For most fitness professionals, prenatal exercise is a topic covered by eight to 10 bullet points in the final chapter of their certification manual. It is discussed briefly, termed as a special population and is always prefaced by "consult client's physician prior to exercising." However, when consulted, many physicians have always taken a very conservative approach, encouraging pregnant women to exercise minimally while sharing dated information about the guidelines for exercise. Fortunately, in the last several years, more and more literature has been published for trainers who have a desire to work with the prenatal and/or postnatal client. Today, women and fitness professionals have access to research that scientifically validates the importance and benefit of exercise for both mom and baby. As the research continues to be interpreted, certifications and continuing education are becoming readily available to give trainers the expertise to prepare them to work with this niche market. In fact, we are seeing more fitness professionals capitalizing on that education and running successful businesses focusing exclusively on the prenatal and postnatal clientele.
Understanding this Niche Market
If you are not a mom and may never be one, it can often be difficult to understand exactly what your clients are going through during pregnancy and the year following birth. There are physical, psychological and lifestyle changes, which are both anticipated and unimaginable. Therefore, it is important to educate yourself so you are prepared to provide a level of understanding, support and a listening ear when clients experience these developmental changes. In fact, one of the biggest challenges you'll be faced with in working with postnatal clients is competing with the demands of being a new mom. These clients may
experience sleep deprivation, postpartum depression and hormonal and anatomical changes. In addition, babies may have colic, difficulties nursing, gas or a number of health problems that can frighten parents and quickly lead to cancellations. Each day is a struggle for a new mom to stay focused and committed to herself and her own health. By customizing your business and
enhancing your services and facility, you can appeal to the postnatal client by making it easier for her to exercise. For example, offer stroller workouts and "Mommy and Me" classes where these clients can get their workout with their babies, or show the mom exercises that she can do with a baby carrier and/or securely using the child as resistance. Adjust the workout schedule to also
accommodate babies' naptimes. You can offer a child-friendly environment and play areas where babies can move about safely while moms train or partner with a facility that has a clean and welcoming child care center. Remember, these clients will be more consistent if their workouts are conducive to their babies' needs and schedules.
Marketing Prenatal/Postnatal Services
To successfully launch your business and promote your program to moms and moms-to-be, begin with the easiest and most effective marketing strategy, a "word of mouth" campaign. It might be very natural for you to talk about your classes and services, but don't be shy about asking others to share the news. Entice your clients and friends to tell pregnant women and new moms about your program. In addition, you can also offer incentives, discounts and/or complimentary services to each potential client and to the person giving the referral. Talk to every pregnant woman and new mom you see; your programs can help them feel better and can give them an opportunity to meet other women with like interests and concerns.
Until you become a parent, you may have no idea where these potential clients can be found. Now, it is your job to know every support group, kids gym, playgroup, shopping center and activity in your community that is baby-friendly. Set aside an entire day to take a stack of flyers to the locations where you will find the most prenatal/postnatal clientele. For example, visit local parks, malls, museums, coffee houses and lactation consultant centers. Offer to give free seminars at stroller dealers, exercise specialty stores, baby supply stores and labor and delivery classes. And to attract the inactive prenatal group, try emphasizing that exercise offers a solution to the aches of a growing belly and increases the chances of a safe and complication-free delivery.
In addition, look to the media as an outlet to spread the word about your services for this specialized market. Utilizing different media channels can also be your tool to attract the clients who haven't made it out of the house yet. Consider:
offering to do a segment on prenatal exercise; giving tips for correctly lifting and moving babies; sharing clients' success stories; sponsoring a fundraiser for women; discussing the social benefits of exercising with other moms while allowing children to play with other babies; seeking out newscasters and prominent
figures in your community who are pregnant and extending them an invitation to your classes; and writing press releases and story ideas and emailing them to the local news. If selected,
your business can thrive from just one three- to four-minute
segment on your local news.
Partnering for Success
Within the industry, align yourself with other fitness centers and yoga or Pilates studios that do not specialize with this niche market. It is essential to get the certifications and continuing education needed to title yourself as the prenatal and postnatal specialist, which, as a result, can get you referrals from your colleagues and other members within the facility.
Remember to promote the specific education you have received that differentiates you from the other trainers. And it is always helpful to collect testimonials and photos from women who have taken your classes and had healthy babies with relatively easy deliveries as well as women who have worked hard to lose weight after the delivery using your guidelines and training.
However, establishing partnerships with doulas (delivery coaches), obstetricians, hospitals and physical therapists can be difficult. In fact, many hospitals have in-house programs, and some physicians are reluctant to make referrals. So, schedule appointments to drop off your information, and ask if it can be displayed in the physicians' waiting rooms. You can also offer to give presentations, outlining your credentials and defining your program, or invite these doctors to attend some of your classes. Each hospital works differently, but you may be able to write a proposal to offer the prenatal fitness classes for the medical facilities. Keep chipping away at this marketing phase. It is generally not easy to know with whom you should meet, and it may be months before you can get an appointment. But in the meantime, don't forget to use your existing network.
Pregnancy is a state of health, not illness. Most women can and should exercise throughout their pregnancy and as early as six weeks following birth. Specializing in the prenatal and postnatal market is really in its infancy. There are few fitness professionals offering high-quality training and more and more women looking for it. Now that science has proven consistent exercise can lead to leaner babies and safer deliveries, we expect to see more and more fitness professionals desiring to attract this clientele.
Amy Boone Thompson is the owner of In-Out Fitness Solutions and is also the national project director for Stroller Strides, which provides fitness classes and business opportunities for mothers and fitness professionals. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.