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IFAC Reflections Part 2
January 22, 2019
A review of Jerome Simian’s workshops on physical preparation for sport. I had to choose between different “strands” of coaching topics at the IFAC conference in Loughborough. A difficult choice, not wanting to miss out on some excellent speakers. I chose to attend Simian’s because of a quote I heard on the HMMR podcast: “I […]

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Weight training for women

Being a woman in the gym!

(By Fran Low) So I’ve spent the last 4 to 5 months telling you about the challenges that face training female athletes, however I have not once related it to my own experiences.

When I used to go to the gym I would perform:

  • 20 mins on the cross trainer
  • 20 mins on the bike
  • a few sit ups (maybe a plank or two)
  • some fixed weights
  • 10min treadmill run

Sound familiar??

weight training women

Excelsior weightlifter enjoying training

When I looked around the gym (whilst cruising on the cross trainer listening to ‘Take That’), the free weights section was dominated by men with little notebooks recording what they were lifting. Never once did I see a woman with a little notebook! It was an intimidating area of the gym that I knew little about and therefore would avoid it.

Having started this internship and going through the level 2 strength and conditioning course I am now comfortable using free weights, yet I still seem to be one of the only girls in the gym using them! James has taught me, as well as the other girls we train, enough knowledge to feel comfortable in what is normally a male dominated environment.

First came focus…

Now I’m not a world class athlete (not even close) but I do play hockey regularly for a weekend side, cycle a bit (You are too modest Fran, she cycled length of Britain JM)and go to the gym.

This schedule probably sounds similar to most ‘weekend athletes’. Before I started this internship I thought I had a good grasp of exercises or activities to do to help my hockey but there was no focus to my training.

I would just stick to this routine without ever questioning why I was doing what I was doing. So I changed my programme and thought about what I wanted to improve and how I was going to go about doing it.

Then came progression…

weight training for women

Lifting weights to help running and jumping

So once I changed my program, applied focus to it so that it was actually benefiting me, I then needed to begin to progress it. Making it more challenging as I improved.

This is exactly what James has been doing with all his athletes. Without progression there is no point in training, you will just plateau and never improve.

Now each week I increase the load as well as change the exercises to keep the sessions interesting.

And finally evaluation!

This I am still working on. Being able to look back at your training and evaluate its effectiveness helps you keep focus and monitor progression. Just performing planned sessions won’t always work. You need to keep asking yourself,

  • Was that too hard?
  • Was that too easy?
  • Was that too much/too little?

Being able to monitor your progress is also an important evaluation tool. Things as simple as comparing maximal press ups effort, weight lifted, timed run pre and post training to examine improvement is imperative.

So this is where I am at with my training. I have learnt a lot in a short time and am trying to apply it to myself as well as other athletes.

So does this relate to your training program? Please feel free to comment.

Fran Low

Here is a short interview with Jo Calvino, English weightlifting record holder about her tips for Women:

Free ebook on Strength training for female athletes here


  1. […] Being a woman in the gym : a guide to getting started by Fran Low […]

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Robin Williams GB Footballer Paralympian
I have been training with James for over four years now and firmly believe he has played a key role in my transformation as an athlete and therefore as a footballer. It’s fair to say I was in poor condition in various aspects when we first met, however, James’ ability to focus on the most important things and eliminate the baggage from training has enabled me to develop rapidly, having missed selection for the 2009 European Championships I am now a regular in the starting lineup.

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