There are many things that can be considered important when it comes to the world of personal training or coaching your clients to help them achieve their health and fitness goals. The world today is flooded with personal trainers/coaches all striving to be their best, but what makes one stand out from the next in this highly competitive field?
Here are my 4 basics, yet highly effective fundamentals that you can apply or adapt to your own skill set that may help take you to the next level to make you stand out from the crowd.
1. Look after yourself first and foremost.
Although this is not direct coaching fundamental towards your client if you as the coach are not in proper working order, how can you then set or be the example for your clients? As trainers we need to lead by example, we need to practise what we preach, walk the talk and be a good role model for our clients who are investing their hard earned money into us for our knowledge to help them achieve their goals.
This is easier said than done as I recently stumbled across this quote which changed my perspective a little.
“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you will understand what little chance you have in trying to change others” – Unknown
You can not pour from an empty cup, so it is important that you take care of yourself first. Make sure that you have a good work/life balance. Are you eating, sleeping and training correctly to keep up with the example that you are wanting to set for your clients?
Sometimes the trainer life can get the better of us and things start to slip away. We have all experienced this at one point or another where our training might lack and we are not getting to the gym as often as we like, our nutrition patterns change to whatever fast food outlet is on the way to where we are going and sleep, what is that??
Regardless of the problem, the important thing is to remember, step back, reassess, prioritise and work on correcting the issues and get yourself back to proper working order.
2. Know your client.
One of the best things you can do for your business is to get to know your client. From the very first consultation you have with your client, start to build a little database of information about them. This can be done in the form of a mental note or for me personally, it is to add a few notes to the client’s file. A short pencil is better than a long memory!!
These notes are more than just the standard, client “X” has a knee problem and client “Y” can’t control weights overhead, but more along the lines of key interests that can create future conversations during sessions, for example; their hobbies, do they have kids, a favourite sport/sporting team and what they enjoy doing in their spare time etc.
Knowing your client is about building rapport to better understand them and their story of why they have come to you, its about discovering things you may have in common which will enable easier and greater communication between you both. Nobody I train says they enjoy an awkward silence during their 90 seconds rest periods between sets of squats. A little conversation of interest can go a long way in retaining clients and building a long-term client/trainer relationship.
Each client should be treated individually. Each will have their own specific goals and as a trainer, it is up to us to adapt our knowledge to suit the client. There should be no cookie cutter approaches here, as I have never seen two people the same.
3. Learn, unlearn and then relearn
“To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This is a quote I use often. For those that are not following, if the only tool you have is a hammer, you will treat everything you see as a nail!
Just because you have your Cert III & IV hanging on your wall does not mean you have all the tools necessary to tackle every client and every problem they have out there. I personally have spent thousands on education over the years and the more I learn, the more a realise I don’t know.
When first starting out, my recommendation to you is to pick a niche, for example, gen pop clients and work with them for a while. From here, you hone your craft, apply what you know and train your client accordingly, but be prepared as you will make some mistakes along the way and this is ok! It’s from moments like this that you realise you stuffed up and you go about making sure it does not happen again. You seek further education and make the required changes next time around.
As much as us trainers would like to, we won’t be able to help every single client that comes our way. I was like this when I first started out. One of the best things you can do, when a client comes to you and you don’t know how to help them, is to admit at this time you can not help them with their issue but would be happy to ask around and find a trainer that can.
A good thing to do here is to look around and connect with other trainers, either in your gym or your local area and see what they specialise in so that you may be able to send clients their way and vice versa.
Stay in your lane and slowly over time as you grow and continue to educate and upskill yourself, you will be able to help and assist more clientele. Your clients will appreciate the fact that they are investing in a trainer/business that invests back into themselves. Just please don’t be that trainer that sees a quick dollar in clients, and only knows how to flog them into the ground for 12 weeks; you won’t be around for long as your clients will quickly move on to another trainer and won’t be sharing any positive feedback about you!
4. Focus on the basics; The 3 pillars for client success.
Firstly, let me set the scene. Picture if you will, a camera tripod. Once setup correctly you have a very stable base for you to mount your camera on top of. Now, what would happen if you were to remove one leg altogether? It would fall over and your camera would come crashing down. This would result in a very costly repair or replacement of your camera.
Now, lets set up another (slightly larger) tripod and this time picture each leg as the following; One leg is nutrition, the second leg is sleep and the third leg is training and on top, where you stand. All is fine and dandy if you have these three legs in balance but let’s say you did not set up the sleep leg correctly and it falls away. First the tripod tilts, you lose your balance and you guessed it, down you come.
My point here is that you can have the most scientifically proven diet and training program but if your sleep is not on point, everything suffers. Same applies that if you are training very hard but sleep and nutrition are not managed correctly to accommodate you, you will hit a wall.
A poorly managed lifestyle can result in a poor quality of life, increase the risk of injuries, little to no result for your training dollar investment, increase in obesity etc, but unlike going back to the store to buy a new camera, tell me where can you buy a new body? We only get one body to last us our whole life, so it’s a good idea to look after the one we have.
Lets briefly look a little more into each of the three;
Nutrition – How many calories should I eat? Which diet will work for my blood type? Why can’t I have carbs after 3 pm? I eat 800 calories, why don’t I have abs? These are just some of the many questions us trainers face on a daily basis.
Nutrition does not need to be hard and many trainers overcomplicate it or change it up way too often before seeing if things are actually working with their clients. As mentioned earlier, as each client needs to be addressed individually, the same goes for their nutrition. Just because one diet plan worked very well for your other client does not mean it will work for this client.
When assessing nutrition look at the clients day/week. Map out their activity level, do they move around at work or sit behind a computer all day? Do they play sports or go to the gym regularly? Are they a gen pop client or advance level athlete?
Cal-in vs Cal Out. This is what it really boils down to – Energy Balance. If your clients are taking in more calories, (regardless of how healthy those calories are) then they are expending, they are going to get fat!! Either increase their expenditure with activity or decrease their intake.
The next important factor with nutrition is compliance. Is the client actually eating and sticking to the plan!! What they say and what they do can be two totally different things. Plan one of your initial sessions with them, where you just chat to them about their food/meals and advise them of better options and maybe set up a guide for them of food choices etc.
Sleep – Is the client getting enough sleep? Just because they close their eyes for 8 hours does not mean they are getting the rest they need.
Are they waking up refreshed and bounce out of bed with out the use of an alarm or are they reaching for the snooze button to many times or that large cup of liquid pick me up in the sense of coffee/caffeine first thing. Important questions to ask also during the initial consult.
Sleep plays such an important role and it is really underestimated when it comes to performance, fat loss and muscle gain. Many think that the gym is where you grow. This is not true; the gym is where you only create or signal the stimulus to grow. It is during a deep restful sleep along with an adequate nutritional intake that you recover and adapt from the stimulus.
Not getting enough sleep also has a big impact on our hormone and immune function. Just try talking to your clients about their sleep and work with them to get a better nights sleep and see what a difference that alone can make. Ask them how many hours of sleep they feel good after and get them to aim for than many hours each night.
Training – Without the above two in check, all the hard training could be a complete waste if you are not recovering well through adequate nutrition and sleep. I have seen this many times before with both my own clients and those of the trainers around me. Manage your clients nutrition and sleep habits and monitor the training and all of a sudden they are getting the best results of their life.
Again, the clients training program should be designed specifically for them and their goals. Training plans should incorporate both strength and hypertrophy training and phased accordingly to where the client is at, but it should not be all about the lifting. We should also be teaching our clients about the importance of stretching and mobility and teaching them to incorporate it in and around their training.
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