UAE fitness instructors learn how to work with pregnant clients

Twelve trainers participated in a recent course that taught them how to properly train and educate women pre and post pregnancy.

Personal trainer Robyn Ablott gives instructions to trainer Monica Nicolae during a class on pre and post natal fitness put on by Impact BTS, in Dubai City. Jeff Topping for The National
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DUBAI // The first group of UAE professionals to be trained as pre and post-natal fitness specialists has finished its intensive course.

The move fills a much-needed gap in the market and shows the upscaling of the industry.

The course, run by Impact BTS, included 12 trainers from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two of them sent by Gold’s gym as part of a continuing education programme.

“We have a lot of pregnant women who come to our classes but they don’t realise they can still exercise safely when they are pregnant, so many stop when they are around five months,” said Aleksandra Ilijevski, based in Dubai. “The doctors usually tell them to stop, too.”

Karen Flawith, a personal trainer with Ignite in Dubai, said last weekend’s course taught her how to more easily explain why staying active during pregnancy can be beneficial and safe.

“It’s all about the psychology as well,” she said. “For women who are already active, they want to keep getting fit and strong during pregnancy so it’s about finding the balance and helping them stay active but directing them to do it in the right way.”

Claire Gregory came from the UK to teach the course.

“Keeping active helps with labour and with a healthy pregnancy,” she said. “In the UK, we see many women in a cycle of weight gain from one pregnancy to the next and this can even lead to conditions such as gestational diabetes.”

There are also psychological benefits to staying active, including having a support network and preventing postnatal depression.

It is vital that coaches are properly trained to work with women during and after a pregnancy due to the hormonal and bio-mechanical changes the body undergoes, Mrs Gregory said.

“There are everyday exercises such as TRX [suspension training] which are great but can be very dangerous for someone during pregnancy,” she said. “It’s so specific what you can and can’t do.”

Amanda Brewer, head of Impact British Training Solutions, said the industry needed more such specialists, and would benefit from experts in diabetes and obesity.

“It’s great to see a chain like Gold’s supporting their staff to get these qualifications,” she said. “We also want to link up to local healthcare providers and gynaecologists because it’s so important these women are taken care of.”

Even in the UK, where the fitness industry is more mature, doctors often do not know how to advise patients to stay active, said Robyn Ablott, another trainer. Instead, they tell women to rest.

“Pregnancy isn’t an illness,” she said. “Doctors just don’t know what to do with women.”

Mrs Brewer said the positive response to the course reflected the start of the industry’s improvement.

Requirements introduced this year mean trainers in the UAE need to prove their credentials before they can be employed at fitness centres. This was the first step.

In addition, trainers must participate in continuous education classes.

“Until recently, trainers were more interested in the fitness fashions than specialisms like this,” Mrs Brewer said. “This kind of knowledge from a trainer helps give women the confidence they need to feel safe.”

Ms Ilijevski said she hoped to encourage more women to stay active during pregnancy, finding the course personally useful.

“Many women simply don’t know what will happen to them if they exercise, so they choose not to,” she said.

Mrs Flawith agreed: “Women here need more options such as this speciality group training so they can have the support and do it together, although with expert trainers they can also be given modifications in regular group training so they can still do the things they enjoy with their friends.”

Mrs Brewer said women should be sure to determine that their instructors are properly qualified.