Things like ‘women aren’t made to be strong’ or ‘don’t get too big’.
You might have heard some of these things yourself – but what’s for certain is, you’ll never hear anything like this in an Ultimate Performance gym.
If you’re following UP Women on Facebook or Instagram, you will have seen clips of some of our female trainers, including myself, talking about all these silly things that women hear about weight training.
They’re genuine responses to real things that we as female personal trainers have come up against in real life.
I wanted to share some of them with you to demonstrate how silly these comments really are.
You might have said some of these things yourself, for which I forgive you.
You might still say them after reading this and seeing our clips. I’d like to know what you think about it.
1. ‘Don’t get too big.’
I’ll get as big as I please, thank you very much. Worrying about this is like worrying about anything subjective. If you try to make other people happy about your body, you’ll always get it wrong, because nobody will agree on what is right. So, you’ll just have to woman-up and make your own decision about this stuff.
Your body size and muscle size isn’t random. It’s the result of applied knowledge combined with your genes and your diet. So, if you’re working away in the gym for size and you’re still a tiny slip of a thing, or if you’re getting big and you wish you weren’t, get advice from someone who can show you how to train and eat for your body preference.
2. ‘Women aren’t made to be strong.’
Pardon? Who has been carrying children around, doing heavy laundry and other manual labour such as farm work, for hundreds of years? Women might not have the capacity to lift as heavy as a man who trains as well as she does, but to say that women aren’t made to be strong is just plain incorrect.
If anyone says this to you, you could attempt an intelligent discourse on the matter, but it isn’t your responsibility to put them right. If you’re feeling naughty, you could hold their gaze and not speak while the tumbleweed rolls by; or you could just laugh as if it was a very funny joke and gallantly change the topic.
3. ‘Training during pregnancy is dangerous.’
Blanket statements like that just aren’t true. Yes, training during pregnancy can be dangerous, particularly during the first trimester; the first couple of months is not a great time to start in the gym for the first time.
But women can still train safely during pregnancy to stay fit and healthy; just ensure that you’re working with someone who is qualified and experienced with weight training and pre-natal exercise.
Someone who has these specialisms can work with you through your trimesters to keep your workouts balanced and comfortable as your body changes shape. They can also help protect you from issues like diastasis recti.
During pregnancy, the connecting tissue that joins the abdominus rectus muscle together expands and stretches to make space for the baby. This is diastasis recti. It’s normal, but when the gap is over 2cm wide, this can cause problems. Direct pressure on this connective tissue can encourage it to widen; if it splits, this is a hernia. Thoughtful programming can reduce these risks and even where there is no split or the gap is small, care must be taken post-partum to aid recovery and to prevent hardening of the connective tissue before it has a chance to close.
Every woman I ever saw who had the dreaded diastasis recti had also previously trained with people who had no qualifications for or experience of training pregnant or post-natal women.’ I’ve coached many pregnant women and learned this skill via formal study and mentoring from someone more experienced than me. I now pass this on myself.
4. ‘Be careful; you shouldn’t be doing that by yourself.’
Not everyone has caught up with the emancipation of women. They’ll advise you against hiring and driving a van, going to see a solicitor by yourself or moving the sofa so you can clean behind it. You can bet your life that I’ve been told not to take dumbbells from the rack or adjust a bench by myself.
I’ve been warned against doing things, by people who have seen me do them with complete success.
When I’ve pointed this out, those people have said, “Oh, but you should get help next time,” and when I’ve asked them why, they haven’t had an answer further than, “Well, because you shouldn’t be doing that by yourself.” There’s no accounting for preconceptions.
Who knew that macho Ultimate Performance was so feminist?
I have never heard any of these things uttered at Ultimate Performance, and I find that to be exceptional.
When I joined the team as a personal trainer, I knew three things: this organisation is straight down the line; its people are experts and a lot of them show the fruits of this in their large muscles.
Bodybuilding and weight training have a macho image and, despite the professionalism of Ultimate Performance, I still expected to encounter a bit of sexism, especially inadvertent sexism in the form of these sorts of comments.
But no, it has never happened, and I doubt I’ll ever see it.
I guess I’ll have to put away my own weights!