How to help your client deal with stress | Rule #91

How you doing everybody? Jonathan here and in this article I’m going to go over what you can to keep a client focused when their world outside the gym seems to be falling apart.
If you’ve been training long enough you know that there is an aspect of being a personal trainer, where take on the roll of a therapist. Now Rule # 91 in the 100 Rules of Being a good Personal Trainer says “Be a trainer, not a therapist While a little TLC is always a good thing, I’ve seen many cases where this can turn into a vicious cycle where you just absorb a lot of negative energy and very little training gets done. Sometimes clients lose sight of why they employed you in the first place.
Your job is to keep your clients consistent as they pursue a healthier lifestyle. Part of helping your clients includes helping them clear out some of the negative energy that gets in the way of their training session. In this article I will go over 5 tips you can use to steer your clients towards discipline in and out of the gym.


Try not to judge

This is especially true in personal training. You’ll be surprised at some of the personal information clients give you. I’ve had clients walk in and say “I think my husband is cheating on me.” I’ve had a client walk into a boot camp and their sibling was in a serious accident a few hours beforehand. Because of the nature of this relationship-service business, clients will often feel inclined to disclose things to you as you’ve built in trust. Upon meeting your clients you opened the door into their most vulnerable subject, their self-image. So it makes sense that they trust in you. When confronted with an issue, try your best to empathize without judging. Empathy shows that you are concerned with how your client feels. Judging causes you to pour gas on or belittle the clients struggle. It’s very hard to qualify the importance of someone’s problems. What might be easier for me to handle may be catastrophic for someone else so I’ve included some general pieces of advice for your clients. Your best bet is to try to get the client talking about their situation from their default emotional state.
Don’t lose control of the workout
If you’re in the middle of the workout, you probably have some set time where your client is moving in a way that doesn’t require spotting or concentration. For instance, you may be going through your warm up, cool down, or pre-determined rest time. Your client can still talk to you and still progress through the workout. You want to allocate that time to speak to you client so you don’t seem completely heartless. So you want to make sure not to let the reporting or complaining dominate your workout session with your client.

Be the escape, not the enabler

I, in my life, have spent enough time worrying about things that didn’t really matter or didn’t have a long-term impact on my life and wasted a lot of precious time and I don’t want my clients to delay getting in shape and mentally stronger for one second. So I encourage them to push through the problem. You don’t want to let your clients’ temporary problems take away from their end goal. This happens with many people. Something happens in their life and all of a sudden the whole world falls apart and that’s why they can’t get in shape.

I once had a client whose sister got into a bad car accident. I was in the middle of getting ready to run my boot camp class and she told me so with 2 minutes until the room is filled with 20 people, there was very little time to talk. I asked her if she needed anything. She said she was going to be okay. So I encouraged her to view the workout or the boot camp as an escape from what was going on. Sometimes things happen and your clients have no control over it. You can often position your services as their chance to get away. Instead of commiserating I actually turn my positivity level up to 10,000 notches. When your client leaves your session they will be surrounded with whatever situation they have. Sometimes it’s need to have that hour in a day where you can forget. You don’t know how valuable that is for some clients.
I honestly believe that a lot people get into fitness, not just for the health benefits, but it gives them an opportunity to control something (their own bodies) in an otherwise uncontrollable world. Whether they’re parents with crazy kids or a lot of responsibilities, or a cheating husband, whatever the case may be, a lot of people tend to look at your service as a getaway. So you can suggest to your client that they view their time with you as a getaway and your job is to be continually positive. A lot of people don’t get that positive reinforcement outside of your training session, that’s another reason to encourage instead of commiserate. If you allow the client to turn your session into an hour of complaining, then all of a sudden you’re no different from what goes on in their everyday life. Eventually, once they’ve sucked the life out of you, they’ll look for other modes of self-medicating such as eating unhealthily.

Challenge your client to be their best self

The third point; empower your client. Do not let your client’s problems be a reason for their flakiness. You have to understand, people came to you for training because they’re in some way weak, either mentally, motivation-wise, just lack of knowledge in terms of what to do to get in shape. They came to you because they couldn’t do it on their own. So often times your clients will give you situations and it will be they’re reason for not seeing success. I’m sure a number of you as fitness professionals can point at least one client who has gone through a tough time and still stayed consistent. I don’t want you to compare your client to another, I just want you to remember that with mental toughness, anything is possible. Sometimes you have to work to instill mental toughness in your client.
You have to use your discretion when you speak to your client. You don’t want to beat them down, but in the same breath you don’t wait for your client to decide when they want to get back on track. They have to understand that they have control of their decisions and everything that they do is their responsibility. You don’t want to constantly allow behavior that will suggest that if you’re having a bad day, you can do whatever you want in terms of diet and exercise. You can’t be too sympathetic to the point where you’re enabling your client to do whatever they want. While clients may give you a little bit of push back, in the end they will respect you if you help them push through that issue and keep them on task. Once they get to their end goal weight, they’re going to thank you for never relenting and always believing that they can be better. Turn the negatives into positives.

What you should never do

Whenever possible do not make a decision for your client. Your clients give you a lot of power. They admire you because you’re in shape and live a structured life. You may be presented with a domestic problem and asked to make a decision for the client. People will ask you f they should quit their job, leave their significant other, buy a house, etc. These are situations you need to stay away from because it’s really none of your business. The only things that you need to worry about are what the client is eating, how often the client is moving, and how well they are able to consistently manage the two responsibilities. Make sure the clients figure it out their solutions for themselves and whenever possible, always deflect back to things regarding health. Health and success in life hinges upon good time management and prioritizing; writing out plans, seeing what works best for your lifestyle, and seeing things through. If you push these life skills, your client can then make life decisions in any area on their own.

Wrap up

So that’s about it. This is a delicate topic and while I’m sure I didn’t provide an answer for every possible scenario, I hope this has helped your change the way you view your clients and your role as an example and leader. This balance is what makes being a personal trainer so complex and at the same time so rewarding. I hope you realize how important you are in your clients lives so I just want to encourage you to be there for them but always focus on what will make them better.


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I hope you found this post helpful there will be many others to follow but if you want to chime in with feedback feel free. Don’t forget to add me on the facebook, and as always, remember to eat healthily, hydrate, drive safe, stress levels low, get rest, don’t slap anybody, love your clients, they will love you back, I will see you all tomorrow, or the next day, and you have a GOOD ONE!

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