A certified personal trainer is tasked with more than just program design and getting a client safely through training sessions. They must first learn about a client's fitness goals and their true motivation to be able to set realistic short- and long-term goals and create the appropriate programming.
Motivation is the drive to reach a goal or the reason for behaving in a particular way. There are three types of motivation a person can have:
Extrinsic - This is external motivation. Money, rewards, praise, or recognition are examples of extrinsic motivation. It is a strong force but has its limits.
Intrinsic - This is internal, driving motivation. Relief, a sense of achievement, self-worth, and the feeling of personal success are intrinsic motivations. This is the strongest of the three, but, when not kept positive, can be toxic and demotivating.
Addiction - This is extreme motivation that is far less healthy and balanced. Someone can feel negatively or positively with addiction and the benefits typically dwindle, leaving only the behaviors with no satisfaction. Thus, addictions generally lead to excessive or exaggerated behaviors if not monitored.
When exploring the types of motivation, it is easy to see the best way to manage behavior and the outcomes for your clients is to have an open and honest line of communication! When they speak, a trainer must LISTEN!
The initial meeting with a client is the first chance for a personal trainer to get to know the fitness goals, health issues, and, potentially, eating habits of a client. Long before starting physical activity, a successful personal trainer will schedule ample time to go through and discuss a client's PAR-Q+ responses. They will take detailed notes of the responses and any extra details or clues a client may give as to their reasons "why" and what drives them.
This is a practice commonly used to treat addictive behavior, but it is a great skill to help determine true motivation. With motivational interviewing, the interviewer (the trainer) will encourage the client to elaborate as to their reasons for making or needing to change, taking their current step, or setting a specific goal for themselves.
The key here is listening! The client's responses are repeated back to them in conversation to confirm understanding and to allow them to hear their responses out loud. The goal of this process is to increase their motivation and to get them to commit to the changes they will need to make to achieve their fitness goals. This is referred to as "buy-in" and, without it, it will be nearly impossible for a trainer to motivate and challenge a client long term.
Another great tool to motivate your clients and let them know you have been listening is to relate their workout to their goals and discuss them often. Check with how they feel they are doing as far as progress towards their long-term goals. Reference details they have told you about their reasons, experiences, and desires. This will show you have heard them and may also serve as a reminder to your client if they are getting off track.
For example, your client has a goal of fat loss, wants to change their eating habits, and has started a new diet with you. Every month, set a day to do their measurements and bodyfat to keep track of their fat loss and muscle mass changes. And never skip it!
They may have told you they struggle with their snack choices when watching their favorite sports team on the weekends. Ask them how they did last weekend and give them suggestions for better choices next time.
Each time you do a workout with them, discuss their current day's meals and how they are feeling with their diet during their warm-up. This gives a sense of accountability (to you as the trainer and the client), and is also a chance for the personal trainer to ensure the client is staying on track toward the overall goal. If they express a concern or issue with their current plan, help them work through it with tips, strategies, or a secondary plan or goal immediately. Having a sense of urgency will keep your clients urgent about their results as well.
Fitness goals must be specific, achievable, and, more importantly, realistic. If your client has weight loss goals, it is vital that your program design reflects this goal and it is the responsibility of the personal trainer to educate their clients about how building muscle mass and diet adjustments will help with weight loss over time. If you omit the education component of the workout, your client may not fully understand their weight loss program! Miscommunication and lack of understanding is often a major contributor to fitness noncompliance and clients giving up on their long-term weight loss.
When working towards a goal, we must expect setbacks and plan for them. Successful clients will share their goals readily with you for accountability and seek you out when they are struggling. Always celebrate the small successes that lead to larger goals and remind your clients that the goal is not perfection, but progress! Check out this amazing read on the 10 ways successful people achieve their goals and use them to remind yourself and your clients that no one is perfect when working towards a goal!
Always have a goal in mind with every client. No one works out just to workout! Even a client without weight-loss goals may want to be stronger or maintain their current fitness level. That is still a goal that needs to be measured to ensure success.
Learn more about why setting goals is necessary to achieve long-term results in this ISSA blog post: Setting Fitness Goals is Essential to Long-Term Success
Now we know the why behind motivation, listening, and setting your client's goals. Let's explore weight loss coaching.
A weight loss coach is a certified personal trainer with the education and skills to develop and implement exercise programming to help change behaviors and motivate clients to reach their personal goals. They offer advice on eating habits, assist clients with goal setting and tracking their goals, and provide appropriate motivation and guidance.
As discussed, the motivation piece is critical for your client's exercise and fitness goals. A weight loss coach spends much of their time with a client in open communication about progress, setbacks, and any changes to their goals. Everyone is motivated differently, so it is the trainer's responsibility to learn what each client requires to be heard, challenged, and understood.
For a certified personal trainer who is looking to go in-depth with diet, a Nutritionist Certification is strongly recommended. The credential shows your expertise and the results you get for clients prove your proficiency!
Specifically for a weight-loss program and fat loss goals, nutrition is 80% of the result regardless of the amount of physical activity a client does daily. General nutrition and nutrition for athletes provides greater detail on digestion and absorption, macro and micronutrient requirements, and proper eating habits to support exercise and wellness.
Managing expectations is something everyone must do. Realistic goal setting is essential for fitness professionals and it starts from day one. This requires educating clients on appropriate timelines for fitness goals and understanding and detailing how weight loss happens.
Your client may want to lose 20 pounds in the next month, but you understand a healthy, maintainable weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week. Now you can discuss how a calorie deficit works with a balanced diet and explain that this 20-pound weight loss goal can healthfully be achieved in two to three months. Teach them why this extended and realistic timeline will help them maintain their weight loss long term and they are sure to buy into your program and stay motivated!
Weight loss is not an easy thing to achieve. It takes consistency, discipline, and a whole lot of motivation. When taking on a fitness client, listening to their initial goals, and designing the ideal program, there are three keys to optimizing results.
Setbacks happen. These can be external like the holidays or internal as in a lapse in effort because the client has lost sight of their reason why. As a weight loss coach, listen closely to your client's concerns and help them determine what truly lead to their setback. Then, develop a plan to remedy the concern and avoid it in the future. When clients feel prepared, they feel empowered!
That which is not measured cannot be changed. Measure short-term weight loss goals can frequently and use them as a barometer of progress towards long-term weight loss goals. There is such thing as too frequent, so find a balance and set a timeline for evaluations so they are expected and habitual.
Keeping a visual tracking system is the most helpful way to see that things are changing. It can be a chart keeping track of fat loss, a graph of weight to track weight loss, or even logs that evaluate resistance used on specific exercises to show an increase in fitness level. No matter what it is, everyone wants to see that they are changing!
Always remember the three types of motivation.
If your client is motivated by external factors, you are going to be their biggest cheerleader!
If they are intrinsically motivated, you will always want to remind them of their personal reasons why and simply support them in any way you can.
For those who seem to obsess over weight loss or a fitness goal, we as trainers must find a way to healthfully guide them towards their goals while encouraging balance and reasonable expectations.
If you are ready to expand your education and better assist clients in making change, get started on the ISSA Transformation Specialist credential today! Learn how to gather the right information and use it to motivate clients and drive their success.
By becoming an ISSA Nutritionist, you'll learn the foundations of how food fuels the body, plus step by step methods for implementing a healthy eating plan into clients' lifestyles.
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