Are you really helping your clients where it counts?

Are you counting reps or are you helping your clients with what really counts in their life? This question came to me when I was having dinner with Susana Abreu, co-owner of On The Edge Fitness Educators. We were discussing the future of the fitness industry and personal trainers in particular and wondered if personal trainers are just over-paid, rep counters or are they really making a difference in the lives of their clients. Do they take a more holistic approach to their client’s wellness?

If you’ve been following these articles for a while you know I’ve been writing a lot about the coach approach to personal training. The reason being is that I want you as fitness professionals to think about your clients in a bigger, broader sense. It’s not just about the push-up, lunge or sit-up. Clients don’t just come to you so that you can tell them what to do and then just stand around and count. They come to you for so much more than that especially when they are trying to make lifestyle changes.

When meeting you they may initially say they just want to get back into shape but there is usually more to the story then that. The trick is to dig a little deeper by asking probing questions when they first state their goal. Maybe they want to get back in shape because their self-esteem is low and want to feel better about themselves. Perhaps they have gone through a separation or divorce and find themselves back on the dating scene. They may have gone to see their doctor and were told that they need to get in shape otherwise their health may be at risk. There could be any number of factors that can contribute to why someone wants to get back into shape. There is typically an emotional response that goes along with the reason why and once you understand how to address this you can work with your client in a more holistic way and do more then not just count reps.

Let’s review the five dimensions of wellness and then apply them using a case study to illustrate what I mean by a more holistic approach.

5 Dimension of Wellness


Now let’s apply the dimensions in a case study. See if you can pinpoint how many of the dimensions where implemented by the trainer with his client Jennifer.

Background on Jennifer

Jennifer is 35 years old. She works as a receptionist in a prestigious law firm. She has put on fifteen pounds since starting her job two years ago and feels really bad about herself. She has tried to diet but only ends up putting on more weight once she stops and starts eating normally again. She feels like a failure every time she puts on more weight.  Her co-workers comment on her weight loss and gain regularly. She started wearing baggy clothes to work to hide her tummy bulge and because she greets clients is becoming more and more self-conscious about how she looks. She wants to work with a trainer to help her lose weight and get back in shape.

Trainers Approach

Before the first session with Jennifer, Rob calls her to remind her of her appointment and let her know how much he is looking forward to working with her. He reminds her of what she needs to bring, to get a good nights’ rest and have something light to eat in the morning. He arrives early and has water and a fresh towel for Jennifer just in case. He greets her like a long lost friend making Jennifer feel special and good about herself.  Before he starts the session Rob asks her how she is feeling and takes note when she says she is nervous she won’t be able to keep up. He assures her that she will have no problem.

Before Jennifer starts her warm-up Rob has her sit quietly for 3 minutes and teaches her a simple visualization exercise. He asks Jennifer to picture herself as a strong, capable women working out and feeling good. He then teaches Jennifer how to pace her breathing, taking deep breaths in and out. Once she is done she feels energized and ready to go.

During the workout Rob takes the time to do hands on correction of her form. He avoids saying no and don’t do this but instead uses only positive corrective cues to boost her self-efficacy. He keeps the session light and fun and Jennifer laughs often even when Rob challenges her coordination. He provides a lot of positive feedback throughout the session and praises Jennifer for what she does well.

As the session comes to an end Rob has Jennifer lie down and asks her to repeat the exercise she did before the warm-up. He asks her to set an intention for the rest of her day and offers her a written motivational quote to take with her and healthy recipe she can try for dinner. He mentions it would be great if she could go for a walk in the next day or so and encourages her to ask her best friend to go with her.

The next day Rob phones Jennifer to see how she feels and she says she felt great after the session and had a lot of energy at work. She feels a bit tender but not the pain that she expected to have. She is looking forward to her next session and her best friend is willing to walk with her once a week so they can catch up on their lives. Rob tells her he will check in on her and once more praises her for having the courage to get started.

How many of the five dimensions did you find within this story? If you found all of them you would be correct. Do you see how you can also apply a more holistic approach with your clients? I suppose I’m making the presumption that you don’t and I know there are some of you reading this thinking, “Hey I’m like Rob” For those of you who are like Rob, great job, keep it up and do even more.  For those of you who like this approach and see how it is working with the whole person and not just their arms, legs and torso it will change the way you see a client, how you work with them and increase your client base rapidly. People want to work with people who know they care about them and this holistic approach truly shows you have more skills then just your ability to count.