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Training Tips

How to Use Commitment Devices with Personal Training Clients

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Use Commitment Devices with Personal Training Clients

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Part of being a good personal trainer is knowing how to develop a safe and effective exercise program. This requires knowledge of muscles and how they work. It also involves understanding how nutrition plays into a complete fitness regimen. You can learn more about each of these by earning your certification.

But you also must be able to provide each client long-term results. They must be able to sustain their goal weight or muscle mass long after your training program is done. One way to do this is with a commitment device.

What is a Commitment Device?

Commitment is defined as “being obligated or emotionally impelled” to do something. So, it is more than just having a goal. It is a hunger, a forceful drive to take a specific action. It is a desire so strong that you will accept nothing less than complete and total success.

A commitment device helps create this powerful feeling for your personal training clients. Though, it isn’t like some of the wearable devices that track heart rate or body composition changes. Instead, it is an agreement a person makes with themselves to make better choices. 

Why Use Commitment Devices with Personal Training Clients?

Some personal trainers try to keep clients invested by asking them to sign commitment contracts. While this can help, especially if the client is intent on keeping their word, it isn’t as beneficial as having them make a commitment to themselves. 

A commitment made to one’s self makes hitting their goal more personal. It enables them to sustain lifelong changes because they’ve internalized their pledge. It also motivates them to continue working on their fitness even after you are no longer their trainer.

In a perfect world, clients would use your personal training services forever. But if you’ve been a trainer for any time at all, you know that this isn’t realistic. Clients come and clients go. Typically, you only have them for a short period of time.

Whether you work for a gym or other fitness facility or own a personal training business, having clients retain their weight loss or keep their muscle mass—even if you aren’t currently training them—looks good for you. Prospective clients don’t want a fitness professional who can only change their lives short-term. They want someone who offers the ability to sustain their goal long after the training session is done.

Creating a steely commitment in your clients is just as good for them. Think back to why you became a personal trainer. It likely has something to do with wanting to help others improve their health and wellness. If you can get your client to make a commitment to stick with the process long-term, you’ve done exactly what you set out to do.

7 Ways to Increase Your Client’s Commitment

Ideally, a client’s commitment is strengthened from their first personal training session. This improves their adherence to your fitness program. How do you develop a personal promise so strong that they will continue training for the long haul? Here are seven strategies to consider.

1. Identify Their Triggers

We all have things that trigger us to make not-so-healthy decisions. For some, these triggers may be emotional. They may find it harder to exercise or eat right when they are stressed, for example. Others are triggered more so by people, such as a spouse who doesn’t support their fitness goals.

Identifying these triggers increases the client’s awareness of what can derail their training efforts. It also enables them to set up a plan for dealing with these triggers in a healthier way. Instead of eating when they are stressed, they could go for a walk. If they aren’t feeling supported by their spouse, they could reach out to a friend.

2. Encourage Them to Take Time Outs

If your client tends to be an emotional eater or their emotions get in the way of their exercise program, time outs can help them stay committed. These little breaks allow them to step away from whatever is bothering them, giving them time to calm down and regain control.

This could involve walking away for a moment if things get heated with their spouse. If they can’t leave their physical space, such as when at work and dealing with a difficult client, they can at least take a mental time out. Have them close their eyes and take a few deep breaths. This can help them feel better when they can’t get away.

3. Help Them Set Attainable Fitness Goals

It’s hard to stay committed to a goal that is excessively out of reach. Keep this from happening to your client by helping them set proper goals.

This requires talking to your client about what to realistically expect. If their goal is weight loss, for instance, they should aim for 1-2 pounds a week. Muscle gains take longer, so it’s important that they know this upfront. This way, they don’t set themselves up for failure.

4. Use Social Support to Increase Their Self-Control

Some people make good choices when they are around others yet aren’t so controlled when they are alone. This is where having a strong social system can help.

Of course, you can offer your support as their personal trainer. Also ask who else in their life supports their decision to improve their fitness. Encourage them to go to these people whenever they feel their commitment waning. 

5. Reduce or Eliminate Their Temptations as Much as Possible

If your client has a sweet tooth, keeping candy or desserts in their house is a continual temptation. While they may be able to not eat them at times, self-control isn’t limitless. We can only hold off cravings for so long before eventually giving in.

By removing temptation from their environment, their self-control isn’t constantly being tested. This decreases the chances that they will eat these types of things, getting them further from their goals.

6. Get Rid of Distractions

Have you ever sat down with a bowl of popcorn and, before you know it, you’re reaching into an empty bowl? Or maybe you have been playing with your phone while eating a snack and that snack disappears without even tasting it.

The more distracted you are, the easier it is to overeat. Thus, getting rid of these distractions helps reduce this chance. Encourage clients to do nothing else when they eat. This way they will pay attention to the foods and how their body feels. They’ll also better realize when they’ve had enough.

7. Remind Them of Fitness Benefits During Their Workout

There is an effect called hyperbolic discounting. This means that the benefits of a specific action decrease over time. That’s why it’s easy to tell yourself that you’re going to do your workout tomorrow, yet not follow through. The closer you get to having to put in the effort, the more you downplay the benefits.

One way to get around this is to continue to remind your client why they’ve set a specific goal. Ideally, these reminders should be supplied while they are engaged in the physical activity. This encourages them to keep going when their effort is needed most.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Use Commitment Devices with Personal Training Clients, Motivation

Increasing Commitment with Online Personal Training Clients

If you offer online training, you can use all these commitment devices with your client base. Talk about each one during your first personal training session. Find ways to continue to stoke their motivation through each subsequent workout.

If you are an online personal trainer who offers only pre-recorded exercise programs, consider putting together a worksheet that explains the importance of making a commitment to yourself. Give them a few of these tips so they know how to stay committed to the process.

When Clients Aren’t Committed

Getting people to develop a deep-rooted commitment isn’t easy. If it were, every one of your personal training clients would achieve amazing success. So, what can you do if you are having a hard time convincing a client to make long-term changes?

One option is to talk about increasing their commitment every chance you get. Make it a requirement that they engage in commitment exercises such as the ones listed above. Reinforce commitment on your social media pages, providing additional tips there.

If you are a group fitness instructor, mention it during your workout classes. The benefit of group fitness is that you can reach a bunch of people at once. Plus, they can offer each other support as they work to create and keep their personal commitments.

You can also earn your certification as a Transformation Specialist through the ISSA. As a Transformation Specialist, you will gain the skills needed to help clients make lasting, positive changes regarding exercise and nutrition. You’ll also learn how to overcome any resistance they may have to training, offering them better results.

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Use Commitment Devices with Personal Training Clients, Motivation, Infographic

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As a Transformation Specialist you will be armed with the skills and techniques required to truly coach and influence behavioral patterns as they relate to your clients physical, mental and emotional well-being. With this skill, your clients will see better results quicker and have an easier time with the transition to the behaviors and activities you suggest.

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