There are two interesting trends bursting into the fitness industry: Group Training & Personalization. Both trends give business owners, clubs, and personal trainers a compelling reason to implement programs that promote social interaction while still offering the ability to ‘pick and choose.’
Clubs that have a strong group exercise component have a much higher retention rate than those that don’t (Steinbach, 2011), which is great news for the Group Training programs that are in the midst of exploding. This explosion of group programming, combined with the ever increasing demand to customize “life,” whether it be through creating song playlists, cell phone apps, recorded television shows, etc.; the fitness industry is seeing a trend towards exercising the way one ‘prefers.’ Exercisers are now taking the reins and selecting fitness options that satisfy their internal motivations and preferences.
In response, clubs and trainers are attempting to meet this demand for ‘customization’ by offering new types of programs, e.g., Boot camps, Zumba, GRIT, etc., to attract members. Yet, this is just scratching the surface of what true exercise customization can entail, create, and promote.
- Understand the key components of human needs and how Group Training can thrive by fulfilling these needs through various programming strategies.
- Discuss autonomy and how it effects exercise adherence, satisfaction, and motivation.
- Learn a method used to determine a client's specific training style, and how this method can aid in the customization of a Group Training program.
Group Training Feeds our Basic Human Needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs teaches us that in terms of human developmental psychology there are stages of growth (See figure below). In the pyramid, once our basic physiological and safety needs are met, we move on to a greater development of self. The top three levels in the pyramid include: Love and Belonging, Esteem, and Self-actualization. (Wikipedia, 2013).
Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_heirarchy_of_needs
Love and Belonging can be obtained through friendship, family, and sexual intimacy. While Esteem is built through self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, and respect by others. Lastly, Self-actualization is fed from morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, and acceptance of facts.
In a Group Training setting, it’s possible through programming strategies to fulfill these components of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, in turn allowing clients (and therefore the Group Training program) to thrive. For example, when clients are placed in a group and engage in activities that allow them to interact, an environment that fosters friendship is created; a component of Love and Belonging. Furthermore, programming strategies that allow clients to interact and complete tasks together provides a sense of achievement, which develops respect by others and for others, knowing that they could not have obtained the result without one another. At the peak of the pyramid, implementing programming strategies that promote creativity, spontaneity, and problem solving can lead to Self-actualization. Even more powerful is that those key feelings are associated with their participation in the Group Training.
Satisfaction Through Participation
As clients continue to climb the rungs of developmental psychology by means of participating in Group Training, assessing their enjoyment of the program is critical. This assessment is paramount to understanding how to implement strategies that ensure their satisfaction, and even more so, their exercise adherence.
In order to enhance the enjoyment factor, people need a place where they feel as though they are part of a community. So, by promoting the club’s social component and providing clients with opportunities to meet members with similar interests (e.g., Group Training), operators can better serve those individuals who are looking to connect with others (Hildreth, 2013). In addition to providing a positive community for the clients to participate in exercise together, the importance of giving the clients movement/exercise options that emotionally resonate with their preferences should not be overlooked. But, why are emotions important, or even relevant, to movement?
The human brain processes stimuli from the environment, which is communicated directly to our limbic system. The limbic system is then responsible for producing a variety of behavioral responses including movement, temperature regulation, active procurement of food, sexual drive, emotional context, and curiosity (Daane, 2011). This system gives the initial response to anything encountered by the human being. Simply put, the limbic system will assess the stimuli on two criteria: threat or non-threat. If it’s threatening, the body initiates an ‘away’ response. But if it’s non-threatening, the body initiates a ‘toward’ response (Radecki, 2010). Therefore, each stimulus presented to us produces a response, and each response warrants an emotional feeling.
If the client experiences a non-threatening training environment, and positive emotions coincide with that instance, an increase in participation occurs. This could likely be the reason some people return to your Group Training classes time and time again, whereas others attend one session and seemingly "disappear." Emotions motivate, organize, and guide perception, thought processes, and mobilize action towards a behavioral purpose. Positive or pleasant emotions are believed to have a role of enlarging the behavioral and thought repertoire to face a given situation (Tenenbaum et al., 2009).
Emotions Drive Interests
If there is anything fundamental about our nature it’s the capacity for interest. Some things facilitate it. Some things undermine it (Pink, 2009). In terms of the fitness environment, if a client experiences positive emotions within the given stimuli from the trainer or program, then attention is earned and interest is peaked. When there is a positive experience and a high congruence between intended and actual action, positive-oriented memory sources become the reference point for appraisal. The result of such an appraisal process could be in the form of a positive mood. The positive mood affects motivation in this situation, and influences the process of decision-making (Tenenbaum et al., 2009).
Emotions are important to movement and exercise because emotions drive behavior. When the movement or exercise performed creates a positive emotional experience, the behavior is likely to continue. The circumstance that the emotional state will stay positive will be based on whether or not the movement choice meets the interests of the client.
Autonomy is Customization
We all have our own preferences, likes, and interests. It is part of what it means to be a human. But whether that aspect of our humanity emerges in our lives depends on whether the conditions around us support it (Pink, 2009).
Face it; some people like to do the dishes, while others like to mow the lawn. Some people like to walk to work while others would rather take a cab. Take it a step further, some people are early risers and enjoy seeing the sun come up, while others prefer to rest their head on the most comfortable pillow as long as possible. No matter how it is viewed, human preferences, likes and interests come in a variety of forms.
Self-Determination Theory states, when the three basic psychological needs are met - Competency, Autonomy, and Relatedness - we’re motivated, productive, and happy (Ryan, R. M. & Deci, L., 2000). Given that Relatedness will occur within interaction and connectedness during Group Training, and Competency results in the participation and successful completion of the movements and activities within the program; Autonomy becomes the key psychological need that will give ownership and customization to the Group Training experience.
Autonomy by definition is the feeling deep inside that your actions are your own choice, and you are self-governed. Autonomy is a decision in your heart, or your authentic self. Autonomy is not acting alone, detached, selfish, egotistical, irresponsible, or with compliance (Emotional Competency, 2011).
When the client is given the option to choose and the choices align with the client’s likes, preferences, and interests, the trainer has created an environment filled with autonomy. It is autonomy that gives a greater purpose to the actions taken, it facilitates ownership, and encourages adherence due to the fact that one’s innate psychological needs are met. Knowing that emotions influence and drive motion, offering clients options for exercise and movement allows them to be their most authentic self, and exercise adherence follows.
Understanding that autonomy is generated by our own authentic choices, the question remains: How does a trainer successfully implement autonomy within group exercise?
Discovering a Client’s Interests
Determining a client’s interests, and developing a strategy around exercise selection to map to those interests, is necessary for providing autonomy and creating customization in group training. By using the Program Design Questionnaire (PDQ), a behavioral science-based and research-proven tool utilized by PTA Global, one can discover a client’s preferences by asking a series of questions that reveal the client’s desired Style of training (Cappuccio, R. & Corn, R., 2009). This Style is HOW they prefer to exercise.
PTA Global’s Styles of training are one of three:
- Hybrid, or
See the chart below for the definition of each Style. To discover a style of training and to best select exercises that will suit the client’s preferences, ask the following questions.
When you exercise, do you prefer:
- Structure or Challenge? (If you answered Challenge give 1 point)
- Routine or Variety? (If you answered Variety give 1 point)
- Practical or Adventurous? (If you answered Adventurous give 1 point)
- 0-1 points: preferred style of training is Traditional.
3 points: preferred style of training is Progressive.
2 points: the exerciser falls between the two styles, known as a Hybrid.
|This style includes movements that are:
|This style includes movements that are either traditional and/or progressive.
||This style includes movements that are:
For example, a push-up can be considered a Traditional Style exercise, yet that exercise can be mapped to a Progressive Style client by implementing different components of 3-Dimensional Movement. The trainer can manipulate the direction the push-up is being performed. Instead of having the client perform an anterior driven push-up, it can be done with a right and left lateral motion of the torso to make it more challenging, and multi-dimensional. That same push-up can become even more progressive by integrating other movements, e.g., lateral locomotion or knee drivers anterior, and/or right and left lateral.
When implementing a client’s Style, a trainer can select an exercise and map it to the desired preference of the client. The client then has the option to pick which version of the exercise they would like to do. In the example of the exercise above, the goal of the exercise could have been to target the chest, core, and shoulders. Therefore, no matter what version the client picks, the goal is reached and the client had the opportunity to map an exercise to their most authentic self.
Now imagine a group of clients exercising together. Taking that same push-up example above, but now applying it to a group challenge in which 100 push-ups must be completed by the collective participation of the group. All clients hold a plank, while one person in the group performs as many push-ups of their preferred Style as they can, then the next person goes for as long as they can, and so on until 100 push-ups are completed.
The clients interacted to complete a common task, feeding into the innate need of Relatedness. Then because they collectively completed the challenge together, the innate need of Competency was met, noting that it was by association of EVERYONE together. Most importantly, everyone was able to perform the task within his or her own preferred Style of training, feeding the innate need of Autonomy.
It’s wired in a human’s DNA to emotionally respond to stimuli, and when those stimuli are non-threatening and one can continue to engage, their psychological development continues. In environments that support one’s basic human needs to interact and survive, while building Competency, Relatedness, and Autonomy, clients develop a sense of loyalty and ownership.
Loyalty starts with satisfaction and loyalty is the starting point for a well-functioning and economically healthy center (Faille-Deutekom et al., 2012). With the ever-increasing demand to participate in Group Training and the desire for Customization, fitness professionals must implement a new set of programming options. By listening to the client’s likes, preferences, and interests and building programs around what emotionally drives them, client satisfaction flourishes. As a result, the training program and the fitness professional thrive as well.
- Daane, M. (2011, August 9). Movement Training and Emotion. >PTontheNet.com. Retrieved from: http://www.ptonthenet.com/articleprint.aspx?ArticleID=3344
- Faille-Deutekom, et al. (2012). The State of research in the global fitness industry. Limburg, Holland: HDD Group.
- Hildreth, S. (2013). Latest IHRSA trend report: Note key changes in membership. Club Business International, 2(4), 25.
- Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
- Cappuccio, R., & Corn, R. (2009). Behavior and communication, Online PTA Global certification modules. Retrieved from: www.ptaglobal.com
- Radecki. (2010). Arousal Presentation. Address at the Neuroleadership Institute, Australia.
- Ryan, R. M., & Deci, L. (2000). Self-determination theory. Retrieved from http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/theory
- Steinbach, P. (2011). Social environments help health clubs with member retention. Athletic Business Journal. Retrieved from http://www.athleticbusiness.com/articles/article.aspx?articleid=3733&zoneid=22
- Tenenbaum, et al. (2009). A conceptual framework for studying emotions-cognitions-performance linkage under conditions that vary in perceived pressure. Progress in Brain Research, 174, 159-184.
- Wikipedia. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs. Retrieved April 30, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_heirarchy_of_needs