The following is a guest post from Joshua Gibson. If you’re interested in submitting a guest contribution, please refer to our contributor guidelines.
Just like every good sprint has a good start, it’s essential for a new client or new member of your facility to get acclimated and feel comfortable.
To that end, I subscribe to the idea:
“Do all the hard work up front, so there’s less work down the road.”
However I mistakenly tend to assume people, especially new clients, know what I’m thinking from Day One — which is never the case and can lead to real problems! This article will show you how to avoid this trap with three different types of clients.
New client A was overweight, introverted, had no real limitations, and no past training experience.
Personality Profile: In the gym they’ll be bombarded with new stimuli; very “fit” individuals and complex machines. They’ll likely be uncomfortable and will need to be walked through everything.
Before the Session
During your consult or time with the new client or individual consider:
• Their personality (introvert, extrovert)
• Training Age / Experience
• Their Goals
Before the session starts, I think:
I remind myself that they’re not automatically going to “just get it.” This puts me in the right frame of mind so I don’t get frustrated with the natural learning curve that will occur.
Demonstrate & Duplicate
It will take time for them to be aware of their body in space. Make sure you’re in an area that is well lit and around mirrors so they can get extra visual feedback. Much of the time people don’t know what to feel, where to feel it, or what they’re supposed to look like.
It makes it a lot easier when you can demonstrate and have them duplicate things. Tell them and show them in the mirror — it will save you some headaches and help you get the point across quickly.
Consider Your Coaching Cues
Use terms they recognize and not scientific mumbo-jumbo.
Proprioception — an individual’s awareness of their body moving in space. We might understand this, but the client doesn’t!
So tell them directly: “This will help you be aware of your body moving in space,” not “this will help your proprioception.”
You’re an expert, make sure you communicate to their level without talking down to them.
Know that the session might slightly run over so schedule clients accordingly.
I also noticed an inverse relationship between my hunger and patience levels — hunger goes up, patience goes down. So eat beforehand.
If you’re lagging behind or just had four sessions in a row, go grab a coffee or listen to music to energize you. This is contagious.
An introverted, analytical, and professional athlete.
Personality Profile: This individual will be a little reserved in their verbal communication so key in on body language — even though they might not talk a lot, they’re processing a lot mentally and are flooded with thoughts.
Being analytical — they’ll be observing you as much as you think you’re observing them and questioning the “what” and “why” of your teachings, so you need to be very confident.
As an athlete, they’ll have had an array of coaches so they’ll most likely know the difference of good versus bad coaching. Don’t let them down.
Inform them of what they’re doing right. They’ll be doubting or second-guessing their performance so it’s important to provide the positive feedback that will affirm their positive actions.
This individual has achieved a fairly high level of success and has had lots of coaching. All quality coaches know what they’re looking for and how to get the end result so make sure you’re confident with your exercise selection. Make sure it will get them the results they need.
If I’m going to teach someone a drill/exercise, I like to make sure I practice it and can perform it first so they can get a visual of the end product.
Have a Plan
You’re working with a professional. Be a professional as well.
• Have your sheet typed out and outlined for them to follow – it shows you’re prepared
• Be waiting for the individual – it removes any doubt about you from their mind and establishes respect
• Know their workout ahead of time – it shows confidence and saves you time when you already know what to do each day.
Extroverted business professional with previous sport experience and some minor orthopedic limitations.
Personality Profile: As an extrovert they’ll be very verbal with their thoughts and opinions. This person is a business professional so they’ll need to have a sense of urgency and feeling like they accomplished something. A minor training history helps, but in this case they might come across like they know everything.
Mirror Their Personality
These individuals are most impressed with individuals like themselves, so ask questions and quickly establish a common ground. Once you do, keep asking questions and show a genuine interest (let them know how impressed you are with them).
Meet their excitement levels and be enthusiastic with your words and tone of voice; use your body when you speak to emphasize certain points. Everyone has been around someone who isn’t excited as you are, it’s just draining — don’t be that person.
Make Them Feel Unique
Everyone is unique, but educate them and show them how you’ll work around whatever limitations they have.
Example: This individual has little to no cartilage in their knees, so instead of squatting, we deadlift because their knees don’t grind when doing a deadlift.
This establishes that you care, that you know what you’re taking about, and that you’re someone they want to do business with — because you’re looking out for them.
Get a Training Effect
Every client thinks they need to feel exhausted to have accomplished something. Always give the clients a “smash” at the end of the session — the endorphins will be high, energy even more increased, and they leave you with that “natural high.”
This can easily and safely be achieved with any of the following:
- Give them 3 rounds on battling ropes, Tabata style.
- Do a Push-Up / Row Ladder (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1)
- Do Sled Drags with a belt
Put these ideas to work and think of ways that you can improve upon what you do. Remember, the session starts before the client even arrives, and this is even more important with new clients! Don’t squander the opportunity to get off on the right foot!
About the Author
Josh Gibson CSCS, BPS Level 1 is a Performance Coach for Gibson Performance Training where he spends his time engineering athletes for optimal performance. He can be found on Facebook, through his website listed or reading copious amounts of S&C material at your local coffee shop or enhancing his craft by attending seminars.