Fitness

Are you exercising safely as a woman? Here’s what to ask your personal trainer

Are you exercising safely as a woman? Here's what to ask your personal trainer

My personal training journey began in an unexpected and somewhat tragic scenario. At 34, after the birth of my second baby and a painful marital break-up, I turned to exercise as my salvation. It was my way out of the deep, black hole that had become my life. But, as I threw myself into the world of fitness, initially as a way to cope, I encountered issues I wasn’t prepared for.

I began to leak urine during workouts. At first, it was minor — almost a joke among the ladies at the gym. But soon, it escalated, turning my exercise routine into a source of embarrassment. This wasn’t just a minor inconvenience; it affected my life, work, and confidence.

When I sought medical help, I was stunned by the diagnosis. I needed to stop exercising or face a prolapse and potential surgery. This was a cold splash of reality on how little I, and so many other women, knew about the pelvic floor and its importance.

I was a personal trainer who had trained themselves to a pelvic floor dysfunction and I had been doing what the textbooks told me to do. This fuelled me to learn everything I could from anyone who knew about the pelvic floor. And I tried stuff out on my own body. I asked questions of my clients and listened to their answers.

Working with pelvic health physiotherapists ensured a greater understanding by all, meaning women fully learned about their own pelvic floor. Because let’s face it – just like noses, all pelvic floors are a little different.

But this also made me angry. I was following training guidelines for how to train young and fit men, got damaged, and was made to feel like it was my fault. And I had also been training other women, like I had been taught. Had I damaged them too?

This motivated me to write the education and change the industry at a fundamental level.

Are you aware that Certificates III and IV in fitness train fitness professionals on how to train young, fit men? If you have ever been trained without considering factors like our menstrual cycle, hormonal changes, and physical differences, and if you are using machines that just don’t fit, you know exactly what I mean.

As much as fitness professionals need to upgrade their education to include women’s health, the public also needs to demand more.

As a consumer of fitness, you have the right to ask if your personal trainer has done any women’s health education or how the gym/fitness facility they work at supports them with this gap in their knowledge.

Questions you should ask your personal trainer

1. Do you have an understanding of women’s health, particularly pelvic floor issues?

It’s OK, your fitness professional does not need to have the answer, but they should have a professional network where they can recommend a pelvic health physiotherapist.

2. Are there modifications available in your exercise routine during different stages of my menstrual cycle or life?

Does your trainer understand that your program might be written for six weeks, but your cycle is about 28 days?

3. What steps can you take to ensure that you’re not pushing my body beyond safe limits?

Understanding that a strategy such as exhaling on exertion (on the hardest phase of any exercise) will help support your pelvic floor. This is a simple game-changer.

Staying active into older age

Every woman has the right to exercise and move her body in ways that feel good. Don’t suffer in silence. If something doesn’t feel right, stop doing it and speak up.

With the right knowledge and support, we can enjoy exercise our entire lives, because women’s bodies might be different to men’s, but we’ve got just as much potential to stay active and healthy into old age.

Mish Wright

This article was written by Mish Wright, the founder of EVEolution and head of education at Women’s Fitness Education, a registered training organisation that provides women’s health education alongside Certificate III and IV in fitness.

Mish has worked with thousands of fitness professionals around the world and was recently awarded the Fuel Woman of the Year for 2024.

Learn more at mishwright.com