I have to admit that, as a native Texan, I love winter. Although it may be bleak and dreary, I still look forward to this season every year. For me it means that the holidays are here and it is time again for special gatherings with family and friends.

Winter comes from an old Germanic word meaning “time of water” and refers to the rain and snow that arrive in the middle and high latitudes. The low temperatures of winter occur only in the middle and high latitudes; equatorial regions do not experience those temperature lows.

In the Northern Hemisphere, winter is the coldest season of the year. It officially begins on the year’s shortest day, December 21 or 22, and extends to the vernal equinox, when day and night are equal in length, on March 20 or 21. In the Southern Hemisphere, winter extends from June 21 or 22 to September 22 or 23.

What can we learn about change from this cold, dreary and often brutal season in the Northern Hemisphere? What does this process of nature teach us about life and our fitness business?

Changes for You

December is the month in which I noticeably slow down my work activities to spend more hours with family. I want time to regroup and enjoy the holidays. Several years ago, I decided to take off the last 2 weeks of the year, and I continue that tradition yearly. It is such a gift to relax and either stay home or travel with my husband. Mentally, I am ready for a break and more than willing to curl up in my favorite chair with a great book and some tea or hot chocolate.

Here are some of the things I do during the winter months that may also benefit you personally:

1. I keep a journal of ideas and thoughts in which I always compose a year-end summary. I use simple bullet points of the big changes and activities of the year (travel, births, deaths, marriages and any events or changes that really stand out for me).

2. I evaluate three areas of my life (personal, couple and business owner) to see if I met my goals for the year. This strategy helps me focus more clearly for next year.

3. I outline new goals for the next year in these same three areas.

4. I plan celebrations, including family holiday gatherings and lunches with friends.

5. I continue with my fitness program, as always, but otherwise relax more than usual and enjoy a bit of “dormancy.”

6. I closely look at our personal spending and saving plans, as well as my business spending, to see if I need to make adjustments for the next year. If so, I update our spreadsheets.

7. I balance all the budget categories. If I overspent in one area and underspent in another, I even them out to start with a clean slate. This task is not difficult, since I keep detailed balance sheets every month.

Changes for Your Clients

Winter, especially December, can be a challenging time for your clients. Often people are busier than usual with holiday parties and travel. Then January comes around, and many may still be paying for purchases made in December. With such nervousness and distrust in the worldwide economy right now, clients may be a bit tentative about spending money on fitness and coaching as the year winds down. It is crucial to continue to empower them and to educate them weekly (or remind them) about why staying committed to their programs is vital to their health and mental wellness during this stressful time of the year.

What do you need to be mindful of regarding your clients during winter?

  • V Understand that they are busier and more stressed than normal; thus, they may need more patience and encouragement.
    V Realize that they may want a temporary cut in training hours to allow for travel and family time.
    V Give them just enough challenge with their programming to keep them fit, but do not overload them. Most people get gung ho again sometime in January.
    V Review what they have accomplished during the year and what they want to focus on when January rolls around.
    V Know that they may want to (or have to) hibernate because of the weather. Prepare in advance by giving them exercises they can do at home if they cannot or do not want to get out.
    V Ask them how you can best support them during the winter months.

Changes for Your Business Model

Winter is when I re-evaluate the year I just finished. In June and December, I total my numbers to see how I did at 6 and 12 months. Unfortunately, I did not keep those numbers from 1988 (when I started my business) to 1991, but I have kept all my work calendars and numbers from 1992 to today. How exciting it is to look back and compare! I keep the following statistics monthly and yearly:

  • V total income
    V average monthly income
    V total hours worked
    V total hours canceled
    V canceled hours that were paid
    V average income per hour worked
    V average income per hour scheduled
    V number of days worked
    V number of weekdays off
    V mileage

December is also the month when I let clients know if there will be a fee increase in January. I have been implementing a 3%–5% annual increase every
2 years. You must at least keep up with cost-of-living increases to stay afloat.
I am due for an increase in 2010 and will evaluate closely whether or not to increase my fees and how much the percentage will be, based on the economy.

Winter is also a time to evaluate and adjust business plans for the next year. Do you want to work more, work less or shift your focus? This is the season to contemplate those changes.

Stage of Life

Based on the metaphorical changes during this season, winter represents the final stage of life—aging, decay and, ultimately, death. After many years of training with me, some of my clients have arrived at those senior years when things are happening to their bodies, friends and family members over which they have no control. They cannot do all the things they used to do, their bodies do not tolerate as much stress, and they want to slow down a bit more and truly enjoy the health they still have. Yet, at the same time, they don’t want me to treat them as if they were old and used up. If you work with clients like these, be mindful of their needs, and caring and gentle if they must give up some of their exercise to deal with disease.

Most people are retired from their careers at this stage of life, and they want to relax and enjoy their friends and family. Their values and activities may be different from yours because they can see the end in view. Learn from their wisdom and experience, because winter will be coming for you, too, someday.

The Chill of Winter

Although winter can be a depressing season given the lack of sunlight, the bare trees and the cold “time of water,” it is a much needed period of hibernation for all of us. Winter reminds us that life changes, we all grow old and someday the cycle of life will be over for each of us. Life is about loving and letting go, over and over again. The lessons of winter encourage me to reach for what I really want in my life, to maximize my years and to be unafraid to stretch myself to be the person I aspire to be. Winter is a reminder always to be aware of and grateful for the blessings in our lives. Relish this cold and inactive time of the year so that you will have the necessary energy to start the next cycle of your life even better than the last. n

November–December 2009 IDEA Trainer Success

The Characteristics
of Winter

What happens in winter, a period of inactivity or decay?

‰ Crops and some animals become dormant.

‰ Many plants die, leaving their seeds, and other plants stop growing until spring.

‰ Animals that become dormant hibernate.

‰ Numerous insects die.

‰ The 3 months of winter are the coldest ones of the year.

November–December 2009 IDEA Trainer Success

November–December 2009 IDEA Trainer Success