As the holiday season approaches, many fitness professionals prepare themselves for smaller classes and frazzled clients who cancel sessions to make time for various pressing engagements. There always seems to be something going on, and the added pressure makes the winter days even shorter. Personal trainers and group fitness instructors have seen this cycle again and again. They wait in the quiet confines of the health club, where lines for the elliptical machines have dwindled, and prepare themselves for the onslaught of regret in January.
However, there are many ways fitness professionals can stave off the holiday and postholiday blues. It takes just a little strategic guidance and “chalk talk” to help clients successfully navigate the hectic last days of the year.
Stress is the underpinning factor in many people’s hiatus from health. One way to help clients handle anxiety is to offer them a small, easily achievable goal. This may be an additional set during strength training or five more crunches at the end of a class. This approach translates well to “real life” and sends the message that bite-size goals can have a big return. IDEA member Gayle Carson, Edd, of Miami Beach, Florida, uses this mini-goal strategy with her coaching clients. “What can you do that at the end of the day makes you say, ‘Wow, I’m happy and proud I did that!’”
IDEA member Kelly Bliss, MEd, a certified personal fitness trainer and lifestyle coach who lives in Lansdowne, Pennsylva-nia, says the holidays are a time of equalization between plus-size and normal-size people. “Everyone deals with stress at this time of the year, and everyone has something that interferes with self-care,” she says. “People are overbooked and overcommitted, and they just stop taking care of themselves. This is a time when almost everyone binges, independent of size.”
Bliss recommends that fitness professionals resist the urge to focus on weight as a key motivator, and instead focus on how clients can nurture themselves. “There is no need to squelch your giving and self-care,” she says to her own clients. “The one person you need to move to the top of your care list is you. You’ll have more to give to others as a consequence, and you will be better equipped to manage stress.”
Bliss advises her clients to adhere to what she calls the “four corners of self,” which are “sleepin’, chillin’, eatin’ and movin’.” “I encourage them to think ahead and either work out first thing in the morning or pack their gym bag the night before and have it ready to go. I also recommend packing nutritious foods. If clients are able to do these two things, they have momentum in their favor. The self-care train is moving, and it pulls the cars of family and community behind it.”
Having a “captive audience” in the form of a group fitness class is a perfect opportunity to offer pep talks, according to long-time IDEA member Joy Prouty, certified health/fitness director and wellness coach. “When I teach, I usually give little bits of information during a holding move in the warm-up or the cool-down,” she says. “The reason this works . . . is that it opens the doors of communication and makes the instructors ‘real’ people to participants.”
Prouty offers the following advice to keep class numbers high in November and December:
- Launch a contest to see who attends class most often.
- Introduce “surprise” workouts that pique members’ interest.
- Write personal notes on holiday cards and give one to each student.
- Call participants to let them know you want their holidays to be happy and healthy.
Prouty encourages other instructors to take full advantage of the many chances they have to positively influence and interact with classes. “Participants will realize and appreciate that you have done some homework preparation for them.”