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Motivating Your Clients During a Pandemic

Travis Rush
Jan 28, 2021

Shew! It’s been a heck of a year, hasn’t it?

Gyms are closing left and right, trainers and coaches are losing their clients, and our careers and future outlooks are extremely grim. To say that this year has been a struggle would be an immense understatement.

So, what do we do? Do we chalk it up as a loss, throw in the towel, and move on to another career like so many trainers have? Or do we fight for what we love, and find ways to make certain that our years of sweat and tears that we have devoted to our clients do not die off? I may not know you but, as for me, I’m not going down without a fight.

Our clients are real people, with real issues and real predicaments that have forced them to look to alternatives now that our 1-on-1 interactions may be limited. In order to right the ship, we as trainers and coaches need to be able to help motivate and provide a positive outlet for our clients.

We may be the only light in our client’s days, giving us this huge responsibility but also an amazing opportunity to be able to impact their lives for the better. Don’t take this for granted. You have a gift, and you need to use it for good to help your clients. Motivation is a small part of what we do but it can have the largest impact.

Motivation to exercise seems to be at extreme lows for our clientele. Our clients are losing jobs the same way we are, there is much uncertainty for our futures, and career paths are changing by the minute out of necessity. In order to combat this issue, let us take a few actionable steps toward helping some of our closest friends (our clients). Below are a few ways to help our clients manage their motivation and push them back into greatness:

1. Create a Schedule

Routines are the backbone of our profession. We write-up the most elaborate and useful exercise programs for our clients in the hopes that they can and will stick to them. But what happens when our daily routine falls in favor of life’s necessary tasks? Many of your clients are likely facing new schedules, learning to cope with working from home, and reverting back to being stay-at-home parents. We need to be creative in our approaches to motivate our clientele because the old ways may not be as effective now.

By having your clients make a weekly schedule (or monthly, if you’re daring enough for the challenge), they may learn what is necessary and what is fluff. That evening spent watching reruns of The Office (I love it, too) or spent scrolling social media can be better used if they know how to budget time. 20-30 minutes of exercise each day is far better than the daunting hour-long sessions that are brushed aside because they “don’t have enough time” (haven’t we all heard this before?). Scheduling for the week is fairly quick, extremely simple, and a great training tool for your clients to see that their health and wellness don’t need to cease just because the gyms have.

When you sit down with your client, first discuss how their week is structured and where roadblocks may lie. This sets the tone for how to put together a schedule because it makes zero sense to add activities on top of other activities. Once you have figured out what a normal week looks like, place small and manageable activities in for each day of the week. This can be as simple as a “twenty-minute walk outside after dinner” or “make lunches for the next three days”. By keeping these activities short, it becomes far less scary to complete them and sets the stage for client successes.

Finally, select a day each week that becomes your client’s day to schedule their next week. Weekend days seem to be the most reasonable since Monday is the start of many work weeks. The biggest takeaway here is to finish these plans before the work week starts (or they may never be completed)!

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2. Set Goals

What good motivational article is complete without talk of goal setting? Setting goals is basic, “Day 1” material for trainers but is extremely important to speak about because we tend to forget that it is what we are paid for. Our clients have goals, and we are the go-to person to help them achieve said goals. Without goals, we lack vision and the ability to help motivate our clients to reach landmarks along the way.

One of the simplest methods of goal setting comes in the form of SMART. The acronym SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) has been used with great success to help clients choose their own fate. For personal training and sports performance clientele, an example of a complete SMART goal would be something along the lines of “I will walk enough to burn at least 1,250 calories through exercise this week.” This quote covers all requirements of a proper and complete goal for a client.

By having your clients complete each step of this acronym, they are essentially prioritizing what is important to them, removing the clutter from the path, and thinking through actionable steps that will allow them to reach their goals. Each letter in the SMART acronym works with each other letter to form goals that they can surely follow.

3. Regular Check-Ins

We have all had a client that does not voice their issues when they come about. The client that doesn’t understand an exercise in their routine; the client that still has no idea what a starch is; the client that you lose because you weren’t there when they needed help the most. By checking with your clients on a regular basis, you can ensure that any questions they have can be answered in a timely manner and before any motivation is lost. At the root of all our training is how we build relationships with our clients. Without trust, you can forget about client progress.

This Roosevelt adage still holds true: “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Show your clients that you care, build the trusting relationship, then you’ll ensure that communication will not be hesitant and that you will know more about how your clients are feeling.

The beauty of our world today is that we have the ability to instantly connect with our clients, either over the phone or through video chat. With the likes of Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime being so readily available, we can interact with people all over the world and not be bound to meeting in-person. While I will most always opt for in-person training sessions, being able to work with clients from home is an extremely freeing feeling and can help your clients gain confidence away from the old-man stares at the gym.

As a trainer, make your own schedule to contact clients and make sure they’re doing well. It can mean the difference between our client staying motivated to reach their goals and you losing your client forever.

Overall, there really is no reason why we as trainers should ever give up on our clients. Motivation will undoubtedly wane from time to time, and surely it has during these trying times, but do not ever give up on your people. You are often the one person that they can talk to about life’s struggles and the person who hears all the neighborhood gossip. Ensure that you are keeping true to why you jumped into the world of training and make it known to your clients that you are there to help keep them motivated.

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