Getting Your Female Clients to “Woman Up”

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Today I have an excellent guest post by CT based strength coach, Erika Hurst, covering a topic I’m very passionate about: Encouraging women to lift heavy things.

Before we jump into the article:  We made it safely to Australia, and if you’d like to keep tabs on our trip Lisa is writing a daily blog. You can check out the first entry, Day 1: 20 Hours On a Plane HERE.

Time to Woman Up

In my six years of coaching mostly women, I can count on one hand the number who were able to walk in the gym and mercilessly attack their workout without a hint of self-doubt, protest or fear….along with pure admiration for the amount of Pantera I subject them to, but that’s another story.

Most women are totally unaware of the brute force that exists within them and the extraordinary feats their bodies are capable of. It is completely unknown to them how harnessing their strength can earn them the lean, vibrant bodies they desire and an indestructible mental fortitude that will benefit them far beyond the gym.

From the get go, these things just aren’t appealing. The idea that men and women should train differently is preposterous. Everyone needs to push, pull, squat, lunge and hinge, but women unquestionably approach exercise with different cultural, sociological and psychological motivations.

(Source): Me!

It’s up to you as a coach, mentor or friend to challenge those motivations and provide them with the right tools to develop a mindset powerful enough to propel them forward towards a healthier approach to changing their bodies.

Note that I’m not referring to us broads who already thoroughly enjoy rolling around in a bucket of chalk, covering our shins in bruises and waging personal warfare against heavy shit for fun.

I’m referring to the average female client who just wants to lose fat and gain confidence. Women in this population have been utterly misinformed on how to change their bodies and usually lack belief in their selves.

What holds this population back is what goes on in between their ears.

They’ve been lead to assume all their lives that they can’t be physically and mentally strong. They live an existence of self-loathing because they’ve been heavily influenced by dramatically false photoshopped images, girly fitness mags that treat them like weaklings, and an industry that constantly tells them they should forever be toning, fixing and punishing their bodies.

It’s you, as a coach who trains women, versus all the BS they are inundated with on a daily basis once they step outside of your gym.

Fortunately, the physical strength we gain in the gym expresses itself in other parts of our lives through strength of mind, character and greater sense of self. If we give our female clients the extra tools to really harness that expression we can truly help each of them discover how strong and powerful they are, how to filter through the nonsense and in turn incite some really meaningful, lasting changes in their lives.

Below, I’ve laid out a few of the strategies I use to accomplish this with my female clients.

1. Listen To and Educate Them.

If you are an introvert like me, you probably already have the whole listening thing nailed down. As with any mutual relationship where trust is integral, listen to their concerns, wants and needs. Let them know each is perfectly valid, dispel any nonsensical fitness beliefs they may be attached to and simply educate them.

Knowledge is empowering and the better your female clients understand proper strength training and sensible nutrition, the less inclined they’ll be to fall for quick fixes and other baloney like Piloxing or 30 day squat challenges.

2. Revamp Their Perspective.

The more positive of an existence and mindset one creates, the more power they have over themselves and actualizing their own realities.

Help the women you train understand that a sustainable, effective nutrition and training regimen should add value to their bodies and make them feel good. Chasing fatigue and soreness in the gym, and restricting themselves in the kitchen doesn’t make anyone better and usually backfires.

Teach women to view exercise as a means to become more able, powerful and bold – rather than a never ending battle against their bodies to be less. Teach them that striving for performance is more fruitful than chasing calories burned.

I have my clients set and strive for realistic strength goals like performing 10 real push-ups or deadlifting 200lbs. This helps them approach their workouts with eagerness and embrace fueling their bodies properly to achieve these goals. Momentum and confidence then builds each time a small strength goal is reached, they feel more energized from eating better and begin to see the physical changes that result from doing both consistently.

3. Believe In Them.

Women have been conditioned by circuit training, wimpy exercise DVDs, and believing they need special exercises. The thought of doing a real chin up or deadlifting 1.5x their body weight has probably never crossed their mind, therefore most have zero confidence in their ability to perform either.

It’s up to you to show them these are not only great endeavors to chase, they are also very attainable and effective ways of reaching their goals. Most women are full of self-doubt and “I can’ts”, so they usually need a subtle push to add an extra 10lbs to the bar, grab a heavier dumbbell or push harder behind the sled.

Let them know you have full confidence in their abilities, provided it’s honest. Their belief in themselves will grow and they will eventually start asking to go heavier.

4. Encourage Self-Awareness.

As a society, it’s of the norm to be constantly rushed and on autopilot. Stopping to think about what you’re doing or why you’re doing it., who has time for that?

It’s pretty obvious how detrimental this can be to any goal.

My female clients are fairly high strung and need encouragement to tap the brakes, introspect and put their conscious brains in charge. This helps them to be more in control of their actions, able to make more informed decisions and realize the power they have over themselves.

Before each session, I do an informal readiness assessment where I ask about soreness, energy, what they ate that day, how they slept, etc. For some of them, this is the only time they’ve paused to really think about any of those things. No matter what, always encourage them to be compassionate and non-judgmental about what they discover about themselves.

5. Motivate Through Self-Love.

It is very important for women to understand that if they are using negative perceptions about their bodies as their sole motivation for wanting to change, their efforts will not be viable or purposeful.

However, it’s not as easy as simply telling them to love their bodies first.

Often, the dislike they have for their body stems from another deeply rooted issue. This is why many women under go phenomenal body transformations, yet are still unhappy with their bodies. What we can do is discourage negative self-talk and self-neglect, help them view setbacks as learning experiences and guide them towards taking care of their bodies rather than fighting against them.

Most importantly, keep them haulin’ iron!

Although most female clients may need convincing otherwise and a slightly more complex approach, they are not delicate flowers. There’s nothing more rewarding than helping women fall in love with discovering their strength and in turn cultivate a sense of empowerment and self-worth through their bodies’ capabilities.

If you would like additional female-specific fitness advice, please feel free to reach out to me: Erika@HurstStrength.com, or visit my gym’s website/blog or Facebook page.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  • Thank Erika. Great points in here. In the future, when they talk about exercise of this time, they will balk at the condescending garbage we currently manufacture to make the gym more “feminine.” That Piloxing picture is just about the funniest, and simultaneously most insulting thing I’ve seen in awhile.

    Here’s one I’ll throw on the pile. Stop saying to women (or men for that matter) “it looks like you’ve lost weight.” The exception being you are her physician, and you are meeting with her in a professional manor where that information is relevant to her health. Instead, ask her how she feels?

  • Shane Mclean

    Great kick butt post Erika. Enjoyed it and agreed with every word.

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  • Ben Cameron

    /discussion

  • Despina Belle-Isle

    I have achieved so much over the 7 or 8 years that I have been weightlifting. But even though at 56 years old I deadlift 205 lbs and squat 160lbs for multiple reps weekly and am looking forward to achieving heavier weights, it’s still easy to fall victim to the media hype about how women are supposed to look. It’s a constant mental battle and it’s pervasive. What is crystal clear every day is how great I feel, how much I can do physically and how much I love weightlifting.

    • TonyGentilcore

      That is amazing Despina. Please, keep doing what you’re doing. It’s because of women like you that young(er) women have role models to emulate.

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