Is the Fitness Industry Failing Pregnant Women?
- The current opportunities for pre and postnatal women within the fitness industry
- How personal trainers can benefit from embracing pre and postnatal fitness
- How gym operators can do more to cater for pre and postnatal customers
What are the current opportunities offered for pre and postnatal women within the fitness industry?
Working in the fitness industry, I’ve always been aware that the general offering for pre and postnatal women isn’t great, however it wasn’t until I was pregnant myself that I realised just how poor it really is. According to REPs, only 5.5% of PTs hold a pre or postnatal qualification, so if you find a qualified PT in your gym you’re lucky. If you find one who has updated that qualification in the last five years you’re even luckier! I struggled to get information on what was and wasn’t safe from the PTs at my gym. I found that everyone errs massively on the side of caution, mainly through fear of giving the wrong advice, which is ultimately borne from a lack of training. The manager at my gym constantly approached me to check I was ok and that I wasn’t overdoing it, and I was actively discouraged from joining classes. But with no pregnancy specific classes on offer… what was I supposed to do? Not wanting to put my feet up for nine months I persevered, listening closely to my own body and searching for experts who could help, but I suspect I’m in the minority and that when faced with this distinct lack of help, most pregnant women retire to the sofa.
Could personal trainers do more to cater for pre and postnatal clients?
A good personal trainer is adaptable. The more qualified you are the more of a well-rounded service you’ll be able to offer. The better your service the more it will enhance your reputation as an excellent trainer.
If you’re a PT who’s not qualified in pre/postnatal my advice would be not to be afraid of pregnant women. Be honest about your knowledge of the area but don’t immediately chase them out of the gym or class. Talk to them, ask about their general fitness level, what exercise are they used to doing, how they feel about participating in the session? Encourage them to listen to their own bodies, as they are the best judge of knowing what is or isn’t right, but please don’t ask them to leave!
What are the opportunities for PTs in the pre/postnatal field?
Most PTs who study for a pre/postnatal qualification do so because they want to specialise in this area. Pre/postnatal fitness isn’t a crowded marketplace and there’s plenty of opportunity for more specialists to build a business working with this type of client. But there’s also a huge opportunity for all PTs. Holding the qualification doesn’t mean you have to specialise, but it does mean that if you have a client who becomes pregnant you can continue to work with her throughout the pregnancy, which means no loss of revenue. Your client will be fitter and healthier, and more likely to return to training with you sooner after giving birth.
If you have a high percentage of female clients and you aren’t in a position to support them pre/postnatally, that amounts to a significant loss of revenue. Pregnant women and new mums are often part of a strong network so don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth referrals here either. When you’ve helped your client to get back into her size 10 jeans, all her friends will want to know her secret!
What pre and postnatal opportunities could fitness centres be providing for personal trainers?
Pre and postnatal fitness could be an extremely lucrative market for fitness centres. Pregnant women who are not catered for are cancelling their memberships and often not rejoining for months or even years after they give birth. Surely it’s better to offer a service for pregnant women through trained staff or specialist classes which keep them in the system? Offer a postnatal class for them to return to and they’ll be back quickly, probably bringing all their mummy friends with them. Not only have you retained a member and created potential for referral, you’ve also got the opportunity to market secondary products like parent and baby swimming sessions. Customer satisfaction would improve and you would have an almighty PR story to share.
There is a huge opportunity for an operator to be the first to step up and become the market leader in this area. It wouldn’t take much; some in-house training for the gym team, one prenatal and one postnatal specific class on the timetable would be so much more than we have now.
What needs to happen next?
Pre/postnatal fitness is a victim of out of date thinking and ideas. All groups involved need to step up and push forward to encourage change in this area. Pregnant women need to fight for their right to exercise, PTs need to stop treating them with kid gloves and operators need to recognise the opportunities in this market, as well as their responsibility to their female membership base. Come on guys, let’s do this!