The number one thing I hear from my physical therapy clients here in Seattle is, “I was told I’m weak.” Unfortunately this is a common theme amongst all of my female clients, that being, feelings of fragility. Below, is a bit of a narrative on why I have moved away from using these explanations in my work with women.
A few weeks ago, I was having a good discussion with my friend, Claire Zai, (coach and all around badass powerlifter who just placed 5th at Raw Nationals) about training female clients. She was wondering if I did anything different when I worked with women and my answer to her was a resounding, “yes.” In thinking about this even more, it seems obvious to me that the answer is yes, but she brought up some really important points.
For example: the fact that the processes most of us (clinicians and coaches) go through with each athlete are essentially the same. Meaning that, assessments and decision-making for each athlete are done based on their individual needs and experiences, and I certainly don’t disagree with her.
In fact, women and men respond to training the same way, but women don’t engage in this world the same way men do. The barriers and limiters to women are much greater overall, making it more challenging in ways, to engage women in a process of progressive overload.
And as Dr. Stacy Sims would say, “women are not small men,” which means, we need to stop treating them as such and consider their unique needs in training, sport and beyond to help optimize their performance, recovery and life.
I want to start this series by first describing a key difference I see in working with women after injury and without question, it’s FRAGILITY NARRATIVES.
You might be asking, what are fragility narratives?
Fragility narratives (as defined by me, maybe defined by someone else, but I’m not sure who because it didn’t pop up in google) are:
accounts or stories, surrounding a woman and her body, that make her feel broken, weak, unstable, off-centered, imbalanced, break-able, flimsy, brittle, delicate or frail and are often used as explanations to her experience of pain or injury.
These narratives are so pervasive in fact, that I would venture a guess that about 90% of my athletes and clients come to me with these narratives, or a version of these narratives.
Without a doubt, women are subject to these narratives more regularly than men in performance, fitness, healthcare, and most certainly, physical therapy.
And here’s the rub, so often (like almost always), these narratives START with a professional who TELLS a woman all the ways in which she is broken.
If you’ve ever heard:
“you have weak glutes”
“you need to strengthen your core”
“your hips are out of alignment”
“you need to be careful”
“you need to rest”
“your joints are unstable”
Then it is likely, you’ve been exposed to some of these classical fragility narratives and quite possibly you BELIEVE them. Which is fine, except that, you need to ask yourself: at what point, will I be strong enough, that I won’t have pain anymore? And that, is only part 1 of WHY women and girls require a tailored approach.
Because here is the truth: You are not fragile. Breaking something, injuring something, or feeling broken, doesn’t make you fragile. You are a beautifully, adaptable human being and your body is amazing, exactly as it is. The way you were born, made, aligned, structurally built, etc, is NOT a problem. And I stand by that.
Stay tuned for more on Considerations for female athletes
In the mean time, if you’re in need of help, you feel fragile or broken and are looking for a PLAN, simply reach out below. I’m in your corner.
Sisu Sports Performance & PT is accepting new clients!! Feel free to send me an email or schedule an appointment today!