How Do You Help Clients if They Need to Travel Extensively and Can’t Train as Often with You?
As someone who travels very often for work, I understand the frustration my clients feel when they have to travel a lot and can’t train with me as regularly as they would like. Most often their travel is for work, but I also have clients who take frequent vacations and others who have secondary residences where they might stay for an extended period of time. To help them continue their training on the road—and without me—I take the same approach as I do when I set up their programs: I consider the individuals and the particular situations they are in. There is no set rule that works for everyone. As I know my clients quite well, I can predict how they might react when confronted with the challenge of staying on track.
If a client will be traveling, I start by gathering the following information: how long she will be away; where she is going; whether the trip is for work or pleasure; whether she will be staying in one place or moving around; and whether she will be staying in a hotel or a personal residence. Then I consider her current training program. From there we discuss the different scenarios that are possible and jointly make some decisions.
If the client would like to work with a trainer, I try to set up appointments or make an initial contact with a colleague or a trainer in the place she will be visiting. I give her a copy of her training program so she can show the other trainer if she likes. I prefer that the client take most of the responsibility for setting up the training sessions, but if she requests it, I am happy to do that for her.
For clients who would like to work out by themselves, I try to find out if there is a gym where they are staying, or relatively close by. If I know that a client has access to some basic training equipment (even a limited amount), I will design a simple program that he can follow almost anywhere, with small modifications or substitutions. If he wants to do outdoor activities (running, etc.) before he leaves, I suggest a program and training schedule.
I advise clients to pack elastic tubing, running shoes and a bathing suit. It is always possible to do some resistance training exercises with the tubing and, in most cases, to go for a run or walk. The bathing suit will come in handy if clients have access to a pool or the ocean, or if they want to go for a sauna or a steam bath.
I let them know that it’s okay to shorten their workouts if they have time constraints. It’s better to do something rather than nothing, and it’s okay to perform several small bouts of exercise during the day if they can’t do one long session.
I suggest that if they have only a limited number of possibilities available, then they should make the best of the situation and maybe try something new. Who knows, they might like the “Salsa for Lovers” aerobics class that the hotel is offering.
Last, if my clients request it, I send reminders or “just checking in” e-mails.
What I don’t do is make them feel guilty for not working out or training when they are away. They shouldn’t beat themselves up if it’s not possible to train as they usually do. The unexpected happens when people travel, and they might not be able to stay completely on schedule. For some, it can actually be good to allow themselves a break from training (for example, when they are on vacation). I often see increased motivation—and hence, better results—when they start back.
Fred Hoffman, MEd
International Fitness Consultant
Global Reebok Master Trainer
Fitness Marketing Consultant for Reebok France
I work primarily with busy executives from the worlds of business and entertainment. Travel plays a big part in their schedules, and the forward-thinking, client-centered trainer needs to be proactive in anticipating their needs and requirements. However, the world is getting smaller all the time, and with the help of technology it’s much easier to provide a first-rate service for clients who are away from home.
We use three novel approaches.
The first approach is to look for a fellow IDEA member trainer in the client’s destination city. We have many clients traveling to Los Angeles and New York City and have already developed links with trainers in these cities. We can then e-mail (ahead of time) the client’s current program design and special requirements (modifications/contraindications, etc.). The client feels secure in the knowledge that he is not going into a session “cold” with an unfamiliar trainer, and the trainer gets enough information to make the sessions productive and enjoyable. I have used this approach with great success and am always looking for new partners!
The second approach I have recently launched is an interactive online trainer platform. It offers advice and guidance on exercise, nutrition, stress management and more. It also contains logs, questionnaires, a chat room, and a library with over 200 exercises. Ongoing support is provided by my “real-life” trainers using personal digital assistants. The support is delivered through an award-winning interface and search technology company (run by people who also happen to be clients of mine!). Clients get unlimited e-mail support and one phone call per month. It’s free for real-life clients, but other people pay £10–£40 per month ($18.75–$75) for access and extra for other services.
The third approach we use is a travel service. Clients can hire one of our trainers for a week, a month or 3 months. We have developed links with exclusive travel companies to offer this service. It is a relatively expensive service, however, as we have to factor accommodation and meals into our prices.
Although we recognize that there is no substitute for in-person training, we are finding more of our clients opting for our online service while traveling. I think it’s important that our role be seen as a support. Ultimately we need to teach our clients to take ownership of their own health and well-being.
Jon Denoris, MSc, CSCS
Managing Director, Catalyst Health & Fitness Ltd.
Many of my clients travel quite frequently for work and pleasure. For them, I design a workout using tubing, a door attachment and a skipping rope. I take digital photos of the clients doing the exercises and then print the images, adding detailed explanations underneath. This way clients can use their photos as a guide to get a full workout, or, if they have been walking all day sightseeing in Paris, they can do just the upper-body exercises.
For my more adventurous clients, I have designed workouts with hostels in mind. These include exercises clients can do with backpacks and/or hiking boots on, using stairs, etc.
Crick Nelson, CFC, CSCS
Lifestyle Synergy Inc.
Many of our clients travel, some extensively. Here are some ways we help them achieve their fitness goals and keep their workouts uninterrupted:
1. We give them a travel band workout with directions. We can provide several sizes of tubing as well as door straps.
2. We give clients a variety of body weight exercises they can do in their hotel rooms (e.g., chair dips, wall squats and push-ups).
3. We instruct them how to adapt to a hotel gym if there’s one available. We teach them to recognize similar exercise pieces and how to have proper body alignment. For example, we may do chest work on a Bowflex®, the GTS™, with body weight and on a weight bench in our studio, while a hotel gym may have only a pec deck. We caution them against using some specific “dated” and ineffective exercise pieces.
4. We spend their last one or two training sessions before the trip reviewing the travel band workout and coaching them on items 2 and 3. We also give them travel food ideas, if appropriate, at these appointments. Raw nuts, dried fruit and jerked meat all make easy travel snacks and can fill the gap when clients are tempted to skip a meal. Boxed juices, soymilk and granola make an easy, healthy, inexpensive light breakfast. Bottled water is obviously helpful. If they are going to be stuck in a hotel room for several days, we suggest they request a small refrigerator and then stock it their first day, after a trip to the grocery store.
5. We remind them to use the stairs when they can and to get outside if possible for walks and running.
6. We offer e-mail coaching if it’s helpful for them. Folks who travel routinely are usually charged monthly for this. If we just give travel suggestions as a one-time thing, the service is free. Sometimes we simply remind people to keep active, drink water and so on, or we may e-mail exercise assignments and require clients to report back within a certain time frame.
7. If the clients are driving extensively, we recommend frequent breaks to walk and stretch. We also encourage self-massage with a tennis ball if that is helpful. (If clients are sitting for long periods of time, their rhomboids and piriformis muscles become knotted up. They can use a tennis ball while in a chair, on the floor or up against a wall.)
8. We suggest that our regular travelers schedule their sessions with us in advance. While most of our clients and trainers prefer regular time slots, we encourage our clients who travel (making regular slots impossible) to schedule with us as often as they can while they are in town. We do this at the beginning of the month to encourage a commitment to their fitness and an ongoing sense of accountability to their trainers.
Scott and Barbi Jackson
Owners, Scott Jackson’s Real Life Fitness
Nevada City, California
I encourage my traveling clients to pack their fit kit to go. In this kit, I have included a stretch strap and tubing. I have compiled a sheet of eight simple strength-with-tubing exercises called “Active 8 to Feel Great.” I believe it is better to keep the exercises simple and the program short so that clients will be more compliant.
I encourage them to do something different from their regular cardio routine. If traveling to visit friends or family, they can take a fitness class in a specialty they haven’t tried before. If traveling to a warm place, they can take a water fitness class, snorkel or walk on the beach. If off to a colder destination, they can ski or snowshoe. Finally, I suggest they keep up with their flexibility by stretching whenever they can. If they are vacationing, I encourage them to take a vacation from their regular fitness routine as well by trying something new, different and fun.
Personal Trainer/Exercise Therapist, Activate & Feel Great
Chester, Nova Scotia
Working in Washington, DC, I find that the vast majority of my clients are frequently traveling on business trips. I have a variety of ways to keep them on track as they endure the rigors of long working hours and meals on the road.
The most important thing is formulating a game plan before clients leave town. I encourage them to take an active role in planning their trip—from finding a hotel with a quality fitness facility to packing healthy snacks and accessories for workouts. I set up clients with personalized workouts they can do in their hotel rooms, using resistance bands and even a stability ball if they wish to pack one. Most business travelers carry laptop computers, so I recommend appropriate yoga and Pilates DVDs that can also be used in the privacy of a hotel room. This provides clients with many options if the workout room in their hotel is sparsely equipped. Most hotels have quality cardio equipment, and I let clients know how to fit in short cardio workouts if time is an issue.
Depending on where they are traveling, I may be able to recommend a quality trainer who can provide a few training sessions to keep them on track. Another possibility is obtaining a weekly guest pass to a local gym. The key lies in providing as many options as possible and determining any obstacles before the trip starts.
Last, I review how to make healthy food choices when meals are being eaten at restaurants or in catered business meetings and seminars. This area is typically the most difficult. Armed with a solid plan of training and nutrition, my clients can maintain their fitness levels and avoid losing the progress they have worked so hard to achieve.
Owner, Fitness Training and Consulting
Developing training programs and providing motivation for clients who travel extensively can be a tricky proposition. I keep in mind time considerations, available equipment, training experience and other special needs.
For clients with very limited time and no access to equipment, I set up “in-room” travel programs that use mostly body weight exercises along with resistance from tubing, bands, luggage and, sometimes, furniture. I provide full program guidelines, complete with drawings or printouts of all the exercises. Creativity is the key in these cases and can occasionally be used to break up the monotony of the clients’ present routines.
For clients with full access to health clubs, the only concerns may be time constraints and differences in equipment. I normally walk through clients’ current programs with them and have them tell me what equipment they might have access to. I may change or modify some exercises, and if I do, I provide guidelines plus drawings or printouts.
Clint Fuqua, PFS, CPT, OPT
IDEA Elite Personal Fitness Trainer
Telos Performance Center
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