The Missing Link in the Personal Trainer's Knowledge
Why is it that some trainers have long waiting lists whilst others struggle to retain the few clients they have?
Why is it that using similar programs for similar people doesn't yield similar results?
What is the REAL difference between a ‘good' personal trainer and a ‘bad' personal trainer?
The answer to all of these is ‘engagement'. Far beyond anything that can be taught to anyone is the skill of engagement. Some may find it with some clients and not others. That is because it is a result of a number of factors.
Communication; much more than just the verbal, communication is often times the missing link in properly engaging and retaining clients. If there is a breakdown, no communication or a miscommunication, this can be the source of many problems. It is essential that the trainer knows and understand this. As so much of communication is non verbal the trainer must at all times use this to their advantage and constantly be aware of the body language of the client. Cultural differences in this respect are also vitally important. For instance eye contact should not always be used as some cultures perceive it as inappropriate and rude. Good communication can also encompass things such as appropriate phone decorum and attitude towards the client during sessions.
Life Experience: With life experience comes a great deal of understanding. It is much easier for a trainer to understand their client if they understand the type of person the client is and the reasons for this. Thus it is easy to understand why some trainers can relate to some clients and not others. A similar minded person with a similar background is not hard to engage in training. Motivation, beliefs and circumstances are common and thus the ability for the trainer to get the best out of the client is present. When life experience is lacking and the trainer finds relating and understanding their client difficult then engaging the client in the program and even writing the correct program can be difficult for the trainer.
Empathy: Often confused with sympathy, is the ability to put yourself in another person's situation and understand their perspective. It differs from sympathy in that the person being empathetic does not pity the other person as they would if they were being sympathetic. This concept is similar to that described above with respect to being able to understand where the person you are communicating is coming from. Being empathetic towards a client can be as simple as adjusting their program through understanding their current circumstances and can be the difference between retaining the client or losing the client due to ‘not understanding' the client.
These factors are even more important when training clients from a different generation. This will most likely be hardest for trainers of different generations training Generation Y. Generation Y is the first one in which people will often come in armed with significant knowledge. This can at times create problems for trainers and health care professionals the like. The knowledge available to Gen Y on the internet means that if the trainer is not 100% confident with their exercise prescription and can justify it Gen Y will no longer value their knowledge or professional opinion. Appropriately named, Gen Y, are taught to question and are regularly heard asking everyone around, "Why." The old adage of "because I said so," unfortunately will no longer suffice. Thus incorporated in the above mentioned factors is the knowledge and understanding that Gen Y are naturally inquisitive and thus as a personal trainer one should be prepared for this.
Engagement is often the catalyst to results and the difference between whether a program works or not. Engagement is a complicated puzzle with many pieces, not the least of which are the three components mentioned above. To properly engage the client the trainer must fully understand the client, their needs and goals. Engagement also requires the trainer to alter approaches and attitudes on a day to day basis to ensure that they get the best from the client. This also incorporates program alteration at times. It can be seen that knowledge is essential but knowledge without engagement leads to poor results. This is the often missing key in the personal trainer client relationship. The best way to develop these skills is through experience and by learning from other successful trainers.