In this modern online world that everyone has been thrust into it has never been more important to understand your client’s behaviour. What is more it is crucial to understand how they can change this behaviour? You have to understand that what has brought them to this point (thinking about engaging a trainer) will be a series of lifestyle factors. It would be a mistake in this initial engagement to think the client is ready to change. But we can assess this readiness.
This initial consultation is crucial and the key to success is going to be actively listening to your client. You need to understand their lifestyle factors, such things as environment, peer group support, past history with dieting and fitness. Most importantly their internal beliefs about getting fit, improving their health, losing weight. These beliefs are what got them to where they are now. It would be a mistake to jump in with size 10’s at this point and start telling them what to do. Ultimately you have to accept that the client most probably has got all the answers, although they may need some guidance.
I think it is important to be truthful with clients and highlight that you cannot provide some type of magic bullet fix. If this is what they require then they most probably aren’t quite ready to commit at this point. This shouldn’t deter you as with skilful counselling (using motivational interviewing (MI)) you can help clients accept that it will require a lot of effort. I always use the analogy “you didn’t get to this point in your life overnight. You are now at the top of the mountain” My job as a coach is to help you and guide you back down the other side of the mountain. It might take a while, but we will get there together. The quick fix they are looking for is the equivalent of jumping off the mountain. This generally doesn’t do your health much good.
You will notice at this point that the discussion thus far hasn’t even looked at exercise/activity and/or diet. This is because both of these are secondary to everything I have discussed beforehand. You cannot possibly start exploring these topics until you are sure you have solid foundations in place. In MI terms we call this initial phase, engaging, and good engagement is crucial to your whole relationship with the client both now and in the future.
Listening and good communication are often overlooked in the development of a FitPro’s skill set but these skills are paramount to long-term success. Everybody would like to think that they are good communicators and to some extent some are. However, this is one skill every FitPro should work on daily. The better your communication skills, the better rapport you will have with clients. A high level of client engagement is one indicator of a successful outcome for both the client and the trainer. The other measure is ‘empathy’ but that is for another post.