Sunday, June 25, 2017

Should you be honest with clients?

Should we tell clients the truth? I'm not saying we are outright lying to them, but much of the time we are not being entirely honest with them about what it will take to achieve their goals.

Imagine someone books a training session with you or enquires about training with you.

There are three key scenarios where you can be honest, or try and convince the client otherwise or essentially kick them into touch and realize your services are not the best for for them.

Scenario one: Being honest and about frequency and consistency.

Initial consultation or chat, the person tells you they can train once a week, maybe twice ( hint: this means they are coming once every 2 weeks at best). You know they can't achieve anything on this schedule. Should you be honest with them? Or start working with them, and hope they gradually form the habit, start enjoying exercise and build up to three times a week? Anyone who has worked in a commercial gym knows that option 2 is rarely successful.

We all know ideally it takes 3-5 sessions a week, focus and at least some acknowledgment that nutrition is part of the puzzle.

On the other hand, we don't want to burst anyones bubble. They have taken the step to walk into a gym, to push out of their comfort zone; however their expectations do not match the level of effort they are willing to put in.

Now. I'm not talking about the motivated people, who are going to train by themselves consistently, and want a programme and check in session once a month.

This is more the people,who decide they don't want to do anything in the programme you've written. And between follow up appointments it transpires they haven't done any training and have basically ignored your programme.

I was speaking to a colleague about all the programmes he has written, all the individual/ bespoke programmes. He was going through the names, and realized that at best 10% had actually done the programme.

That is a lot of wasted time and effort. The thing is you don't always know who is going to be the one who sticks with it.

Scenario two: I want to tone up, lose weight and not bulk up.

As the conversation moves on in your initial consultation, the client will tell you their goal, or a vague idea of a goal. If you have worked in fitness for more than a week, then the phrase you will hear nearly everyday from women is 'I want to lose weight, and tone up, I don't want to bulk up'.

Occasionally, you get a guy who also says they don't want to bulk up, but a more common guy phrase is 'I don't need to work on my legs, as I play football'. At which point you laugh in that guys face.

But seriously, back to toning. The great industry lie. We know that muscles either get bigger or smaller, fat percentage goes up or down. Yes, in the initially phase of training, a person may start by recruiting more of their current pool of muscle fibres, and become more 'neurally efficient' but at some point if you want to see an actual visual change, some muscle mass is going to have to be generated.

Mention this and a look of panic will wash over the woman's face. 'I don't want to bulk up'. It turns out they are the genetically gifted  0.001% of the female population who easily bulks up, who could have entered Ms Olympia if they had so wished and won based on training twice a week, eating 40 grams of protein a day and a post workout Prosecco.

So you point out all the guys in freeweight area who have taken enough pre-workout to stun a horse, and are trying to mainline protein to get an extra millimetre on their biceps, and are training 7 days a week.

But no, she is different, she will bulk up. You say weights and muscle mass and all she sees is Dorian Yates (or Gal Ferrera Yates, if you want to use the google). Now, of course, some women do want to do this, but mostly they aren't walking into a commercial gym to have a sit down with a trainer, 95% of women you will ever see will say they want to lose weight and tone up.

Dorian Yates back is so big: easily achieved on twice a week of a machine circuit and a bar of dairy milk. Source: every bodybuilding internet forum.

As my colleague once said to some women, 'why do you think it is my interest to make you look like something you don't want to be? If I did that, I would be out of a job, I wouldn't have any clients, Its in my interest to help you achieve the look and fitness you want.' I paraphrase here of course, I wasn't recording the conversation, but you get the idea.

You explain to the woman that lifting heavy weights at low reps might be the way to go, but this goes against the perceived wisdom, this is what big guys do. You explain all about testosterone levels in men compared to women, but she has already glazed over. She's thinking toning occurs with high reps and lots of volume, right, like in toning classes? Which bizarrely, is the thing that research shows causes increases in muscle mass given the right nutrition etc. (See Schoenfelds research on high rep ranges, 25 reps plus).

You could stay true to your ideals. Or nod your head, say you've got the perfect toning programme, mix in some machines, cardio, light dumbbells, and sprinkle in a couple of strength exercises under the guise of toning exercises. Bingo, everyones a winner, she gets results and you keep your client.

Scenario three: The trainer lies to themselves.

When you first start training people you need clients. And you may be paying monthly PT rent you need to cover. Therefore, how likely are you to turn down a client? You are just starting out, but suddenly your level 3 qualification means you can train everyone.

Can that person really be an expert on triathlon training, back pain, all injuries, marathon training, getting someone contest ready for figure competition and write comprehensive nutrition plans for everyones needs?

Or like the classic insta-chump coach, everyone get the same fully customized training and nutrition plan regardless.

You might get lucky, and someone you train wins something, gets a pro card or their injury heals up. Of course, genetics and time had nothing to do with this, it was your training programme.

This is where the industry is at now. Whereas, Alberto Salazaar is never going to coach 100m runners, some PTs can apparently coach everyone.

Wouldn't it be better to refer out, admit you don't actually have a nutrition qualification and are therefore not meant to write nutrition plans; and you don't have MRI x-ray vision and can't fix their injury, but they should go to an actual person who's job it is to do that. If Eric Cressey is referring out, then may be some trainers should do as well.

If you're in it, you're in it.

The above spiel wasn't meant to give any answers. It just is the way the industry is. Of course, adherence rates and the number of people achieving their goals is probably the same as it ever was, so what have we got to lose by telling the truth? If a business model is already broken, then abandoning it to try something new can't be any worse.

Ultimately, it comes down to the art of coaching. That indefinable ability to get the best out of people, to tell them what they want to hear when they start, and gradually shape the conversation as they continue to train. If they get results they wont care. But it's going to be difficult when so many coaches promise the earth, quick fixes and easy solutions. If you're new to the industry, do what it takes, don't starve because you think everyone should do 5x5 barbell work, but keep your integrity as a coach as well.

Slim Charles: The Wire