Most of my clients wouldn't consider themselves athletes... in fact, I don't think nay of them would consider themselves athletes by the traditional meaning of the word - at least not professional ones anyway. Despite this, I would say that I work with a great group of women, currently all age 14 or above, and many of whom have children, yet still find the time to exercise, eat well (for the most part!) and put themselves first for a portion of their week. It's still saddening to see however, that research suggests female fitness is lower than that of a male, by around 4%. (Data from 2018-19, with ongoing research.)
Campaigns from SportEngland and ThisGirlCan aim to ensure that we start making ourselves a priority within fitness. Making ourselves a priority is hard-work at the best of times, but being able to schedule in some time for self-love is becoming more and more important. Exercise isn't just about the physical aspects, but also about doing something for our own mental health... on several occasions I've had clients turn up to their sessions and say "I almost cancelled our session today, I'm really not feeling it.". I get it. I've been there. Especially in the first month or so of a training plan, our confidence can really make us feel this way. When this is the case, we take the session a little slower, find an exercise that the client enjoys and by the end of the session they feel a little more relaxed, or might even have a smile on their face too. Job done.
Now, as important as it is for females to feel confident enough to tell me they're not 100% themselves on that particular day, I think it's about finding some sort of exercise that they enjoy. It's a way of getting clients to adhere to their exercise programme.
I'm lucky enough to say that my longest client has been with me since about my first month of being a qualified PT (now moving into my fifth year), and the remainder if my clients have been with me for near enough that same time period too. With this in mind, I aim to provide variety to every single session that I offer my clients. Sure, there are some days we have to complete an exercise that we don't enjoy in order to reap the benefits of the exercise, but for the most part I get them to try something new until we find a type of exercise that is enjoyable. You may not have found yours yet, but keep looking!
My clients learn exercises across all aspects of fitness; agility, balance, coordination, speed, power, strength, flexibility, mobility, weight-lifting, body-weight exercise, long steady cardio, quick HIIT training, core training and pre/post natal exercises (when the time is right) to name just a few... Most importantly however, is that they feel comfortable and confident whilst learning this all. Some exercises they'll snap up in an instant, others may take a little more practice, but my reason for this training is "the more they know, the more they'll grow" - especially important when working with younger athletes.
Incorporating as many different exercises as possible across their training essentially helps them to move more efficiently - with most people's goals being weight-loss related, it means that we exercise as many different body parts as possible and therefore have better chance of whole body toning and weight loss. Even when my client's goal isn't to lose weight, if they can move more efficiently, their overall movement patterns improve. Less aches and pains, more joint mobility, increased strength levels, muscular tone, better posture, improved flexibility and less chance of injury or even quitting the programme altogether!
When I feel that my clients have learnt the basics, we start to move on to compound exercises - those that work several muscle groups at one time - which I would argue we do that naturally most of the time anyway (when walking we naturally swing our arms, no?) It's one of the most rewarding things when I'm able to progress clients through to harder exercises that they couldn't do previously. Depending on how much time a client can afford to put into their training means that this may happen sooner, or later for some clients, nonetheless they're still sticking with their fitness journey to improve their health. Not only this... but when a client is able to multitask looking after a young one at the same time as completing a session, well that's an accomplishment in itself!
Women don't get enough praise for what they're able to do when it comes to health and fitness. I don't say this as an "anti-male" campaign, because we all know that they're pretty great at times too... but women I salute you. Anyone who's taking a step to improve their health, mind, fitness or lifestyle is doing great in my eyes. With this being said, nothing great is ever achieved when we live inside our comfort zone. Some exercises are more challenging than others; this is when we must fight a little harder to improve. It's not selfish to make yourself and your health a priority, it'll only make your life better in the long run. Let's step up our game and close the gender exercise gap... #ThisGirlCan