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Fitness and Lifestyle Assessment – Establishing Baseline and Client Readiness

In our blog on the elements of a successful consultation process, we discussed how personal trainers can benefit from learning and applying the principles of motivational interviewing to their clients’ on-boarding process. Here we move on to the client assessment stage and how to create a solid foundation for amazing results with your clients.

Client Readiness

All personal trainers like to work with clients who are eager, super motivated and who follow the instructions to the letter. Sadly, most new clients don’t start there. They contact you because they understand they have a problem and that they need your help. However, they may not be in the right frame of mind yet to start kicking ass right away.

At the start most of them need to break many mind barriers before fitness and exercise can become an essential part of their lives and that’s where you and your on-boarding process comes in. Quite often clients disappear after a few sessions if they think that the trainer won’t be able to help them. Therefore, it’s important that client care is an ongoing process.

During your consultation process you will have already gauged what understanding that client has of their situation and you would have a good idea where they are on the readiness to change scale.

Ideally, your clients are already in the Preparation phase and are ready to go by the end of the consultation. The fact they have contacted you indicates they made up their mind, but it doesn’t necessarily mean, they know what to do next, how to take action and more importantly their belief about their abilities to achieve their fitness goals may not be solid yet.

Applying motivational interviewing during the on-boarding process, fitness and lifestyle assessments and throughout their personal training sessions will slowly help them feel that they can indeed achieve the results they desire.

Lifestyle Assessment

The quickest way to gain as much information from your clients about their lifestyle as possible is to put together a lifestyle questionnaire that you send them in advance, so they can fill it out at home prior to seeing you in person. Then all you need to do is go through each relevant point, ask specific questions and listen to the answers.
Using questionnaires to gather information is imperative for online personal trainers which is why we equipped PT Distinction with the all the basic training and lifestyle forms along with the ability to make your own custom forms.

This questionnaire should cover relevant areas of people’s life, including:
- exercise habits and history
- sleep pattern and quality
- eating habits and regularity
- working hours, schedule and type of work activity
- perceived fitness levels
- smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine, night outs
- medications and health concerns
- stress levels and sources
- level of motivation and challenges that could risk training outcomes
- allergies
- medical conditions
- frequency of becoming ill
- supplementation
- nutrition assessment

It’s important to stay within your scope and only work with clients you're qualified to train. If you have a nutrition qualification that allows you to help people with their diet, include that too. If you can train people with certain medical conditions, great, include those too.

Reviewing all the information will give you a good idea how many workouts the client will be able to perform, what type of exercises must be included (strength, flexibility, mobility issues), what type of exercises the client enjoys and which ones they hate with a passion.

The best plan for any client is the one they can stick to. Luckily there is such a big variety of activities and movements that can achieve the same goal, finding the one your client can and is willing to perform is key to long term success. If they enjoy it, that’s the real deal.

Fitness Assessment

Not every client has to complete every test under the sun, but relevant assessments are important to provide top quality training and show progress. During the consultation process you would have already discussed their goals, so aim to put them through as little stress as possible while assessing their fitness levels; measure the metrics that are relevant to their goals and leave the rest.


Health and Body Metrics

Checking resting heart rate and blood pressure is a good idea to see if there are any contraindications to exercise. Clients who have body composition or simple weight loss goals will also benefit from checking for a combination of the following metrics: weight, height, BMI, hip to waist ratio, body fat, body circumference readings with a measuring tape. Focus on your clients and let them decide which of these they feel comfortable tracking regularly without getting stressed.


Cardiovascular Testing for Functional Endurance

Clients who just want to become fitter, build stamina and take care of their heart will benefit from a well-chosen CV test. There are many you can perform including maximum time tests, maximum velocity tests, and the YMCA Step test.


Muscular Strength and Endurance Tests

You can perform a great number of exercises to test muscular strength in certain movements. Push-ups and sit-ups are popular fitness assessment exercises. Use a regressed version for clients who are unable to perform the standard move.
If your client has specific strength goals, 1RM testing can also be useful.


Mobility and Flexibility

Testing for mobility and flexibility is essential for all personal trainers to understand how the clients’ body works, identifying areas that may need working so the client can make the most out of a workout session.
You can use the sit and reach test and the overhead squat to screen for multi-joint mobility issues and it may be worth performing a plank exercise to understand your client’s core strength too. You can assess their balance by asking them to stand on one leg with knee up at hip height.

All of these assessments are already set up for you inside PT Distinction, using our software quality assessments can even be done with online training clients.

Wrapping Up

Working out where your clients’ starting point is in relation to their fitness goals is a crucial step for successful exercise programming. In the next article we will discuss SMART goal setting based on the assessment results.
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