After work on Thursday I met up with Travis who I used to work with at SST. He has started a personal training company call DNA Fitness based out of Burlington and has been interacting with other trainers who work with private clients. At SST we primarily worked with athletes who were driven to succeed but lacked the knowledge to create the right program to achieve optimal fitness. His new venture is different and he is starting to get exposure to the psychology of fitness.
“What do most people want out of a trainer?”
In most cases people who are not innately active want to hear that it isn’t their fault that they are out of shape. They want to be told that they are fine and that there is something unique about them that makes it impossible for them to stop eating unhealthy food, to start exercising and to get into better shape. For those who seem to love to exercise or tend to make more-healthy food choices the knowledge is there that they have control over these choices.
Let’s be honest here and say the way that someone looks is a reflection of their choices in almost every instance. Obese and unhealthy people do make the choice to eat poorly and move as little as possible. For them the realization that they have complete control over their choices has not yet been made. They are looking for validation that they are victims of something that is out of their control. In fairness this is a characteristic of most human beings, it just tends to manifest itself differently in people.
The toughest thing for a trainer to do with these types of clients is to teach them that it IS their fault that they look the way they do and to help them see that they CAN do something about it. Frankly, I found teaching this lesson to be one of the most draining things you can do because there is 10-40 years of thought inertia to overcome. It’s a task that is compounded in difficulty by the human tendency to seek out information that validates their belief and to outright disregard evidence to the contrary. Never underestimate the power of denial.
In most cases a doctor is a better person to teach an individual that their state of health is a result of their choices and too often it comes in the form of bad news – a test revealing cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a heart attack. The news is a shock to them, but not necessarily a surprise.
What can a trainer do to help their clients hear what they don’t want to hear?
People learn better by doing, particularly when they are not open to learning; which is the case with people who hold victim beliefs about their fitness abilities. If a trainer can get a person moving and eating a little better, their client will notice some results. This is often enough evidence to help them see that they CAN do something about it because they HAVE done something about it.
Let the client know that human beings are 99.9% genetically identical. Since almost everyone has the same potential to achieve a certain level of fitness, by achieving it themselves, a trainer can effectively BE the proof that it can be done. I have found this to be one of the more effective ways to show people the light.
Let the client know that the body has a strong desire to keep doing what it has been doing and that as a part of the body, the brain is the same way. Thoughts are going to be sticky and it is going to require a lot of effort to change the thoughts and to change the behaviour. It could be months before they find working out to be a fun activity simply because they have found doing nothing to be a fun activity for so long.
I think Travis is going to do well with his new business because he is knowledgeable and because he cares about people. I have always known him to tell people the truth and not just tell them what they want to hear and these are the reasons why I would trust him to train my family.