“Did you hurt yourself?”, “Why are you limping?” These are questions that I hear if not everyday, every other day. For 30 years. 30!! It gets annoying sometimes but at least I know or hope that people are concerned for my well-being and not just being nosey. If you’ve read previous posts of mine, you already know that I had Gullain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) as a kid and how it turned my world upside-down into a chaotic mess. GBS is kind of like living with cancer in regards to the fact that you can have it but you’re never really cured. More or less it rests in a remission-like state, either forever or until it decides to make itself reactivate inside your body again. Needless to say, once you get it, you always have it. Even if it doesn’t make a full-on return, you still get these super-annoying reminders of its presence. In the past decade, I’ve been able to use this piece of my life when I need to perspective-check a client or talk them down from an emotional ledge.
Any disease literally is a clusterf*** of a lot of things that are all forced on you by way of things outside your control…for the most part anyways. When I was going through my bouts with GBS, I had very little time to process what was going on and to focus on the depth of what was really taking place. Everyone experiences these things very differently though, no case is the same.
Post-recovery brings on its own set of challenges too. When you return home and start living a ‘normal’ life again, you quickly find out that it is anything but. When I meet with a client for the first time, during my intake I try to find out as much as I can about the person. The health of the client is obviously number one when considering the right exercises and program design for them. When someone has a lot of medical baggage, they’re either very up front or extremely shy about divulging the information. I never press any client to tell me anything that they don’t want to discuss but sometimes, you just know. The people who are upfront concerning their medical issues, I appreciate their hutzpah. Those who aren’t as forthright sometimes can create programming issues for trainers due to now really knowing what affects them negatively or creates contraindications during training. A lot of this sounds petty on my part to some people but I take my job VERY seriously.
Throughout the relationships I have with my clients, I try to encourage them on good days and motivate or inspire if they’re having a sour day. If they are having a bad day, odds are pretty good that I will hear about a portion of how the day has been (again with my psychologist analogy). Let me add here that I don’t mind at all if someone vents to me because for the client, it’s cleansing and much needed. My medical story has caused many of clients, past and present, to get much of a needed perspective-check and a show of inspiration. This is not me sounding egotistical either, that compliment comes straight from my clients mouths. It works most times because how many times in life do you meet someone who was A.) in a coma, B.) had to re-learn how to do literally EVERYTHING all over again and C.) Thrived for the next 30 years when doctors weren’t sure about me even walking again? Not very many I’d think. This story has the ability to create a bridge between trainer and apprehensive client. I like to think of it as my superpower of sort and something I carry with me everyday.
I realize a lot of trainers do not have a story like this to breakdown barriers with clients but I do think it’s super important for trainers and health coaches to find something they can utilize to help them in creating a solid rapport and mutual trust in each other. Give it a try and see what surfaces. If it works, you scored a big win. If it doesn’t, it’s totally cool man. Not everyone responds in the same way to praise, motivation, etc. You just may need to re-route your plan a little. At the end of the day, we all just want our voices to be heard, so just practice empathy and compassion and you’ll catch those good vibes from your clients as well as yourself.
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John J. Schessler is a Pittsburgh-Based Health & Wellness Coach, NASM Personal Trainer, Men’s Life Coach and host of the podcast, “ManAlive!”, available for download on Apple Podcasts. He is also a Sports Injury Specialist, Orthopedic Exercise Specialist, writer and Instagram Fitness Influencer (@flipyourscriptpt). For personal training or other inquiries, please email: email@example.com or call 412-295-4406.
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