The following is a guest post by Steve Bergeron.
Teaching the Ways to Exercise – Advantages
Early on in my career I learned what the difference between a good trainer and a great trainer:
- A good trainer teaches diet, exercise and motivates their clients to take action.
- A great trainer teaches not only exercise but the necessary ways to exercise to achieve greatness in their bodies and their lives.
This piece of information alone might allow you to go from a $30,000/yr. trainer to a $60,000/yr. trainer. Not bad huh?
As many of you know, one of the most difficult and sometimes most frustrating parts of personal training is creating the necessary habits and change in your clients. For most of us, eating clean and training hard comes natural. We have been doing it for years and it has become ingrained in our blood. We are not special by any means, we just have created good habits as a way to exercise. We are also self aware of the psychology of change and what it takes to create the habits necessary to reach great heights.
Our clients are starting from scratch
Take a second to imagine what it would be like for yourself if you had to quit working out and start eating junkfood and soda on a daily basis. For people who have never figured out the proper ways to exercise a change in the other direction would elicit the same response.
Your clients come to you for change. They know that they are lacking the tools to get it done on their own so they spend months and even years, along with thousands of dollars, to work with you. Sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. They are not only looking for a body changer, they are looking for a life changer. Throw into the mix that the media makes people believe myths such as ‘women shouldn’t lift weights‘ and you have a big job ahead of you.
What Have you Done to Teach Your Clients the Ways to Exercise?
If you are like most, you probably talk about diet and nutrition during your weekly or monthly session but is that really enough? Keep in mind how much money is spent to work with you. If you are only teaching exercise and some nutrition, you are missing one of the easiest ways to create value for yourself and your business. Teaching habits will keep your clients accountable and wanting to come back to learn more because you are not just improving their fitness levels you are improving their lives.
It is as simple as giving them one habit a month to work on. It takes 21 days to create a habit, sometimes longer if you only see them once a week.
Among other things, this is one area where I dropped the ball early in my career. I wish I could go back and re-train many of my first clients but since my Delorean is in the shop, that is not possible. All I can do now is learn from my mistakes and be better than I was yesterday.
The following are my methods of instilling habits into my clients. By following them you’ll gain a leg up on your competition and your business will grow.
1. Create a plan to work on monthly habits with your new clients
Like anything else, the first step is having a plan set in place. This is something that we talk about with clients regularly but is it something that we are doing ourselves? You have to first change the way you are working with your clients which means you yourself have to create a new habit. Walk the talk, right?
What I have done over the years is created my own manual for my business that includes everything I use on a daily basis such as assessments, screens, all types of programs, a poster of Yoda, a mission statement, what I talk about during the first 5 sessions with a new client. I even include things that I do with a client after we have been working together for over a year. It just makes my life easier and helps me maintain my sanity. In the long run, it helps me make more money.
One thing I have included in my operations manual is a monthly habits list which is made up of various habits that I teach my clients to incorporate in their lives. Depending on how the initial assessment goes, I have a specific list of ways to exercise that I work into each client’s monthly program. The first three months with most clients I borrow them from Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People since they deal directly with changing people’s paradigms from within. They are:
- Month 1: To Be Proactive – I start most clients here because real change starts from within and people must make the decision to improve thier lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces. In other words, they have to start making conscious decisions about the food they eat or how much they do or do not exercise. It will help them take control.
- Month 2: To Begin With the End In Mind – Once I have worked with a client for a month or so and they have a better idea of what they are capable of I will help them learn to set more solid goals. It is hard to start here with someone who has never exercised before, they just want to lose weight and be healthy (long term) but most do not know how. This is where they should create the habit of setting short term goals with their long term goals.
- Month 3: To Put First Things First – Once a client understands how to set a goal and make conscious decisions it is time to teach them the habit of how to stay on track.
Setting the stage for your clients with these three habits will not only help them reach their goals much faster but will make it much easier to train them. Think of it as a win-win.
I incorporate this into the session during the first 5 minutes by cutting out the meaningless conversations about the weather or how long your day has been. It might seem cool in your head but your clients aren’t paying you for you to tell them how awesome you are and how much you deadlifted last week. Save that for impressing drunk girls at the bar.
2. Instead, try asking a few powerful questions
- “What have you done to stay on track?”
- “Is your habit improving?”
- “What could you have done different?”
- “What will you do different?”
It’s that simple. It causes them to do a little introspection and helps them self-actualize what has got them to this point and how they can improve. They are making these changes for themselves and the more they can do on their own the better. You want to create an environment for them where they are able to be independent.
Some trainers might feel like this would cause the client to not need their services but that is far from the truth. Granted, they might go off on their own a bit sooner but at some point all your clients will be doing that anyways. The difference is that client will be telling ALL their friends about how amazing you are and driving swarms of business your way. Remember that win-win thing?
3. Work new habits into your client’s programs monthly.
There is absolutely no reason to stop after the first few months, remember that your clients are looking to you to coach which sometimes goes beyond the ways to exercise. Since no one is perfect there is always something they can work on. Your job is to help them be better whether it is improving their eating habits, their workout habits, their overall attitude or even their social skills. Be holistic in your approach.
A few habits that I have used are:
- Smile more/all the time (you might be surprised how powerful this is)
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Wake up excited for your day, every day.
- Learn as much as you can about one area of fitness (I’ve used SMR, get-ups, core, etc.)
- Sleep 8 hours every night
- Train with a partner
- Don’t skip a post workout meal
4. Make it a 30-day challenge
When you are teaching your client a new habit, the last thing you want to do is tell them that it is something they have to do for the rest of their life. I know this may be the ultimate goal, but in actuality our brains are not able to comprehend long spans of time such as “forever” or even a year. It goes into overload trying to figure out the information you just fed it. What it can comprehend is a shorter time span such as 21 days or even better, one month.
Our brains also like to be challenged so let your client know that it is solely up to them to complete it. This is where accountability comes in. Check in periodically to make sure they are staying on track but leave it up to them to succeed. Remember that you have to make it a point to let them know it is only for 30 days and a whole hearted effort is needed. You may be surprised at the results.
Steve Bergeron is the owner of Bergeron Performance. He holds the NSCA CSCS and is a ACSM personal trainer.