A Few Candid Thoughts on Women and Training
Below is a portion of an interview I did for another blog on the topic of women and training. I thought I’d share some of it here, since I know a fair portion of my audience are women (as well as those who train women).
On a scale 1-10, with 1 being the equivalent of an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and 10 being Rocky IV, this interview is a 10. Easy.
On how the media portrays training to women. Is there any way to change what is being marketed as “exercise” to women?….
TG: Completely true, and it’s something that I do see changing – albeit at a snail’s pace. Walk down any aisle at your local grocery store, and you’re bound to see numerous “women’s” magazines with a teeny-tiny (airbrushed) actress or model on the cover holding a pink dumbbell underneath some innocuous title like “10 Tips for a Bikini Body” or “Tank Top Triceps!” or something equally as vomit-in-my-mouthish.
In reality, it’s not even the title that’s the most nauseating – it’s the remedial, almost offensive workouts that are attached. I mean, come on: recommending a workout based solely around a can of soup (which I saw one national magazine publish) – how to curl with it, squat with it, lunge with it, throw it at the editor’s face who decided this was viable fitness information – is a bit of waste of everyone’s time don’t cha think?
But, this is the type of stuff that’s marketed towards women all…….the…….freakin…….time. As you noted, can you blame women when they curl up in the fetal position whenever you ask them to lift something heavier than their Prada bag?
Note: not every women does this, of course. Many are more than willing to listen. But, it’s pretty comical when you think about it. Many are lugging around bags (and kids!) that are pretty heavy and they don’t bat an eye.
Hand them a 50 lb dumbbell, however, and label it as “exercise,” and all of sudden they’re worried about adding on too much muscle.
Most of what they know about fitness is what the likes of Tracy Anderson regurgitates to them: “no woman should EVER lift a weight heavier than three pounds.”
More to the point, as far as the mainstream media is concerned, I don’t think their formula is going to change anytime soon. While it’s changing somewhat for the better – they do still have to sell magazines, and what sells magazines are articles with Kim Kardashian on the cover telling the world that performing body weight exercises with high heels on is the key to badonkadonkness.
Thankfully, we have women out there like Nia Shanks, Molly Galbraith, Jen Comas Keck, Neghar Fonooni, and the rest of the Girls Gone Strong crew fighting the good fight and trying to empower women to step away from the elliptical and treadmill. Likewise, I too try my best to provide information to women that goes against the norm of what they’ve been spoon fed for decades.
I try to debunk as many myths as I can – lifting heavy things WILL NOT make you a She-Man, endless hours of cardio IS NOT the key to fat loss, Yoga WILL NOT make your muscles long and lean, Tracy Anderson IS NOT a credible source of fitness and health information and is about as intelligent as a ham sandwich. There’s still a very long battle a head, but I do see the tides turning, and it’s a beautiful thing.
On how to convince a woman who is scared to “bulk up” and feels she needs endless amounts of cardio to drop body fat…..
TG: The best thing I can do as a coach is listen. I try to ask as many questions as possible and do a little digging.
- How often do they train?
- What has their training looked like?
- Are they happy with their results?
- If not, how come?
- What is their ideal body type?
- What do they feel is holding them back?
- Team Jacob or team Edward?
So on and so forth. Once I’m done listening, I then go into a little (not a lot) of what I feel would be the best approach to take given their goals. Almost inevitably, once I start throwing out words like squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, Prowlers, strength training, “we’re going to dominate the world”…….I’ll start to get a little push-back, and many of the same myths and fallacies I described above – things many of these women have been falling prey to for YEARS, with limited (if any) results mind you – rear their ugly heads.
Once that happens, I have one more question for them: “how’s that working for you?”
Clearly, if their way is the superior way, and it’s the approach they’ve been using for the past 5-10 years…….it MUST be working, right?
Not so much.
To that end, all I ask is that they give me two months.
Give it their all for 60 days and see what happens. Almost always, after three weeks……..they’re hooked.
Once they start to see (and feel) the confidence they gain, it’s always a done deal. Once they realize that putting an extra ten pounds on the bar won’t turn them into The Rock (and they can fit into their “skinny” jeans), and they start noticing small, incremental changes to their body, the sky’s the limit.
On setting goals
TG: With any client – whether I’m working with a male or female – it’s usually my job to tell them what they need to do, and not what they want to do. Big difference.
With any client, it’s about getting them outside their comfort zone. Generally speaking, with women, their Kryptonite is the free-weight area.
Can you blame them? Who wants to train around a bunch of dudes who smell like they fell into a pool of Axe body spray, stare at themselves in the mirror incessantly, and do stupid stuff like this:
Hell, I don’t want to be around that.
That notwithstanding, having clear and defined (not to mention realistic and attainable) goals is an important component many trainees fail to grasp. As a trainer or coach, I think it’s crucial to sit down with your client and come up with a goal or set of goals – whether it’s to perform an unassisted, body weight chin-up, shoot for “x” number of lbs on the deadlift, or to lose ten lbs of fat by the end of the month. Having something to work for gives people a sense of purpose and holds them more accountable in the end.
With the women that I train, they’re going to get coached on all the basic movements – squats, deadlifts, push-ups, etc. Much like you, it’s not uncommon for many of the women I train to boast that someone complimented them on their deadlift form, and I totally dig that!
Even cooler is when they come back with stories about how they were waiting to “jump in” on a certain exercise at the commercial gym, and they warmed-up with the weight that the guy finishing up used on his last set.
In the end, though, it’s about coaching the basics. There’s no need to make things more complicated than they have to be. Nor is it doing them any favors to “baby” them. I never quite understood this whole mentality that women can’t train like the boys, and lift some appreciable weight. Anyone else agree?