In the 21st century, business people working 10-16 hours per day have become the new norm. When someone who exhibits this work lifestyle comes to you as a personal trainer with the desire to lose weight, it may not be beneficial to introduce a life-long strict eating strategy and a workout regimen full of high-intensity, heart-pumping exercises right away. Instead, I have learned – the hard way – a more sensible approach in helping these clients. Below are just some of the things I have emphasized to the busy, busy clients which have made a significant impact to their weight-loss goal:
More Sleep – When you meet a new client who regularly works over 10 hours per day, chances are that he or she is struggling to obtain quality sleep. Although the ideal number of hours of sleep is still up for debate, obtaining 2-4 hours of restless sleep every night is far from adequate. Lack of quality sleep has been shown to decrease performance in the gym, decrease work productivity, and, due to chronic tiredness, increase the occurrences of binge eating, to name a few. All of these factors contribute negatively to weight-loss. Help your clients out by suggesting they strive to hit the bed an hour or two earlier than they usually do. Small and gradual increases in sleep will not shock the client and will help him or her adhere to this new sleeping structure.
Drink More Water – I am always amazed at how many people live in a constant parched state. There have been numerous occasions when I have asked evening clients what they have had for beverages over the course of their entire workday and they answered, “Just coffee”. The amount of water one should drink in a day is dependent on many factors (athletes need more than sedentary people, for example). However, having just coffee, or nothing at all, will not help achieve desired weight-loss. It is a bit unrealistic to tell your clients to go from drinking 0 glasses of water per day to 8-12. Instead, suggest that each successive week they try adding 1 additional glass of water per day. This way, after 6-10 weeks, they have reached a more optimal level of hydration. Drinking more water will increase client alertness, quench their thirst, displace their liquid calories, aid in smooth digestion, and help increase their performance in the gym.
Eliminate/Strongly Reduce Alcohol Consumption – This is a no-brainer. I have seen clients achieve amazing results in weight-loss, body composition, work productivity, and weight-lifting numbers by either eliminating (gradually) or reducing their alcohol consumption to a level that is controlled, minimal, and does not permit binge drinking.
Introducing Mini-Challenges – Telling clients that they cannot drink any beer or consume any ice cream for the rest of their lives is completely unrealistic, unfeasible, and quite over-whelming to them. After hearing these suggestions, do not be surprised if the clients run away scared and fire you as their trainer. Conversely, challenging your clients to either eliminate or strongly reduce (a weekly cap) one or a few items of food or beverage for a 6-week period is much more realistic, achievable, and – to some extent – safe. Creating inspiring and exciting short-term challenges will make the tasks seem significantly less daunting and will definitely help your clients adhere to their program and stick with you longer. By the end of the 6-week period, the clients will, at the very least, have developed a method of discipline with their eating habits and be made more aware of what they are putting in their mouths on a regular basis. As a result, they may choose to actually stick with that plan well after the challenge is complete.
Eat Slower – You will not be able to control everything that your clients eat. If they are so crunched for time that they must shove down some fast-food from time to time, then it is what it is. You can, however, suggest to them to actually sit down and eat slower. Regardless of the type of food you are consuming, eating food at a rapid pace can trick your brain into thinking that it’s only a chore and a snack rather than an important meal. It can also lead to over-eating; thus, this is not good for weight-loss. Recommend to your clients that they consciously take time away from their busy day to sit down and enjoy their food. This allows them to be much more aware of what they are eating and hopefully they will realize on their own how much damage the food is doing to their bodies.
Backing Off the Extremely High-Intensity, Heart-Pumping Workouts (at least in the beginning) – This is related to everything mentioned above. Introducing workouts in the early stages of the program which require clients to exert at a near maximum heart-rate while they beat their chest, scream at the ceiling, and lift a car off the ground will not only be counter-productive, but can decrease long-term gym performance, decrease the clients’ chances of maintaining consistency, and increase their risk of injury. If clients are already obeying the steps mentioned above, there is no need for them to take a pounding in the gym, especially if their lives outside the gym are quite chaotic. Dialing it back a couple of notches and implementing a workout program with exercises at a moderate intensity with gradual and progressive overload is a much more efficient and safe method. Understand, however, that these workouts might be against your clients’ wishes and desires. But that’s why you are the professional; not them.
*A commonality of the tips above is that there is no mention of the types of exercises that need to be performed to achieve weight-loss. Much of the discussion is about what clients do outside the gym; it is a life-style. If new clients instill trust in you, they will let you in on their habits over the course of their work week. Understand that when nervous, highly-strung clients come to you for weight-loss tips, killing them in the gym and suggesting that they go cold turkey on the unhealthy foods might actually exacerbate their lifestyle rather than help it. Helping them make small, realistic, and achievable changes to their lives outside the gym without having them think about taking a beating in the gym is a more efficient and safe method for the initial periods of a weight-loss plan.