5 Things Coaching Women Has Taught Me

I became a personal trainer and pilates instructor way back in the naughties. I trained men, women, child athletes and the elderly. I ran bootcamps, indoor cycling classes, boxing courses, dance teaching, walking groups, strength coaching workshops, corporate pilates groups, I mentored students and new coaches…..you name it.

I was always drawn to training women and girls, especially around pregnancy/rehab and postnatally. I loved helping them celebrate their bodies, grow their self-confidence, become better at their chosen sport.

I have since added paramedic work and motherhood to my coaching repertoire. These have given me a totally different skill set and enhanced my coaching practice more than any workshop or course ever could have.

In looking back over the past decade of coaching I’ve learned some very valuable lessons and I would love to share them with you here:

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10 things I’ve learnt coaching women:


  1. We don’t require special programming

    Yes there are many differences between men and women. Physiologically, emotionally, hormonally. However, to suggest that our workouts need to be watered down, or that we require special “bootay” workouts because we are female is an insult. Rep ranges and weights will differ between individuals, not because of gender, but because of strength, ability and anatomy. Don’t think there aren’t guys out there wanting to work on those perky peaches too ;)

  2. Our headspace matters

    Women’s emotions feed into their workouts much more than men, in my experience. It took me a while to realise some women weren’t being rude, and they didn’t hate me. They just needed me to tap into what was going on in their life outside the gym. I recall times when I have told a client to stop training, and taken them for a walk instead to move and talk. As one of my dear friends and mentors said to me “everyone just needs a bit of love”.

  3. Periods matter

    Periods are a whole ballgame unto themselves, and women experience them so differently. Some don’t get them at all. Some all the time. Some come with crippling pain, tears, food cravings and fatigue. Some are barely noticed. These things do change the way you train and eat, and can hinder consistency. Throw something like: PCOS/endo/pregnancy/IVF/miscarriage/menopause/overtraining/disordered eating into the mix and the game changes again. Female cycles need to be tuned into and recognised as normal, natural and as unique as the woman herself. We need to stop trying to fight our own bodies, and start listening to them.

  4. We should be picky

    We need to invest our time, energy, money wisely and get results. That goes for clients and coaches. I worked out pretty early on that I wasn’t for everyone, and they weren’t all for me. In my more recent years I have learnt that it is ok to say no to a potential client, and I am always happy to refer people on. I devote my time and energy now only to those clients who inspire and excite me, and I aim to do the same for them.

  5. We are unstoppable

    The thing that keeps people returning to a particular gym/trainer/class is community. As women we love having the support of others around us and when we build a strong community we achieve incredible things. Having a “fitness family” and a close circle of women motivating each other will always fast-track results in a gym setting. Keep that in mind when looking for somewhere to train, what is the atmosphere and community like?

Ellie McMahonLillako