As health and exercise professionals, we are accustomed to hearing certain terms and phrases on a regular basis. We are also “in the know” when it comes to facts related to health and fitness. When we interact with our clients, it is commonplace for us to forget that they, especially newer clients, are not familiar with our common industry lingo or practices. Keep these “fitness facts” in mind when working with and educating your clients.
Reps and Sets
Our clients, especially newer clients, do not think about exercise or resistance training in terms of repetitions and sets of repetitions. They also do not give much initial thought to load and volume. Reps, sets, load, volume, percent of 1RM’s and other resistance training variables are most meaningful to the professionals as we work to find the right “formula” to meet the client’s intended goals (hypertrophy, strength, power, general fitness, or endurance).
Early on in my career, I remember explaining to clients “our plan for today is to perform 3 sets of 8 reps on these 4 exercises”. After some confusing looks and multiple questions, I realized I needed to be speaking to clients in a way that allowed them to connect with the information rather than using a more formulaic approach. I also discovered this language barrier could impact any “at home” workouts I asked clients to complete on days they were not with me. Always write a program or a single workout in terms the client could follow successfully and without confusion.
“Quads”, “hams”, and “QL”
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! This relates to the first fitness fact; the science lingo presents a language barrier with new clients who are not familiar with anatomy terminology. When we work with clients, we use cueing to remind them of proper body mechanics, breathing techniques, and where they should be feeling the “burn” so-to-speak. The first time I used the statement “can you feel that in your hamstrings”, my client said, “well I don’t know what or where that is, but I feel it in the back of my thigh.” A good lesson to learn early on, generalize your language. Clients do not necessarily “need” to know the names of every muscle they are working as much as they need to understand how to properly execute a movement to target a specific area of the body.
Progress is felt as much as it’s seen
Professionals understand that progress is not measured by BMI or body weight. Progress, especially early progress, is felt more than physically observed. We can’t forget to teach our clients about measuring progress by observing a change in energy levels, a shift in mental focus, an improvement in attitude, and better sleep. It is our role to help clients redefine what progress means to them and how to celebrate the non-scale victories.
Sleep is a vital sign
Sleep is critical to mental and physical health. It is gaining more attention in our industry, and we are starting to see sleep as a “vital sign” to be measured just like resting heart rate and blood pressure. While we, as personal trainers, may not be sleep experts, we still have a responsibility to help our clients “tune in” to their circadian rhythm and improve their sleep fitness so that they are well positioned to make the biggest gains in health. Talk about sleep with your clients. Teach them about calming bedtime routines and even encourage the use of a sleep journal.
Micronutrients aren’t “micro” in importance
Micronutrients are not named “micro” because it reflects their level of importance in our nutritional practices. It just means the body needs them in smaller amounts compared to the macros. When clients ask questions about nutrition, they are generally framed in terms of “how much protein do I need?” Or “Should I avoid too many carbs?”. There isn’t much wondering about magnesium, sodium, potassium, etc. While we cannot perform an in-depth nutrient analysis, we can and should be educating our clients on the importance of micronutrient content and the role individual micros play in balancing our health and how they are affected by stress, lack of sleep, etc.
NEAT movement adds up
So many individuals focus on exercising to burn calories. But the truth is that calories burned during exercise (exercise activity thermogenesis) pale in comparison to those burned by our BMR, NEAT, and TEF. Exercise is a small fraction of daily expenditure. Though we provide exercise plans for clients, it is important to educate them on ways to boost their BMR (adding lean tissue, controlling blood sugar, gut health, micronutrient ingestion, etc.) and perform as much NEAT movement each day as possible. Encourage a five-minute walk every hour or every 90 minutes to burn a little extra each day.
This is all common knowledge and facts we learned in our course of study. It is second nature to us as professionals in this industry. But our clients need us to help them bust fitness myths and replace them with truths – truths that will aid them in their progress toward optimal health and well-being.