Conduct and oversee teams’ personal training sessions for 20+ years and you will observe scores of styles and approaches. Certainly, there are some that hold merit, but is there truly a “best in class”? What if you inherit a team of trainers with an array of different strengths, credentials, and exercise beliefs? Should we aim for a “blended” approach? Moreover, what if you’re a relatively new personal training manager — what can you espouse without creating gimmicks and/or “robotic” trainers?
Let’s establish what personal training personas are seemingly prevalent — along with some pros and cons for each (Table).
DOES PERCEPTION EQUAL REALITY?
Be honest with yourself — as you read through these so-called training “styles,” which one(s) resonate(s) with your sessions lately? As a personal training manager, take heed that your team members may fall prey to some of these from time to time. For instance, if a client’s progress has stagnated, should one’s mind-set be “Alright, it’s time for me to give them tough love … every set today aside from warm-ups will be taken to muscular failure … along with a super hard met-con to the finish”? What if instead this client is fighting a virus or changing jobs … and has had limited sleep during the week due to a sick child at home?
Another prime example relates to trainers that get busier (building to a certain goal or sessions per week) and may tend to take on the “flavor of the day” persona. “No time to program this week, so I guess Wednesday will be TRX and med ball work for all my clients.” Looks keen to the passerby; however, this probably is contradicting at least 50% to 60% of the client goals (short- and long-term) that day.
Your training team needs to be sensitive to how they’re perceived — not only by their clients but also by other club members, staff, and management. These perceptions (if grounded by negativity) may cost your club additional members, training revenue, and/or create needless banter/rumors among other clients. This starts with playing to one’s strengths — but not at the expense of:
- client goals
- training “IQ” (Are you training at or above your credentialing “level”?)
- client retention and/or satisfaction
DOES A CONSULTATIVE APPROACH REALLY WORK?
Let’s delve into the finer details of what a coaching or consultative training session might involve:
- Trainer uses science as a basis for creating a framework; however, they garner real-time information to make each session more productive, communicating with empathy and keeping the bigger picture (long-term goals) in focus.
- Trainer takes an “inventory” often:
- ◯ Encourages proper exercise form using positive remarks and reinforcement.
- ◯ Tracks session intensities — uses periodization rather than a one-size-fits-all regime.
- ◯ Uses RPE — sometimes as a primary indicator for progression whereas at other times it is just supporting other KPIs (heart rate, recovery, sets, reps, total volume/distance, rep cadence, TUT, improved form/ROM, etc.).
- ◯ Adjusts goal setting and refers to the periodization “blueprint” for motivation and driving results.
- ◯ Gives client homework (cardio, strength, myofascial release, mindfulness activities, etc.) and always follows up with reminders.
- ◯ Keeps a close eye on exercise frequency, intensity, time — knowing when to progress/regress or completely change things up for productivity sake.
Fitness Center Manager Michelle Beamonte, from Premise Health, describes what it means to be consultative — while still maintaining a productive edge with her clients: “I do not believe in intimidation when it comes to training, but I do believe in hard work and dedication. There’s a reason my clients come to me for help … they know they will get a challenging workout they would never do by themselves … and they’ll do it without someone yelling in their face.” When asked about apprehensive clients or when striving to push into unchartered workout territory, Michelle continues, “If any of my clients ever say ‘There’s no way I can do that’ after I explain what the workout entails, I always slap on a huge smile and tell them, ‘YES you can’! … Don’t worry, we’ll work together as a team to accomplish this and you’ll thank me later!’”
In summary, here is a “call to action” for personal training managers who wish to drive more of a coaching/consultative mind-set with their respective teams:
- Keep the finish in mind when programming (i.e., coach trainers to create a realistic roadmap based on the SMART principle).
- Dig into the details, but recommend that trainers use them with discretion (too much jargon or overwhelming kinesiology could disenchant certain clients).
- Know your staff (be cognizant of “party crashers” … team members whose communication/training style is detrimental to your department/club).
- Celebrate small wins (sessions, revenue, win-backs, testimonials, new equipment, and certifications … these all add up to better quality and enhanced products).
- Equitability — be fair with sales leads, be objective with trainer praise, and be liberal with the amount of constructive feedback to both staff and clients.