One thing I have noticed in both great Yoga and and great Spinning® instructors is this common flare for the stating information in a positive light. I am keenly aware of how to present less than favorable information to clients without conveying any negativity as I put 5 trainees through the ACE Personal Trainer course in preparation for the exam this summer. Last night they had a "practical" so they got their feet wet in a big way. We saw about 20 people, each trainee getting to see 4 volunteers from the public across 3 hours. The took a "pre exercise heart rate," blood pressure, a brief history, 3-minute step test, trunk flexibility/extension, shoulder flexibility, and muscular endurance via a push up test and a "crunch" test. Participants were give the opportunity to sit out any test that they didn't think was appropriate. One volunteer knew the 12 inch step up was to much for her knees - others discovered how challenging it was. Wrist pain stopped some push ups and low back issues kept some from doing the trunk flexibility test. The expectation of all of my trainees was to keep it light hearted and fun, because it was really more of an event for the trainees than for the public at large. I had an ear on all of this going on around me for the full three hours.
One thing that caught me by surprise (and it really shouldn't have, given my years of experience) was that the trainees wanted to defer to me when their volunteers got a "poor" reading. I knew that the trainees had, in our practice on each other, joked around about it, but when it came to looking a stranger in the face and delivering some sobering information, like "poor" and "under average" they were stuck, again and again.
The thing is, I could feel empathy welling up and the PT trainees didn't want to hurt feelings, but they forgot their role. As a fitness leader/teacher we should remember that people are turning to us for facts and we should not sugar coat them too much. While you don't have to be mean and insensitive, there are ways to let people know the truth, gently and positively.
It starts with your not having any emotional reaction to the news. No surprise, no disappointment (even if you have been working with that client for years), no tsk tsk tsk. (I know you wouldn't do that....) You have to remove yourself from it and refer to the norms that they are comparing with and understand the test results for the client before you. For example, when one of our volunteers tested as "very poor" for flexibility, she said, "Oh no, I hate yoga. Don't make me do yoga." When I got into the conversation we talked about how valuable having a supple body is, but that simply getting flexible to be flexible isn't all that. Some people who force into flexibility with that flexibility as the end goal end up with compromised joints and instability. With no integrity in their joints, they're in for some trouble later on in life. We talked about increasing her flexibility to off-set the challenges of aging, like being able to get up off the floor and tie her shoes. The "bad news" suddenly became a discussion point for a future goal - a meaningful goal.
The guy who couldn't do push ups was mortified. By the time I entered that conversation, he wasn't looking the trainee in the eye anymore. I asked to see his push up position and noticed a gash on his thumb - which he had hacked yesterday with a machete trying to open a coconut (I live in Cambodia, by the way...). He told me about it and said he thought it was going to pop open while doing the push ups. So we had two avenues to explore. . . that he should maybe take the test when he heals and that as a 25 year old male, if he had the simple goal of doing a push up every day and upping that to 2 push ups every day and so on as he progressed, he would see massive improvements, even if he started in the modified position. (It was a stated goal of taking these volunteers, to not push my or any other PT business - I hate hard sell . . . this was for the PT trainees to practice exclusively...which is why I didn't say "here's my business card...give me a call....)
Anyway, when you are faced in a Spinning® class with negatives, how can you use that as a platform for positives? How would you deal with these negatives?
1. A woman FINALLY shows up to a Spinning® class after months of prompting and she is ready for the class...except all she has is teva sandles.
2. You are expecting a cadence of about 90 to 100 rpm, but your client can't seem to get much over 70.
3. You've offered a 6 minute standing climb. At about 90 seconds or 2 minutes the client sits down, winded.
4. You can see your client pedaling super quick and bouncing in the saddle, despite your coaching...
So, in these four situations you have the opportunity to 1. sit and fester anger toward the client. 2. just tell the client to change 3. show the client changes and guide them through to the change. 4. work with what the client has at that moment, encourage them and speak with the bigger picture in mind, not the failure now
Put up some ideas on one or all of those situations where you could make the most positive interaction occur for the most growth in the client over the long run....
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