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Being a personal trainer involves creating an exercise program that enables clients to reach a specific goal. It also requires finding a way to increase client accountability during this process. Thus, in addition to being an exercise coach, you are responsible for accountability coaching as well.
Merriam-Webster defines accountability as "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions." Being an accountability coach means helping your clients develop this responsibility toward their workout plan.
An example of this is when you notice that your client isn't making progress toward their weight loss goal. They tell you that they're following a low-calorie meal plan and adhering to the training program, but their weight isn't decreasing.
In your role as a certified personal trainer, you must have a real conversation about whether their actions match what they are telling you. Is it possible that they aren't paying as much attention to their nutrition as they think? Have they skipped a workout here and there without telling you about it?
Accountability is important in a personal training environment because it takes consistency for clients to reach their fitness goals. Holding clients responsible for following their training plan enables them to stay the course long enough to get their desired results.
This is true whether their goal is to lose weight or to increase muscle mass. Realistic goals involve working toward both slowly. They require taking small actions consistently over time. Research reveals that the more clients are held accountable for taking necessary actions, the higher their success rate.
Plus, sometimes clients don't have much support from family and friends. Their loved ones help them create excuses about why they can't attend their training session. Challenging these excuses enables clients to see the consequences of their actions.
The first step to increasing accountability in your clients is to get them to understand how their actions are impacting their ability to reach their goal. Help them realize that not completing their weekly exercise routine slows their weight loss. Talk about how not giving their all during a training session means that it will take longer to build their strength.
Though they may know this on an intellectual level, they may struggle with making the connection between their actions their results. They have convinced themselves that having that one dessert or skipping that one workout won't matter. While this is true, small transgressions can lead to big transgressions. Missing one workout leads to missing two. Before they know it, they've abandoned their workout routine completely. Their fitness journey is over.
Holding your personal training client more accountable may require digging deeper into their belief systems. Do they believe that they can reach their fitness goals? Do they have an "I can do it" mindset? It's possible that they don't think they have what it takes to succeed. As their coach, it's your job to get them to realize that they do.
Other ways to increase accountability in your personal training clients include:
Holding regular accountability sessions. During a personal training session, you're focused on their cardio or strength training routine. Hold a dedicated accountability session and it provides the opportunity to learn more about where they are struggling. Talk about their challenges and work together to find ways to overcome them. In the next accountability session, ask whether they're implementing their plan. Once they realize that you're going to follow up, they're more likely to do what they say they'll do.
Starting an online accountability group. If you have a lot of clients who all want the same thing, create a private social media page just for them. This gives them a place where they can hold each other accountable on their weight loss or muscle building journeys. Check in with the group often to make sure they're on the right path. As their personal fitness trainer, they still look to you for advice if they're not achieving their goals.
Assigning a workout buddy. Another way to increase accountability as a trainer is to connect two clients who have a similar fitness level or exercise goal. If you're busy, you may not be able to check in as often as you'd like. By giving them someone else who will follow up to make sure they are following their food or workout plan, they get the same effect without requiring more of your time.
Calling them out if they're making too many excuses. There are going to be times your clients won't be able to follow their fitness program. They get too sick to exercise or they have to work late and are unable to meet you at the gym. When these happen once or twice, that's understandable. But if they become a pattern, you may need to call them out. Maybe they don't realize what they're doing or they didn't think it was a big issue because you've never brought it up. Part of being a personal trainer is helping clients see how their actions are impacting their fitness level. You can do this kindly while still getting your point across. If they want fat loss or more muscle, they must first admit to how their behaviors are helping or hurting the process.
Some fitness professionals are great at creating personal accountability in their clients. Others, not so much. What qualities would place you in the first category?
One is the ability to effectively communicate. You must be able to talk about your client's behaviors in a way that doesn't make them feel attacked or worthless. This requires having tact while still getting your point across. You must also be able to listen, ensuring that you understand why the client is acting in a particular way.
Successful coaches also help clients see them as more than just a workout partner. They create a relationship based on being someone who cares about helping them reach their fitness goals. They make their clients feel comfortable talking about the challenges they face with eating or exercise.
The more valued your clients feel, the more likely they are to be honest about the ways they may be self-sabotaging their fitness journey. This requires showing empathy for their situations. It involves being able to understand why they may be taking specific actions and working with them to find ways to change their path in life.
Since you can't be with your training clients 24 hours a day, it's also helpful to give them the tools needed to motivate themselves between gym sessions. These same tools also work if you're an online personal trainer.
The more self-motivated your clients are, the more they will be accountable to themselves. This sets them up for long-term success. Options that fall into this category include:
Encouraging a fitness journal. The good thing about keeping a journal is that it helps the client see the actions that have helped them get closer to or further from their goals. Ask clients to review their journal often. Inquire whether they notice any trends. Suggest that they highlight behaviors or thoughts that seem to consistently emerge. Increasing their awareness helps them make better decisions in the future.
Reinforcing their ‘why.' Why is it that your training client wants to get into better shape? Are they trying to prevent or heal a chronic health issue? Is their goal to be around long enough to walk their daughter down the aisle or see their grandkids graduate from high school? The stronger their reasons for wanting to improve their fitness, the more likely it is they will succeed. Continue to reinforce why they show up at the gym every week or meet with you online.
Suggesting a visualization exercise. Sometimes clients lack motivation because they can't clearly see what life will look like once they achieve their goal. There's a disconnect between where they are now and where they want to be. Encourage clients to take a few minutes every day to visualize their life after reaching their goal weight or developing the desired physique. Get them to think about how they would feel. Help them realize how their life will change. The more clearly they can see their future selves, the more they are driven to make it a reality.
Become more effective at providing your clients lasting results—sign up for the ISSA's Transformation Specialist certification. In this course, you will learn how to boost your client's motivation from day one. You'll also discover how to help them make a lifelong commitment to improving their fitness. A commitment so strong that it's just a matter of time before they hit all their health and wellness goals.
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.
Lemstra, M., Bird, Y., Nwankwo, C., Rogers, M., & Moraros, J. (2016). Weight loss intervention adherence and factors promoting adherence: a meta-analysis. Patient Preference and Adherence, 10, 1547–1559. https://doi.org/10.2147/PPA.S103649
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