As I’ve stated many times before, personal fitness trainers are multi-faceted in their jobs because let’s face it, we have to be. You can’t teach someone how to be a people person, either you have the gift of versatility when you speak to a client or you don’t. Sure, you can wiggle your way through it uncomfortably but some people are better than other when trying to carry on a conversation or to lend an opinion to a client’s problem they are having at the moment. Personally, it’s always been relatively easy for me to be caring, compassionate and to respond appropriately to clients’ wishes, problems and questions but like anything else that a person excels at, it definitely takes practice and finesse. This raises a question however about figuring out your clients needs during every session. Do they want a trainer who’s going to kick their ass and make them sweat or do they need a caring person to lend an ear and give solid advice? Trainers wear many hats. Aside from our titled job, we also are bartenders, hairdressers, therapists and the caring friend that they may not have in their life to provide advice, comfort and direction.
During most sessions with clients, I let them take the wheel as to how the conversation and friendly banter goes. 85% of the time we end up talking shop about what happened that day, weekend plans or special occasions coming up for them/I. The other 15% of the time is where I change roles, usually the alter-ego that I play mostly is therapist. ask most other seasoned trainers and they’re likely to agree that we hear a lot of other people’s problems from day to day. Most of the time, the person isn’t looking for a fix to the issue or even advice but someone to listen and to validate that whatever it is that they’re experiencing is valid. That’s it.
In the broader scope within humanity, this is all everyone wants, from the very normal person to people with mental health concerns to serial killers (?!!!) and beyond. If people would learn that talking about their problems creates connection, vents frustrations and sets anger free, we’d probably see less problems in the world than we have today. I like to term myself as the ‘feelings trainer’ because if something is bothering you, I’m pretty much going to talk you through an emotional cleanse if that’s what you want/need.
That’s the first part, like I said. Trying to establish boundaries and develop a client dialogue for the session if the client wishes it to be that way. So many trainers miss these subtle hints and clues that may be a huge part of why they’re not reaching their goals, why their training sessions have fallen into the negative, etc. This is why it’s so important to require trainers to participate in behavior modification workshops or training to help them to recognize when specific behaviors surface in their clients and how to help them overcome whatever it is they may be experiencing that is holding them back from reaching certain goals.
Being able to read people isn’t rocket science but there is an art to being able to practice empathy and awareness for your clients effectively. Numerous fitness organizations offer behavioral modification training for continuing education credits (CEUs) or even offer a specialization in becoming Behavior Modification Specialists (BMS) through your certifying organization. Regardless, being able to spot emotional breaks in your clients and helping them to rectify them will help to further achieve their fitness goals and gain clarity in their lives.
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John J. Schessler is a Pittsburgh-Based Fitness Trainer, Exercise Therapist and host of the podcast “ManAlive!”, available for download on Apple podcasts. He is also a certified Sports Injury/Orthopedics Specialist and LGBTQIA Men’s Life Coach and has been working in the the health and fitness fields for the past 15 years. If you would like to email directly concerning personal training inquiries, podcast guest information, etc., please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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