Some Thoughts On Training Women (Post # I Don’t Know, I Lost Count)
“Can we please just shut-up about Tracy Anderson!?!”
Those were some powerful words uttered by David Dellanave of Movement Minneapolis last weekend during the Expert Panel at The Fitness Summit.
Up until that point a fair amount of Tracy Anderson bashing had accumulated, partly in jest (as the brunt of some jokes), but too, partly because her name came up in several presentations (mine included) as a talking point about the the state of the industry, and I think Dave just kinda got sick of it.
The tipping point, I believe, was when powerlifter, T-Nation writer, and overall nice guy, Greg Nuckols, asked the panel a simple, albeit powerful question: “How do we promote good training information without turning people off from training?”
On an aside, I watched Greg PAUSE squat – ass-to-grass no less – 585 lbs for an easy, clean single last weekend. I secretly hate him….;o)
As my friend, Harold Gibbons, noted in his summation of the entire event, “This question was posed in contrast to a conversation at the time that discussed how we as an industry can do battle with some of the horrible training suggestions out there. I say “battle” and “horrible” because we can all be vocal about the disregard for science and safety from certain training methodologies. While I don’t agree with some of them, I don’t know if these people deserve to be cast as pariahs, as much as we can accept them as well intentioned
and flawed with opportunity for growth.”
I’ll be the first to call myself out here. I’ve done my fair share of championing the charge against the likes of Tracy Anderson, Jillian Michaels, or any other example you can come up with.
On one hand it seems a bit misguided or hypocritical (and I’ve even been called jealous) given the thousands of testimonials they have from women all over the world who have followed their advice with great success and lost “x” amount of weight performing their programs.
That should be commended. Kind of.
You see, extenuating circumstances aside (medical issues), it isn’t hard to get people to lose weight. Take them from doing nothing to doing something, and “stuff” will happen. How’s that for science!?!
What I hate, what really ruffles my feathers, gets my goat, and makes me go bat-shit crazy….is the incessant fear mongering that the likes of Tracy Anderson gravitates towards and advocates.
Here’s a sampling of some of her better known gems:
“No woman should ever lift a weight above 3 lbs.”
“While running, strength training, and cycling may burn calories, they do not design feminine muscle or get rid of an imbalance that may masquerade as a “problem area.”
“I would never recommend (kettlebells) to women, even women who are fans of bulkier muscle lines. While bulkier muscles looks OK on women in the 20s and 30s, it doesn’t age well.”
And while I don’t like to use ad hominem attacks as part of an argument, I do find it somewhat “odd” that for as much as Ms. Anderson is an advocate of her own method (as she should be), and for as much as she advocates for a certain look and bastardizes strength training for women…..she’s had fair amount of plastic surgery done.
Doesn’t THAT seem a bit hypocritical? In an offhanded way, we could make the argument that not even Tracy Anderson got to look like Tracy Anderson by doing the Tracy Anderson Method. #Wordplay
But anyways, getting back on track, she’s a master at toying with women’s emotions and irrational fears towards lifting weights.
Does her method get results? I guess. I mean, I can Google “Tracy Anderson before and after pictures” and get a few hundred pages of evidence. And that should be commended. To a point.
Stealing some commentary from “Brent” who left this comment on an old(er) blog post the other day:
Any dipshit can teach to the test, or run a client into the ground, get them to lose x amount of pounds and show off their ‘success’ (usually its even easier in the fitness industry because clients come to you, usually somewhat motivated and willing to do what the ‘expert’ tells them to).
Setting up someone for long term success isn’t immediately quantifiable and is quite a bit harder. Kinda requires skill. It’s why any trainer can have a buttload of ‘success’ stories. The goal though is empowerment (at least in my mind) and setting one up for long-term success. This is more difficult to market though and frankly not as sexy.
Anytime I critique a trainer and someone says ‘yeah but they get good results..”) I just tell them Jillian Michaels and Tracy Anderson have thousands of positive testimonials, weight loss success stories, tweeter followers etc. Smart peeps in the fitness industry bash them though because they do nothing to empower their clients and set them up for long term success. I wonder how many of their clients or Biggest Loser winners come back years later and are like ‘wow, you really changed my life!
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
In a roundabout way, this goes back to my presentation last weekend where I talked about some of my strategies when it comes to training women.
I brought up Tracy Anderson to showcase a point: that fear mongering, feeding into, and placating into the irrational fears of (some) women is not doing anyone any favors.
At Cressey Performance we don’t feel women need to train any differently than men. 90% of what we do is the same across the board whether you have a the Y chromosome or not.
I was going to toss in a Sex and the City joke here, and showcase women’s unparalleled infatuation with it, but then I realized I’ve actually watched every episode. And [cue high-pitched voice here] looooooooooooved it.
Our gals are deadlifting, squatting, bench pressing, performing chin-ups and push-ups, and otherwise TRAINING like the guys.
What stands out, oftentimes, is the psychology that comes with training women.
Men tend to be more Temporal Comparative, where they compete or compare against themselves.
What did I deadlift last week?
What did I squat last week?
How much do I weigh now compared to last month?
Guys tend be more interested in what they, themselves, are doing.
Conversely, women tend to be more Societal Comparative, and compare themselves to other women.
She’s doing “x” amount of weight on the bench press, how come I’m not doing that much?
She has an amazing back. Why doesn’t mine look that way?
I can’t believe she’s wearing that to the gym. What a ho!
I once had a 50+ year old female client who would beat herself up and downgrade HER results, because she didn’t look like the 22 year-old former Division I female athlete who trained at the the same time as her.
Part of my job as their coach is to help them turn off the negative and unrealistic messages they’re inundated with as they watch television or walk through the magazine aisle, and teach them to compete against themselves.
While it may take some women longer than others to buy into, one of the best things I can do is to get them to focus more on performance based goals rather than less quantifiable goals such as scale weight.
Of course, some women may need to lose some weight….and that’s fine. But the sooner I get them to focus more on performance based goals like working towards performing a strict push-up on the ground or squatting their bodyweight for reps – the less they are s slave to the scale. And that’s HUGE!!!
Scale weight doesn’t tell you anything!
The work and effort it will take to eventually be able to do a push-up from the ground, or squat one’s bodyweight for reps, or to be able to perform a strict body-weight chin-up trumps ANYTHING you can do with a pink dumbbell or an elliptical machine or a Tracy Anderson DVD.
Sorry if that rubs some people the wrong way…..but that’s just the way things are.
Of course, if strength training isn’t your bag, and you prefer to use pink dumbbells, perform yoga, and run a treadmill, go for it!!! As noted earlier: anything is better than nothing. If you like the way you feel doing those things, and your proud of your body….awesome. You get a gold star.
But please don’t be the person who, despite going to the gym 5x per week, bitches and whines that you never seem to get the results you’re after – or if you do, that they never stick for longer than a few weeks or months – and then continue to repeat the same process over and over and over again.
What was it Einstein said about insanity again? If you continue doing the same thing(s) expecting a different result…….
Likewise, if you’re a fitness professional reading this post, I implore and encourage you to learn to EMPOWER your clients (both female and male). Teach them the skills they’ll need to make LONG-TERM progress, be their coach! COACH THEM!!!!!
So while I understand I set myself up for snarky comments by starting a post off with “can we please just shut up about Tracy Anderson,” and then proceeded to write another blog post on Tracy Anderson…….I hope people can appreciate the overall message/tone.
Which, in a roundabout way can be summarized like this:
One of the best compliments you can receive from a client is when they no longer need your services.
When they finally reach their goal(s), are able to make them stick, and can then look you pointblank in the eyes and say “I got this,” your job is done.
There’s no need to exploit people and cater to their fears.