Most clients of fitness coaches are beginners. With beginners, virtually anything can work for a little while. Your job as a personal trainer isn’t just to help those beginners to reach their fitness goals. This is the easy part. You also need to get them engaged with the training process. If your client only really cares about the results that they can get from exercise, and doesn’t learn how to enjoy the exercise itself, then they are going to want to give up when they reach a plateau. Everyone hits a fitness plateau at some point. This is bad news for both of you. The client will no longer get the long-term benefits from training with, you no longer get the long-term benefit from training the client. Here are some things that you can do to help your clients to reach their fitness goals and to help you to build a solid business based on successful, satisfied, and loyal clients.
Help Them Get Over Their Fear Of Gyms
As a fitness professional, you probably love the gym. However, to a client who is new to fitness training, the gym can be a scary and off putting place, especially if they are older, new to exercise, or larger.
To help understand how they feel, imagine yourself going to the gym naked. Imagine how incredibly embarrassed and awkward you would feel. This is how a beginner can feel when they walk into a public gym for the first time. They feel as though everyone is looking at them, and as though they are being judged. They feel exposed and as though they don’t belong.
Here are a few easy things that you can do to help them feel more comfortable:
- Give them a quick tour
- Explain the rules and basic gym etiquette
- Teach them some basic gym lingo
- Keep the program simple
- Consider where you are in the gym. Stay away from people doing complex things or lifting high weights. Choose quieter spaces where they won’t feel looked at.
When we’re left to our own devices, it’s natural to gravitate to the easiest options. Why would you finish the workout with metabolic conditioning with the recumbent bike is so much more comfortable and relaxing? Why would you learn to do proper push-ups, squats, hip hinges, and pull-ups, when the machines around the gym work the same muscles with less effort?
You know the answers to all these questions, but your beginner clients probably don’t. Whether you’re coaching in person or coach online with Disciple, you need to link everything you do, especially the more challenging or uncomfortable things, to your client’s goals. When you introduce a new kind of exercise or move away from something that your client enjoys doing, draw a clear line to the results that the client wants so they understand why.
Make Your Client Feel Smart
Have you spent time with a professional from a different industry who made you feel stupid? Have you read fitness articles that were so unnecessarily complicated that you had to read it more than once to understand what it was trying to tell you?
Keep these feelings in mind when you trying to explain a new concept or exercise to a client without a background in fitness. Think about whether you actually need to use technical terms when you’re talking about a simple concept like stretching or cardio.
Try to find the simplest ways to get across information that you want your client to understand, and let them tell you when they are ready for a more complex explanation. Turn the tables sometimes, and have the client explain something you’re interested in that they know a lot about.
The internet is both the best and worst thing to happen to the fitness industry. You can easily find all kinds of answers to the questions you have, but your clients can also easily fall down rabbit holes of bad information. If you don’t know, it can be hard to tell what is legit and what isn’t.
You can help your clients to find the best information from the most reputable sources, and help them to avoid the fringe stuff that is wrong or unsafe. Everything they find online will fall into one or more of these categories:
- A total scam or a gimmick, such as a fad device that doesn’t actually do anything.
- Not appropriate for their goals, such as a program that is great for a more advanced lifter, but wouldn’t be safe for your beginner client.
- Not necessary, such as a diet designed for an athlete, that is of no use to a new mother who just wants to lose her baby weight.
- Not appropriate for the level, such as a routine designed to build serious strength.
You can help your clients to find accurate information that is appropriate for their current level. You can also help them to learn how to spot the difference and learn to find good, useful information for themselves.
Don’t Wipe Them Out
The goal of training isn’t to get tired. It should be to improve. If all anyone needed to do was chase fatigue, then nobody would need a personal trainer to help them.
To create change, you need to present the body with a level of stress that it needs to adapt to, and then give it time to recover and adapt. Putting the body under the right level of stress can be challenging for an advanced client, but it is easy for the beginner. If the client wasn’t doing anything before they began training with you, pretty much anything that you give them to do will be a sufficient stimulus for adaptation.
You don’t need to really hammer a beginner client in order to get really good results. All you need to do is give your client a workout that feels like a workout to them, but that they can easily recover from in time for your next sessions. You can increase the challenge in a systematic way, and the client will be able to keep making progress for the foreseeable future.
If you’re worried about the client complaining if you start light, you can always remind them that you can always make things harder.
Start With What They Need
Head Coach, Tom Powell from Energy for Life Fitness, confirms that most beginners to fitness are lacking the same things:
- Lifting skill
- Movement quality
No matter what their fitness goals, they will need to build all three.
Start your first sessions with a warm-up that includes some work on mobility, activation, and movement drills. Then work on teaching them basic movement patterns. Use light weights and concentrate on the correct form. Avoid fatigue but increase the frequency, having them do the same primary exercises every session.
The faster that your clients gain competency on the fundamental lifts, the faster they will be able to move onto harder and more productive training. Although the weight is light, don’t make your client grind out reps. Instead, if you are doing a set of fifteen reps, split it up into three mini sets, with a small break of five to ten seconds every five reps. The goal is to get more quality reps by avoiding fatigue.
Finish With What They Want
The downside to structuring a session in the way described in the point above is that it won’t always be what your client actually wants, or match their idea of what a good workout should be like.
Because the client is beginning with not much skill or strength, this won’t be a very challenging workout to start with. To stop them from feeling put off, you can try finishing each session with some or all of the things the client wants to do instead. This could be the time for a cardio blast, for example, which clients often feel is what they need, even if you know that strength training is going to do more for them. Work with them and compromise to create a session that they enjoy, but is actually working for them.
Save The Advanced Stuff For When They Really Need It
The more advanced that your client is, the more you will need to change up your sessions. This is what you do in your own training, and you probably have some great training techniques that could be trying with your client and are excited to try out.
The problem with these more advanced methods is that they usually have a relatively short lifespan. These new methods will work for a few weeks and then you will need to move on.
This is why you should hold off using these techniques. Give yourself as long as you can with the simplest progressions. Make sure your client is truly an intermediate before you move them on from exercises and programs for beginners. As for advanced training methods, keep them held ready until your client can’t make any more progress without them, and only introduce them then.