In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing you to each of the amazing experts speaking the upcoming ACE Health and Fitness Summit: Coaching and Training Women, happening virtually on May 19th!
Session 1 on Summit day will be “Coaching for Confidence: Training strong women across all life stages” with Farel Hruska.
In her 20 years of experience as an educator and ACE certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor, Farel continues to bring energy, enthusiasm and innovation to the health and exercise space. From leading companies to presenting nationally and internationally, she has carved not only her own path in our industry but provided mentorship and guidance to others.
In this interview, Farel shares her insights and experiences from her work in traditional spaces to the efforts she’s made to bring the power of women’s fitness to the forefront. I hope you find her advice and musings as transformative as I did.
The Power of Women in Fitness
One of the perspectives I wanted to uncover in this interview was Farel’s perspective on how our industry has evolved over the last two decades.
“It's been an amazing time to be in the fitness industry and while I have enjoyed playing parts in traditional spaces as a group exercise instructor and personal trainer,” Farel says. “I have also been extremely honored to have helped pave the way in areas of women's fitness that has needed additional education and awareness. Throughout my journey, I have been an international subject matter expert in our industry in pre and postnatal fitness. This has helped me bring a voice to this space and empower trainers and clients to see their power through this incredible journey into motherhood. Women in fitness has been a growing conversation and we still have a good bit of work to do.”
Yes, we do. Though we have made considerable strides forward, there’s plenty of ground left to cover. This is, in part, due to the unique challenges women in fitness confront. According to Farel, there are two primary challenges female fitness professionals face.
“The first is the assumption that training women is the same as training men,” says Farel. “While we are all humans, the stages of women's lives physically, mentally, and emotionally are unique. This awareness and true understanding are imperative for clients to feel seen, understood, and trained with efficacy. The second is women believing that they are stronger than they've been told throughout their lives. Our emotions tend to be described as a weakness and our insecurities around our potential have been a generational challenge. When we can allow women to truly see their power simply in the powerful life they already lead, what comes next is magic.”
Farel notes that the unique challenges our female clients face often come from feeling a bit misunderstood.
"From puberty to pregnancy to postpartum (if pregnancy is what she chooses) into menopause, the mental, physical, and emotional shifts must be understood by both client and trainer," she says. "To dismiss these meaningful factors is to leave the trainer ineffective and the client feeling ‘less than.’"
Our goal, as professionals, is to empower clients and help them uncover their own potential. We cannot succeed in that goal if certain idiosyncrasies are not acknowledged and celebrated.
Empower Your Clients
Part of our unique role as health and exercise professionals is our ability (and responsibility) to aid clients in uncovering and harnessing their own potential. We do this through intentional empowerment. I asked Farel how she has managed to accomplish this in her work with female clients.
“I find such happiness in being able to a part in women seeing their true strength,” she says. “We know that women are complex and amazing… To see a lightbulb go off when they step into their power is one of the greatest moments because what comes after surprises even them!”
Empowering clients comes in understanding the unique emotional aspects of training women as well as how female physiology shifts across the lifespan. Farel emphasizes the importance of remaining mindful of both the emotional and physical dimensions.
When asked what the three most important emotional aspects professionals need to keep in mind, she emphasized the following:
1. Having compassion and empathy for their lived experiences.
2. Begin with their head and heart first (they need to know they are being heard and that they matter before any meaningful programming to be successful).
3. To hold a proverbial mirror up throughout your journey with them for them to truly see their strength. They may need to borrow the belief you have in them for a little while; however, with enough reminders, they will start to believe in their own strength.
Part of recognizing and respecting the emotional side of training includes helping our female clients build self-efficacy and confidence. Farel offered some practical tips to help us do just that.
“The most important tip would be to ask about what matters to them [and] why they have come to you and then truly listen to their answer,” she says. “Don't assume you already know. When they feel like they matter, that they are authentically seen, their sense of self is already improved. Women need to feel as though their time with you is also strengthened through connection. Self-efficacy and confidence come from an honest and trusting professional relationship. Their lives need to matter to you. This isn't something only done at the intake session, it is a commitment to her and her growth. It may sound like a lot; however, it's simply about being present and engaged with her.”
As professionals work with women across their lifespan, let’s be mindful of how that journey shifts over time for those clients and, if applicable, even ourselves.
“Women's lives (physically, mentally, and emotionally) shift and evolve throughout their lived experience,” says Farel. “Our approach needs to be guided by consistent communication and agility in the path forward. There isn't a fixed journey and our effectiveness as trainers lies in this fluid approach.”
In addition to using smart training techniques to help her female clients achieve their physical goals, Farel is also mindful of promoting a focus on the non-scale victories.
“Non-scale victories are what matter to me! If our training together is driven by overall strength, in mind and body, the physical changes she may have come to me for will follow,” says Farel. “Our approach is all about empowerment and seeing their worth and value through the joy of movement. A deep and meaningful focus on her owning her space in life could mean she shows up differently in motherhood (if chosen), in work, in relationships, and in community.”
Leveling Up Our Game
In asking Farel to share some advice for existing and aspiring professionals to “level up” their efforts, she highlighted three distinct actions:
Equity, diversity, and inclusion is at the forefront of our attention in this industry; Farel says it needs to be “at the forefront of training all humans. Our humanity is diverse and yet, many are not treated with equity and inclusion. Understanding the life and walk of women is only the start. Our approach to their [exercise] programming, the active listening we practice, and the agility needed to adjust our approach should be a constant in our training journey.”
Take advantage of any and all EDI focused classes, workshops, and seminars to learn more about how you can mindfully embrace these practices.
“Be hungry for knowledge (it's never-ending), approach each client with curiosity and empathy, and believe in their capabilities and train with them in mind,” comments Farel. Never stop learning. Always seek growth opportunities and be intentional in your learning efforts.
3. Be Grateful.
Finally, gratitude is always valuable. If there is one thought or piece of advice Farel wants us to grab on to and remember, it’s this: That we get to do this.
“Quite often, when we've seen many clients throughout the week in sessions or classes, we could default to seeing them as one of the masses that you serve,” says Farel. “The most important thing to remember is that to them, YOU are their ‘one.’ We are all unique humans living unique human experiences and while it takes a little more intention, the moments we share together could be profoundly enhanced when we are present and authentic in our presence.”
Thank you, Farel, for sharing your amazing words of wisdom and authenticity with us. Yours is a perspective we can all learn from, embrace, and incorporate into our daily practices to not only level up as professionals, but to infuse greatness into the work we do with our clients.
If you want to keep learning from Farel and the four other presenter at the upcoming ACE Health and Fitness Summit: Training and Coaching Women, register today by clicking the image below!