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Do Your Clients “Work Hard?”

Brett Klika C.S.C.S.

“Raise your hand if you ever get frustrated with your clients lack of willingness to “work hard.”  This is a question I often ask when I’m speaking to groups of fitness professionals across the nation and around the world.  As nearly everyone in attendance fervently hoists their hand in the air, it’s obvious that this is a common malady in our industry.   Unfortunately, this frustration often manifests in the discontinuation of many trainer/client relationships.  This isn’t good for the trainer, or the client.

The primary dysfunction here is the perception of “hard work.”  As trainers, we have our perception of “hard work.”  It involves a very high level of physical exertion coupled with an equally high level of tolerance to discomfort.  After all, that’s what we seek in our own exercise programs.  Consider the client who has never had regimented exercise as part of their life.  They have grown to enjoy activities that have nothing to do with exercise.  They realize either on their own, or by others’ bidding that they need exercise for their health.  They seek out a trainer because the wellness part of their life is out of control and they have no idea how to fix it.  They invest a sizeable amount of money and time that would usually be spent on other things they enjoy doing.  They buy new clothes, change their daily routine and drive out of their way to go to a training session.   All this for something that is difficult, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable.  Do you realize how much effort that takes for some?

By many of our clients’ assessment, WE as trainers are the slackers.  Many of our clients are financially successful.  Trainers often struggle to make financial ends meet.  We wouldn’t have to struggle if we would have just “worked harder” and gone to law or medical school.  Is that a fair assessment?  Do we as trainers need to live up to our wealthy clients’ criteria of success to be successful?  What if a personal trainer sought financial mentorship and the mentor was constantly saying, “You’re not earning enough!  You’ll never get a house and car like mine at this rate!  I’m so frustrated with you!  I thought you said you wanted to improve your finances!”  Then they go in their break room and bitch to the other financial mentors about the trainer’s lack of effort.  Did you seek mentorship because you wanted to be a millionaire, or did you just want to get some control over your finances? Let me ask you, how hard was the process of realizing and admitting you needed financial mentorship?  How hard was it to take time out of your day to do something you didn’t enjoy?  How did you like driving across town in traffic to get to the mentor’s office?

A successful and effective trainer is able to recognize the fact that just starting the process is extremely hard for some.  A client’s “final destination” with health and fitness may be different than ours as personal trainers. Not all clients want to be like us, but they all want help.  Clients all need encouragement, motivation, challenge, and expectation.  The criteria, however, by which these should be assessed is not absolute, it’s relative.  IMPROVEMENT is what we are looking for.  This can come in a variety of forms.  A low performing client may not be burning a thousand calories an hour, but it may be the things they are NOT doing when they are with us that pay the most significant dividends.

Realize the process of going to a personal trainer for a 60 minute session is about 3 hours, maybe more.  By the time they adjust some of their behaviors to get ready, drive to the gym, exercise, drive home, and shower, it’s a good amount of time out of their day that they are:

1.        Not smoking cigarettes

2.        Not drinking alcohol

3.       Not eating fast food

4.       Not sitting and feeling sorry for themselves

5.       Not formulating irrational negative thoughts

6.       Not arguing with co-workers, spouses, children, etc.

7.       Not sitting on the couch

8.       Not hanging around negative people

9.       Not doing any other mentally or physically destructive activities

Even at only twice a week, that’s six hours of significant positive behavior change.  That can begin a cascade effect into almost every faction of their life.

If your career goal is to help people, those at the “low” end of the fitness spectrum are the ones that need the most help.   Do you wish to merely “preach to the choir,” or are you committed to making a real difference?   You may have to display compassion and understanding as to the difficulty of the process by which clients come to your care.  Relate to your clients, don’t alienate them.  A sexy six pack is a choice.  Moving and avoiding “toxic” intake of food and negative thought processes are a necessity.  America does not have a “lack of 6-packs” problem.  We have a “lack of necessities for a high-quality life” problem.   If you teach people to accomplish the necessities and replace their cycle of destruction with pro-active positivity, THAT’S hard work.  It’s also a much-needed job well done.

Brett Klika C.S.C.S., Director of Athletics at Fitness Quest 10, is a human performance specialist, motivator and educator. A graduate from Oregon State University, Brett has directed sport camps all over the nation. While in college, amidst playing club soccer and lacrosse, Brett worked with the strength and conditioning department for 3 years. A year long resident sports performance internship at the Olympic Training Center brought Brett to San Diego. Brett’s work with the Olympic athletes, as well as local high school athletes nurtured a passion for creating excellence in individuals.

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