There's an article circulating around facebook, that I actually really love. It's about the things trainers want to tell their personal training clients. Give it a read here.
I love this because I've been a trainer. After Biggest Loser, I spent 3 years building a personal training business and worked with over 60 clients of varying weights, body shapes, experiences, levels of understanding, etc. I can't tell you how many of these thoughts and conversations I've had over and over and over again with my previous clients.
But here's the thing: I've also been a client- and often times a challenging client at that (ask my coaches, past and present!). And there are some things a LOT of trainers do NOT understand about clients that are probably as important as the things that WE do not understand about them.
So, if you're a trainer- ESPECIALLY one that may not have struggled with your weight, here are some things that might come in handy:
1.) Just stop telling me you get it.
The short answer is- no. No, you don't. Maybe you've lost a lot of weight yourself (when I was a trainer, I had lost 113 lbs in 8 months- no easy feat!), or maybe you've never had to worry about putting weight on. Whatever. The reality of it is, is you do. not. know. what. it's. like. Your clients are all different- different body types, different tolerances, different backgrounds, different personal lives. What might be easy for one of your clients to do (say, exercising 45 minutes a day, every day), might be a near impossible goal for a single mother of 2 that works full time and just barely manages to squeeze in 3 sessions a week. Understand that your clients' circumstances go far beyond what you see in the gym. That doesn't mean we don't want, or hear, your advice. It just means sometimes it's not always "follow-able". And a good trainer (like ones I've had) know how to adjust their input to make it work for each individual's overall life.
2.) Just stop talking about how I should eat perfectly, and start talking about how to eat realistically
Every single trainer I've ever had kill me in the gym, I've also seen eat pizza, drink beer, or have birthday cake. Stop acting like you don't. Because, the reality of it is, as a trainer, you become our "gym parents" and this bizarre phenomenon happens- your habits become the expectation of what our habits should be. If we see you occasionally indulging, and not harping on yourself regularly for making little decisions- that, let's be honest- won't make or break our training, THAT is what instills GOOD habits in your clients. It's been proven over and over and over and over again that diets that promote deprivation or the abolishing of certain foods work temporarily and ultimately boomerang to bite clients in the you-know-what. Most of your clients that have long term struggles with weight have long-term emotionally unhealthy habits with food. If we feel like we're constantly disappointing you by eating birthday cake, because it's something you would "never" do, or something you would "never" suggest, we will fail. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but ultimately. We need to be told, and shown, that it's not about "eating healthy" or not; it's about eating like a normal, reasonable human being: Learn what's best for you, do the best you can, when you can, and when you can't, let it go, wake up the next morning and train hard and eat right. The end.
3.) Just stop saying things like "You can beat your metabolism!" or "A calorie is a calorie" or that "so and so lost 60 lbs in 3 months!"
Let's get something straight. Metabolic conditions are a real thing. There are people in the world who really do struggle, at a cellular, biological level. AND there are people, who after years of unhealthy yo-yo dieting, have damaged their metabolisms unintentionally. If you're summing up every client that's overweight as being an "excuse maker", you're painting everyone with the same brush, and it's just not true. There are people who struggle with weight from childhood, developing so many hungry fat cells (that by the way, are never LOST, but rather are simply deflated) that it's in their muscle memory to gain weight. There are people who have a sluggish thyroid, or an elevated response to cortisol, or a hormone imbalance. There are pre-diabetics/diabetics who have an insulin response to any carbohydrate that enters their body that their non-diabetic counterpart would have no reaction to whatsoever. If you're not looking at the biological, anatomical equation of things, and brainstorming new ways to combat the individual client's reaction to food and exercise, you're guilty of exactly what you're accusing your clients of: Laziness. Sure, you'll get the dud client that blames a bad metabolism and then sneak eats a dozen Krispy Kremes, but if we've handed you our food journals and are giving you our all, it might be time to consider a deeper cause.
4.) Just stop acting like you know absolutely everything about exercise
You know what the best exercise is? The one we'll do consistently, intensely, and passionately. Unless you're a spin instructing, zumba teaching, crossfit loving, kickbox boxing, marathon running, hip hop dancin' fool, you don't have a stronghold on all the exercise knowledge in the world. Post Biggest-Loser, I was a big advocate for just killing yourself on a treadmill because I'd seen results, and knew it worked. Now, I would sooner die than recommend that. We love what we know because we know it fits us. But that doesn't mean it will fit EVERYONE in the long or short term. A client is not a proprietary person you have ownership over. In a healthy, fun coaching relationship, a client is someone you are partnering with to help them become healthy. Your job is not to run them in the ground with what you know works for you and a handful of other people. Your job is to figure out what works for them, then holding them accountable, and re-evaluating when that stops working. That means if a client goes to a spin class before their session with you, they're not cheating on you. They're trying on a new pair of shoes. The fact that they share it with you means they trust you and want to share their journey with you. Don't be offended. If they're overtraining, it will show in their results and THAT'S the time to pull on the reigns- not when someone's looking for new ways to push or better themselves.
5.) Just stop telling me not to worry about what I'll look like when I'm done
Blah blah blah. We all know that working out and eating healthy is about being the best version of yourself. But if we're being honest, the best version of myself, in my mind, wears a size 8 and can rock the hell out of a pair of skinny jeans. Is it everything? No. But by you belittling at least a PIECE of my "why", it doesn't encourage me to show up, and makes me feel like you just don't get it. Make our time together about what's important to ME, not to you. That doesn't mean throwing in, "Come on! Work for those size 8 jeans!' between every rep (I would probably punch you), but it means understanding that sometimes working out isn't just about how fast or strong we are. And that doesn't make us shallow or NOT a badass- it makes us human. We can be badass, fast, strong AND hot. And who wouldn't want to be?
6.) Just stop acting like little achievements aren't a big deal
I told you my goals, and I'm psyched that you're working to get me there. But, along the way, some magical shit is going to happen. Magic that either I will or won't recognize. So, when I do recognize it, via an instagram photo of my first palm rip, or a video of my first "whatever", stop calling it bragging and start recognizing that even if it's happenstance to you, and everybody else, it's a big deal to me. My clean-induced bruises, or callused palms, although maybe not the ideal, are my badges of honor for pushing myself beyond what I used to be capable of. There's nothing wrong with recognition, as long as it doesn't circumvent or replace action. So let me bask in my little, magical, "I never thought I would get here or do this" moment, and stop assuming it's not a HUGE deal or major motivator in my training. I won't get cocky- I'll just get excited and use it as fuel for my next big push.
7.) Just stop caring that I don't like exercise
I used to hate exercise. Like, last night at 5:20 pm in the midst of my 5th set of burpees. You know why? Because it's hard. Physically, it sucked. Emotionally and mentally, it hurt because I couldn't do, without great effort, what other people seemed to do easily. I love exercise now because when I'm not doing it, I forget how much I hate it when I am. It still sucks (S.U.C.K.S) when I see I'm going to have to run. Or do burpees. Bleck. But I show up because I know after that 20 minute workout, I'm going to love exercising again. I will shoot my coach a dozen sideways looks and swear like a sailor during my workout. Probably to the point of his frustration. But I show up over and over and over again. As long as your client's showing up, they like exercise, whether they know it or not, and part of your job is to tolerate their personality type, which can, occasionally, come with complaining. Not everyone has the capacity to uphold their mental and emotional stamina while pushing themselves physically. Either deal with the fact that it just ain't that easy for everyone, or, of course, just fire your client. You're not in the business of changing personality types. You're in the business of changing bodies.
8) Just stop underestimating your role
I hate to tell you, but you matter. A lot. How many people do we let see us look like drowned rats on a daily basis? How many people do we think about when debating whether to pass on the gratuitous cupcake? How many people do we look to for approval when we do something that may be little, but is significant to us? You matter. That means how you treat us, our concerns, and all of the above, matters. Probably more than you want it to. Because that means you don't get the cop out of saying "Just don't". It means, if you're a great coach, you don't say "Stop saying or doing that" you say, "WHY are you saying that? WHY are you doing that?". No, you shouldn't need to play therapist, but you have to have the capacity to recognize when we're flailing, or succeeding, or making bad or good decisions, and react accordingly. Because we're invested in you (financially, emotionally and physically), and if you don't feel the same, you're wasting our time.
9.) Just stop telling us to stop
Because we've all got our "things" that we're good and bad at, and for some of us, the exercise and eating right thing isn't as easy as it might be for you, or one of your success story clients. Understand that if I'm showing up, and working hard every day, I'm dedicated. Even if it means I complain, stray off course, take a random zumba class, or post pictures of my calluses.