Put Clients in Control
By and large, fitness professionals are self-motivating individuals who thrive in the controlled environment of regular health and fitness programs. They schedule their workouts, plan their food intake, set fitness goals and strive to achieve them. However, this passion for purpose can sometimes go astray when trying to empower clients to adapt the same behaviors. Many personal trainers take total control of their client’s program in an attempt to “guide” them into adapting the desired behavior(s). Unfortunately, this practice frequently flops and the client fails to adhere to the program. This is because clients are often fundamentally afraid that they do not have the necessary skills required to perform the behaviors the trainer has identified. In a short time, this anxiety becomes overwhelming and the client looks for ways to abandon their program.
Alternatively, trainers can help increase client confidence (and long-term program adherence) by helping put clients in control of their own program and create an environment where they feel safe and self-assured (Kushner, 2009). These confidence-building strategies should be introduced at the outset of a client’s program during the initial consultation phase. Ask clients what they would like to do, are currently doing, and/or are prepared to do that would help them work toward their health and fitness goals. By seeking your client’s feedback, rather than imposing your ideas upon them, they will identify program variables that they feel confident they can perform.
Now you can progress to the next stage of the program design process. This is where you use your specialty knowledge of exercise, movement, corrective strategies, nutrition, etc., to help guide the client’s self-examination to make sure the behaviors they identify (and that they are prepared to do) are indeed going to prove beneficial.
For example, imagine assisting a client in identifying program strategies to help eliminate a long-standing back pain issue. The savvy personal trainer recognizes the client’s anxiety and asks, “What have you already done (or are currently doing) that helps alleviate your back pain?”
When the client responds that they sometimes “use a foam roller to massage the muscles of their buttocks and legs when their back really gets bad,” the trainer seizes the opportunity to highlight this positive behavior and incorporate it into the client’s new exercise program. They review the way the client performs the exercise, make any necessary adjustments to their technique and further explain that these techniques (and others like them that can be integrated into their program) are extremely beneficial for both alleviating back pain and preventing it from reoccurring.
Strategies like these help the client recognize positive behaviors they already feel safe and comfortable using and, consequently, motivate them to perform them more regularly. This is a major key to long-term exercise adherence.
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