Consistency over Perfection for Clients with busy Lives

Oct 31, 2019

By Tim Saye

Personal trainers and online trainers report that one of the biggest showstoppers for their clients is consistency. They are great and dedicated for a few weeks, then they start slacking, sometimes drop altogether. If you get frustrated when that happens, try to think with your client’s head and empathise with how frustrated they may be feeling for not being able to adhere to the plan.

The first step to improve client's long term adherence is understanding that they are humans with a whole life outside their sessions. Thus, hitting the gym five times a week, counting and measuring every food item they put in their mouth may not always make the top of the priority list when kids get sick, work blows up, or something else happens that needs more from them.

When you face a ghosting client it may feel paralysing, and you may start questioning yourself and your skills. First, that's quite normal and a good sign that you care. Second, sometimes it's just life getting in their way and isn't about your services. However, the way you react is what will make all the difference in your client-coach relationship.

Many clients put unnecessary expectations on themselves; they either think you have those expectations towards them or they are perfectionists that either go all in or not at all. Either way, it's the personal trainer's job to help people understand the difference between yoyo dieting/training and slow and consistent progress with little wins every day until the final goal is achieved.

Tip #1. Check-In Often

Clients hire trainers to keep them accountable. If you only ever talk to them in session, say once a week or less, especially with online or hybrid clients, there's a big chance they've gone off plan a few times by then.

You can send them a message to see how they're getting on. Just show them that you're there and they can come to you anytime, like a good friend.

With online clients, you can set the boundaries during on-boarding by letting them know what your available hours are for support, what channels they are free to use to contact you and how regularly you need them to check-in and follow instructions. The best way to do this is with humor and little reminders.

Tip #2. Encourage a Plan B

In other words, prepare your clients for the tough times in advance when they are on the rise. Because there will be days, even weeks where different things will enjoy priority. Teaching them how to take care of themselves during the hard times still and stick at least to a maintenance plan until their capacity increases again. 

A plan B can involve doing fewer or shorter but more intense workouts, giving them home exercises if they can't make it to the gym, changing how they report their food diary temporarily. In a nutshell, provide them with some breathing space, so they don't get cornered and feel they have to choose between life and fitness.

Tip #3. Pivot, Pivot, Pivot

Always be ready to change and allow your clients flexibility in their plan so when something drastic happens in their life, you can still be there and adjust to meet the new environment, new goals or even training needs.

Scenarios when your flexibility can prove to be beneficial for the long term:

- Pregnancy
Do you have a pre and post-natal qualification? You may think you don't need one since you don't want to specialise in pregnant women and mums. What do you do if one of your clients falls pregnant? They trust you, so you can either keep training them if you have the qualifications or refer them to someone you know and trust.

- Injuries and Illnesses
Nobody likes to talk about it until it happens. Can you recognise when discomfort is a niggle or an injury? Most trainers can't and don't need to. However, if something lasts beyond a week, referring your client to a practitioner to check it out before continuing training is the sensible advice. Then you may need to adjust their program based on the findings. The best way to preserve the trust that the client has towards you when they are in pain.

- Permanent Change in Schedule
People get promoted, change jobs, they even move away etc... When life changes having the flexibility to change the service, location, and times you work with clients can be the difference between them succeeding or giving up. Online training obviously gives clients the maximum flexibility so having it in your armory can be a game changer.

Tip #4. Discover and Encourage Likes

You have probably heard already that the best program is the one the client finds easy to follow. What makes a client stick to a plan? Think of the things in your life you find easy to do. What makes them so unique? Probably nothing, you enjoy doing them, so you keep doing them. Right?

The same applies to your clients. If their workouts include exercises and activities they enjoy, they will more likely be looking forward to them. If you allow them to add ingredients and foods in their diet that they enjoy eating or making, they will love to follow that plan.

It doesn't mean it's all about their likes. Clients need to understand that dislikes are just as crucial because those identify areas where they need to improve their lifestyle. Doing so while keeping some joy is, however, vital for them to stay consistent.

Wrapping Up

There will be a lot more you can do for consistency, but they will be dependent on each individual client. We will dig into a few examples in the future article about empathy and how to practice and show that. For now, try to focus on these four tips and see if you can apply them to keep your clients happy.