Sometimes trainers can start thinking of clients as automatons, dehumanizing them to the point of no longer caring for them as people as if their struggles with motivation are there simply to make the coaches life difficult.
Or they, as coaches and people haven't really learned to empathize and care for others as well as they could.
If you're a coach this will sometimes apply to you.
I've fallen into this thinking before and will catch still catch myself falling into bad habits. It certainly made/makes me a less effective coach and this has had a ripple effect on my entire business.
I remember at the start of my career I would find myself moaning about some client or the other because they had the cheek not to love the brutal workouts I put them through.
How rude and inconvenient of them!
How dare they not REALLY ENJOY PUKING THROUGH THEIR NOSE TWICE IN ONE SESSION!? (Sorry Danny.)
I had to have words with myself.
These people were paying for me to waste far too much money to do them a disservice. In fact, people shouldn't even need to pay you or me to do a job well when we've made a commitment to do just that.
My clients; every single one of them, deemed ME important enough to give a couple of hours of their evenings up to do something very challenging when it would be far easier for them to smash through Maniac on Netflix or spend some more time with their partner, kids or both.
Or perhaps doing a 13 hour Assassins Creed binge.
Step 1 towards learning to care is to remember every single one of your clients values you highly enough to give you their finite time, money and to influence their thinking.
They value YOU over every other coach in the world. And these days people have access to coaches all over the world.
Yet they are still coming to you.
Always remember that.
Step 2 is remembering you don't really know how hard it is for each of your clients to make it to the gym even once a week.
You don't truly know how sore each and every session makes someone.
You don't know what it's like to spend hour after hour with you week after week.
I've even had clients that feel sick pretty much every session but keep turning up regardless!
How committed is that!?
I can't say I'd stick to something if it made my vomit every time I do it.
Learn to appreciate how difficult it is for someone to get to you. The hours of traffic, the arguments with partners, the time demands of their job, the ridiculous stress they are under.
It's a huge thing for some people to even dare step into the gym.
Many Personal Trainers have never found it difficult to train or to stick to the gym.
You just turn up and get it done, right?
But for some if not most it just doesn't work like that.
And it's for this reason that it's either those coaches who have suffered adversity themselves or those coaches that learn to appreciate the struggle of their clients who make the best coaches or at least give the best coaching experience because they aren't going to get frustrated with a client when they start to struggle to get to the gym, or get upset in a session or can't always push themselves 100%.
Step 3 is learning not to dehumanize your clients.
Taken to it's extreme dehumanization has resulted in the worst kinds of cruelty towards other humans and has allowed atrocities of massive proportions to occur. As Personal Trainers, it's our job to be the opposite of this. We are working with PEOPLE. With real human problems, living real human lives. To help them change, to facilitate better habits and to be a conscious coach we must avoid treating our clients like machines.
I think many personal trainers do this and to a certain extent it helps to deal with having to make our clients do things which will make them uncomfortable.
By dehumanizing I mean calling a person "client" you can fall into the trap of seeing them as just a number on a page that directly relates to cash flow. Or seeing someone as just a unit of time so rather than seeing your client as Janet, they are seen more like "Mrs 4pm on a Monday" or nothing. Or forgetting that there is a real person behind the high performing athlete that you see before you.
I used to be like this and when a client cancelled with a great reason I would get so annoyed because I'd make slightly less money that day.
"I'm really annoyed Alan hasn't turned up! His Grandma died 2 hours ago and he can't even make it to the gym!"
Which actually meant:
CHRIS IS A MASSIVE DOUCHE.
Or I'd be shocked when a high level athlete had a real person problem like the breakdown of a relationship.
Or I'd entirely forget about a client until it was time for their weekly session again.
You find yourself thinking like that and you need to change that.
Treat people as people. They aren't automatons, numbers on a page or walking cash dispensers.
And your clients value you so you should value them.
You don't have to stop calling your clients "clients" but attaching a name to each and every client when you talk or think about them helps keep you firmly in the realm of caring a great deal for each and every one of them.
"My client John" is infinitely more human than "my client."
There can be times where seeing a client as deeply human can be tough. You know they need to do a couple more sets because they have a crazy event coming up but you know it will make them suffer. It's tough but because you want to help them you'll still be able to push them through, but you'll also be able to step in and help if you are receiving a cry for help from them.
You'll also be able to empathize more effectively and help them through problems in a kind and understanding way.
To use the title of Brett Bartholomew's great book it is certainly about being a "Conscious Coach."
Step 4 is about practicing deeply caring for your clients.
During this step I would encourage you trying to mentally walk a day in their shoes. Imagine looking how they look, being raised how they've been raised or by reacting to training how they do.
Go out of your way to help every one of your clients.
Work hard for them.
If you find yourself getting angry, frustrated or dehumanizing your clients catch yourself before it becomes a habit.
Practice being kind.
Practice remembering people's names and if you can't remember names very well use a mnemonic to help you (looking these up will be fun so I'm not providing a link :P)
If you struggle to care for your clients your business will struggle to make money and you'll struggle to relate to your clients and that is what Personal Training is all about.
If you don't care deeply for your clients and you want to change that then pretend to care relentlessly until it becomes your default mode of operation.
Pretend to care until you can't tell the difference between pretending and not pretending.
For most of us we do care a lot but sometimes we fall into bad habits and find ourselves becoming uncaring, not very good at communicating and sometimes a bit of a dick and that doesn't help anyone.
The point of this article is to get you to care deeply for your clients and if you already do, to do it more relentlessly, to do it more consistently and to eventually do it without having to think about it because the best kind of coach is a caring, conscious coach who communicates well.
Chris is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, writer, man of small stature and reader of The Discworld Series with a decade in the industry.
He trains everyone from beginners to high level athletes. His favourite clients are people getting into the gym for the first time because they can make the biggest changes in their lives.
You can reach me through the email address email@example.com
My Instagram is Chris_Kershaw_Strength.
Thank you for reading!