Evolved Personal Training: Goals and Motivation

My development as a trainer has led me to learn more about goals and motivation. This musing is about the path that my career has taken to this point.

Continuing on with a series of posts about how I've evolved personal training, I wanted to write about how I've grown my approach to goals and motivation.

If you haven't read the previous posts, I explained here and here that I would be taking the time out to informally walk through my background and how I've grown in my career as a personal trainer.

This is a musing about the business of training so, I wouldn't blame you if you skipped this one.

Anyhow, let's carry on.

I synthesized a good portion of my knowledge in What You Need to Know About Goals and Motivation. At the time of writing, I was proud because I shared that post with a psychologist and she was impressed enough to share it with her followers.

Now, I'm not an expert in behaviour change or any other field for that matter. Before making any sort of changes or taking anything from me, I'd recommend that you consult with your preferred specialist.

Behaviour change is hard for anyone, let's talk about how I work to get better at helping clients reach their goals.

Evolved Personal Training: Goals and Motivation

Becoming a better coach is an endless pursuit that can take you in a number of directions. These areas can include nutrition, supplements, goal setting and behaviour change, chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis, knowledge of exercise and movement, pain, pregnancy, etc.

(There is also one glaring problem for many new trainers in the industry-they don't teach business functions that even trainers at big box gyms need to learn, sales, marketing and finance.)

I always refer out and tell someone when I don't know an answer to something because there's no way that one person can know it all;

  • An expert on nutrition is a Registered Dietitian (RD).
  • Psychologists are experts in behavior change.
  • Physical Therapists (PT) are true movement specialists.

As you can see, if you love learning, this might be the field for you.

Most of what I've learned about goals and motivation has come from a few places. The primary source that I refer back to at this moment is Motivational Interviewing in Nutrition and Fitness by Dawn Clifford and Laura Curtis.

I bought and read Motivational Interviewing after speaking with Dr. Lisa Lewis following her presentation at a conference. (I'd started on the original Motivational Interviewing text by Miller and Rollnick but it was real dense).

The most important parts of motivational interviewing are almost self-evident. Actively listening to what people are telling you and then using what you've heard to help someone develop their own path of action.

I wish that I read this book sooner in my career.

A lot of new personal trainers fall into the same trap that I have-Clients come to you with questions and you want to feel like you always have an answer. I've spent countless hours studying over the past 5 years to try and remedy this problem. If I do not know an answer to a question I feel a deep sense of shame and stupidity.

This has gotten better, I've realized that it's impossible to know it all but, I can still make progress.

On a couple of occasions now, I've consulted with counseling psychologists to learn more about my scope of practice and what I can do to help my clients. Motivational interviewing has become a tremendous asset in assisting people.

When a client starts planning a change, it helps me to get a sense of where they're at. Some people refer to this sort of thing as lifestyle coaching.

Everyone wants to reach their goals but, right now, what is the next step that we need to take in that journey?

  • What changes, if any, is this person ready to make right now? (not changing is a choice too)
  • Do we need to spend time brainstorming options?
  • How can we scale goals so that they're relevant and realistic to where this person is right now?

In the past, some clients were asking me for help and I gave them unsolicited advice. Instead of telling them what I thought was best given their questions, I should have listened more.

There are tools to help accomplish this.

Counselors in both nutrition and therapy often have clients journal and just take note of what is going on in their life before making changes. Registered Dietitians refer to this as a 24 hour recall or a 3 or 7 day food log. Before making changes, it can be helpful to know where you're starting from.

Interested in Learning More?

If you're interested in behaviour change, I would recommend motivational interviewing as a fundamental text.

My favorite "change" podcast to listen to is Choiceology by Katy Milkman. In each episode, (outside of season one) Dr. Milkman walks us through stories that teach us how we can make better decisions in life.

Chip and Dan Heath wrote a great book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, that's really come in handy. My favorite question to ask a client comes from there, "what would you tell your best friend in this scenario?". It helps me and others give themselves specific, actionable advice on what to do next.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein is one of my favorite reads as well. In Nudge, we learn about how we can make behaviour change easier by designing our situations to be more in line with our goals.

I'm not an expert in this area so, I'm going to stop here for now. Thanks for reading!

Phone: 1-573-443-1495

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