Personal Trainer Factsheet
Fitness Career Planning - Why Personal Trainers need client feedback

Structured feedback from clients is a valuable means of assessing whether your personal training service provision is on the right track

You may think that you’re providing great personal training sessions, giving excellent customer service and that your client is thoroughly enjoying their workouts with you, but is this really the case?

Structured feedback from clients is a valuable means of assessing whether your personal training service provision is on the right track and gauging how your client is getting on. Use it well and be receptive to listening to what your clients have to say and you’ll be well on track to developing a thriving business and personal trainer career to match.

Feedback Methods

Different clients will prefer to feedback in different ways so it’s useful to have a variety of methods in place for them to do so.

  • Weekly review meetings between the Personal Trainer and client.
  • Ask your client to complete a feedback form on the weeks training.
  • Email dialogue
  • Text
  • Whats App
  • Facebook

Why Structured Feedback is so Important

To maximise the encouragement you give it is vital to have a system of structured feedback in place that your client is on board with. This is central to exercise adherence and programme success and ultimately the attainment of your client’s goals. It should therefore come as no surprise that effective feedback is inextricably linked to motivation.

There are two types of motivation; extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

What is extrinsic motivation?

Extrinsic motivation occurs where humans are driven to perform a behaviour or activity so that they can earn a reward or are able to avoid punishment from an external source. For example, a client whose reward for dropping a dress size was the gift of a new handbag by her partner could be said to be extrinsically motivated. The behaviour is motivated by a desire to gain the external reward.

What is intrinsic motivation?

Intrinsic motivation occurs where humans are driven to perform a behaviour or activity because it is personally rewarding to them. This in turn generates an internal desire to participate in the activity. For example, a client with a particularly stressful job participates in weekly running and yoga sessions. They find the endorphin release generated from the run and the calming effect of the yoga create a positive means to manage their stress.

Extrinsic motivation can be very beneficial in the short term to assist clients develop motivation and adherence with your exercise programme. External rewards where used effectively can induce interest and consistent participation which will deliver results up to the point that the reward is obtained. However, in most cases to deliver long-term results your clients need to become intrinsically motivated. The use of positive praise and structured feedback has been found to be highly effective in increasing intrinsic client motivation.

Routes to Intrinsic Motivation – the three piece puzzle

The first is autonomy. Allow your clients the freedom to get on with their exercise programme without the need for constant hand holding. You can advocate autonomy in the following two ways.

1 – When they do it (time allocation) – Allow your clients to have flexibility over when they complete their exercise programme outside of your sessions.

2 – How they do it (technique) – Don’t dictate how clients should complete their programme. Provide initial guidance and then allow them to tackle the programme in the way they see fit rather than having to follow a strict procedure.

The second is expertise. Facilitate through your training ways for your clients to become better at something that matters to them. The tasks you agree should stretch the body and mind in a way that makes the effort itself the reward and of course be realistic and achievable. You can develop client expertise by using three essential ingredients; autonomy, clear goals and immediate structured feedback.

The third is reason. This relates to your client’s emotional reason behind their fitness goals. For example, if losing a stone means that your client feels they will be able to be to keep pace with their children, this highlights the reason behind their exercise programme. By using words like “us” and “we” when communicating with your client you can show you are a united team and inspires clients to feel part of a greater cause.

Mapping the Pathway to Goals

Goals provide a method for the trainer to:-

  • Measure client progress
  • Provide specific targets to reach
  • Ensuring your client is staying on course to achieve an underpinning long-term goal, where applicable
  • Provide motivation and a reason to continue training

You and your client should set these checkpoints which typically will contribute towards the main long-term goal. So, for example, if the long-term target for your client is to lose 2 stone, then one of the checkpoints could be to lose 4lbs of body weight within the first 3 weeks.

Setting and achieving these short-term goals greatly assists your client in staying on the right track to achieve their long-term goal. Because these checkpoints are short-term, they will feel within reach and therefore will encourage clients to work harder to achieve the interim checkpoint.

If you continue to set checkpoints with your client it will make them more persistent in terms of achieving these goals and thus decrease the time it takes for them to achieve their overall goal. This is because they will be working more intensely as they strive to attain those intermediate stages.

Knowing that the checkpoints set are only intermediate steps will help clients maintain focus because they will be working in a shorter time frame, and the closer the deadline approaches in that period the more determined they will become.

A note of caution however. Life can throw clients curve balls that can get in the way. Fail to seek, tackle and remedy feedback related to how they are getting on outside of your sessions and these lifestyle factors can quickly usurp even the best of intentions.

Goal Setting Best Practice

It is important to set the difficulty of intermediate stages appropriate for the client concerned. Each stage should be challenging, but the aims should be realistically achievable.

If you make a target too hard then you will not only succeed in lowering client motivation and morale, but you will also probably lose their business as well.

On the other hand, if you make the intermediate stages too easy offering little challenge to the client, then they will feel that little has been achieved with the consequences that they will possibly start losing focus making it considerably harder to attain the final goal. What’s more they may start questioning the value they are gaining from their financial investment.

If an agreed goal is achieved relatively easily you need to make a note of that and make the next goal more difficult. This will ensure your client remains motivated. Yes another example of the power behind awesome feedback which can only be good for your fitness career prospects!

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