“Gym-timidation” is a real phenomenon and occurs when a client feels uncomfortable in the gym, intensifying any personal insecurities. First-time exercisers may also feel uncomfortable performing movements that are unfamiliar and awkward to them. As personal trainers (many of whom work in a gym-setting), this isn’t what we want our clients to experience. How can we boost their confidence and help them see past the gym and focus on their goals of healthier living?
Just participating in exercise naturally boosts self-esteem. It’s beginning the session that can be a sticking point for some of our clients. Start each session off right by encouraging clients to set a mindful intention. Have them write down (or verbalize) three things they are grateful for that day (can be related or unrelated to exercise) and a goal for the session (i.e. to connect with inner strength, to increase the number of crunches by 2, etc.). At the end of the session, hold a brief conversation with clients about how they feel about their session’s progress and focus.
You might be the exercise and fitness expert, but your clients should be involved in their overall program design and execution. Regularly ask clients for feedback about individual workouts and sessions with you. Seek input from clients about new workouts and different exercises they’d like to try or master. Finally, periodically revisit client SMART-ER goals and make revisions and updates where necessary.
Offer Options for Exercises
As can be expected, clients will struggle to perform some exercises (especially if they are compound movements). When introducing clients to new moves or more complicated exercises, demonstrate several options in a positive way. Avoid “ranking” exercises based on skill level (beginner, easy, advanced, athlete, etc.). Allow clients to choose their challenge and perform the exercise at their comfort level. Ask them how it felt, add a challenge if necessary and when the client is ready.
Inspire Effort – Not Perfection
It’s easy for clients (and for us) to want to attain “perfection” with our goals. A healthy lifestyle is about progress, positive change, and effort. Perfection is NOT attainable nor should it be the focus of any goal. Remind clients to focus on effort and help them eliminate the word “perfect” from their vocabulary. This includes being mindful about the praise you offer. Instead of saying “you did that perfectly” try stating, “That was a great effort, you kept your core tight and eyes forward.”
Any positive change a client intentionally makes should be noted and celebrated. Behavior change is a tremendously challenging, non-linear process. When a client successfully makes a change – any change that contributes to a healthy lifestyle – celebrate it and offer praise and positive reinforcement for the behavior to continue.
Because behavior change is a non-linear and sometimes frustrating process, clients can experience setbacks. When this happens with your clients, approach the setback thoughtfully and investigate with your client why it occurred and how a change can be made so the setback can be avoided in the future. A setback is an opportunity to redirect – not a failure or fatal error. Help clients reframe their thinking when it comes to obstacles they experience.
Confidence, like progress in fitness and health, takes time, effort, and encouraging support. You are not only a personal trainer to your clients, you become a source of inspiration. Capitalize on the influence you have to help your clients grow in productive and meaningful ways.