In any successful relationship, there’s give and take. Each party has to learn to communicate effectively and openly and develop a comfort level to express their likes and dislikes. The trainer-trainee relationship is no exception. In fact, this relationship requires constant communication.
The trainer must communicate cues, discuss and demonstrate proper form, explain the purpose of each exercise, or the intended scope of a program. The client must be able to articulate his or her fitness goals, identify his or her preferences, and dislikes as well as communicate any discomfort or pain experienced. A significant component of strong communication involves the ability to remain flexible and actively listen to what the other party is attempting to say – especially if it’s a new relationship and you’re still in the “forming” stage of the relationship.
Benefits of Good Communication
When communication between a trainer and trainee is open, honest and frequent, the relationship thrives and there’s a cooperative progression towards an intended goal, or set of goals. Some of the benefits of effective communication include:
□ Reduced conflict
□ Foundation of trust
□ Enhanced credibility
□ Mutual respect
□ Goal achievement
□ Stronger relationship overall
Consequences of Poor Communication
□ Increased conflicts
□ Lack of trust
□ Lack of credibility
□ Power struggle in achievement towards goals
□ Decreased motivation and commitment
□ Lack of understanding and increased frustration
Communication in Action
In the trainer-trainee world, program success depends – in part – on the client telling the trainer how he or she feels throughout each phase of the program. The trainer, in turn, must be willing to listen to the feedback a client provides and make adjustments and provide explanations as necessary to keep the client committed and motivated.
For example, if a client expresses the desire to “tone up” as part of a goal, a trainer needs to clarify what this means in more specific terms (i.e. improve endurance and reduce body fat). Further, a trainer must seek constant feedback about how the client feels about his or her program. If a client says “I don’t really feel like this program is ‘me’, the trainer has the obligation and professional responsibility to dig deeper and find out exactly what might be the stumbling blocks. This might mean a reconfiguration of the program in its entirety or it might mean an adjustment in a handful of exercises.
If a client says “I don’t really feel like this program is ‘me’, the trainer has the obligation and professional responsibility to dig deeper, by asking questions and find out exactly what might be the stumbling blocks. This might mean a reconfiguration of the program in its entirety or it might mean an adjustment in a handful of exercises.
But what happens when the communication fails or isn’t as clear as it should be? Examine the accompanying scenario.
Meet Jessica Client and Todd Trainer
Jessica is a relatively new client of Todd’s – she’s been training with him for under 3 months. When Jessica first met with Todd, she had a general goal of getting stronger and increasing her energy levels. Jessica also emphasized that she is not familiar with weight training, but engages in some form of cardiorespiratory activity three to five times a week.
Todd Trainer took her through the usual battery of physical assessments and found Jessica to have above average strength and endurance levels for her age group. Assuming she could handle a unique challenge, he decided to integrate some tougher exercises. Todd did not discuss his findings thoroughly with Jessica but noted only that she had a solid foundation of fitness to progress quickly if challenged. Trusting Todd’s experience, credentials, and knowledge, Jessica expressed excitement to start her “challenge.”
The exercises in the resistance training portion of the program included:
□ Power Clean (2 sets)
□ Bench Press (3×6)
□ Row (3×6)
□ Physioball crunch (25)
□ Dumbbell Fly (3×8)
□ One armed row (3×6)
□ Chair Dips (3×25)
Jessica doesn’t know what she’s getting into and Todd has not explained it enough (or at all) in a way that would allow Jessica the opportunity to express her concerns. Therefore, right off the bat the communication is lacking and Todd is implementing something that he thinks she’ll be in to, but could find out later that she’s not (maybe after she decides not to work with him anymore because he’s training her too hard. Hypothetically, Jessica goes home to her husband and tells him about the Olympic style lifts that Todd is having her do, and he says it’s crazy. Jessica can’t explain the context of why she would be doing
Hypothetically, Jessica goes home to her husband and tells him about the Olympic style lifts that Todd is having her do, and he says it’s crazy. Jessica can’t explain the context of why she would be doing this because Todd never explained it to her in the first place. Todd, with his heart and intentions in the right place, loses a client and possibly other potential clients because Jessica and her husband tell their friends and family about this crazy trainer, Todd, who had her doing Olympic lifts right out of the gate.
Though Todd should have reconsidered the exercise program he put his beginner client on in the first place, he also made the big mistake of not explaining to Jessica the reasons that he felt this would be a good challenge for her. He could have saved this relationship and his credibility if only he had communicated with his client.