25 Feb 8 Tips to Train Clients with Kindness and Get Results from NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer
Last week I discussed how kindness should be an essential part of any fitness and nutrition program. Though the old school of personal trainers and dietitians are more akin to Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash than Danny O’Shea in Little Giants, kindness doesn’t mean not doing our job. We must be able to help clients reach goals and get results.
So, how can you train clients with kindness and still get results?
- Be honest. A close friend of mine had stick-straight, long hair. She needed a change, picked a haircut she thought would be perfect, and went to an expensive salon. As soon as the stylist saw the picture, she shook her and said, “This woman has curly hair. You don’t. Your hair will not look like this. Ever.” Ouch. That honesty, though, saved my friend hundreds of dollars of disappointment. So much of what our clients want for their bodies doesn’t even take into consideration their body shape, their bone density, muscle density, stretch marks, sagging parts and more. Fitness and health are attainable for everyone. Fitting into a Size 2 dress by summer is not.
- How can you be honest and not hurtful?
- Shift the conversation from numbers to fitness goals. What does your client want to achieve? Instead of losing 20 pounds, perhaps they want to feel more energized, be able to go on carnival rides with their kids, feel better in their clothes etc. These latter goals are sustainable and real.
- If a client continues to focus on weight loss, be clear that your job isn’t to help someone lose weight, instead help a client build a healthy relationship with food and exercise. The by-product, of which, will often be weight loss.
- Build up body self esteem Give clients tangible ways to build their body self-esteem. Have them keep a gratitude journal. Their goal is to write down five things they love about their body each day. (They can repeat). Invite clients to take a social media hiatus and note how they feel after the cleanse. Tell clients to be aware of their inner dialogue and judgements they make. Have them really listen to what their brain is telling them and make it shift its discourse.
- Help clients reconnect with their bodies Invite clients to reconnect with their bodies, the way they move, how they feel when they stretch, hold someone’s hand, to feel the cold of an ice cube in their mouth. We are often so disconnected, we’re not even aware of what our bodies are doing. Kindness training is about reconnecting with the essentials. This, also, will help clients learn to listen to their bodies and avoid injury.
- Influencer beware As certified personal trainers and dietitians, we’re competing with a beast of bad, and easily accessible, information. Many clients come in with some pretty far-out ideas about exercise and nutrition after scrolling through Instagram. Sit down with your client with a checklist. Ask them if they’d hire YOU without accredited qualifications. Provide clients with trusted websites and sources. Have them be critical of influencers, recognizing influencers are paid to promote. They’re human shopping networks, and oftentimes not smart.
- Create thoughtfully structured goals with your client. Language is everything here. This will be your client’s North. It also is something your client has developed with you. These goals can be done monthly, and there should be real progression for each stage of the game. EG. By the end of the month, I want to be able to walk up six flights of stairs to my apartment without losing my breath. It’s specific. It has a realistic timeframe. It’s ACHIEVABLE. And not intimidating.
- Do not be Mr. Miyagi. As dramatic as it is to fall into the mysterious ways of a coach like Mr. Miyagi, keep in mind this is much more successful for Hollywood than someone you’re training. Your clients must know the what, why, and how of everything. They will not wax your car or paint your fence (however tempting that may be). Explain the purpose of each exercise and how that exercise will help them reach the goals they set in number 6.
- Get to the bottom of it. Understanding your clients’ underlying motivation is key to achieving goals. There are many layers to starting a fitness routine. If only every client came in and said, “I want to feel healthy and energized again.” Sigh. Some might be recovering from disordered eating and feel ashamed of their bodies and illness. Some might want to prove something to someone in their lives. Others might be using exercise and nutrition to make an ex jealous. Once you tap into these motivations, it will be easier to shift the focus to health and nutrition.
Making your training sessions count. Tap into your clients’ needs, help them shift superficial expectations so they can reach attainable goals and develop a healthy relationship with food and exercise. It starts with being kind and helping clients realize how beautiful they are.