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Weight Loss and the Resistant Client

Sometimes the one thing holding a person back from change is fear.

client: Paul | personal trainer: Joe Carson, Wellness Coordinator, Spann Wellness Center | location: Tulsa, Oklahoma

The power of fear. It was early morning, and personal trainer Joe Carson had instructed his client, Paul, to complete a progressive-load “up-down” circuit that included a lat pull-down. The two had worked together for some time, so Carson knew that Paul was strong enough to finish.

“As we got into set three of five, Paul began to cry and would not approach the equipment,” Carson recalls. “When I asked him what the problem was, he said that it was too hard and that he couldn’t do it.”

Carson pressed and Paul resisted. The client attempted to negotiate a change to something more manageable, but the trainer refused to yield. In the past, Paul’s typical reponse was to shout and become angry, but his response this time was different. When Carson asked why he should change the exercise, Paul admitted, “I’m scared.”

First impressions. Carson had met Paul (owner of a marketing company at the time) several years before. The two agreed to barter services—Paul would offer branding and marketing guidance to Carson in exchange for personal training sessions to help him lose weight. Paul explained to the trainer that his primary interest in weight loss was to look better and feel comfortable in his body. To say that they had a rocky start is an understatement.

“Paul is a great guy, but he did not like being instructed or held accountable by someone,” Carson says. “He was quick to [lose his] temper and he became verbally combative.” The two initially planned on a long-term arrangement, but the program didn’t last more than six sessions.

Second chances. Much to Carson’s surprise, Paul later reemerged to request a do-over.

“When he returned, Paul seemed much more sincere and humbly admitted that he wasn’t capable of losing weight on his own and, in order to regain his health, he needed to breach his comfort zone and change.”

Paul had also found new motivation to lose weight. “This time Paul was driven by his conviction that he was a poor example/role model to his three children (with a fourth on the way),” Carson says. “I accepted him back as a client and insisted that he pay for 90 days of sessions in advance and that he train daily, which he did!”

Each day of the 5-days-per week training program featured a specific focus. Some days involved strength; others emphasized cardiorespiratory intervals or endurance or isometric core conditioning and power training.

Throughout the program, the two discussed the key factors and daily habits that had led to Paul’s initial weight gain and which ones could be changed. As time passed and the weight trickled away, Carson emphasized choices. “He initially lost just a few pounds per week—which for a guy his size wasn’t much—but once he realized that he was sabotaging his progress by not managing his consumption better, he averaged a 5- to 7-pound loss per week.”

In working with Carson for a year, Paul lost more than 140 pounds.

A stronger leader. “I’m scared,” Paul had said on that morning as he faced the lat pull-down machine. “That is all the more reason to step up,” Carson responded. “You are in control of the exercises; they are not in control of you. I will not change the game plan based on fear.” Paul hesitated and then softened. He loaded the plates and completed the final two sets without problem. “At the conclusion of the session he hugged me, thanked me and told me that he appreciated me not allowing him to give up,” says Carson.

Paul, who recently took the helm of a multimillion-dollar company, explains that his time with the trainer gave him more than weight loss. “I matured and realized that to become an effective leader I must embrace the leadership of others,” he says. “Joe Carson easily could have chosen the path of least resistance and allowed me to do as I pleased and given in to my rants. Instead, he stepped up and followed his convictions.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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