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The history of the health and fitness professional is an old one, dating back to the ancient Greeks, modernised by the Germans in the 1700s and the Americans in the 1900s. Whilst training was for a different purpose, they had trainers nonetheless! While our understanding of the body and the science of training have improved, these 4 principles remain the same. These principles also hold true in health care as they do in fitness.

1. Understand the client.
2. Create a realistic plan.
3. Empower and motivate the client.
4. Review, adapt and progress.

For all of you reading this, who deliver our fantastic Active IQ qualifications, we are lucky to be in a position to influence, motivate and inspire our students. We can potentially change their lives and future careers if we train them well. In my opinion, to be in position to do that is a privilege and we must do everything we can to give them the best start to their new career.

This blog is aimed at those who deliver fitness qualifications and looks to address the following question:

What are the key things we need to be able to teach our students for them to do the above 4 points effectively?

1. Understand the Client.

Imagine your student has passed and is out in the big bad world of business and the fitness industry. I’m sure you will remember your own, for me 2002 was a time when many mistakes were made and valued lessons learned, working in a South East London leisure centre.

If you have taught them well, your students know how to programme effectively, monitor intensity and all of the rest of the key aspects of their fitness qualification. You have also taught them the latest research and ensured they were up to date. Just as importantly you have taught them to market themselves and set up their business. Now, they have done you proud and gained their first client!

Now can you guarantee they have the skills to effectively communicate with this client and retain them?

In order for the student to do step 2 effectively, they need to understand their client. I always challenge my own students with one simple question:

Who is your client?
What I don’t want to hear is:

My client is Mrs Brown and she wants to lose some weight.

Instead I want my student to be able to gain enough information to say something like this:

My client is Mrs Patricia Brown, she prefers to be called Pat, she is a 48 years old married accountant who has two teenage kids, John and Kate. She enjoys exercising but finds it difficult to motivate herself and when she is busy sorting the kids out after work she can forget to.Her best time to exercise is the morning before work. She would like to lose weight for her niece’s wedding in 6 months time, she thinks we will most likely do this by running, She is concerned that she finds running boring and won’t stick to it. She is concerned about what people in the gym will think of her and also of what she is wearing. She has never owned “gym clothing”. She also worries about her health, her mother who is 20 years older has angina and high blood pressure. She is expecting to lose a stone in 6 months.

In any consultation the professional must be able to find out ICE:

 Ideas – What are the clients ideas about exercising?
 Concerns- What are their concerns about joining the gym? Personal training etc?
 Expectations – What are their expectations of a trainer and of the gym.

This is the level of information I expect my students to get to by the end of their first consultation with their client. Direct questioning cannot do this effectively. This needs good communication skills to build rapport to help to get the type of information we are talking about, the less superficial stuff!

Communication skills are key to this and we need to find ways to effectively teach this to our students in a short period of time.

Action Points:

• Challenge your students – Ask them to tell you about their case study or present it to the group- anonymised. Make sure they have grasped who their client is!
• Role-play practice is key. Create clients with full stories. Pair up students and let one of them act out the role of this hypothetical client.

2. Create a realistic plan.

A realistic plan is not just writing something that is physiologically possible and safe.

An example of such may be, “I will get my client lose about 1-2lb a week”. While that is possible and safe, is it truly realistic for their client?

We need to challenge our students to understand this. Teaching this can be hard for us as the teachers. I tend to use a number of case studies with pre-made information about the client and get the students to create their own training plans and set realistic goals. I then challenge them. They need to be able to justify their choices to me. If they have not really understood the client, then they will find it difficult to understand their barriers and issues, which may affect their proposed plan and the potential success of both their client and business.

Key Points:

• Constantly challenge your students.
• Developing critical thinking is important.
• Use case studies to develop these skills further.

3. Empower and motivate the client.

In order to be able to empower and motivate the client, the fitness professional must first understand the client…See point No 1! Everyone needs to be motivated! The motivation is always better if it is more internal and personal to them. Part of this is making sure the student is always asking this question: How can I help my client change their behaviour and maintain it? What is driving them to exercise with me?

There are many models to changing behaviour. We will discuss the key models of consultation and behaviour change as well as techniques for applying this, in next month’s webinar.

Action Points:

• Following next months webinar – Focus on some key methods and try out our Active IQ step-by-step sample lesson plan included with the webinar for teaching those important skills.

4. Review, Adapt and Progress.

We know that as we go through life our habits, behaviours and lifestyle, change and with that our physical activity levels also. We need to teach our students to constantly review their work, measure their outcomes and make adaptations, depending on changes in their clients’ lives. I think comparing it to a surgeon is a good idea. As the client you would want to know how many procedures the surgeon has completed and what their success rate as for the surgery. I think we should encourage our own students to have this sort of information about their own work and to be confident in using this data to market their business.

Action points:

• Teach students to evaluate their work. What are the key measures and outcomes they need to be recording and monitoring for that particular client?
• Encourage an outcomes-driven process with self-reflection and evaluation. Did they set realistic goals? Did they as the trainer achieve them? If not, what can they change about their practice?

The new AIQ qualifications have far more emphasis on communication skills following feedback from the ‘Raising the Bar’ report and other related work from CIMSPA and ukactive. Therefore, teaching communication skills and changing behaviour techniques are now highlighted as being an important component of your students’ training.

In the next webinar we will go through communication skills teaching, behaviour change and consultation models. We hope this will help you produce exceptional fitness professionals.

See you on the webinar,

Active IQ Chief Medical Advisor


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