In Part 1 of this series, we discussed strategies to help your clients set goals for themselves and then outlined some exercises to assist them in visualizing the fulfillment of these goals. In Part 2, we'll discuss how to break these goals down into more manageable, less daunting pieces, the importance of a support network and what to do when obstacles to goal achievement arise.
Step Four - Splitting It Up
If your clients are undertaking major lifestyle changes, the big picture may be a bit overwhelming. Take the big goal and split it into small, easily achievable goals. It will give them a step-by-step, milestone-by-milestone plan to help them reach their goal. This will help them succeed on a regular basis, giving them the momentum they need to reach the big goal.
For example, if your client's number one goal is to complete a half marathon, here's how he should break it down into smaller action steps.
- Enroll in the local half-marathon running clinic that begins February 1st.
- Purchase new footwear and clothing by January 21st.
- Consult with a personal trainer for two sessions to get help with designing my program by February 5th.
- Schedule three morning runs a week with friends by February 1st.
- Register and pay for the local 10km Fun Run mid-way through his training program by February 14th.
- Register and pay for the half-marathon event by February 14th.
- Complete the 10km Fun run on March 15th.
- Run four times a week so that by May 1st 48 runs have been completed.
- Weight train two times a week so that by May 1st, 24 sessions have been completed.
- Run 10 miles on April 15th.
- Complete the half-marathon on May 1st.
Step Five - Establishing a Support System
Your clients will need friends to work out with to help them stick to their programs when they feel like slacking. They’ll need you to hold them accountable. Introduce them to other people who have accomplished what they are trying to achieve. Point them toward scheduled clinics that will help them prepare for their goal. Be sure your clients inform friends, family members and colleagues of their goal so everyone they come in contact with is aware of their ambitions and will do what they can to support and assist them.
Step Six - Overcoming Obstacles
Your clients have probably tried to initiate an exercise program before. Most people have, numerous times. Something like a New Year's resolution, bathing suit season, a wedding or a reunion motivates them to try again. Eventually, they fail because they are basically mimicing exactly what they did the time before. They decide they will just stop eating breakfast and lunch, or they will exercise for two hours every day. This represents the definition for insanity – doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Whatever forced your clients off track last time will more than likely surface again. This time, things are going to be different. This time, they are going to be prepared.
Together, you should develop a strategy for overcoming roadblocks posed by work, children, fatigue or lack of time. You have to help them figure out how they are going to balance it all. For example, if previously they found work or family responsibilities got in the way of them achieving their goals, the strategy may be to book their workout appointments into their schedule like they would any other appointment and at a time that won't conflict with other areas of their life. They would not cancel a business appointment with an important client or cancel their yearly physical with their doctor. Likewise, they should try to never cancel their workouts. Another strategy may be for them to hire you as you will force them to stick to their exercise appointment, or they can ask a friend to join them in a commitment to walk every day at lunch. Look at past behavior. If in the past, they were bored with their programs at the two month mark, they should now plan to consult with you just before this happens so they avoid getting off track. Or they can outline a list of new activities they will try every two months.
Step Seven - Fix the Flat
Explain this scenario to your clients: You have two weeks off and have planned a fabulous holiday to your favorite spot. You are about half way there when you get a flat tire. You get frustrated and discouraged and decide to turn around and go home.
Would you actually turn around and go home? No, but that is what most people who initiate an exercise or nutrition plan do. They get off track, get discouraged and go back to their old habits and patterns when they should just fix the flat and continue to their destination.
This is what your clients need to do. They need to expect there are going to be some flat tires on the journey. But they must never lose sight of their destination. If your clients stumble, have them fix the flat and get back on track! Once they have succeeded, they will have reached their destination. Be sure they take the time to enjoy the success and the reward previously established. Then once they're hungry for the next goal, reassess and start off toward that destination.
Step Eight - Practical Application
Once you have established a strong foundation for success, it's time to start exercising. here a number of things you can do during each training session to ensure your clients stay motivated.
- Adhere to industry standards regarding exercise programming and prescription. Our industry guidelines are there for a reason: to ensure effective programming while minimizing the risks for injury. Do not go for the quick fix that puts the client and trainer in jeopardy, and avoid compromising safety for results. To be safe, always adhere to the industry guidelines regarding exercise frequency, intensity, duration and appropriate progression. It makes sense that a client is not going to be motivated if he is constantly suffering from various aches, pains and injuries. In the event a client does suffer an injury, be ready and prepared to manage the situation safely and effectively to ensure he returns to the training sessions with minimal time off. This includes ensuring you are prepared for medical emergencies and are currently trained in Fitness First Aid and the RICE protocol. It also includes referring your client to a physician, physical therapist or other appropriate medical professional to receive quick treatment. And of course, don't forget to complete an Injury Report form and inform your supervisor of the situation.
- Build an evaluation component into your training system. You've already established effective goals and action steps to achieving those goals within the training program. This will help you monitor your clients' successes. Above and beyond this, you can also incorporate regular evaluations and assessments into your system. This may involve regular body composition assessments including weight, girth and skinfold measurements. Or you may perform regular cardiovascular tests to measure the improvement of their endurance and heart strength. For example, you could perform a submaximal treadmill or bicycle test. Or you could test your clients by having them get on the treadmill and run a mile; as they improve, they'll be able to run the mile faster and faster. You could also have them get on a rowing machine for 10 minutes and record how many meters they traveled over the time period. As they improve, they will be able to row further and further within the same time. You could schedule a mini-triathlon and have your clients run/power-walk, cycle and row back to back for 15 minutes on each machine, recording the total distance traveled. As they improve, the total distance traveled with increase. Other examples of testing could include a push up test (record how many pushups they can perform without stopping) or a sit and reach test (as they improve in flexibility, the distance beyond their toes should increase). There are numerous options to help you demonstrate quantitatively that your clients are improving. You could schedule these types of tests every few months to measure their progress and help to indicate any weaknesses in training or program design.
- Ask for regular feedback. You do not want to find out your clients are not happy with the training process until it's too late to take any action. Instead, at the completion of every session, leave a minute or so to ask your clients what they liked and didn't like. Ask them how they feel now in comparison to how they felt at the beginning of the session (Note: they'll always feel better once the session is over!). Every few months, you'll also want to ask them a list of more extensive questions to measure how they feel their training is progressing. Ask them to list the benefits they've achieved as well as any areas of the training process they don't enjoy or areas they would like to be addressed more extensively. By asking for feedback, you will ensure you're doing the things necessary to keeping your clients motivated.
- Mix it up. If you want to stifle motivation, do the same thing all the time. Clients will quickly get bored and lose the motivation to continue coming to sessions. Instead, make sure you're always using different exercises and new equipment. Try different program approaches like circuit workouts, interval training, split-programming, etc. Take them outside. Establish seasonal goals; for example, create six- to eight-week programs designed to prepare them for hiking, skiing, golf, etc.
- Encourage your clients to keep a fitness activity and nutrition journal. Have them chart their daily workouts and their diet. Get them to chart the benefits they are achieving and have them concentrate on finding personal measures of improvement. For example, have them record whether they are feeling better and whether their energy levels and endurance are improving. By having clients review their journals on a weekly basis, they can determine if they have met all workout goals and if they should set new goals for the upcoming week.
- Teach association and disassociation. Total mental focus and concentration is called association. This technique is helpful while teaching clients a new exercise, helping them to develop coordination skills and during weight lifting. During these activities, it is important for them to completely focus their attention on the muscles and the movement. You should instruct your clients to focus entirely on what is happening during each specific movement. Directing full attention away from the physical work is called disassociation. By distracting your client away from the fatigue and discomfort of exercise, it is possible to lengthen their endurance and improve their performance. For example, during weight lifting you can help a client by cueing “Only three more reps" as you start to notice they are becoming fatigued. Or during cardio exercise, you can talk to clients and discuss their goals to distract them from any fatigue they may be experiencing.
- Use Humor and have fun. If you want to ensure your clients stay motivated and keep their training appointments, keep the sessions fun and exciting. If you keep them laughing, you'll keep them as clients.
As a Personal Trainer, if you can grasp the concept of motivation, you are well on your way to becoming very successful in the fitness industry and helping many people make positive changes in their lives. The rewards you will reap will be above and beyond any financial compensation package you could ever receive.