Many clients walk through our doors
hoping to be touched by the “personal training fairy” and walk out with a
perfect body 6 weeks later. The reason this happens is that
the popular media sets an impossible standard of physical appearance and
convinces people that with the right help they can achieve it. The real problem
here, as I see it, is not as much the impossible standards as the fact that
fitness popularly has been about physical good looks and not much else.
Simply put, people exercise to look good.
This is backward thinking. To deal with it, I use an approach I
call “inside-out fitness.” Inside-out fitness is all about remembering the real
person inside the body, valuing that person and teaching him or her to value
himself or herself enough to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. This method
has been an effective tool in getting my clients to understand what fitness
really is so they not only become active but also learn to enjoy a healthy
Most of my clients have health issues, and many are ashamed of
what they look like. The first and most important thing that I do when I meet
new clients is to simply accept them for who they are without any preconceived
ideas. In other words, I try to “see them from the inside out.”
In our first phone call or meeting, I strive to find out
something about them I can compliment. I want to reassure them that they are
not the sum total of their looks. I want them to know that if they view
exercise as a way to become healthy instead of just a strategy to look better,
weight loss and good looks will often be by-products of exercise. I do what I
can to make them feel comfortable with me. I am genuinely interested when I
talk to them about their issues and goals. I then address any misconceptions
that they may have about fitness. I use the professional resources available to
me to dispel any myths they may have and try to interpret these resources in a
way they can understand. (This can be different for each individual.)
I want my clients to understand what they need to do to meet
their goals and to think about redefining those goals if necessary, based on
what they are actually willing to do. I believe that honesty goes a long way in
developing relationships with clients. Most people appreciate this honesty.
Another thing my clients appreciate is my attention to their
preferences. During our initial exercise sessions I carefully observe and ask
questions to determine their “exercise personality.” Do they like vigorous work
or are they more low-key? What philosophy do they live by, and how will it
affect their exercise and eating habits? How busy is their life? What are their
favorite activities and music? With this information, I can design a program
that will be not only as safe and effective as possible but also interesting
enough for them to want to follow.
An exercise program is only successful if the client adheres to
it. For example, I have a client who only likes to work out in natural light.
When she comes in, I turn off the lights in the room and open the blinds. I
have another client who loves jazz, so I record some jazz music and bring it
with me for his appointments. I used to bring in my portable speakers and
invite my clients to bring in their own music until we got speakers for all of
our training rooms. For some clients, I ask what kind of day they’ve had and
make sure the program I have created is flexible enough to accommodate bad
ones. I may offer a choice of two or three different exercises or programs a
client can do that day. For other clients, I always have a set program, so the
only thing they need to think about is performing each exercise correctly.
Personalizing the program and approach helps people enjoy working out and, more
importantly, feel valued. Valuing clients keeps clients, and we all know how
important that is in this business.
Mary E. Miriani,
Reality Fitness Inc.
When clients walk through the studio
doors, I immediately assess how they are feeling. Even though
I do plan workouts in advance, it is more important to go with how my clients
are feeling rather than rigidly sticking to a concrete workout. Maybe they
worked their upper body hard the day before, so the chest/tri set I had planned
is going to go down the drain. Often clients are tired or depressed and, as a
trainer, I have to be quick on my feet to make sure they get a solid workout
appropriate for them at that moment. I wouldn’t go “army trainer” on them if
they are having an off day. But if I had a recovery session planned and a
client has taken a few days off unexpectedly, I will make sure that person is
trained hard according to his goals.
A quick initial conversation is enough to assess the physical and
mental state of my clients—and to decide what the workout of the day will be.
By being aware of the mental state of a client, I am training the whole
person—body, mind and spirit.
Outside of the studio, I always remember birthdays or
conversations I had with clients in their previous sessions. It only takes a
second to ask, “How is your mom doing this week?” and it lets that client know
I’m thinking of him or her. Establishing a relationship not only brings in
long-term business, but it encourages the client to work harder for me and to
possibly become a friend.
Kerrie Ann Frey
Instructor/ACE Personal Trainer
Body Center Studio
A personal trainer is more than just
an exercise coach. Personal training has many dimensions, and
trainers are teachers.
When clients start to follow the philosophy of healthy living,
they learn to make better food choices, integrate more activity into their day
and appreciate more aspects of life. A good trainer teaches clients about the
importance of a nutritious diet and encourages clients to choose wisely when
they are out in the real world. When clients start to do these things on their
own, they are on the right track. Personal trainers talk about ways to get more
exercise throughout the day. When clients take the stairs on their own, go to
the park for a walk instead of watching TV and acknowledge feeling better after
exercise, then they have learned to enjoy physical activity.
When people feel healthy and strong, they are more likely to have
higher self-esteem and look at their world in a more positive light. I teach my
clients the importance of strength and cardio training in the gym, but I add
more. I also integrate mindful movement into their workout programs; I take
time at the end of the workout to do some breathing exercises. Steady breathing
exercises calm the mind and the spirit, and clients can use that in their
personal and professional lives. I find that the flexibility portion of the
workout is a great time to add some calming breathing techniques (called
“pranayama” in yoga).
Healthy living goes beyond just the physical body. There is the
mental aspect as well. Making the right choices throughout the day takes an
enormous amount of awareness and self-discipline. Praise your clients for
making these types of changes and keep encouraging them to do so. Once clients
start to have respect for their bodies and what they can do physically, they
will be open to nurturing the inside by eating properly and taking care of
their emotional well-being. Teach them to take a few minutes out of their day
to journal and reflect on how they are feeling. Talk to them about sitting back
and taking some deep breaths. Instruct them on how to use some easy, soothing
stretches when they are feeling stressed. All of these tools will help your
clients to feel more balanced and whole in their daily lives.
Jennifer Tipton, MA,
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