Personal Trainer Notes: How to Motivate a Client Who Hasn’t Trained for Months
As any in a fitness career, you’re going to train with clients of all stripes and all motivation levels. Some are going to be brand new to any kind of training and will need plenty of encouragement, others are already on fire and need the expertise and support to go with the energy they bring.
A type of problem client for many personal trainers is those that start with the motivation but have trouble holding onto it. When they haven’t trained for months and have lost sight of their goals, it can feel frustrating and even a little defeating. But what can you do? Here are a few tips on how to help your client get that motivation back.
Don’t Push Too Hard
For some clients, the push and shove attitude can work. Encouraging clients to embrace the struggle, to keep going can be the encouragement that high-motivation individuals need. However, for those who have lapsed, accentuating the positive is more important.
When it comes to working with clients who are already on the fence regarding their personal fitness, a heavy-handed approach might just be the best way to scare them off. It can lead to them feeling like their fears or concerns about getting back into training are being ignored.
This doesn’t mean you have to beat around the bush about their habits or attitudes. Instead, learning more about them and crafting solutions alongside them can be much more effective, as we will cover.
Learn Their Motivations
Personal trainers aren’t psychotherapists, but understanding their motivation is crucial to helping them see their goals through. Like most good PTs, you may already ask about health and fitness histories, motivations, and past failures they have had in reaching them. This motivation is often lost as a result of pessimistic attitudes about how realistic it might be for them to reach their goals.
By ingraining their motivations as not only part of your understanding of them as a client, but also the workout plans you set, you can chip away at those negative attitudes.
Learn Their Fears
The other side of the coin is that clients may have fears related to workouts that are discouraging them. To them, individually, they may think their fears sound silly, but you likely already know how common they are. For instance, those who have stopped following a program leading to weightlifting strength training might be afraid of looking weaker than they would like if they have to start with smaller weights. The idea of a public perception around them can intensify that fear.
These fears shouldn’t be dismissed outright, but your experience in working with clients of all fitness levels can help them understand how others have gotten past said fears and how unrealistic their nightmare scenarios might be. If those fears are simply left unaddressed, they can fester.
Set Goals from a Clean Slate
Momentum is important in personal training. The energy and confidence gained from one milestone can be the fuel that helps them push to another. However, when they regress and stop training for a month or more, that momentum has effectively been lost. Still, they journey the have made in their mind hasn’t.
They may be carrying guilt at the thought of having let themselves down and, in some cases, this only discourages them from getting back on track. In other cases, they might be concerned about the idea of picking up at a level they no longer feel ready for.
With the authority you lend to their efforts, you can assuage those feelings of guilt and fear by starting with a clean slate. Address their plan as if they are a new client, helping them gradually get back into it without them worrying about where they were before.
But Do Remind Them of What They’ve Already Accomplished
While you don’t want to push them too hard or lay on the pressures of their past progress, the fact they have trained and accomplished milestones in the past can be very helpful. For a lot of people, motivation is about realising they can do it, and it’s pessimism about a perceived inherent inability that stops many from training.
Clients that haven’t trained in some time shouldn’t have this misconception, but some do. They focus on where they failed or stopped, rather than where they succeeded. When you’re pushing them to get back on the horse, reminding them that they have put the time in before and that they have reached goals they set for themselves can be excellent positive reinforcement.
While you’re not directly comparing their progress now to their progress then, you’re reminding them of confidence they had lost and helping them reach back into wellsprings of motivation they may have thought permanently dry.
Switch It Up
Clients who have fallen out of the habit of training likely know plenty about what to expect when they get into training. That familiarity can help them get back into the swing of things when you convince them to start again. But it may also be one of the things discouraging them from getting back into it in the first place.
It’s important to keep it fun and one way to do that is to introduce novel exercises and switch up their routine from time to time. It can help them feel like they’re discovering a new side to training once again, which can be important for building up the long-term motivation that stops them from losing the habit again in the future.
For clients that have trained for months, a balanced approach is essential. At the point where their motivation is at its lowest point, pushing too hard can lead to them quitting, but without that push, you’re not going to get results.
Be there to remind them of what their goals are, the benefits, and past milestones they’ve achieved and show some understanding for the trouble they’re having. Building that feeling of being a team with them can help them win back the relationship that invigorates, inspires and guides them.