Monday, November 16, 2009

Client Personality and Program Design

Another question I have received....

Does the type of personality a client or athlete possess influence the way you design their program or a workout? How so?

Short answer? Yes.

I always take the client's personality into account when I design a program. Everyone is different and they should be treated differently. I wouldn't train a soccer player the same as a golfer, or a male the same as a female, so why wouldn't I let personality influence my program design?

If a client has a hard time with motivation or is intimidated by the gym, they need to be progressed a little slower with exercises that will encourage success. Successful execution of the program always builds "gym" self esteem and will keep clients coming back.

In the past, I have been very direct to challenge and motivate my clients - both females and males. Usually and surprisingly, the females always responded better to direct challenges and feedback.

It is not uncommon at times when I have to sit with someone and talk about life outside the gym to get them to open up and let go of their inhibitions in the gym. I have found that most times when general population clients are scared, they "hold-back" in their training and I can't have that. So, I have to break down hesitation, doubts, and apprehension. Sometimes, this takes 1 session or 1 week or 1 month. This is also a 'trust' issue, or what I call an "expectation trigger".

An expectation trigger is when you meet with a new client for there first workout and they are reluctant to give their all because they fear they may not be able to deliver what is expected. As the trainer, if you are able to sense this (and you should be), progressing clients through exercises (easy to hard), and progressing through gym space (smaller space to larger space) will make them more comfortable. Here are some other ways to optimize your client's comfort level and let their personality shine:

1.) Start with consults that are not so serious. If you sense they are uncomfortable or apprehensive, try having a consult sitting on a sofa where your bodies are side by side. Try giving your client considerable distance when you speak. Also, don't be afraid to talk about things not related to exercise!

2.) Use small space. If you own a studio or work in a facility, try using a small corner or area of the floor. Do this a couple of times and this will increase their spatial comfort.

3.) Perform exercises that do not draw attention. Progressing exercises from easy to difficult is simple to understand. But what if your new client is an athlete with incredible ability, but is sensitive to attention? Believe it or not, there are shy athletes. So you don't want to have them swing the fat ropes or jump onto plyo boxes yet. Those exercises draw attention and may be loud. Try to maximize their comfort level with other progressions using complexity and time.

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