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Overcoming the Fear of Change

Taking on a new client is always a challenge—especially when that client is used to working with another personal trainer.

client: Erin | personal trainer: Don Bahneman, MS, CSCS, general manager, fitness director and master personal trainer, The Energy Club | location: Arlington, Virginia

Fear of change. Erin, a member of The Energy Club, was searching for a new personal trainer in 2014. The one she had been working with was leaving for medical school, and Erin still had sessions remaining. After observing the trainers in the gym, she zeroed in on general manager and master personal trainer Don Bahneman. "I watched him with his clients and thought he might be a good fit to finish my training package," she says.

Bahneman recalls their first encounter. "Our initial meeting was entertaining, as Erin made it abundantly clear what she would not do (no jumping, no heavy weights) and what she would not discuss (her eating or drinking habits), and she stated that her focus would be on becoming as close to pain–free as possible," he says. Erin had struggled with shoulder, lower-back and foot issues.

"Erin was pretty guarded, initially," Bahneman explains. "Being the trainer to pick up a client in the middle of a package can sometimes be compared to being a substitute teacher. She was reluctant at first and was very concerned about deviating from anything she had done with her prior trainer. Fear of change is very real and very powerful."

Taking a measured approach. As a seasoned personal trainer, Bahneman knew that his first priorities were to help Erin feel comfortable with him and to unlock some of the mental cages she'd built as a result of her injuries. "Trying to get the 'I cannot do that' or 'I should not do that,' mentality to shift toward 'I can do this' and 'I will try,' was paramount," he says.

The client's previous training program had emphasized movement patterns that the initial screening and medical history reports supported. Bahneman took a slow approach and shared with Erin the benefits of training movements instead of muscles. Erin seemed to respond positively to her trainer's efforts. "After about two sessions, Erin purchased more training," says Bahneman. "She was convinced that I could help her with her injuries."

Over the subsequent 6 months, the shoulder issue was resolved, lower-back pain was minimized, and they'd found ways to work with and around the foot issues. Erin also experienced improvments in strength and body awareness.

Building confidence. These successes catalyzed a shift in perspective, says the trainer. Erin began to open up about her eating and drinking habits, and she indicated a renewed interest in losing weight—according to Bahneman, she had lost and regained 35 pounds the previous year. "She was ready to get her weight back under control," he says.

Erin signed up with an outside nutrition resource that put her on a point-based plan, and she continued to train with Bahneman twice per week. The trainer added exercise homework to be completed solo. They also had weekly weigh-ins and regular discussions about food.

The transformation was astonishing. "Erin had shifted from a sporadic, two-times-per-week exercise participant with questionable eating and drinking patterns into a five-times-per-week gym user who had improved her eating habits by using a point system to help keep her honest," he says. Erin lost the weight within 5 months.

Shifting mindset. When Erin first met with Bahneman, she insisted that certain types of exercises were out of the question. She refused to jump or lift heavy weights. Despite an interest in doing pull-ups, she wrote them off as impossible.

"Today, on days that we are not training together, Erin can be seen jumping rope and doing pull-ups and 24-kilogram kettlebell swings, and I smile while watching this transformation. She's kept the weight off, learned to make the lifestyle changes needed for longevity and has grown so much over the past couple of years."

"Don holds me accountable and teaches me goal-setting without forcing me in a direction I don't want to go," says Erin. "His flexibility in teaching me different methods to achieve our goals helps me stay motivated. He is also a kind person, and his passion for his work shines through every time we work out together."

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor, and IDEA's director of event programming.

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