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November 8, 2012, 12:06PM PT in Fitnovatives Blog  |  0 Comments

How to Mentally Prepare Your Clients for the Holidays

personal trainingWhen it comes to fitness, there is no "outer fitness game" without a strong "inner fitness game." Savvy fitness coaches, trainers and health coaches understand that helping clients become "fit" means teaching, supporting and motivating them to develop all three components of a healthy lifestyle throughout the year—a healthy attitude, appropriate nutrition and suitable exercise.

At this time of the year, especially, your clients are undoubtedly facing weeks of parties, daily calorific food fests and free-flowing alcohol, coupled with less time to hit the gym. But you can make it possible for your clients to overcome these challenges by helping them:

  • Set SMARTER goals
  • Develop and use intrinsic motivation, self-efficacy and self-discipline
  • Stick with their healthy lifestyle habits
  • Appreciate their progress through your properly offered praise and encouragement

Have you ever listened so closely to highly achieving people that you hear their core beliefs? Pay attention and you'll hear that they believe that their resourcefulness, determination and resolve—their personal accountability—creates their success. They don"t think in terms of "having to" exercise, but rather as "having the opportunity" to exercise, thus recognizing the inherent value in doing so and enjoying persisting in the process. They have high levels of self-efficacy, which means they believe in their own ability to perform a given task in front of them.

Do you want to help your client build this positive belief system? It starts with helping them focus on past successes they’ve had in building health and fitness. Create opportunities for them to observe their peers achieving fitness goals. Offer heartfelt, genuine, enthusiastic praise and encouragement in personal and specific language that focuses on the process of accomplishing a particular task. In front of others say, "Wow, you pushed yourself so much further on those pull-ups today than you did yesterday and pulled out those last three with such determination on your face! Great work and solid effort!"

Here are some ideas for how you can help your clients reframe the thinking that blocks and undermines their motivation to stick with a healthy exercise and nutrition plan over these coming months. For example, let's say your client is aware of eating way too much candy and other junk food left over from Halloween:

  1. What behavior is getting in the way of you reaching your daily fitness goals?
  2. When did this pattern start and what are the triggers?
  3. What is this behavior doing for you? ("Oh, it just makes me feel good.")
  4. What other ways can you get that feeling or benefit?
  5. Which of those ways are you willing to try?

Are you helping your clients set SMARTER goals, rather than simply providing goals for them to work toward? Specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely, process-focused goals are essential. But don't forget to add doing so in an enthusiastic manner and acknowledge the accomplishment with a reward.

Regardless of your client's source of motivation for staying with an exercise schedule and diet plan at this time of the year are largely internal or intrinsic personal factors (e.g., self-satisfaction) or external, extrinsic factors and rewards (e.g., weight loss or bragging rights for winning a competition), YOU are a critical factor and source of support in helping your client sustain this self-discipline and motivation.

Recent psychological research in the area of behavioral economics suggests that while intrinsic motivation is often the best source for long-term fitness and nutrition goals, at this time of the year, it's the external factors that may help your clients get over the goal line. This idea is grounded in "commitment contracts," and is based on a solid understanding of human behavior. When money, rather than simply willpower, is part of the equation, many people will work harder in the face of a challenge to accomplish their goals.

Here's how you can help your clients put this concept into practice. Check out http://www.stickk.com, which can help your clients create this novel approach to holiday motivation. Your clients can sign up on stikk.com using the SMARTER goals that you helped them create, along with their credit card information. If a client doesn't accomplish his or her goal, such as working out a certain number of days each week between Halloween and New Year's, his or her credit card is automatically charged (reducing decisions) and a certain amount of hard-earned money is sent to the charity of his or her choice. (Or, to make it more powerful, the money could be sent to a charity that is NOT of his or her choice). Make these efforts public and pride becomes another motivating factor that has both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Not only will clients enjoy the smiles and high-fives from those who know they have reached their goals, but the clients' perceived value of their accomplishments will also be increased. When others celebrate our personal accomplishments, we feel more personally valued—the more personal, the better.

Phoning your clients, texting them, briefly meeting on Skype or FaceTime, and deepening your caring, professional relationship, are especially important at this time of the year. One phone call, text message or email may save your client from "blowing it" and triggering that deleterious, all-or-nothing approach that derails so many good intentions.

Here are seven additional ideas that will increase your clients' motivation and resolve in the face of holiday ads, aromas and irresistible reasons to avoid scheduling a training session:

    1. Recommend food tracking journals/meal planning/calorie counting/portion control apps
    2. Schedule workout sessions throughout the holiday season, and consider charging for "missed" sessions without proper notice
    3. Urge your clients to re-gift or donate food and snacks that are not a part of their daily food plans
    4. Help clients find ways to increase activity throughout the day—and add more time for cardio in the gym
    5. Remind clients to drink more water throughout the day…and less alcohol in the evening
    6. Recommend clients keep a healthy snack with them at all times, even when attending an evening event
    7. Don't be afraid to pull out the old Weight Watchers slogan, "Nothing tastes as good as feeling fit (being thin) feels."

And a final recommendation for you: Prepare your New Year's resolutions-related fitness and nutrition programs now, and start your marketing for these programs very soon. The New Year will be here before you know it!

By Michael Mantell
Dr. Michael Mantell

Michael Mantell earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and his M.S. at Hahnemann Medical College, here he wrote his thesis on obesity. He’s served as the Chief Psychologist of Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego and the Chief Psychologist for the San Diego Police Department. He provides breakthrough strategies to help business leaders, athletes, individuals and families create healthy, fit and happy trajectories in life. He is the Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences for ACE, an international behavior science fitness presenter, an Advisor to numerous companies and fitness organizations, on the Sports Medicine team of The Sporting Club of San Diego and is featured in many international media outlets. He is listed in the greatest.com 2013 “The 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness.”