Fitness People

Female-friendly fitness Talking to: Lyanne Hodson, who specialises in strength training for women

Unknown 6 - Female-friendly fitness

Lyanne Hodson explains the advantages of using a specialist women-only trainer…

Less-Stress London: Why do you focus on women-only fitness?

Lyanne Hodson: I started off training everyone. I was very aware that I was looking after people’s health and welfare and to do that really well I needed to specialise and I wanted to be the best trainer I could be. I enjoyed working with women, so I began targeting my own research into hormones, pre- and postnatal care, lower back pain and nutrition.

L-SL: What do women like about this approach?

Lyanne: Women tell me things that they wouldn’t feel comfortable discussing with a male trainer, for example, how your cycle can impact your training. We also get a lot of enquiries from women wearing headscarves and burkas who don’t want to train with men.

Lyanne Hodson - personal trainer

L-SL: What do your clients want to achieve?

Lyanne: Most women start off saying they want to reduce body fat, build lean muscle and have abs. But after training with me for a short while, they stop obsessing about body fat. Instead they become hooked on the challenge of lifting weights, doing chin-ups, becoming stronger.

I show them that by eating plenty of healthy food and lifting heavier weights their body becomes more effective. This brings the results they want and builds their confidence as well.

L-SL: How do women’s hormones affect their weight loss?

Lyanne: Many clients want to lose a lot of weight, but we never work towards this in a drastic way. A woman’s body is extremely sensitive to hormones so a crash diet will affect your hormones and your cycle. It’s counterproductive because if you’re stressed you’ll raise the levels of cortisol in your body which will allow you to store fat more easily.

L-SL: What nutrition tips do you give women who want to lose weight while they’re training?

Lyanne: I’ll work out a macro nutrient programme, depending on your body type and what you want to achieve, which sets out recommended amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates per day.

No food or drink is off limits: you can eat fish and chips and drink Coke if you like but these will use up a lot of that day’s fat and carbohydrate allowance so you’d need to adjust the rest of the day’s food accordingly. This system gives you a lot of flexibility and you can still socialise and enjoy the things you like to eat.

When you begin weight training, you will gain a bit of strength initially. But as you lose body fat you will become weaker. You’re in a calorie deficit so you’ll have less energy and there will be a phase when you actually lose some strength. That’s why I’m against drastic diets and low-carb plans. You need to eat the right amount of food to become stronger.

L-SL: How does a woman’s cycle affect weight training?

Lyanne: You are actually at your strongest during the first two weeks of your cycle up until ovulation. Many women are surprised when I tell them they can lift heavier weights while they’re having their period rather than the two weeks beforehand.

L-SL: What advice do you give pregnant clients?

Lyanne: Don’t start anything new if you’re pregnant. If you haven’t done weight training before, then now’s not the time to start! But if you are used to weight training, then keep it up. I encourage exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor and the glutes to promote a safer labour, but avoid crunches.

New mums shouldn’t train for about six weeks after giving birth, but keep active and do a lot of walking.

L-SL: Where are you based?

Lyanne: I’m based at LiFT in the City, a gym near Old Street, and I also run women-only workshops and classes around the City with my company STRONGHER, which I set up with my co-founder Sam.