lifting heavy weights like I am. But does this make them incapable of spotting a novice or intermediate lifter? No.

First off I will say that proper spotting is important and that not everyone can do it well. There is a definite technique to it and if done properly it IS safe for someone who’s not necessarily as strong as the lifter to spot. Good spotting also requires good communication between lifter and spotter. How many reps are we going for. How many reps do you think you can do. Do you need a lift off. Etc. When I need a spotter I spend my entire time leading up to the set where I need a spot evaluating who is going to be the least likely to screw up my set. I then tell them exactly what I want them to do. “I need help getting into position so my grab wrists and help me up to the top. I’m going for 6 reps but I might only get 5. Don’t touch me unless I stop moving up.” I know exactly what I need. A novice lifter has no clue. That’s why it’s up to the trainer.

Who cares if personal training is a service industry and your client expects you to push them through their last rep. Just like we don’t listen to girls who don’t want to lift weights because they’ll get bulky…we don’t listen to boys who want to do forced reps and lift with their ego. The trainer runs the show, not the client. We educate, and explain why they need to do something or not do something. A lot of these issues can be broken down into a good trainer/bad trainer discrepancy rather than male/female trainer. A good trainer will not give a novice client more weight than they can handle, nor will they be doing forced reps. A novice lifter, even a male, is not lifting anything that a female can’t spot, especially if the trainer is in control of her session as stated previously. I am even going to state that given proper spotting techniques and proper load for the lifter’s strength ability, a female can spot ANY bench. If someone, anyone, can’t spot the bench, the lifter can’t bench it. Period.

And again, let’s go one step further into worst case scenario. Let’s say proper spotting technique is being used as well as proper load and something unexpected happens…some idiot walks by and bumps the bar, or there’s a pec tear or something that causes the bar to fall rapidly towards the lifter. I suspect that even a male would not actually be prepared for (meaning expecting) such an incident before letting the bar hit the chest. I also think women pay far more attention to spotting a bench because they know they have to prove themselves and they know that everyone’s watching. Now let’s say that bar actually hits the chest and is completely pinning the lifter. That lifter is now useless. I suspect that many a male trainer could not deadlift that bar from behind the bench in a spotters position, it’s not exactly the ideal deadlifting position.

3.Perception, expectation and ridicule


I’ve heard female colleagues say “he just likes to flirt a little. That’s fine, as long as he keeps buying sessions he can flirt all he wants. Until this type of behavior by female trainers ends they won’t be taken seriously.”

This happens across both genders. In fact, I’ve heard that exact same statement from a male trainer regarding clients flirting with them. So, until this type of behaviour by bad trainers ends, they won’t be considered ethical and taken seriously. But here’s real the issue with regard to men and women hiring male and female trainers and what their goals are. When women hire a trainer they are working with a trainer regardless…meaning they’ve already decided they need/want a trainer. They then decide to either…work with a female whom they want to look like or, they work with a hot guy because he’s good to look at and they have a crush. They don’t actually expect to date and/or have sex with their trainer.

A guy on the other hand….if he hires a female trainer, in my experience, it’s because he actually respects the female as a trainer and thus will not try to sleep with her. If he does just want to sleep with her…he’s not spending thousands of dollars on PT just to see if he can. He will certainly go up and start a conversation and act like he wants to train with her….and ladies here’s your tip….you know in your gut when a guy is just talking to you about training so he can try to talk to you. So when you get that gut feeling you tell him straight up that you don’t date clients. You will quickly find out who’s serious about training with you and who’s just trying to hit on you. Yes, guys do use the topic of training to hit on female trainers, but guys do not spend thousands of dollars on PT just to try to sleep with that female trainer.

Again, this is not so much a male/female issue but a good/bad trainer issue. Hot people, male or female, are more successful…that is true of any profession in any industry. Some people use and abuse their “pretty people privileges” and some people have have ethics and professionalism.

4. Ideal body image??

I’m not really sure actually, what this has to do with the topic of this article….if there is a valid point here in relation to female trainers having it harder in the fitness industry, I don’t see it. However, I’ll still address the points brought up.

Well-tailored workout gear makes a fatty bum look somewhat well-shaped and a carefully chosen dress can hide lumps and bumps. This makes it difficult for female trainers to sell women on strength training if they’re skinny fatness is already perceived as attractive.”

Doesn’t it make it difficult for trainers in general (male or female) to sell women on strength training if “skinny fat” is perceived as attractive? Women wear Lulu. Which is skin tight and slightly magical for a booty, I’ll admit. However, it is not so magical that it’s going to turn that flab-ass into a squatters ass.

Lulu's ain't fixin' that!

On the other side of the gender coin….male trainers wear baggy tear aways that tend to hide the fact that they quarter squat once a week and bench and bicep curl 3 times a week. Doesn’t that make it hard for a male trainer to sell squatting to their male clients?

Additionally it opens the doors for skinny fat women personal trainers to flirt their way to a full client list.”

I just don’t even know what to say to this it’s so insulting. Women actually have a brain. A brain that functions just the same way a man’s does. We have the ability to read, research and educate ourselves just like men do. I really don’t even see how these two comments relate to each other. Women can’t sell strength training to other women because they are skinny fat…..so those skinny fat trainers just flirt with boys instead . ….um, what? Seems this whole “issue” was just brought up as an opportunity to put down an entire gender.

5. Pressure to sexify their image

It is disappointing and frustrating to have limitations put upon you simply because of your gender. Women do have pressure to “sexify” their image. However, as I’ve said throughout this article, this happens in every industry. Look at female athletes. I don’t even need to provide an example of a female athlete being sexually objectified because you can’t even hear a discussion about a female athlete without her looks being discussed in some manner. This does not happen with male athletes unless it’s a vodka-induced discussion during girls night.

Since this pressure to sexualize their image is ever-present….women have empowered themselves by embracing their inherent sexy-ness and using it against the very society who’ve created this pressure in the first place. And I say more power to them. There is nothing wrong with being beautiful OR sexy. More women should feel sexy about themselves. Perhaps if they did, there would be less eating disorders and cases of depression. Not to mention….it’s our job as Personal Trainers to help make women feel great about their bodies…what woman doesn’t want to feel sexy? And if I’m trying to help all my female clients feel sexy and great about their bodies…why can’t I feel the same? I’m guessing that “good trainers” lost more respect for Anna Kournikova after seeing how she trained obese individuals on The Biggest Loser than they ever did seeing a sexy picture of her.

That being said, there is a definite difference between a beautiful and sexy, empowering and motivating image…and an embarrassingly skanky and slutty image. Yes…I agree a line needs to be drawn. However, I don’t believe a female trainer needs to limit herself to just training in order to be taken seriously. Women are amazing creatures. And we are fully capable of being sexy AND smart and juggling several different paths within the industry.

I guess one of the reasons I wanted to address this article, is that….the PTDC has an ever-growing following, and is backed by many high profile trainers and strength coaches. As such, I feel the PTDC has a responsibility to provide an encouraging environment for all trainers, regardless of gender or outside interests such as fitness modelling, to become better trainers…..and not just write articles to create a buzz for better SEO placement. I understand what this article was trying to do, but it was presented with a sexist bias and so the take-home message was that females are less intelligent and less capable of practically everything with regard to Personal Training. That takes away not only from the female gender, but the PTDC as well. It is this very attitude presented in this article that is the reason why women have it harder in any industry, not the individual issues that were brought up. Women don’t listen to men who tell us we can’t do something. But….this is all just my opinion….you don’t have to agree with it.