Monday, November 7, 2011

Communicating with Clients During Disasters

Whoa...last week was a nightmare! After a winter storm that was pretty much "shrugged off" by most of the state of Connecticut, it touched down on Saturday, Oct. 29 and walloped the entire region. A snow storm in October was the last thing I was looking forward to especially after having the winter we had last year with a record of 15 feet of total snowfall. Yet,  this storm was something that we didn't think was going to be a big deal given the fact that we are New Englanders and we can take this abuse year after year.

The night was creepy. Crackling wood under buckling trees woke us up. An occasional "thump" was heard in the night that can make you guess branches were buckling under the weight of the snow. You see, leaves in New England turn a beautiful shade in autumn. This year, the leaves have remained on most trees because there has been alot of rainfall that has kept the leaves from drying and falling. So, much of the snow that had accumulated during the night stuck to branches and weighed them down. Huge branches began falling in the area and many fell on power lines that knocked power out.

You're probably thinking why is John giving us a weather report? What does it have to do with training clients or exercise? Believe it or not, alot. Here's why:

Because the state of CT lost much of it power (upwards to 900,000 electric customers) my facility had no power also. Aside from that, my clients were not thinking about training because they had to tend to other things including loved ones, property, and survival. Living with no power is not too bad for one day. After 2 days, it becomes an inconvenience....after 3-4 days, it is about survival!

So we know that results are achieved through exercise continuity. So when a natural disaster or emergency sets in, what does a trainer do to keep his clients hopeful that they will train another day? 

Constant Communication: Because power knocked out any computer use or phone lines, I had to rely on my cell phone for internet access and communication. Believe it or not, during the peak of the power outage, cell phone use was minimal. Many of the towers were not working and cell phone reception was poor. I had many dropped calls and some calls I could not complete. However, once I could get a solid signal, I texted many of my clients and assured them that sessions would resume as soon as power was restored.

Social Networking: My father-in-law lives in the same town as my wife and I and he did have power. Some of the area would have power and some were left in total darkness. Many people used generators that kept them going throughout this ordeal. My father-in-law offered his place for us and he had internet access. Each night, I jumped on Facebook and messaged my clients to keep them up to speed on things. I reminded many that training would resume and to remain strong.

Emails: At my father-in-law's house, I managed to email some clients and ask them how they were doing. I constantly text all my clients on a weekly basis, so I know 99% of them use their cell phones for most communication. I sent them periodic motivational messages, exercise articles, or simply dropped in to say "hello" and "hang in there". 

So what is the point of this all? There is nothing ground-breaking in what I've described above. My tactics are nothing revolutionary or worthy of being packaged as a product. The point I'm trying to make it "out of sight, out of mind". Exercise adherence is easy when the routine is uninterrupted. When an emergency arises and pulls the train off the tracks, it easy for a client to allow exercise to slip to the bottom of the totem pole. It's natural to care for your family and property when a disaster strikes. It's understandable that people will not want to exercise when their homes are 46 degrees. As a trainer, you must understand these things. However, it is your job to get your clients back on track when things resume to normal. Doing that takes some diligence on your part. Leaving your clients in the dark (communication-wise) is not wise.


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