When you train prenatal clients, you have the power to dramatically improve their pregnancy experience, writes trainer and educator Clare Hozack. Here’s how.
You may not have additional qualifications or certifications in training pregnant clients, but the guidance you provide to women during this time can change their experience for the better – or for the worse. I’ll hazard a guess that we are all interested in positively impacting our client’s lives, so let’s look at how we can do that.
Here are seven ways in which I have witnessed personal trainers either negatively affect a woman’s pregnancy experience, or make it better.
Sure, there are recommended weight guidelines, which you can view here. However, some women will gain additional weight no matter how healthily they eat. The hormonal impacts aren’t always controllable for all women, and if you punish, judge, or emphasise her weight gain, you may trigger a preoccupation with weight in your client.
If her personality type predisposes her to worrying about her weight anyway, regardless of pregnancy, then the changes occurring in her body now will mean that she needs extra reassurance, not harsh rulings, and guidance to whole foods and good nutrition, not diets and fat loss.
Our role, as personal trainers, is always moderation. Healthy weight, healthy mindset, healthy exercise habits.
In my experience, if a woman expects one thing, and the reality is another, then stress, grief, and disappointment is the result. Sharing your story, and stories from your other female clients, can help expand her expectations of:
The good, the catastrophic, the perfect, and the modified birth and fourth trimester stories will help build her catalogue of expectations and scenarios, so she’s less shocked when things don’t always go according to plan.
This is a really damaging expectation that the fitness industry has a lot to answer for. Remember when you sprained your ankle at netball? Was it ever the same ankle? Have you ever torn your rotator cuff, strained your knee or ‘done’ your back? Did they ever ‘bounce back’ to the same rotator cuff, knee or back? Of course not. You did a lot of work, a lot of rehab, and a lot of resting it before it was even remotely the same – and even now, can you really say it’s the same as before the injury?
While pregnancy and giving birth isn’t technically an injury, it is a major body transformation, both physically, emotionally and hormonally.
The best advice you can give your clients is that you’re going to work with their new, post baby body the same way: put the work in, put the rehab in, put the appropriate rest periods in, and watch her thrive in the postnatal period.
This is for the ultra conservatives among you! Perhaps you have a catastrophic birth story, or live with prolapse, incontinence or other chronic issues. It is important to recognise that this will not happen to everyone. Yes, conservative coaching is super important in the early stages of pregnancy, late stages of pregnancy, or where there are complications; but equally important is progressing clients when they’re able, building them up towards the activities that will be required of them when the baby comes.
In the same way that every birth is different, so is every pregnancy experience. Being open to listening to all ranges of pregnancy experience is one of the biggest favours you can do for your pregnant clients. Being okay with the scope of experiences, from a glowing, perfect, and wonderful one to an awful one riddled with morning sickness, pain, and continence issues, will have an impact on her experience too – simply because she’ll have someone to talk to!
Part of having a positive impact on your client’s pregnancy experience is not ignoring the fact that she has a pelvic floor, and that being pregnant is a risk factor for developing a dysfunction. You don’t have to be qualified to train it yourself, but if you’re not, then referring her to someone that is qualified is even more important. It is not okay to ignore this fact and continue training her like you did before. You can click here to view a ‘6-Step Restore Your Core and Pelvic Floor’ process, which you can use with anyone with pelvic floor risk or dysfunction.
Which brings me to…
Failing to refer your pregnant clients to a qualified pregnancy trainer is a failure to positively impact their pregnancy experience. Even if you are qualified, then referring to women’s health physiotherapists and working with your client’s midwife, obstetrician, or other healthcare providers is really important if you want to give them the best pregnancy training experience possible.
We all have the power to positively impact the pregnant women around us, whether they’re clients, friends or family, simply by being open to all experiences, sharing stories, and proactively taking the pressure off them.
None of these behaviours require specific qualification, although adding one to your professional development to-do list is never a bad idea. You can get qualified through Burrell Education here. Having said this, if you intend to continue training your client throughout her pregnancy, you need to be qualified in training pregnant women in order for your insurance to be valid. Furthermore, if you are truly going to give her a positive pregnancy experience, and you haven’t undertaken additional training, then referring her to train with an appropriately qualified trainer should be your next step.
A former athlete and strength and conditioning coach, Clare applies this experience to her work training and educating pre- and post natal women to help them develop ‘next level’ fitness for parenting. A trainer with IntoYou studio on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, she is also the Australian and NZ Master Trainer for Burrell Education, which delivers a range of women’s health and pregnancy-related courses. You can download Burrell Education’s free Pre-Screening tools for pregnant women here and post natal women here.into-you.com.au / burrelleducation.com
Disclaimer: Where Certificate III in Fitness, Cert III/Cert 3, or Fitness Coach is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Fitness, Cert IV/Cert 4, or Personal Trainer is mentioned, it refers to SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Program™ is mentioned, it refers to Fitness Essentials and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Master Trainer Plus+ Program™ is mentioned, it refers to SIS30321 Certificate III in Fitness and SIS40221 Certificate IV in Fitness. Where Certificate IV in Massage or Cert IV/Cert 4 is mentioned, it refers to HLT42021 Certificate IV in Massage Therapy. Where Diploma of Remedial Massage is mentioned, it refers to HLT52021 Diploma of Remedial Massage.