Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fitness regrets, lessons learned

There was a client that I had several years ago, a client that I learned a big lesson from and will never forget. Unfortunately, I learned what she really needed from me a little too late for her good, but a lesson I keep with me that has made me a better trainer.

This client was a female with small children and a very demanding career. Her job demanded that she traveled throughout the week which caused a lot of stress to her and her family.

When I met with her in the consultation she struck me as already thin, athletic and fit. Her goal was straightforward: tone up a little, become a faster runner and create a healthier lifestyle by exercising consistently. She was going to do all of this by working with me only once per week. Not impossible but rather difficult, I thought at the time.

I created a program for her and we got started. I quickly realized that we would have to squeeze in a run and resistance work in our training sessions, as she struggled to get her workouts on her own.

What I later realized was she really needed me to take away having to think of one more stressor in her life. Exercise was the last thing she wanted to have to worry over and think about what she had to do. She needed someone to come to her, tell her what to do, and then be there to encourage and ensure she did it.

We worked together for almost two years, the entire time struggling to get consistency in workouts and obviously not seeing much progress.

The entire time I pushed education: why she needs this, how to get to her goals, what she needs to do on her own. I talked about how it relieves stress and how she needs to learn to get into a healthy routine so she can finally be able to do all of this on her own. Then she wouldn't need a trainer, thinking that was her mindset.

Yet, every week the report was the same: she may or may not have done her workouts. During this two year period, I often pondered why there was never any change, what was wrong? - My client obviously needed something and I wasn’t giving it to her!

Finally, the inevitable came. She decided to ‘cut back on family expenses’ and personal training was out. I knew it was coming, but it didn’t make it any easier to take. Although I knew a trainer can’t be solely responsible for client’s failure, I felt like I had really failed her.

I used to think back on the situation, beat myself up, wishing I could go back in time to do things differently. Then I realized the best thing I can do is use what I learned on my future clients.

This is what I learned: some people need us, as trainers, to come to them and tell them everything is ok, and not worry about putting them on their feet to exercise on their own. Some people need us to take that stress away from them.

Certain people may need a trainer for a very long time; this is something that I always believed to be a horrible trait of a trainer – that they must not be doing their job if they have clients for a long time. But this client changed my mind. She needed me to work with her – every workout if possible, to take the stress out of a very high stress life.

This was a hard lesson learned for me but an important one.

Everyone we come in contact with is an opportunity to touch their lives. Are you going to be open to it? Is there someone that sticks in your mind like mine?