I have now reached that time of the year where business is inevitably a bit slower than usual. Nevertheless, I have been taking this opportunity to reflect on myself as a personal trainer/coach. I am always seeking creative and effective ways to hone my coaching skills. Part of this journey requires me to try and get inside the heads of my clients to better understand how they feel.
However, I have found that lately I have struggled with my own training. In fact, my workouts have been rather frustrating on numerous occasions. I have hit a plateau in many aspects of my fitness. As a result, I have had to take more days off of training, significantly decrease the loads of my lifts, concentrate more on foundational exercises (such as proper breathing while lying), and work more on mobility. I rarely take this like a champ. I like lifting. If it isn’t for ego, it just feels great and makes me feel so strong and complete. So taking a few steps back actually hurts.
*The stories mentioned above are related. Recently, I have had to tell a number of clients to back off on the heavy weights and take a few steps back, otherwise they could hurt themselves. A few clients did not take this very well.
This hit me hard as I can recall my own trainer telling me that I am lifting too heavy and I need to work on proper form and movement first before increasing the weight (re-grease the groove). I, too, did not like hearing this.
On the bright side, these setbacks allow me to thoroughly appreciate and understand how my clients feel when they are struggling with their workouts. Even better, after telling my clients my own experiences and struggles in the gym, they can immediately relate and end up feeling much better about themselves. I have reminded them that progress is not linear; clients need to understand that what really matters is that they are trending upwards in the overall picture.
They sometimes struggle with this concept, but so do I. However, by admitting this to them I show that I have my tough obstacles, too, and that my path to success in the gym isn’t just a clean and shiny yellow brick road. Telling clients my training issues and road blocks means that I am letting them come into the part of my life on which I place ample value. Doing this displays a degree of vulnerability to the clients. This vulnerability has led to better rapport building, greater trust between me and the clients, and a stronger business relationship. Exhibiting this vulnerability indicates that I am human; I do not have the perfect movement; I do not have all the answers to all fitness problems. I have and still am paying my dues for my fitness results.
When my clients hear this, they feel much more at ease and end up placing less pressure on themselves to lose weight at a linear rate or be able to squat 400lbs with perfect form. Just as importantly, the relationships between my clients and me grow even stronger as a result.
This method is by no means sacred, nor is it something that I practice to all clients. Only when a client is struggling through a movement and he or she feels a bit angry, embarrassed, and let down do I open up to them. I do this only when necessary, but it has been quite effective for me. There is nothing wrong with showing vulnerability. Having this firm connection with my clients is powerful. So when I see my client struggling through a barbell squat and he is not overly happy with the outcome, it presents a strong reflection of me. It makes me rediscover that maybe I have similar struggles and that maybe I need to work on these aspects as well.