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What do women want?

With an ever rising tide of airbrushed and unrealistic images appearing in the fitness press and on social media, the real women working in fitness need to come together to make their voices heard, says Fitpro magazine’s managing editor Fiona McAuslan.

On 11 March, I completed my first public speaking engagement at the Women in Fitness Empowerment conference (WIFE) in Reading. WIFE was established in 2015 by Jacqueline Hooton as a networking resource and open platform for women in fitness.  

In creating WIFE Jacqueline said, “The narrative we use in the industry not only serves to alienate our female clients at times, but also can make female professionals working in fitness feel isolated. Female fitness professionals who don’t fit the ‘fitness model’ mould, or feel uncomfortable with female objectification in fitness, have suddenly found a place with WIFE.”

It’s a particularly laudable aim because, while it speaks to fit pros, its core message of promoting achievable fitness translates into advice that PTs and group exercise instructors can deliver to their clients. Many female fit pros can speak from personal experience about how dispiriting and reductive #fitspo is for real women.

Alongside me on the panel were five inspirational women: Claire Burlison Green, the co-founder and brand director of Clubbercise, the prechoreo programme of simple aerobic and street dance moves offering high- and low-impact options aimed at all abilities; Philippa Kelly from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, who gave no-nonsense advice on how to make your business work financially; Polly Hale, founder of online fitness programme The Fit Mum Formula; Karen Laing, PT and fitness writer; and health blogger Rebecca Maslin, blogger at A Helping of Healthy.

The WIFE experience                                                                                                           

I spoke about what editors want from fitness writers and I was humbled by the questions, conversation and discussion generated. Quite often panel presentations are just forums for the speakers to espouse their views, whether they are relevant or not to their audience.

What I loved about the WIFE experience was that all the women there, whether on the panel or in the audience, listened to what was said and there was a genuine sense that people were planning to turn words into action (a quick scan through the posts in the WIFE Facebook group show that many women have already leapt to it).

I don’t need to tell a readership of fit pros how satisfying that is – isn’t that why we’re in fitness because we want to make a difference to people’s lives?

So what do women in fitness want? Following the WIFE weekend I can say with absolute confidence that they want to listen to good advice, to have their voices heard in a non-competitive, non-judgmental environment and to learn from one another. We also want be part of a supportive team that keeps looking out for us after the session (whether that’s a PT one-to-one, a group X session or a seminar) is over.

Be part of the real women movement

You can be part of the real women movement too. At FitPro LIVE on Saturday 9 April, Jacqueline and Karen will be joined by Katie Bulmer-Cooke and Mary Huckle. All four women will use personal stories to address how fit pros can communicate to their female clients more effectively. Karen will focus on how fit pros can find a voice to which female clients will relate, Katie will share how you can show your clients that you understand life in their shoes, Jacqueline will help you step forward, speak up and stand out in the industry, and Mary will discuss the ways in which her breast cancer diagnosis helped her be real, vulnerable and relatable in the fitness world.

Join the conversation: you’re fighting for recognition in a fitness world that’s largely male and pale, so it’s good to know there’s a strong sisterhood that has got your back.

Katie Bulmer-Cooke, Jacqueline Hooton, Mary Huckle and Karen Laing will present Understanding the Female Factor at FitPro LIVE London. Visit http://bit.ly/1W8CeNK and search ‘Female’ for more details.