Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What Makes a Great Trainer?

You'd be surprised at the many responses I hear when I pose this question to a group of young, eager trainers:

"...designing a good exercise program"

"...being patient with your clients"

"...being professional"

"...staying up to date on continuing education and seminars"

Although all those answers "contribute" to being a great trainer, I think ultimately it falls on one simple--yet effective factor: the client.
You see, having a client that is receptive to your instruction and exercise program makes all the difference in the world. I look at it as every fitness professional provides an amount of water (knowledge) to clients. The amount of water varies depending on the type of population you train (athletes vs. sedentary). Some amounts can be a small bucket of water, while others can be a huge barrel of water. Clients fall into 3 categories: the sponge, the soap-bar, and the brick.

The sponge: This client is the ideal project. This client plans ahead and understands what it will take to reach a designated goal. This client has mapped out a success plan (with the trainer) and is ready and willing to do what it takes to achieve the goal. Ideally, this client meets with the trainer more often (frequency) and is responsive to different modalities in exercise programming. This type of client usually wants to be educated throughout the process, as well is motivated to try challenging new things. Nutrition and stress management are typically addressed adequately with this client, and in turn, results are achieved almost effortlessly. As the category notes, this client "soaks up" your knowledge.

Contributing Factors: If the exercise programming is sufficient, the amount of time the client spends with the trainer determines the likelihood that the end result will be achieved. Motivation and adherence are maintained when a client reports to a trainer more often. Period.

The soap-bar: Like the cleaning bar, this client retains some of your knowledge, but this "window" of optimism reduces with each passing day. Like a bar of soap used over time, it reduces in size and ultimately diminishes. This client is somewhat interested in learning what you (the trainer) have to share with them, but doesn't quite understand the spectrum of reaching their goal. This type of client knows they want to accomplish a gaol, but hasn't put the process at the top of the priority list. The end result is that the gaol may be achieved, however, the time it takes may be longer. Often times, the window of adherence shrinks as time goes on, or if the influence of the trainer is insufficient.
Contributing Factors: Sometimes goals are not necessarily SMART, but with the help of a good trainer, a "soap-bar" can still achieve maximum results if that window remains open. This usually entails support and constant follow-thru.

The brick: Like a brick, when dropped into your barrel of knowledge, it simply sinks to the bottom and absolutely does not retain anything. This is the client that does not adhere to any instruction and shows little commitment to your exercise program. However, we tend to keep "the brick" around. Why? Perhaps it is because he makes funny jokes, means well, or pays on time. The truth is, the brick does not help you as a trainer other than putting money in your wallet. This is all fine and dandy, however, when it comes to job satisfaction, the bricks are the ones to weed out of your clientèle.

Contributing Factors: This client expects maximum results and puts in minimum effort (in and outside the gym). These are usually candidates for drop-out and typically blame the trainer for not achieving a goal.

So when you have your barrel of knowledge...what would you rather have placed in there? A sponge, a soap-bar, or a brick?



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