If you sweat your clients butt off multiple times a week, but cannot move the needle on the scales, their motivation and your service are not going to last unless you change your approach to influencing them. Getting clients motivated to consistently make the right choices outside of your direct one-on-one training hours is the challenge that delivers the high value that your clients pay for and makes a Personal Trainer impossible to leave.
We are working in one of the most challenging industries, where clients pay for a service that pushes them to their physical limits – but they are never going to get what they’ve paid for unless our service develops their mental strength to keep turning up to sessions and improving their daily habits to achieve their goals. This is what separates the good from the exceptional.
How can we have an impact on their behaviour 24hours a day, when we see some of them only 30 minutes a week? It’s called mentoring and it takes a long time to master, but it is what will make your clients achieve and your business boom.
How NOT to mentor
A mentor is not an annoying slave-driver who lords over clients demanding they do what they are told and lays a heavy guilt trip on them when they admit to slipping up on their plans. Surprisingly, this is a common technique used by many PTs to attempt to get results but does not prove effective. There is a difference between self-discipline and being disciplined by a trainer and although some clients appreciate being held accountable; it is more effective when they are accountable to themselves, teaching them lessons they will use to make their changes last.
Tips to BE a Mentor
An effective mentor understands the stage their clients are at in their emotional journey and from that place can truly inspire them to improve their health behaviours in their everyday life. Understand first then teach. You have much more power to influence them from a position of empathy. Utilising tolerance, patience and confidence in them as your main tools to build their new identity. “Seek to understand before being understood” Steven R. Covey
With a clear understanding of their inner driving forces you can create a customised action plan.
Let’s delve into the key concepts being addressed here to make sure you understand and can use them to your best advantage.
Know the prize and keep their eye on it
As mentioned above, it is important to fully explore and identify the client’s personal motivations driving them. Simply implanting what you believe are good goals and reasons for self-improvement will not work. Yes they want to lose weight – doesn’t everybody? – but the ‘why’ will be your most powerful motivating point for your clients to follow through all the way to achieving their goals. Some want to be leaner to have the energy to play with their kids, to grow self-confidence to go for that promotion at work, or to look better naked to drive more interest from their partner in the bedroom. Everybody has different reasons for wanting to see change in themselves. This reason needs to come from deep within them and be kept in focus, to motivate them toward change and to keep striving to achieve their goals. I have always found the saying "When you feel like quitting, remember why you started" very compelling.
Be their biggest supporter
Many PTs claim to ’support’ their clients but not really deliver genuinely. The true definition of support is to sustain a person’s mind/spirit/courage under trial or affliction. This means support is so much more than guiding their weights or stepping on their toes so they can do a sit up, it involves the emotional/psychological stimulation and encouragement to not only do the workout, but to improve their habits and improve their relationship with food outside of the session.
A mentor supports others through teaching and influence. Who leads by example and has the experience to empathise with the client’s predicament, giving them the inspiration and tools to help them through it.
Supporting is not always easy, straightforward or timely. You need patience, tolerance and bravery. There will likely be many slip ups and frustrations along the way and could take years! But if you are truly committed to the success of your clients you will persevere and when you persevere long enough you always succeed. “Be not afraid of moving slowly, be afraid of standing still.” Chinese Proverb
Set the parameters
There are obviously limits to your level of involvement in a client’s life for your own and their best interests. You should be happy for them to ask you nutritional advice but you don’t want them calling every time they are tempted to eat chips, lollies, chocolate, cake, biscuits or any other deliciously sinful food (let’s be honest, they would be calling all day!)
Having quality procedures, actions and processes maintains appropriate Scope of Practice with your clients. Setting up the interaction between you and your clients from the outset as a mentor and supporter and not a caretaker allows you also to be much more effective in influencing them. If you are in their pockets all day they become numb to your disapproval, encouragement and status. Setting clear boundaries will facilitate the development of their independence, which is the only way lasting results will ultimately be achieved.
Get results and don’t let them go
Surely the most desired, elusive and complicated part of the journey is hanging on to the results clients have worked so hard to achieve. The only real way you can make results stick is to really foster and nurture the new identity in them as the fit, healthy and lean person they have become. “The person we believe ourselves to be will always act in manner consistent with our self image” Brian Tracy
If they still deeply see themselves as fat and unhealthy they will act accordingly and have a hard time holding onto their new behaviours. Alternatively if they truly believe themselves to be an active healthy person they will feel uncomfortable and out of character behaving as they used to.
A useful tool in building up identity is to celebrate successes along way no matter how small. Also continually reiterate the value they are adding to their lives and linking the benefits they have gained back into their key reasons for doing it all in the first place.
Be sensitive to some of the deeper issues they may be dealing with emotionally, socially or otherwise, address what you can and encourage them to seek further assistance where appropriate.
Finally it is important to truly understand the attainment of goals set by your client will require hard work… from the both of you. Turning up to training sessions is a small part of the challenge on the road to personal health and development. Effective mentoring within a healthy scope of practice is surely the best way to achieve true and lasting results.