We have all heard the saying, “no pain, no gain,” and if you are from the era of dungy gyms and over-the-top lifts, then you have probably succumbed to the social pressures of pushing yourself to avoid ridicule. You know, those moments you pushed just a bit more because someone was shouting, “come on, one more rep!” or the “don’t be a quitter” comment to get you rattled up. We have come a far way since those days, or at least I hope we have.
Now, I am not judging or finger-pointing. If I learned anything in my past 10+ years of personal training, it is that everyone is motivated differently. Some people like having the Yoda trainer that provides wisdom and guidance. Some people want the drill sergeant that instils a bit of fear into them.
The act of motivating is an art. One that carries over to other domains of life such as career, family, friendships, and community. Knowing when to motivate your clients to push through or when to slow down differentiates good coaches from great coaches. Here are three key things to consider when working with your clients:
More is not always better
There is an assumption that we constantly need to push clients to justify our services as personal trainers or fitness instructors. More reps. More weight. Longer distances. Faster PRs. The list goes on. Our job is not to break our clients down. It is to build them up.
Every session, every workout, every exercise is about setting them up for compounded success. That is why we progressively overload appropriately and program plan, so our clients do not hit a wall. It is our job to set the right amount of intensity based on the client’s fitness history and personal background.
Just like running at a particular pace for a marathon, you need to think of the long haul. Figure out your client’s capacity and get an informative read on when to raise the intensity, when to bring it down, and when to cruise.
They are not just clients
Just like you are not just a personal trainer but also a wife, husband, son, daughter, person. You need to view every client as more than what they are showing up as. Get personal! It is right there in the job description, yet somehow, personal trainers tend to remove the personal connection with their clients.
Yes, there are training protocols for a reason, and it is always lovely when the session sticks to the game plan, but a great session is not about whether every set and rep gets checked off. It is about connecting the dots as to why your client is putting in the work and reassuring them that their investment in themselves is the best investment they can make.
Success is not getting them to complete their 12-week program. It is about having them dedicate 12 weeks to themselves, to push themselves to be better, and to be the hero of their fitness journey.
Earn their trust
You would not give $1000 to someone just because they asked you for it. It takes trust to ask your client to push their limits. Clients are not order-takers; they are not inputs and outputs, so do not treat them as such. Build your social capital with them, deposit into their trust bank with authentic and genuine gestures.
Ask them about their daily stressors. Acknowledge their emotions and feelings. Make them laugh. Most importantly, listen.
Trust is not built in one session. It is built over time by showing up dedicated to your client and putting them first. Make it part of your job to be their honest fan that keeps it real with them regardless if it is sometimes uncomfortable. Do not be a yes person; look to truly transact with them about what gets them going and how to help them stay accountable. Program planning should always incorporate a block towards getting to know each other, understanding each other’s why, and agreeing that it is a win-win relationship for both parties.
The sooner you realize that every ask and request of your client should be earned, you will start planning your program and individual workouts around trust withdrawals and being mindful of what is left in the trust bank. If you want to push your client, you need to start investing in their trust.