I’m about to reveal to you one of my dark secrets: I am one of those clients who has tossed all the information, exercises, diets and suggestions provided to me by my Personal Trainer into my gym bag and never look at them again. I’ve felt embarrassed, dare I say ashamed, to go back to my next appointment, only to report that I didn't follow through with what I know will ultimately lead to me feeling better. I’ve even resorted to cancelling an appointment or two because of this. I’m guessing I’m not alone.
Let’s face it. You’ve probably had a client just like me and although you may have wanted to kick them to the curb in favour of clients that ask “how high?” when you tell them to jump, you want to help. You are not in this business just for the stretchy pants; you want to make a difference.
I’ve discovered that by simply incorporating some coaching tools into your practice, you can help your clients find goals that get them jumping out of bed in the morning, help them keep their momentum when the going gets rough and set them up for success in between their workout sessions with you. They achieve their goals and you get the credit!
What is Coaching?
Before we dive into how you can use a ‘coach approach’, let's get a clear picture of what coaching entails. Coaching is a client-led process where you as the facilitator have a deep belief that your client holds the key to unlock their potential. Your purpose is to help the client identify their strengths and what’s getting in their way so that they can get where they want to go faster.
You will acknowledge the progress your client makes in between sessions, as well as confront them in a positive way when action items they’ve committed to weren’t completed. You hold the ‘big picture' of where your client wants to go and you use this in the context of each session to continue to move your client forward.
Tools for Success
Now let’s take a look at some tools you can use with your clients to help them overcome what’s really getting in their way. Next time you have a client who’s stuck, despite the great support and programs you’re offering them, why not give one of these strategies a try?
1. Ask Powerful Questions
By creating some powerful questions for your clients even before your work together begins, you’ll not only learn more about their history, but you’ll gain powerful insight into the motivation behind their move toward better health.
You may also discover barriers that have kept them from success in the past. These could be external barriers (e.g. money, access to transportation, etc.), in which case you can help them seek out resources like access programs for residents with low income. There could also be internal barriers (e.g. negative self-belief, fears, etc.). If this is the case, talk these through with your client or refer them to a coach in order to maintain momentum.
Here is a list of powerful questions that may help your clients increase their awareness:
- What would your life look like if you were in an optimal state of health?
- What types of activities would you do?
- What would you gain by living in a state of optimal health? What would you be giving up?
- On a scale from 1-10, how important is it to you to live in a better state of health?
- What advice would you give someone in your position?
- What has prevented you from living in an optimal state of health?
- How can you ensure that these things no longer stand in your way?
- What do you need in order to move closer to your vision of optimal health?
- Who can you recruit to help support you in your quest for better health?
A powerful question has the ability to bring mindfulness to a situation and allow the client to reflect on how they can take responsibility for their health. The key is to keep it open-ended so that they have to dig a little deeper and give you more information!
2. Let their Values Be your Guide
You can also do some work to uncover their core values. Core values are a person’s guiding principles. They inform decisions, help create authentic goals, and support your client in deciphering between right and wrong. Here’s an exercise you can do with your clients:
- Take a list of values and have them circle all the words that resonate with them.
- Group the words into 4-5 categories.
- Pick the word that best represents each category. These are their core values.
This approach will help your client create goals that are more motivating and authentic. For example, they discover their values are love, peace, integrity, and courage. Together you create a goal that looks something like this, “I will exercise 4 days a week, and treat my body with love by eating nutritious foods. I will hold true to my schedule because I have integrity and the courage to honour my boundaries with others”. Have them work this until they come up with something that gives them tingles and gets them fired up!
3. Take their goal and turn it into a Dream Come True
A goal of losing 20lbs might be exciting for some but have others running for the covers. Dig deep and find out why they want to lose weight. What will they do? How will they feel? What will their life be like? Get really specific. You might find that they would take that sailing trip in the Bahamas that they always wanted. Awesome! So what if THAT was their goal? You get focused on getting them ready to sail and swim and they are stoked that they are working toward something they really want!
4. Find out what’s Holding Them Back
Humans are positively motivated so if your client is not taking action, then there’s a benefit for them to maintain status quo. Perhaps if your client begins to change, they may have to have that hard conversation with their spouse or in-laws about family meals. They may have to let go of relationships with friends who are negative and/or unhealthy. So, it may be easier or safer to stay where they are. By discovering why it’s easier for them to stay stuck, you can help them brainstorm solutions and find the resources they need to move forward. Here’s a list of questions to ask when things aren’t moving ahead:
- What did you commit to doing instead this week and what was the benefit of making that commitment?
- What would be helpful to admit out loud about this issue?
- If you secretly knew what was holding you back, what would it be?
- Imagine you have achieved your goal. What did you do to overcome this challenge?
- Who could you talk with to help you with this issue?
5. Hold the Vision of Who they are Becoming
Before you start with your client, ask them to describe their future selves. Your job’s to see them in this light in every session. You hold this vision of their future until they’re able to believe it themselves. Use the words they chose to describe themselves in your sessions to remind them of who they’re becoming. If they describe themselves as strong, confident, calm, peaceful and radiant, you acknowledge how strong they look, how confidently they did their squat, and how peaceful and radiant they look at the end of your session. You can even take this a step further by creating mantras with them: “I am strong, radiant and confident” or “I am calm and at peace with myself”. Encourage them to repeat these mantras during their workouts or rainstorm how they can remind themselves of this throughout the week.
6. Empower Choice
Leave a few minutes at the end of your session to help your client strategize their week. Try one of the following questions and see if it helps them stay motivated and self-directed:
- What are all the things you could do this week to keep you moving toward your goal? What would be the easiest? What would be the most fun? Which action step is calling to you?
- Imagine you share with me next week that you had the best week! What are three things that happened to make it so? What could you do to support yourself in making sure this happens?
- What is your favourite way of sabotaging yourself? Who or what will support you in moving towards what you really want?
- How can you use your values, desires, and strengths to keep you moving forward this week?
You’ve Got This!
You’re the expert and you know how to get your clients where they want to go, but sometimes when you come across a client like me, you need a couple extra tools in your belt. I’ve used these strategies with great success, and I’m hopeful that you’ll
see how they can empower your clients and keep them accountable for the changes they seek. Give them a try and let me know what you discover!
For a free coaching worksheet for trainers which includes the Values Exercise, visit:catebaio.com/fitness-pros
Cate Baio, B.PHE, SFL, CPC, ACC is a Certified Professional Coach registered with the International Coach Federation. She has a background in fitness education and leadership and helps supports her clients in taking back control of their lives. You can find Cate on Facebook facebook.com/cate.baio.coaching or www.catebaio.com
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