Safety in Women's Exercise

Posted On Oct 10, 2022 |

Content warning: In this blog I am going to be talking about traumas that women may experience in life, through many settings, including the exercise space. 

For many years I have been noticing some common themes with women as they exercised. It comes across like they have poor technique in certain moves and lack confidence in the movement. Recently I had a client who has experienced severe trauma in her life and the right words came to me in how to explain what I have been witnessing.

This is what I was seeing in women during workouts:

  • Women would round their shoulders and not want to stick out their chest in movements.
  • Women would tuck their hips under and avoid sticking their butts back and hinging at the hips. 
  • Women would be very careful with what they wore to the gym
  • Women would try to hide in the corner during their workouts or in the back of classes
  • Women would avoid exercise all together
  • Women would be afraid of using equipment in case they didn't fit or broke it

I realised that these actions have nothing to do with knowing how to exercise and so much to do with their feelings of safety in performing the movements. Now I'm going to talk generally about the male/female dynamic here as this is experience I can speak to and have had these conversations with women sharing their own experiences. 

These women do not feel safe to move freely in their bodies. They worry that a man viewing their movements would sexualise the action and see it as an opportunity to make an unwanted advance towards her. 

And in her choice of clothing, would that also give someone the idea that she must want to be approached.

On the flipside, what if these experiences came from within her own home? A partner feeling he has ownership over the woman's body and the right to take action when he feels the need.

Also, what about medical trauma? When procedures aren't explained properly or actions are taken without full understanding and informed consent. 

And what if a woman has been shamed about her body size and constantly pushed to do moves that do not support her body? I recently did a poll in my Instagram stories and 63% of the responses were that they felt they didn't belong in a gym or shamed in a fitness class, 25% had been pushed so hard they felt sick and 13% felt too big to complete traditional exercise moves. 

This is the part of the fitness industry I really want to change. Giving women of all body shapes and sizes comfortable movements that they can access in a safe environment. 

The reason all of these thoughts finally clicked together for me is because the client I was seeing is a massage client. I realised that not only does all of this matter in a fitness setting but also in how I approach women in the massage clinic too. The trauma they have been through shows up in how comfortable they are in taking off their clothing, how they can handle certain touch and the areas of the body the trauma has been stored in. Her experience was shared when I added in some exercises to help her manage her back pain. 

I realised that I have been able to work with these women so well, considering what they have experienced in the past, gentle in how we move forward and communicate every step of the way while we build trust. Also creating a space where they have the option to say no and work in a way that suits them.

I guess I want the point of this blog to be two-fold. Firstly, how can you give compassion to a woman who has been through trauma? Instead of assuming she is fat, lazy and not able to exercise, consider that maybe she has not found a safe and accessible way to move her body.

Secondly, if any of this resonates with you, I am here for you. I'm sorry you felt unsafe and I would love to be able to support you to find that safe way to exercise or receive hands on treatment after trauma. 

Please reach out and we can chat about your needs. Contact me here

Services Offered:

- Fit and Fearless Online Exercise Program: Designed for women to feel safe with exercise advice and support through significant life stages such as pregnancy, post natal recovery and beyond. Workouts completed in your home on your own or connecting via zoom. Also talk to me about Personal Training options.

- Remedial Massage in Dubbo NSW: Receive hands on massage treatment to address pain, tension or injury in a trauma informed and in a manner that suits your level of comfort. Book online here.

Categories: Exercise