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Long Time No Write
Originally Posted 06/21/10

Long time no write. It has been a busy month with more travel than I planned but still necessary. I just watched, "Up In the Air,Ē the movie with George Clooney and his pursuit of 10 million travel miles and the status that reaching that goal brings to him. For years travel was everything, as it is with George early in the movie, and every year I proclaim that this year there will be less travel, yet I still find myself traveling 45 weeks or so a year. George lived for the travel and his life was planes and the glamour of keeping moving, but even he began to question the journey at the end.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with this blog. The subject I am hitting this week came up during our Perform Better preconference event where we offered a four-hour class on the business of training. We had 20 people for the Providence event and everyone involved was serious about opening or being more effective in their training businesses. One of the side trips we took during that workshop was the role women play in training and why we treat them so badly in most fitness facilities.

The world may be progressing, but in the fitness industry women are still second-class citizens, something that has happened culturally and in some respects the result of what women have done to themselves. Most of the owners in the fitness business are men, and men have been lying to women since the dawn of time and that isnít likely to change.

One of the biggest lies ever men tell is that women canít do fitness. We put them in side rooms, give them cute colored weights or chrome junk equipment and then tell them to rep themselves silly and go for toning.

If they try and venture into the main part of the club, we shuffle them off to group rooms or isolate them in areas that are condescending as well an ineffective. Really, chrome equipment? This is so 1965.

Does group work? Of course it does, but it should be part of an overall program that includes strength training as well or you end up like we did in the 80ís with hundreds of skinny fat women who lost weight doing group but still had body fat north of 25 percent. At least the modern group companies, such as BTS, get that women have to do some strength and build into their concept, such as their Power offerings.

Even today, we lie to women in the clubs. Most trainers are extremely prejudiced toward their personal sport; hence the emphasis on why so many women end up doing bodybuilding exercises better left to the dungeon clubs of the 1990ís. Should a woman really be doing split body part workouts six days a week if her prime purpose in the club is to lose weight and increase her overall health and fitness?

Most clubs are also still designed for the client of 1995 as well. Women, and all of the other smaller people in the club of either sex, are never considered in a club design. The equipment was purchased for bodybuilders and is laid out by body part. The free weights are all in one place intimidating the wee wee out of the average club attendee.

There is also never enough space for the person who wants to do a full body workout using functional tools, because that means the club would actually have to get rid of a few pieces of fixed equipment, such as all their Hammer stuff, that only about eight percent of the members actually use.

Women donít fit in on the main floor because there is simply no room or any equipment they could or would use. Their preferred stuff, even the functional, is all locked up in the personal training room in the back. We donít think about these clients because the trainers are only interested in training the athletes, which Mrs. Johnson, the deconditioned mother of two, is thought of as on the other end of the scale and not fun to work with by any trainer standard.

The culture also works against women in fitness. Pick up most popular fitness magazines and they are still advocating high repetition toning workouts, excessive cardio and workouts with weights from the 90ís, accompanied by pictures of models that couldnít possibly be doing the workouts they are modeling since they could never achieve that fitness level doing sets of 20 with little vinyl dumb bell imitations.

Mainstream fitness centers, as mentioned above, donít fare much better. Even after all these years, there are still few women in the weight areas of the clubs. Poor design of the weight areas, the intimidation factor from so much stupid testosterone and club trainers who insist that women canít do weights and should be restricted to the circuit areas also adds to limited female involvement in the one area of the club that might help them the most.

One of the questions that still arise often in the workshops is whether a club owner should add a womenís-only room in his club (it almost always a guy asking this question). The answer is to redesign the rest of the club so that it is not intimidating. You can do this by creating two separate weight areas; one designed for smaller people with limits on dumb bells and kettle bells and more open space for the non-bodybuilding types who want weights but not to be confined like the Monday chest and triceps freaks.

You could also just throw out the dozen or so dumbass members who insist that bodybuilding is a sport and that doing bench presses three times a week ignoring legs that would do any chicken proud is the way to train. Every club has a small group of members who by intent, dress, language, bad manners, loud farts and a religious belief in dated training methods scare the hell of the other 97%.

Owners laughed at Planet Fitness but their elimination of heavy dumb bells and the lunk head rule has made them a place that is safe (except for some of the scary guys with the prison tats who love $10 memberships) and their clubs are many times a less intimidating place than some of the national franchise clubs on a Monday night.

It is a shame that we still insist on creating workouts that automatically place women in the "canít do itĒ category in the clubs. The trainer sees a woman in her 40ís and 15 minutes later she is doing reps of 20 while a bored dude with a clipboard is explaining the fine points of setting the seat. A guy comes in, however, and he might end up with a workout that actually works, although sadly he might end up in circuit hell too if he is over 40. Maybe it is a combination of sex and age that is killing us in the club and not just being a woman.

But is the responsibility of this nonsense for this down play of women actually partly their fault? Attend any national convention; from the major trade shows to training conventions, and you will see very few women who have evolved into national level experts. Many of the trade shows still feature women who really perpetuate the belief that women canít do fitness by discussing workouts and club programming that is often sexists and demeaning to the women they believe they are helping.

Are some there leading the charge? Of course, Kelly Calabrese, Annette Lang, Diane Vives and Rachel Cosgrove are out there pushing hard and educating the rest of us poor training deficient males, but there arenít many of them compared to the shear number of women participants in the industry. Rachelís new book is actually years ahead of the technology most trainers use for either sex but light years ahead of the typical trainer head and his approach to women in the club.

Why arenít more women leading the need for change and becoming these experts? We need them to change the belief systems that still allow for most national chains to sort women by group exercise, day care needs and circuit workouts.

Perhaps the biggest philosophical change we can seek is to start with this basic concept: Train everyone who sets foot in the club as an athlete. Does this mean that Mrs. Johnson will be running wind sprints at the park preparing to get timed in the 40-yard sprint? No, but it does mean that we will train her as a fully functional adult upright and using the same training strategies that we use to get results from alleged male athletes (guys over 40 who used to be someone in high school or Division VIII college sports, which means he pitched for a week at the local community college).

Women also have to step up and complain. If the club canít properly train you, take your money and go somewhere else. Nothing gets an ownerís attention like a member leaving with money in hand.
There is money to be made with women. Treat them as adults and train them as athletes and they will get results. Get results and you will never have to market that program again. And most importantly, it is just the right thing to do.

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