People hire personal trainers because they want to change. Maybe they want to get faster, stronger, lose weight, decrease their risk of disease or manage a current disease or disorder. It is your role, as a personal trainer, to help clients zero in on why they want to change and how they will analyze the results of your training sessions.
Asking the right questions helps you design individualized programs for each and every client you train. During the initial interview period, ask open-ended questions to help the client dig deeper into their thoughts and behaviors. This is also a time for you to discover what motivates them. Having a deep understanding of this helps both you and your clients define the desired outcomes from training.
How do you determine what motivates each client? Simply ask. You might get a direct answer such as, “I hate to run. I feel awkward when I run and it hurts my knees. I dread it.” Now you’ll know not to put the client on a treadmill, less you risk having him or her run out the door to find a different trainer.
The client’s answer might be indirect: “I don’t like running outside in the heat/cold. I feel like I can’t breathe well.” That response allows a little more wiggle room in program design. He or she might be open to coached interval runs on an indoor treadmill.
You can also recommend clients take a personality test, such as the DISC method, so that you can get a better understanding of what motivates them and how they will best communicate on and off the training floor.
As you interview, you’ll see that clients tend to fall into one of two major categories listed below. Once you understand how they are motivated, you’ll be able to provide compelling ways to show them their progress.
Driven by Data
Some clients enjoy tracking results through biometric feedback. These people are motivated by numbers and need to be shown their progress regularly.
To help you determine how your client will monitor his or her progress, ask questions such as, “What type of digital devices have you used to track your calories/workouts/sleep, etc.…?”
If the answer is direct such as, “I’m not good with tracking calories. I don’t have the time and it’s very frustrating to me,” then you wouldn’t tell the client to download a food-tracking app. However, the answer might be more indirect, such as, “I’ve tried counting calories before, but I never seemed to have much luck with it.” A statement such as this shows the client might be willing to try if the mode of counting calories is different than what he or she has tried in the past.
These types of clients measure progress by knowing how much they are lifting, how fast they are running, and how much weight they are losing or gaining based on pounds, dress size or other biometrics. You can use this information not only to motivate them, but to also design their ideal programs. Performing intervals based on time or amount of reps completed will keep this type of client engaged and inspired. The use of heart-rate monitors and phone apps will also help them track their effort and intensity.
While accountability through numbers is enticing to many, it is also important to notice if they are obsessing over this type of feedback. Remind clients of all the health benefits associated with exercise—not only those that are immediately trackable.
Success of Lifestyle and Behavior Change
Maybe your client is more concerned about how a consistent exercise program will improve his quality of life and impact his emotional and mental health. Ask him: “In three months, how will you assess your progress?” A client who is motivated by changes in his quality of life would answer: “In three months, I will be able to get down on the floor easily to play with my grandkids.”
Oftentimes, clients that are motivated to change their current lifestyle are doing so for multiple reasons. Someone dealing with type 2 diabetes might be struggling financially to pay for her medication. She might be stressed because she is missing work, and is feeling the effects of the disease on her body. With a regular exercise program, many, if not all, of these issues can be resolved.
How do you monitor progress if a client is motivated by a change in his or her quality of life? Listen for statements that show a link between the client’s current ability and his or her goals. Bring attention to these positive changes and stress how they are pieces of the larger puzzle. I remember when a client of mine who struggled with obesity walked forward down the stairs for the first time after years of only being able to step down sideways because of the strain on her knees. Once I saw how impactful that small change felt to her, we started to make goals focused around the stairs. I would ask her weekly, “What was easier for you this week because of your dedication to taking the stairs and strengthening your body?”
As a trainer, urge your clients who are motivated by change to journal throughout their journeys with you. With documentation of what they couldn’t do at the beginning of the program, they’ll take great joy in crossing it off the list as they improve. It is a satisfying and meaningful tool. Gratitude journals are great resources to promote reflection and to note the positive things that are occurring in their lives.
Analyzing progress and providing results is a big part of a personal trainer’s job. Being tuned in to your clients needs and what motivates them is vital to their success. Build rapport by asking open-ended questions and determine what types of measurements would be most appropriate.