A large portion of my job is spent providing personal training to those looking for a path to the next level. I’ve found that people seek personalized instruction after they’ve tried other methods, either on their own or in groups. It’s not that these other methods have necessarily failed. In fact, often people achieve significant success without personal training. After achieving such success, people may reach a place where their goals evolve. Perhaps someone’s initial goal was to make it to the gym 2x per week. Once they’ve achieved that, they might realize that 4x per week is possible. Perhaps someone has developed greater awareness for the ways in which their lifestyle hinders athletic performance. Perhaps someone is looking to change aspects of their physique or their mental game. This is where a personal trainer can become essential.
A personal trainer helps strong-minded individuals get to even stronger places. A personal trainer has a level of expertise, both in training and in working with people. It’s the trainer’s job to help clients realize their true potential and actualize their goals. The personal training relationship is a dynamic interaction where communication is constantly shaping the design. The trainer must remain attune to the client’s current frame of mind and expectations of where things are headed. In order to achieve this type of relationship, I believe there are two vital steps that must be executed correctly from the start. These steps are first, initial assessment, followed by personalized program implementation.
The ground work for any and all future success in personal training lies in the formation of the relationship. Relationship building starts at the first line of communication between trainer and client. An in-person first session is actually a consultation. A consultation is where the client will be “feeling out” the trainer to see if they feel comfortable in their presence. The trainer will be “feeling out” whether they have the skill set to help the client reach their goals. In order for both parties to make a well-informed decision, a thorough conversation needs to take place. It can be overwhelming, both for the client and the trainer, as far as where to start and what to focus on. That is why I’ve found it helpful to create an outline. This outline acts as a road map to steer conversation and make sure certain points of interest are visited along the way. I use the following acronym: E.V.O.L.V.E.
E: Education– I introduce myself and begin with a discussion about my philosophy toward training, my current influences, and background experience / credentials. It is important that the client be aware of my areas of expertise and what sorts of things I might be teaching them along the way. I begin with this to set the stage and break the ice by sharing something about myself so the client feels like they know something about me before they begin sharing about themselves.
V: Vitality– This is where I get a sense for who my client is and what they are passionate about. I want to learn about what makes them tick, what they live for, what they care about. Here is where I get a sense for their values, how they like to spend their time outside of the gym, and what is most important to them.
O: Occupation– During introductions, it is typical that someone might lead with what they do as a profession. While profession is something I am interested in, it’s not for obvious reasons. I want to know about what their day to day occupation looks like. Do they have a desk job, are they on their feet most of the day, what is the work environment like, is it an environment with high stress? These questions are important because I learn how a client’s work day impacts their mind and body. I learn how their occupation might align with or contrast with what gives them vitality.
L: Limits– This is where I draw upon the client’s expertise in themselves. This is where I learn about what has and hasn’t worked for them, what’s held them back and gotten in the way of their success. What do they see as their weaknesses or barriers to overcome? When talking about weakness, a person is inevitably talking about vulnerability. As trainers, it is important that we normalize this aspect of life. If we didn’t have high aspirations for ourselves, our weaknesses wouldn’t matter. I am sure to emphasize that all of my clients have vulnerabilities, and having awareness of these vulnerabilities empowers us to act on them.
V: Vision– Here, we look to the future. We get a sense for what training together might look like. How does the client imagine it will go? How long do they envision they will train for and how often? How will we know when we’ve achieved success and how will we know when we’ve hit a wall? How will we communicate about these things when they happen? In order to track progress, we must define what progress looks like. Sometimes it’s as concrete as a number on a scale or weight on a barbell but often it’s more abstract than that, which is why we must define the vision.
E: Engagement– As the trainer, how can I support the client in remaining engaged? Some clients prefer minimal communication between PT sessions and others want to talk every day. Do we need to meet regularly for evaluation sessions, to discuss where we are at and what needs to be tweaked? Should we recruit family members, roommates, pets, and any other supports to assist in helping the client stay on track? Do we work from an online template or do we keep track with a journal? What tools need to be in place in order to set the client up for the greatest likelihood of success?