Having only attended IDEA World Fitness Conventions™, I figured IDEA Personal Trainer Institute™ would be a small-scaled version (minus the group fitness track, of course). Boy, was I wrong (in a good way)! The intimacy of the event allows for greater time to get to know the presenters and dive into issues that spark quality conversations with colleagues.
As someone who typically keeps to myself in sessions (nose in my notes), I found plenty of opportunities to chat with other attendees. It turns out there are more than just personal trainers at this conference. There are personal trainers who also happen to be writers, singers, capoeira practitioners, upholstery designers, body builders and Downton Abbey fans. (Love that show!)
Why am I telling you this? Because I quickly realized that this became the leading theme in today’s sessions: getting to know your clients. I mean, really getting to know them.
In Scott Josephson’s session on The World of Popular Diets and Weight Management Solution, he stressed the importance of understanding clients’ eating behaviors beyond their food journal analyses. In fact, he recommended delaying asking sensitive client questions about weight and medications until after you’ve built initial rapport. “Clients will tell you when they are ready,” he said. All we had to do is offer a welcoming environment--this is a bit of a departure from filling out a traditional client intake form, right?
In her session The Exciting New Research on Happiness, Mary Yoke suggested we consider happiness as a variable in assessing our clients’ dispositions. I didn’t even know there were scientific metrics for measuring happiness, did you? Happiness levels provide insight behind motivations and habits. As trainers, we can strive to find ways that strengthen a client’s positive association with exercise. Hmm, perhaps I should consider asking clients if they are happy (instead of ‘ready’) to workout.
In Breaking Barriers to Exercise, Rodney Corn offered this advice: “Train the client NOT the guidelines,” meaning we shouldn’t be too quick to structure client fitness programs in the traditional way (i.e., warm-up first, minimum of 30 minutes of cardio, lunges etc.). “How do you know your client like lunges? Did you ask him?” True. I guess I never really did.
He suggested we ask each client these three questions:
1. Do you like structure or a challenge?
2. Do you prefer routine or variety?
3. Are you practical or adventurous?
A client who prefers structure, routine and functionality in his workouts may enjoy those traditional exercises or formats we know and love, (i.e. bicep curls, dead lifts, group fitness classes, etc.). But a client who prefers challenges, variety and adventure may be more progressive and open to new types of workouts. Exergaming, anyone?
I know personal training is supposed to be personal. And most of us work hard to establish meaningful relationships with our clients. But it still never hurts to be reminded to take a holistic approach to assessing their wellness, especially since you may be essential in influencing it.