Body Positive Coaching - Training With Understanding and Respect
Okay, so summer is on its way, and I am sure we are all being hit by the barrage of "Let's get those summer bodies ready!" comments in stores, on commercials and on social media. So how do I like to deal with this as a trainer? Here are my thoughts...
The fitness industry is full of trainers who have experience and knowledge to share. It is also full of clients looking for advice and support in their health and life balance goals. With all of these different personalities and niches, how do we as instructors find the balance and approach to best serve our clients? It goes without saying (but I will say it) that each of our clients is going to have a different set of goals that we, as trainers, adapt to help them work toward. Maybe they are rehabbing from an injury; maybe they want to feel stronger; maybe there are working on correcting muscle imbalance; maybe they want to lose weight; maybe they are training for a marathon; maybe they want a better work/life balance. Whatever the goal, it is our job to help them get there.
Every trainer has his or her own experiences and training that shapes how she interacts with clients. Some trainers find that they respond to tough love and reflect that in working with their clients. Some trainers respond to a steady, supportive voice. Whatever the case, we tend to train our clients and run our classes the way we like to be trained. This is what makes each trainer so special. Each of us finds a way to drive and inspire our clients.
So what's my point? Whatever our style, we need to make sure we are inspiring and motivating rather than tearing our clients down. I realize that sounds harsh, and that no trainer would ever intentionally "tear a client down". What I have seen and noticed though in a lot of classes, training sessions and social media posts is phrasing that leads a client to feel that there is something undesirable about him or her that only the instructor can fix. Speaking only from my own experience and things that have been said either directly to me or to a class that I have been in, here are some examples:
- This will get rid of your knee fat.
- You've gained a lot of strength, but you still look soft.
- Let's get rid of those bingo arms.
- There is some subcutaneous fat on the back of your arm. (While the back of an arm was pinched)
- Let's get rid of those spare tires.
- Get that bikini body ready!
Now, some people might think, what if the clients asked the trainer to help them with their bingo arms and spare tires? My question back to you would be- If a client is already self-conscious and having negative self talk and image, do we really want to continue using the language that is feeding that negative image? Most of the time when a client uses language that tears him or herself down, validation and understanding are actually being sought. I am not suggesting that we blow smoke. We would also be doing a disservice to our clients if we were to pretend that there is nothing to work on. What I would suggest is that we find a positive way of giving clients a focus on what we want them to work on and why. Things like:
- Strong quads will help to support the knee joint.
- Strengthening the triceps and deltoids will help to protect the shoulder and elbow joints.
- Adding some cardio in will increase endurance and give a boost in metabolism.
- Having strong transverse abdominals will support spine health and posture.
When clients have a why behind what we are asking them to do, it gives their workout a larger purpose than wanting to look a certain way. As a whole, clients will be happier and yield greater results if they are in a healthy mental state. That's why it is great to remind them of how strong they already are, that they are already doing a good thing for themselves by showing up, and how much stronger and healthier they will continue to feel as they keep up their work and commitment to their health. It is also going to feel better for a client to continue seeing a trainer who will hold him or her accountable to self care rather than passing judgement for any mis-steps.
So let's give our clients, our friends and ourselves the care and motivation needed without the judgements and negative body talk. We are all in this to inspire and help as many people as we can as best we can.