Making Reality Sink In

Now that we’ve survived the dawn of yet another New Year filled with resolution followers, we are faced with the calm after the storm. This short period of rest before the threat of bikini season offers us time to reflect on our efforts. Where have all our new group participants gone and what happened to the pleading phone calls from clients who just had to meet with us at least three times a week? We did come up with creative combinations to energetic music and programs using the most up to date equipment.

Let’s be honest, we are still searching for the magic formula that will ensure long term adherence to our fitness programs. In the post-holiday fury, did we really take the time to discover the true factors that motivated all those people to engage in our services? Of course: feeling fit, weight loss, enhanced quality of life, but why with us? Why not a new videotape, a machine, a book or a diet? Motivation of course!

I’m always surprised when I first meet with a client and they tell me that they’ve hired me to “get some motivation”. Do they think that we purchase it in a secret speciality store for 2.99$ a pound? I explain to them that the mere fact that they’ve taken the time to contact me, the effort to come meet with me and that they’re willing to spend a fair amount of money proves to me that they’ve taken the first critical steps on the motivational path. I then assure them that I will do my best to keep the flame alive, thanks to personalized programs, motivational strategies and plenty of fun, but that the gist of work rests on their shoulders. Their success will depend on the organization of their time and strong self-discipline.

I’m often accused of over-simplifying it and I do because it is simple! We need to stop deluding ourselves. A great majority of the people who are costing us billions in health care would see a marked improvement in their health and wellness if they would follow Canada’s Food Guide and move more. Forget fancy diets and expensive apparatus; we just need to increase the quality of our food choices as well as decrease the quantity and start walking… period.

I can see you coming…if it’s so simple than why do so many people fail? I’ve recently developed a theory about that. Imagine the effect on a person’s self esteem when they realize the cause of their mediocre health is not lack of information, nor the poor new aerobics instructor, nor the classic “lack of time” but rather themselves and them alone…guilt trip. We live in a world where people have become incapable of taking responsibility for their actions and where we can no longer rely on each other so how can we expect people to rely on themselves?

We all love the feeling of gratification that comes from a client saying that we are to thank for their success but beware; you can’t take the credit for success unless you’re willing to accept the blame for failure! As health and fitness professionals, we must put the weight of responsibility back onto our clients and participants shoulders. I know that the initial sinking in of reality will be painful but eventually, taking back control will become a source of energy, confidence and pride.

That said there are many methods of helping them take the blame off everything else. Here are a few examples of ways for keeping it real that may be helpful when trying to ensure personal responsibility.

An integral part of my health promotion programs consist of helping clients become conscientious of their eating habits. Our first step, kitchen rotation, has them inspect the refrigerator and the pantry in order to put all the healthy items in front and the ones to be avoided in the back…if the back portion is full it’s time to go grocery shopping. Clients often return form this task stating that they can’t get rid of all the junk food because they don’t want to deprive their children just because they are struggling with their health. My first response is rather suspicious; are they actually trying to convince me that they don’t have a hand in the cookie jar the minute the kids are in bed? I then proceed to offer them a gift-certificate for 30 years from now so that when their children become adults and they suffer from the same problems, they’ll have a place to go.

We can all snack on chips and candies from time to time, but in excess it’s just as harmful if not more to the next generation. They will profit just as much form some veggie snacks and healthy meals and while you’re at it, go out and play with them! The whole family will win.

Another one of my favourites: Clients cancelling their 6:00 PM sessions because they have too much unexpected stuff to take care of at that time. I’ve discovered that the mere threat of an early morning workout lends positive results! It’s easy to see why very few things can slow you down before a 6:00 AM workout. The bonus of an early workout is that you eliminate the potential excuse that they lack energy after a long day at the office or home. Eliminating obstacles is an integral part of our work and the better armed we are, the more our clients will profit.

There are a few weeks left before the springtime rush which offers us the opportunity to optimize prevention. We can help our clients and participants persevere in their health endeavours once and for all.

I suggest to you the following path in order to counter the high dropout rates that we must face: offer your clients and participants the greatest amount of fun during their workouts and give them constant reality checks. Good luck!
Nathalie holds a degree in psychology and Master’s in exercise science offering her expertise relating to exercise adherence and motivation. A Can-Fit-Pro Pro Trainer, Nathalie is a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer (YMCA, Can-Fit-Pro, ACSM) and has over 8 years experience in physical activity and wellness.

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