Handling Difficult Clients: Always Off Track - Description

The Always Off Track client never focuses on the workout.  It's constantly a struggle getting this client to give 100%.  They enjoy your company and are happy to chat about whatever pops into their head.  On the bright side the Always Off Track makes time fly by entertaining you with stimulating conversation.

Handling Difficult Clients: Always Off Track - Challenges

Focus!  Your job is to get the client results.  Results are what they came for and they won't get them unless they're engaged in their workouts.  Also, if they're not focused on the exercise then you will have to repeat yourself constantly.  Getting the Always Off Track client to complete their workout in the allotted time can be a challenge since 45s breaks inevitably turn into 3 min.

This client will also get bored with your workouts since they don't take the time to dive in and understand the purpose.  They constantly ask you to change it up.

Lastly the Always Off Track client is an avid reader and, since they are now excited about fitness, will want to try every new invention or workout regime.  You'll find that you spend a lot of your time at the beginning of sessions explaining whatever new fitness trend is out there.

Handling Difficult Clients: Always Off Track - Case Study

Justin started training with me after his trainer left our gym.  He had worked with this trainer for 8 months but didn't have the results to show for it.  Initially I was confused.  Justin was young, athletic and had no injuries.  He wanted to put on weight and seemed committed to his goal.

The trainer who previously worked with Justin was qualified and had gotten great results with other clients.  They seemed to have a good relationship.  I wanted to figure out what the missing piece of the puzzle was so I decided to take Justin on as a challenge.

In our first meeting I sat down with Justin for an hour.  We spoke about his exercise history, goals, and any possible barriers.  Nothing jumped out at me as being a problem from our initial conversation.  Since Justin was already training and had adequate form I outlined a 16-week power routine for him.  I wanted to hit Justin with a completely different program in addition to establishing a strong baseline of power as he had never trained that way before.  My thought process was that the power he would develop now would translate into a better bodybuilding routine later on.

Justin's eating habits needed work so I gave him some guidance on that front.  His nutrition was sub par at best.  He woke up late in the day and ate lots of carbs, little protein, almost no vegetables, and lots of fried food at night.  Over time I convinced Justin to eat a huge breakfast, more protein, and lots of vegetables.

After getting Justin's buy-in to the program it was time to start the workouts.  Justin was uncharacteristically talkative.  During each break he would take 2-3 minutes and speak to me about news, sports, or some new philosophical view that he read about.  I enjoyed his company and, during the anatomical adaptation phase, didn't see an issue with the conversation.  My goal was to build a strong bond and get his continual buy-in.

As the workouts progressed Justin's problem became clearer and clearer.  He couldn't focus.  From the minute he walked onto the floor, he wouldn't stop talking.  He would even continue his conversation in the middle of his working sets!  During his breaks he wouldn't start his next set until he had finished his point.  It would take upwards of 5 minutes.  I knew I had made a mistake.

This created three problems.

  1. His breaks were far too long.  Justin wasn't getting a strong enough training effect.
  2. I had trouble fitting in his entire workout.  A young guy who wants to put on weight needs a lot of volume.  I couldn't possibly fit in the requisite amount of work in an hour with all of his talking.
  3. Perhaps most important problem was his lack of focus.  His mind was never 100% into the exercise.  Lost focus is detrimental to increasing power.  Justin wasn't lifting anywhere close to his optimal %1RM for any of the lifts because his mind was elsewhere.

I decided to apply a version of Pavlov's experiments and train Justin with a beeper.  In short, I would set my timer to the allotted break time.  When Justin's break was over it would beep.  He then would start his next set.

I was amazed at how quickly and effectively it worked.  I decided to use positive punishment whenever Justin didn't comply.  I had planned for him to do burpees if he didn't start the set right away.

The problem was that burpees were counter indicated to his power training.  Instead I took a page from my muscle physiology studies and had him do neuromuscular activation work the second the beep went.  If he was doing a leg exercise I had him perform 2 jump squats.  If Justin was on an upper body exercise I made him do 2 plyometric push ups.

This solved my problem for two reasons:

  1. Justin knew that he had to do something immediately when the beep sounded.
  2. The positive punishment I chose was actually a technique to get him ready for a set of power lifting.

After a year of training Justin's squat improved from 95lbs to 215lbs.  His deadlift, which was non-existent, was at 205lbs and his bench press went from 105lbs to 190lbs.  All that it took was a little creativity on my part in improving his focus.  He still chats with me on a wide array of interesting subjects before and after the workout but is 100% focused during the actual session.

Handling Difficult Clients: Always Off Track - Solutions

The Always Off Track client might take a little creativity.  Your goal is to figure out a way to increase their focus without losing sight of their goals.  Using a stop watch works well as it communicates a strict end to the break.  "When you hear the beep, you go!"  Positive punishments for non-compliance such as burpees work well if the client is looking for fat burning and you're doing metabolic workouts.

Sometimes all it takes is sitting the client down, revaluating their goals and making sure that they buy-in to the program.  The Always Off Track client might speak because they don't know what else they should be doing during the breaks.  When I feel that's the case I make sure to educate them on the importance of staying focused and visualization techniques.

I've never had an issue where a client has gotten bored of the workout that I'm putting them on.  Boredom stems from a lack of understanding on the client's part.  If you explain your workout, progressions and vision properly to your client you won't have an issue.  They'll be motivated by small consistent progress because they know what to look for.  It's just another step in building your army.

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