Fitness Pros Share Similar Questions About Client Motivation and Adherence

Posted by Lawrence Biscontini, MA

Recently, Lawrence Biscontini posted an open-call for group movement instructors, personal trainers and life coaches to share their questions on social media. Following are some of the posts and his replies along with expertise shared from others in the fitness industry. Surprisingly, the majority of questions from all three groups addressed similar topics regarding motivation and client adherence.

On Motivation

Lisa Gibson, owner and instructor of Poolates® based in Milwaukee, posts:

How do you reframe unrealistic expectations in a positive manner to ensure your clients’ success, such as when they say, “I want to lose 40 pounds of fat in a month?”

Assisting clients to set realistic expectations precedes helping them make a plan to achieve realistic goals. At the outset, be clear with clients about what you think they can achieve with fitness, and then give them options so they become more involved in the process. Most fitness certification organizations today agree that promising even very dedicated clients a fat loss program of more than two pounds per week probably proves both unsafe and short-lived. Using “if/then” statements can help clients become participatory in the process while simultaneously teaching the importance of adherence to the program they select. As examples, saying the following allows them to become aware of the work involved, and it also lets them choose their path: “If you are willing to put in this much work at the gym, then you could achieve these results,” or “If you are willing to do this at the gym and agree to a nutritional plan that involves this, then you can reap these kinds of results.” Empower them first to take ownership second. Make a point to return to the client’s realistic expectations and goals in almost every session to be sure that nobody loses track of what truly is possible based on the client’s degree of commitment. Most important, be able to amend a client’s program based on his or her degree of commitment to the total process.

Dina Scafura, personal trainer, life coach and owner of One With Fitness, based in Long Island, N.Y., posts:

I am blending motivational techniques with training techniques and would like some ideas of how I could do more.

I always start and end my personal and private group sessions by asking my clients to rate their stress, happiness and energy on a level of 1 to 10. I track these numbers both daily and over time to demonstrate how, almost always, their stress lowers after training, while their energy and happiness increase exponentially. Showing them these factors objectively helps them foster some internal motivation—and tracking how positively their life changes with you in it becomes an added bonus. Teresa Estill, personal trainer, group movement instructor, and Pilates coach at “Pilates by Teresa” in Campbell, Calif., agrees. “During every workout, I blend motivation with movement as much as possible,” she states. Estill also suggests using social media to continue the motivational aspect, saying, “I have created a network of experts in different fields to help me message my clients, and together we post our concerns, thus strengthening each other’s communal motivation. I also post inspirational sayings and pictures (with their permission) to target their individual journey in a public manner, inspiring others in our group.” Chris O’Hearn, movement specialist at his Strong Within company in Knoxville, Tenn., says, “My goal [while] training clients is to help them believe in themselves by creating movements and exercises that help them feel able, confident and empowered. To underline that, I always end sessions by asking them what were the three greatest feelings they had in that specific session.” O’Hearn cautions trainers to remember that “motivation doesn’t last, as you will never motivate someone long-term; you can only inspire that person by empowering them to see the best parts of themselves.”

Yury Rockit, an AFAA provider and owner of Ki Studio working in Hanoi, Vietnam, posts:

What are your top motivational tips for both Personal Trainers and Group X instructors, since it’s so easy for people to find excuses [to keep] from working out?

Using both intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors can increase your own success as a trainer and instructor. Intrinsic motivation comes from the realization of inherent values in working out, such as endorphins, positive feeling and better sleep. Extrinsic motivation comes from prizes, gifts and public compliments. To encourage intrinsic motivation, I always try to keep present in every training session the very reasons why participants came to me in the first place. This means both reminding them of, and asking them open-ended questions about, their long- and short-term goals. When they voice out loud their own motivation, it reinforces why they are present and can even help increase their energy level for that workout with a renewed commitment. Like Estill, I also recommend using electronics and social media to enhance intrinsic motivation. Encourage clients to make timed motivational reminders on their smartphones and movement-tracking wristbands to keep them excited about why they have chosen movement-based workouts. When we keep our eye on the why of movement, research says that adherence increases (Alan and McNab). Additionally, both trainers and instructors can create free groups on social media and post both public and private motivational, inspirational and educational messages with graphics to increase their motivation. To boost extrinsic motivation, offering prizes can encourage healthy competition. For example, at the end of a set length of time, the client who has the highest gain in energy or the highest amount of fat loss can win a shirt, gift or certificate. Alternatively, setting a competition wherein the 10 students who have come closest to reaching their personal goals at the end of a set period receive an invitation to a private session, picnic or night on the town can also serve as an extrinsic motivational factor encouraging social group dynamics.


Noel Maniraj Chelliah, owner of DailyMuscle Body Transformation Camp in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, asks:

How do we find that right balance so we can reach and teach everyone, even those who may not be able to afford such programs?

Doing market research in a wide slice of your demographic is key to understanding both the economy of those who could be your potential clients and of those who currently offer similar products. Ankie Feenstra, co-owner of The Body Work Gym in Mykonos, Greece, says that “setting your price point has to take into consideration a variety of factors including what the current economic market can afford, the difference between long-term commitments and individual drop-ins, pay-as-you-go rates, and being able to create a feeling of uniqueness about your product. People will pay whatever price they feel that your product is worth, and, like Starbucks®, they are usually willing to pay a few cents more to receive a total, consistent experience they appreciate and enjoy.” Feenstra also suggests remembering “the three rules of online marketing: 1. know your product, 2. know your customers, and 3. know how your cost structure works between those two.” To foster social concern in the midst of the Greek financial crisis, Feenstra reveals that her gym implements 50% discounts to all official government employees (whose salaries have been cut in half) to enable them to continue their fitness regimens. For those who would like to participate but have insufficient funds, you may consider holding special events for a specific charity where people can bring canned goods or gently used shoes instead of an entrance fee. In such charity cases, everybody wins: you get exposure to more clients if their economic situation changes, your company gains philanthropic recognition, and a local charity benefits. Above all, be sure you offer pricing with which you are comfortable. Making a reasonable profit can help keep you motivated. Be sure to over-deliver on expectations, and remind all regular clients that their invested money is well-spent by providing gatherings, gifts and greetings to “check-in” with them once per month via email or phone to inquire about their overall satisfaction.

On Aquatic Programming

Alison Smith, owner of H2O Turbo Fitness in Victoria, B.C., Canada, posts:

To spread the message of aquatic fitness, how can we reach out to land fitness-goers and trainers alike? How can I partner with land-based trainers? What are some of the draws of water that I can share with those land-based trainers to complement their services like personal training, HIIT and sports teams? In short, how can we get more people in the water?

Education proves key. Explain to athletes that just walking through the aquatic environment alone, sans equipment, can provide up to 12 times the resistance of walking through air. Compound this information with prescriptions for intense movement, and the aquatic environment offers opportunities for everything between the extremes of recovery to intense workouts. Sara Kooperman, JD and CEO of WaterinMotion® based in Chicago, agrees, saying that once participants do decide to give it a chance, “one of the best ways to get people to stay in aquatic programming is to make sure that water exercise class titles and content are consistent. This means if our classes have the same name, the format that one instructor teaches, another one should follow as well.” Mimi Rodriguez Adami, an aquatic professional living in Rome, agrees, stating, “I teach both land and water group fitness exercise and encourage my aquatic clients to also attend the land classes. Since these participants are so enthusiastic about the variety available, they oftentimes convince the land people to try the water options, and we all know that word of mouth is the best publicity around. Remember that aquatic options can triple the variety of land classes by adding both shallow and deep water options for clients.”

  • Idea 1: Find the most popular, creative, and open-minded land-based personal trainers and create a special, intense, team-taught event that starts in the gym and finishes in the pool. Invite both your aqua converts and the trainers’ land-based clients to the event. Consider also benefitting a charity for even more social media potential. The resulting exposure that both of you receive includes showing the aquatic students how nonintimidating both the trainer and the dry gym environment can be, demonstrating to the gym students how intense the aquatic environment can become for training sessions, and revealing to a charity how community-minded the aquatic environment is.
  • Idea 2: Create a special aqua event for the men and women who are fans of aggressively intense land-based HIIT and boot camp-style classes. Be sure to invite their instructors for additional support. In a one-off special event, show them, both with and without equipment, what the aquatic environment can offer in terms of intensity. If you do it right, the resulting excitement could send more participants to the aqua program, help dispel the myth that aqua classes only serve the frail elderly, and even end up adding more classes to the menu.
  • Idea 3: Kooperman believes our clubs should show their support for aqua programming from the inside team. She advocates that “our sales, management staff, personal trainers and instructors of land-based programming be urged into the pool to try out a class, even just once. Requiring an all-staff seminar or briefing that includes an actual class will go a long way to educate everyone about how water offers enhanced resistance, a lower impact environment, balance support, simultaneous upper and lower body training, and an ability to accommodate special populations like obese, rehabilitation, pregnancy, arthritis and others.”

On Future Trends

Alesia Aumock, a group fitness instructor based at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Mich., posts:

I have been instructing a variety of group fitness classes/courses and personal training clients over the past three decades. I am currently taking AFAA’s YoChi® and Intro to Health Coaching online courses. In what direction do you envision the fitness industry will be heading over the next 10 years?

Predicting the wave of the future in fitness can be daunting without an effective crystal ball. Based on where I have been in the industry since 1983 and what I have observed so far, here are a few of my predictions:

  • We are evolving with the terms and titles we use as fitness professionals: “movement” is replacing “exercise,” “movement specialists” are replacing “personal trainers” and “group exercise instructors,” and “wellness” is replacing “fitness.”
  • More and more people will embrace what the industry currently calls “mind-body,” and this will evolve simply to “wellness.”
  • The medical community and traditional medicine avenues will continue dialoguing with coaches and movement specialists, including prescribing movement as both preventative and reactive medical alternatives.
  • Group classes will continue among pre-choreographed, pre-formatted and freestyle options, and will include more mindful starts and finishes than ever, including mindful influences from yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi mixed into traditional formats.
  • The popularity of accelerometers and other wearable devices will continue to flourish in a growing evidence-based quest for individual movement monitoring.

In Summary

This recent call to questions on social media generated much thought in the area of motivation and client education. We thank you for taking the time to follow us on social media and for posting your questions!



This article originally appeared on the NASM Blog.

Topics: CPT

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