Fitness clients want to see progress; that’s often why they seek the services of an exercise professional. Progress means different things to each client (and to each personal trainer). Many clients want to see specific objective measurements such as body weight, body fat percentage, or muscular strength. Still, others want to see a change in their energy levels or self-confidence. As personal trainers, we have the ability to track the progress that matters most to our clients – not just the objective aspects we can weigh with a scale or measure with a tape measure. Beyond physical or mental progress, personal trainers can track other meaningful benchmarks to share with clients over time. As you work with your fitness clients, consider tracking these five aspects.
Improvements in Movement Patterns and Biomechanics
Whether or not our clients set this as a goal for themselves, we as personal trainers train clients to move more efficiently and fluidly. Over time, motor skills develop and clients experience a greater proficiency with challenging movements. Consider performing basic movement assessments with clients that include bending and lifting movements (e.g., squatting), single-leg movements, pushing movements, pulling movements and rotational movements. Reassess these movements over time and note the progress your clients make as they gain strength and proficiency.
We know sleep is a tremendously valuable aspect of recovery and health. A client’s sleep quality and patterns are influenced by their daily habits and the presence or absence of a bedtime routine. While personal trainers are not certified sleep coaches or specialists, we can take an active interest in how well-rested our clients feel. A consistently well-rested client is a client who is more likely to adhere to their workout program and nutritional habits as well as make meaningful progress. Engage your clients in sleep journaling, or sharing their health tracking device data, so that they might uncover patterns that are either contributing to restful sleep (meditation before bed, for example) or behaviors that are detracting from quality sleep (viewing screens or being exposed to bright light shortly before bed).
It’s natural for energy levels to fluctuate with times of stress, a heavy workload, or other outside influence. We are not immune to feeling “low” or fatigued and neither are our clients. Asking clients to assess their energy level upon waking, throughout the day, and at the end of the day can expose unique patterns that offer insight into what might be happening in the client’s life. For example, if a client feels energized upon waking up, but loses steam throughout the day, we might wonder if the client is staying well hydrated or nourished or if there’s a hormonal fluctuation happening that might be worth further exploration by a qualified healthcare provider.
Response to Food
Balanced nutrition is not just about variety or a healthy plate. It is also about how a person feels after consuming food. Not only is it valuable to have your clients track their intake so you can get a “big picture” view of a client’s eating style, but it is also useful to ask that they include a reflective statement about how they felt after the meal. Energized? Sluggish? Heavy? Too full? GI upset? Bloating? Etc. Doing so can help a client pinpoint foods that may not work well for them and help you guide them as to what other options they might research and experiment with.
Important Events and Accomplishments
While tracking important events or personal and professional accomplishments may not relate directly to a client’s physical health or goals, these types of events are worth noting and following up on as a way of continuing to build rapport and trust with clients. I like to keep anecdotal notes while I am working with a client and if they mention things such as “my daughter has her first dance recital on the 5th” or “my husband’s 40th birthday is tomorrow”, I record these notes and enter reminders in my calendar to ask how an event went, offer congratulations when appropriate, or provide general support and encouragement. Committing to building rapport with clients will keep them coming back to you long after their physical goals are reached.
When tracking client success, take a multidimensional approach that includes all aspects of a client’s life – work, personal, social, and daily lifestyle habits. Success isn’t just about what is achieved in the gym or in relation to a physical fitness goal; it’s often influenced by the other variables in a person’s life. It’s important to recognize the impact aspects such as these can have on a person’s overall commitment to their training sessions.