We want our clients to approach their workouts full of confidence and trust in their capabilities. We know they can learn to master everything we program for them, and we want them to realize that for themselves. We understand that every rep won’t be perfect, and some days will be easier than others, but progress is still being made.
The path toward mastery is filled with trial and error and requires us to be patient, persistent, and kind to ourselves. Many women expect a high level of perfection and tend to be hard on themselves for their perceived mistakes.
Teaching our clients to practice kindness toward themselves and reduce their desire for perfection are important aspects of creating a positive coaching relationship.
Establishing this kind of relationship begins with our clients learning to have confidence and trust us as their trainer or coach.
1. Model upholding commitments.
Starting with your first meeting with a client, establish a pattern of making commitments that you can keep. This means:
- Learning about your client’s work and family schedule to establish an exercise routine that they can maintain.
- Discussing realistic expectations.
- Being honest with them about your own time constraints.
- Commiting to delivering information when you can do so, and following through.
When you demonstrate an ability to keep your commitments to your clients, they will develop confidence in you and will be more likely to keep the commitments that they have made to you.
They may not realize it yet, but training with you every Friday morning, or working out on their own three days a week, are actually commitments they’ve made to themselves. As they continue to commit to these workout times with you, they will begin to see a pattern of showing up for themselves — prioritizing themselves. The consistency that comes from maintaining these commitments will help foster their confidence in their ability to achieve their goals.
When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned
There will be times when life gets thrown off-kilter which may require breaking some commitments temporarily. Model for your clients that these moments are expected and show them how to be kind toward themselves through them.
Modeling positive self-talk is extremely important to cultivating positive emotion in your clients.
By focusing on controllable actions, you shift the focus away from the “mistakes” made yesterday, and your clients can be present today to work toward their long-term goals instead.
Continue to encourage your clients to view these “mistakes” as learning opportunities and opportunities to make different choices, and to evaluate how those choices impact their life.
2. Consider life outside the gym.
Life is more than just the time we spend in the gym and the numbers we squat. Demonstrate to your clients that you value their complex lives outside of the gym and understand that some days they won’t meet every fitness-related goal.
Be honest about your own progress, how you handle difficult food or exercise situations, and what you do when your motivation wanes. Instead of coming across like a mythical exercising-healthy-eating-superhero who does everything right at all times, you’ll be relatable, trustworthy and genuine.
This level of honesty creates a stronger relationship that is built on trust. Our clients need to trust us as their coaches and trainers to:
- Program appropriately for them.
- Create a safe training environment for them.
- Be kind through their learning process.
- Maintain our commitments to them.
- Believe in their ability to achieve their goals.
As clients learn to feel trust and safety in their training environment and in their relationship with you, they will expand their trust in themselves and see the possibility of accomplishment in that space.
3. Play to their strengths.
A client who is new to training with you is likely to feel a bit awkward and uncertain at the beginning. You can minimize these feelings of uncertainty by designing an exercise program that plays to your client’s strengths.
You don’t need to show off all your skills and exercise knowledge — they have hired you because they already believe in your expertise and skill. Start by designing a program with a handful of exercises that they can master.
You might feel tempted to show off for an intermediate or advanced client who was referred to you after completing post-injury physio. As this client is re-learning how to trust their body and its ability to exercise, you’ll still need to program based on what will develop their confidence and is achievable for them. They may miss the positive feelings and release that exercise gives them. This is an area where you can program based on their body’s current strengths while including exercises that will help them to develop confidence in their body again.
All levels of exercisers need a program design that they can confidently perform on their own.
You also need to have confidence that your clients can perform the exercises without direct supervision. It’s important for clients to be safe, and ensuring that your client feels confident will also strengthen their trust in you.
Consistency Breeds Results
We want our clients to feel capable and motivated to perform their workouts regularly. Programming exercises that make them feel awkward or uncomfortable is the surest way to destroy consistency and motivation. Maintain a solid foundation of trust with your client through exercise design that is based on their strengths while including opportunities to try new things.
As your client progressively gains confidence in their workouts and maintains a consistent routine, they will start to see results and progress toward their goals. Encourage them to take pride in all of the progress along the way. Pride in non-aesthetic changes such as increased mobility and strength, maintaining a commitment to themselves, increased energy, better sleep — these are real changes in a woman’s life.
Remind them that they are the true author of those changes. They have been showing up for themselves consistently. Women are often worried about appearing selfish if they prioritize acts of self-care, but we can remind them that in making and keeping this promise to themselves they are nurturing a relationship with their best friend — themselves.
4. Help them cultivate their self-trust.
Our intuition and true sense of self can help develop trust in ourselves and in others. When we are patient and kind toward ourselves, we learn to trust the messages our body sends us. As we help our clients to foster self-confidence and trust we are also helping them to connect with their inner voice and instincts.
Teach your client to trust their body by using a communication style that they can understand and to which they can relate.
Using exact anatomical terms and internal cues can be confusing for clients who don’t have more than basic anatomical knowledge and who lack experience with physical movement or exertion.
Although you’re talking about specific body parts, your client may not have a strong understanding of the location or function of the body part you’re talking about. This is not to say that clients can’t learn the anatomical names for various parts of their bodies, but initially they want to learn how and why in a way that makes sense to them.
External cues will help them to understand how to perform an exercise (e.g., knuckles to the ceiling, push the floor away). Taking a moment to also explain why you are including an exercise and why certain form cues are important will help them feel like an active participant in their exercise program.
It may take some trial and error to find cues that they understand but when the right cue clicks with them, they will remember it forever. Knowing how and why means that instead of simply going through the motions because their coach said they should, they will have confidence to understand how these movements will guide them toward their goals.
Speak in a way that will help your client understand how to connect with their body and develop a stronger sense of how their body moves. Sometimes silence is key in coaching — knowing when to stop cueing to let your client pay attention to how their body feels while performing an exercise. Paying attention to their inner voice is just as important as the cue itself. Give your client time to process the information you gave them about how and why to perform an exercise, then be quiet to show them that you trust in their body’s ability to perform the movement.
As they gain trust in themselves and their ability to perform a variety of exercises, their motivation to continue to explore their body’s capabilities will grow. This growth in confidence and self-trust will become their greatest motivator to continue working toward their many life goals.
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