You are excited about helping your clients adopt healthy behaviors and achieve new goals. However, as you know, making changes can be really difficult! The more you do to set up clients for success, the better. Issuing fun challenges can help them get and stay motivated to exercise and eat healthfully.
With that in mind, we are presenting a new tool you can use with IDEA FitnessConnect. This July, we will introduce the Client Challenges tool, powered by ChallengeLoop, a new iPhone and Web app that will make challenges even more effective for your clients and give you a way to interact with them on a more regular basis.
The Power of Challenges
Even if people want to make healthy changes, it can be all too easy for them to fall back into old, unhealthier habits. Setting a goal or challenge gives people something concrete to achieve.
A challenge, in the sense we’re talking about it, is a call to take part in a contest or competition. Challenges are extremely popular right now. According to Jason Davis, IDEA director of Web products, there are 11,100,000 Google searches for challenges per month, and news media mentions of challenges have doubled since 2007.
One reason challenges are so popular could be that they provide accountability and support from others. In fact, researchers are finding that issuing a team challenge can be an effective way to help people make changes. A study published in the journal Obesity (Leahey et al. 2011) examined the effects of teammates and social influence on individual weight loss during a weight loss competition.
The study showed that teammates in the team-based weight loss competition significantly influenced each other’s weight loss, suggesting that shedding pounds can have a ripple effect. Researchers found not only that team members achieved similar weight loss outcomes, but also that participants who said their teammates played a large role in their weight loss actually lost the most weight. “Teammates influenced each other, perhaps by providing accountability, setting expectations of weight loss, and providing encouragement and support,” said lead author Tricia Leahey, PhD.
The Coach Approach
While challenges can help people achieve weight loss and fitness goals, having a coach like you to help is also key. David Maxfield, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success (Business Plus 2012), says a coach or mentor is crucial to behavior change success.
Your coaching can encourage your clients to make changes. Clients are less likely to back out of healthy behaviors or challenges when you are holding them accountable and guiding them to healthy actions.
Maxfield offers these strategies to help you help your clients:
Start with the simple science. If your clients want to become healthier, set them an exercise goal and a healthy eating goal.
Help your clients track their progress, giving special attention to setbacks. Setbacks—times when clients fail to exercise or when they eat the wrong foods—are “crucial moments,” says Maxfield, and they are unique to each individual. Focus on these moments; identify the times, places, people and circumstances involved in the setback.
Concentrate your efforts on helping clients overcome their crucial moments. If clients can surmount the problems that are unique to these moments, they will be far more successful. Use the setbacks clients encounter to tailor their plans to them.
Maxfield also notes that you can coach clients to identify “vital behaviors”—actions that will help them accomplish the behavior change they want. For example, if a vital behavior for improving a client’s fitness level is increasing exercise from two to four times per week, you can encourage this. The new Client Challenges tool on IDEA FitnessConnect is an easy and fun way to help your clients improve their fitness levels.
Client Challenges Tool on IDEA FitnessConnect
IDEA’s new Client Challenges tool helps you combine the power of challenges with the effectiveness of coaching—and it’s free! This tool makes it easy for you to challenge your clients to anything. You choose the reward; give the play-by-play with photos and videos; and share your (or your clients’) victories. (Note: ChallengeLoop allows you to challenge anyone to anything, but here we’re focusing on the impact it can have on fitness clients.)
Tell the story of challenges. While you might currently be offering various challenges to your clients, only the clients who are actually involved know about them, and there is little documentation to celebrate what participants have accomplished.
The Client Challenges tool changes the challenge experience. It tells the story of the competition, from beginning to end, by creating a digital scrapbook of the event. It lets clients post photos and videos of themselves competing in the challenge as it unfolds. ChallengeLoop makes challenges a spectator sport, where fellow clients and friends can root for one another and celebrate their victories.
Follow progress on the Facebook-like newsfeed. Once you click on the Client Challenges tool on IDEA FitnessConnect, any clients and leads you have added to your account will transfer over to ChallengeLoop, where you can easily challenge them. ChallengeLoop looks like the newsfeed on Facebook. When you create a challenge for your clients, their goal is to complete it within the time period that you have set. Then they can post videos or photos of themselves for you, as their trainer—and, if appropriate, for other challengers or friends—to see. All of your clients in their various challenges will be continually updating the ChallengeLoop newsfeed with photos, videos and comments.
Encourage client interaction and support. ChallengeLoop lets all of your clients—as well as you—support one another through its social network. When people work toward similar challenges, they share camaraderie. Maxfield thinks this social support helps people change negative behaviors into positive ones. “Our research shows that . . . people who coach or cheerlead your change—can make you at least 50% more likely to be successful,” he says. “Online friends can definitely help [support you as you work to meet challenges].” Clients can also let friends and family watch challenges. When others visit a client’s challenge page, they can root for that person, watch the challenge unfold and encourage the client to keep going.
Create different types of challenges. On ChallengeLoop you can quickly create fun, engaging challenges for clients. A challenge can be anything you want. For example, you could challenge clients to take a picture of every meal for a week, exercise at the gym a certain number of times a week or cook a vegetarian meal.
Imagine that you challenge your clients to go for a run four times this week. Your clients could post photos of themselves running, ask you running-related questions, post their running stats and update you on their progress. You will easily be able to follow along with their challenge, root them on and give them advice. This type of challenge allows you to interact with your clients as often as you’d like and keep them on track with their health and fitness goals.
If you want to challenge your clients to something but aren’t sure exactly what, you’re in luck. ChallengeLoop sponsors TRX®, Subway®, Reebok®, Gatorade®, SPRI® Products and Casall® have created great health- and fitness-related challenges that you can use with your clients.
After the official launch in July, you’ll be able to access the ChallengeLoop application through the Client Challenges tool on the IDEA website. Log into your IDEA account page on www.ideafit.com and look for “Client Challenges” under “Quick Links” on the left-hand side of the page.
From there it will be easy to challenge your IDEA FitnessConnect clients and leads on ChallengeLoop. You can also access ChallengeLoop by downloading the iPhone app in the app store.
Leahey, T.M., et al. 2011. Social influences are associated with BMI and weight loss intentions in young adults. Obesity, 19, 1157-62.