you heard it here, women and men are different. How? I hear you ask. I did in fact get it that we are different, however not to the true extent we are! The brief info I am going to share with you now I learnt at a webinar I attended during the week by a very knowledgeable woman named Nardia Norman. The webinar was titled, Don’t train women like small men. Look her up. WOW. What a dynamo. I’ll include her dets below.
The first item we covered was the menstrual cycle. Yep, I said it, menstrual cycle. We, as trainers, need to be able to have open and honest chats with our members about this. Let’s face it. 50% of our population and a majority of people using PT’s go through it.
There are 3 factors to consider when training women. In no specific order.
1. Female physiology.
-female sex hormones.Namely Estrogen: Aids temperature control, memory, Libido, It’s the feel-good hormone, helps protect the heart, aids skin repair, strengthens the bones, aids skin repair etc. As you can see a very important hormone. However, it does increase body fat (needed for child birth) and doesn’t help for increased muscle mass. Typically released during the first half of the menstrual cycle. Important to know when programming workouts for women! Interesting fact is generally women burn fat better than men! Now that is a knowledge bomb I never knew.
– Menstrual cycle. 28 days? Can be 35 – 21 days. As stated above, estrogen is produced in the first stages of the cycle. Therefore, it is best to map out a training cycle that matches the menstrual cycle. We can afford to train women harder in the first weeks as they will be able to handle larger loads of training during this phase. The estrogen produced will aid the training effect and recovery.
-stages of life. Now I’m not going to go into great detail suffice to say there are 3 main life phases for adult women al which need to be considered with regards to women’s health, Young adult (18-30yo) middle aged (30-50s) Pre and post-menopausal (40s-?) In early adulthood a women’s body is still going through a myriad of changes. The menstrual cycle is still not settled, body changes, increased estrogen, changes in body shape. Interestingly 90% of a woman’s bone density is formed by the age of 18! Now if adolescent women have had bad body image and made poor dietary choices due to this, they may well have disturbed the natural increase in bone density leading to issues later in life. At middle age there are new factors to consider. Career, family priorities, typically this is the reproductive window, fertility issues and basal metabolic rate starts to decline.
Then we get onto MENOPAUSE. WOW, what I didn’t know and or realize about this. Now I’m not going into this at all, suffice to say this period in a woman’s life can / will be a roller coaster.
Emotional shifts, temperature control issues (hot flush), weight gain, that nasty called PMT! Yes it’s real. Over 150 symptoms that women may have to deal with. The good news is that post menopause many women feel they are back to normal. Whatever normal is! There is a clear hierarchy for health during the menopausal phase. In order. 1, emotional and mental well-being, 2, Maintain a physically active life, getting adequate sleep and managing stress. 3, Nutrition. 4, Training.
2. Physiological load
-energy availability. With everything going on during the menstrual cycle, available energy can very dramatically. Also, the source and type of energy will change.
– recovery period. No pun intended. (Nardia did intend the pun 😊)
Women take longer to recover then men. This needs to be considered when setting out training programs allowing for recovery time.
3. Workout program considerations
-Postural issues, Joint hyper-mobility / stability. Did I mention earlier women and men are different. One area is hyper mobility and joint stability. Women’s pelvis is usually wider than men’s, causing varied bio mechanical issues for the lower limbs.
-Pelvic floor & IAP health.Most important for woman both pre- and post-natal. We should consider this area of our female clients as of utmost importance.
-Lower limb Q angle. As mentioned above, with the wider pelvis of women comes a larger Q angle. This is the angle of the femur as it leaves the hip joint down to the knees. This can pose issues with their lower limbs during training.
-Bone health. If a young woman has not fully developed her bone density in her younger years, she is very likely to suffer issues like Osteoporosis and other diseases associated with weak bones. In later years of women’s life it is vitally important to include some form of strength training to assist the regeneration of healthy strong bones.
– training cycle within the cycle. As mentioned earlier, estrogen is released during the first phase for the cycle. Therefore, it is best to map out a training cycle that matches the menstrual cycle. We can afford to train women harder in the first weeks as they will be able to handle larger loads of training during this phase. The estrogen produced will aid the training effect and recovery.
Now, I am by no means an expert in this field. However, I did feel a summary of what I learnt would serve as an awesome piece to engage and help get this topic out of the (taboo to talk about list) and bring it front and centre where it should be. I hope you enjoyed the read!
Credit: Nardia Norman, BphEd
Your Health in Focus,
MoveWell Health and Fitness.