As trainers, we are constantly looking for ways to encourage and motivate our clients, and one of the most common ways we do this is with our words. But, what if our words have the opposite effect of our intention of motivating them? Using intentional language is an important tool to keep our clients coming back and feeling motivated to achieve their goals. From popular phrases to common conversational quips, here are five things fitness professionals should probably stop saying to their clients.
1. No pain, no gain
Statements about pain have become popular taglines and are said casually, and frequently, in the gym. It’s not unlikely that you’ve seen someone with a t-shirt boldly stating ‘No pain, no gain’ or ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body,’ As personal trainers, we know that these statements are untrue; we shouldn’t push through pain, nor should we encourage our clients to. Although we might know better, these statements are used so mindlessly that we might continue to use them without really thinking of what kind of message it sends.
For the beginner client, the idea of pain as a necessity to achieve goals would be incredibly discouraging. While it is true that they might have to get out of their comfort zone, it is important that we communicate to our clients that they can achieve their goals without having to be in misery.
Those who may have a little more experience may not be as discouraged by statements like these, but it is still important that we be mindful about avoiding statements that may encourage or celebrate pain. If they keep coming back while believing they have to push through pain to get stronger, they may end up with injuries that will make it harder to reach their goals. While a new exercise routine can indeed be uncomfortable, elucidating the difference between muscles burning with lactic acid and injuring oneself becomes paramount for new clients.
2. Burn off your cheat meal
Statements that villainize food or imply that clients need to earn the food that they eat can be damaging in many ways. Exercise should always be a celebration of what our bodies can do, not punishment for what we eat.
As trainers, we have opportunities to educate others about food. We can share information about the ways certain foods can fuel and nourish our bodies, but personal trainers are not nutritionists or dietitians and should not tell someone what they should or should not eat.
A lot of changing our language around food will involve investigating our own relationship with it. Nonetheless, we should be intentional with what we say to avoid creating guilt or shame around something that is a necessity, like eating.
3. Do this to get a better body
Whether a workout is targeting a certain body part or summer is around the corner, we should focus on talking about function rather than appearance. How many times have you seen or heard someone in the fitness world talk about how “summer bodies are made in winter?” Or seen a workout program designed for a “better butt,” “toned thighs,” or “flat abs?”
These marketing tactics prey on clients’ insecurities and do little to educate or empower. Focusing instead on how the glutes, core, and strong legs can support us in our life and daily activities makes it a workout program that is sustainable and relevant to keep coming back to.
Focus on how exercise can make people feel, rather than how it will make them look.
4. No days off
For those of us who work in the fitness industry, it might be true that we rarely have days where we take time to rest completely. Movement and exercise is a part of our daily life and routine. However, statements like “no days off” send a message to those who are watching or listening that they can’t, or shouldn’t, take a break if they want to reach their goals.
We know that rest is not only productive, but it is necessary for exercise to be sustainable. Because of this, we should be coherent in our messaging and let our clients know that it is okay to take breaks.
5. I hate this exercise
There may be certain exercises that we enjoy less than others. While some may love leg day, others might loathe lunges; some might do pushups every day while others find ways to avoid them.
Whatever our preference might be as trainers, we should be careful to avoid leading with negativity and potentially priming them to dislike something that we’ve incorporated into their training plan.
Much like ‘no pain, no gain,’ talking about exercises we don’t like makes movement seem less enjoyable. And if we want our clients to keep coming back, we want to give them something to look forward to, rather than creating a sense of dread.
Sometimes our words are not aligned with what we know to be true, which is why it can be beneficial to investigate the things that we say, as well as the things that we hear in the fitness world. When we are able to unpack and unlearn the things we’ve heard and/or said for many years, we can reframe our messaging to optimize our clients’ experiences.