Our latest feature comes from Pre and Post-Natal Specialist, Claire Gregory co-owner of The Female Fitness Academy where she discusses the barriers women face engaging with fitness pre and post pregnancy due to a lack of specialist trainers, and how this area is a huge opportunity for trainers and their business.
What Claire has to say
I couldn’t believe, that since I had my last child in 2012, things don’t seem to have moved on that much. Considering there are around 700,000 births a year, we (the fitness industry) are doing a disservice to pre/post natal women.
In 2010 I gave birth to my first child and as an avid gym goer/fitness fanatic I was desperate to maintain fitness throughout my pregnancy, however I was turned away from almost every class I signed up for as they were either unqualified or didn’t want to take the risk. As a personal trainer, I had a good understanding of anatomy and physiology and how the body works, but I had no idea about pregnancy and what that meant in terms of exercise.
Pre and Post-Natal course experience
I enrolled on a course down south (because they were never ‘up north’ back then) and decided that I would train in pre and post-natal exercise myself so that at least I would have a better understanding of what my exercise programme could look like. I was lucky that I had a background in fitness and knew where to go to find out more information for my own pregnancy, for most women that’s not an option. They are either missing out because of a lack of access to qualified trainers OR (and more common) is they are going to classes led by non-qualified people, who although are trying their best to support them with physical activity during/after pregnancy – aren’t qualified or insured to do so safely.
The Level 3 Pre & Post-Natal Instructor course completely changed my life (sorry to sound so dramatic – but it did!). I already knew how inaccessible fitness could be for women but had no idea how much worse it was for pre and post natal women until I was one myself. It changed my whole outlook on my future as a personal trainer and where I wanted to go with my newly formed business at the time.
I set out on an ever evolving journey of trying to learn as much as possible about women’s health, specifically pre and post natal exercise, how I could help make it more inclusive in my local area and attended every workshop/course I could find on the subject! I eventually completed my Masters dissertation on post-natal exercise! I was hooked on learning more.
CIMSPA and organisations striving to increase qualified trainers
Over the years I have sat on many panels, boards of organisations and in 2019 I was invited to sit on CIMSPA’s Professional Development Committee (PDC) for working with Antenatal and Postnatal clients. It was so exciting to see the focus finally move towards population groups such as Pre & Post Natal clients. We were meeting to review and update the Level 3 qualification and how it could be made more accessible for Personal Trainers & Group Exercise Instructors to access. I think given the figure of 8%, there is still some work to be done in up-skilling fitness professionals. However with the growing profile of organisations such as the Active Pregnancy Foundation and This Girl Can we are definitely on the right trajectory.
The Level 3 qualification, in my opinion, is a great addition for any fitness professional – as I said before, there are around 700,000 births a year = 700,000 potential clients every year that currently only have access to a pool of 8% of PT’s! If you’re not tapping into this customer pool already, you are definitely missing a trick.
This qualification opened up so many opportunities for me with my female clients in being able to support them right through from pre-conception through to after having their baby – there’s nothing better than longevity with a client, whereby you are having a hug impact on not only them, but their baby as well!
Although the PT course touches briefly on special population, it barely scratches the surface on the physiological and biomechanical changes that take place from Trimester 1 – Post Natal period…..its fascinating to see what the human body is capable of!
Research backs up the need for more specialist trainers
We have moved so far away from the days of “you’re pregnant now, so you need to rest” as the research has developed to show just how beneficial exercise can be during and after pregnancy. Exercise is safe and should be encouraged during this time and we need more fitness professionals out there who are qualified to show these women what they can do….. as oppose to many google searches just focusing on what we cant do!
I carried out a research study in 2020 about barriers that post natal women have to exercise, 97% of them said their top barrier was that they didn’t know how to access a post natal specialist!!!
So, if you’re currently thinking of expanding your fitness offer, looking for a course to up-skill in then I would 100% recommend completing the Level 3 Pre & Post Natal Course.