Fifteen years ago, while living abroad and having learned that with my professional credential as a certified athletic trainer I could not work in sport at the level I desired, I turned to personal training and individual fitness as a job for which I was qualified. I was 24 years old, I slept on average 4-5 hours/night, drank, smoked and paid little attention to nutrition. Although I was knowledgeable, I was not credible in my humble opinion.
I moved to California, got reacquainted with my former athletic self and began taking better care of myself. Although I was walking the walk as ‘they’ say, my clients still objected about my credibility in that I was single, didn’t have the responsibilities of children, was young . . .you name it.
At 26, I found myself between opportunities and through equal parts ignorance, bravado and good fortune, founded a fitness facility with one of my best friends/former co-workers with whom my training philosophies were well aligned. My responsibilities had grown, now in addition to working, commuting and maintaining some semblance of a social life, I had a business to run and employees to manage but still the objections were ever present . . .‘yea, but your single, you don’t have to worry about cooking for anyone other than yourself.’ or ‘you don’t have kids so you can work out whenever you want.’
In the ensuing 3 years all that changed but then again, it didn’t. In my 29th year, I got engaged to my best friend who I mentioned earlier was also my business partner, completed an ironman triathlon and was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly, I was almost too credible. Throw on the 2 children that followed and my street cred was through the roof, and yet . . .
I do, and have always, been responsible for the financial management of our business which has thrived for the past 12 years and has weathered some challenging economic times. I co-founded FIT when I was 26 years old and single. I am passionate about what I do, have lived it and continue to learn and grow as a professional. And yet . . .
Ever since I married my business partner, the assumption that is made almost, if not all of the time, is that it was my husband’s business that I joined, that it was his passion that we pursued. I’m unsure if this is the result of a larger bias related to female business owners or if it’s specific to the fitness industry but would guess that neither works to my advantage in establishing my professional credibility independent of my husband.
Women can, do and should play an important role in health care and health promotion. Inherently, we offer a different perspective and insight than our male counterparts. While I disagree with all the individuals who claimed that I lacked credibility because I had not lived it and disagree with woman who insists that a male trainer cannot work with them as effectively as a female trainer simply because they don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, I do think, generally speaking, that the compassion and insight professional women in this industry have to offer earns us a seat at the table.