Failing to Assess is Asking to Fail

All personal trainers (PT’s) and coaches would do an initial assessment of a client (I hope). This would generally include a Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire/Assessment (PARQ) to get some history and medical background. They then would possibly move on to fitness testing. If it was an elite athlete these may be very comprehensive and include things like blood screening, possibly MRI scans and any number of other available tests. For the average PT client, it is unlikely to be quite as comprehensive, but none the less some physical ability testing is likely to be undertaken. Finally, for most clients they have employed the trainer to help them lose weight, get in shape etc. To achieve this the PT needs to have a picture of the client’s nutritional intake. They may use food diaries, or they may just have a conversation with the client.

This is all well and good but the most important assessment of all has been overlooked, THE PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT. If the client is not psychologically ready to make a change then they are unlikely to be successful long-term. What is more, they are quite likely to stop working with the trainer and place the blame at their door. It is the nature of modern society that people want to blame someone else for their problems.

My research has highlighted that clients will employ a PT, this, despite the fact, that psychologically they are not in the right place. Perhaps this happens out of a misguided belief that a trainer can motivate them to achieve the results they crave. If you look at self-determination theory, the type of external motivation that a PT may provide is not very effective and is also a short-term fix. So, what is the answer?

The simple answer is “assessment” along with the other initial assessments that a PT completes as listed above. This time though, first and foremost, psychological assessment. When I added these assessments to what a trainer was offering a success rate for weight loss of 86% was achieved. What is more, anecdotally, from feedback from some of these trainers, clients had kept the weight off ten years later. Evidence that these were lifestyle changes.

The psychological assessment provides another benefit as well. By continually assessing during the programme the trainer can monitor whether the client is moving in the right direction psychologically. This reduces relapse by allowing the trainer to intervene early if it appears the client is starting to slip backwards.

The question therefore is “why are you not assessing your client’s readiness to change?” Failure to do so could be harming your business.