You may be educated, experienced, and give great advice — but giving advice isn’t enough.
To be a life-changing fitness pro, you need to take responsibility for both the advice you offer, and your client’s ability to follow that advice. Yes, even those “difficult clients.” The ones other fitness professionals tell you to fire.
Here at Precision Nutrition, we don’t fire our clients. We take a completely different approach.
In this 4 part video series – filmed live at the 2011 Perform Better Summit in Long Beach, California – we’ll share that approach with you. And, by the end of the series, you’ll be better equipped to get unbelievable results with every type of client you work with. Even the challenging ones.
We all have them: those “problem clients”. (It’s OK to admit it.)
Some appear to be “great clients” at first. They show up for all their training appointments. They listen attentively when we talk about nutrition and lifestyle. Some even memorize shopping lists, calorie counts, and meal plans.
Despite all this, they sometimes get poor results.
So we push them harder during the workouts, give them less food, add more cardio, and cycle their calories. But, as the weeks turn into months, nothing changes.
The client is frustrated, we’re frustrated, and left with only one logical explanation: they’re lying. They can’t possibly be doing what we recommend.
Other clients never even get that far.
While they’re present for all training appointments, they won’t even pretend to care about nutrition and lifestyle change. Indeed, when it’s time to talk their diet and their daily practices: They. Just. Never. Listen.
We’re not just educators; we’re coaches
When faced with difficult clients, many of us throw up our hands. “It’s not our fault!” we exclaim. We can only provide the education. It’s our client’s job to do the rest. Right?
Well, not exactly.
Over the past 10 years, the Precision Nutrition team has coached thousands of people in what many consider to be the world‘s largest body transformation program. We’ve helped clients lose fat, get healthy, and change their lives. The results have been incredible. To date, over 180,000 pounds have been lost and thousands of lives changed.
We’ve also spent a tremendous amount of time learning subjects that traditionally go beyond the boundaries of exercise and nutrition, such as coaching theory. Change psychology. Neuroscience.
After working with all these people, charting their progress and behavior changes, and applying the latest exercise, nutrition, and coaching strategies, we can only draw one conclusion: Helping clients change — using the best practices of change psychology — is the only way to have long-term success in this field.
In other words, helping clients take the next positive step in their lives — and knowing what steps are right for them — is the key to becoming a life-changing fitness professional.
Compliance and the medical field
Coaching people through their struggles with compliance isn’t always easy. However, it’s not a challenge reserved for fitness pros.
I was shocked when I first learned that doctors report embarrassingly low compliance rates when prescribing life-saving heart disease, diabetes, and cancer medications. In fact, the latest data suggest that patients take these medications only half the time.
Scary, for sure. Also a little intimidating. Exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle changes are (let’s just say) a bit more involved than asking people to swallow a magic pill.
What’s your success rate?
Keeping compliance issues in mind, typically, if a trainer has 20 clients in their roster, their client breakdown looks something like this:
- 1 client gets incredible results
- 9 clients get decent results, but could be better
- 6 clients don’t do well at all
- 5 clients drop out
It’s a little disturbing. And I should know. I’ve been there.
I began my career as a trainer and I can tell you that I struggled through the same challenges. I wondered: why are more than half my clients getting poor results or dropping out? And why are so few of my clients achieving incredible transformations?
At the time, my solution was to learn more. So off to grad school I went.
What I didn’t learn in grad school
After a few years in the field, I decided to go back to graduate school. I figured I needed to learn more about exercise and nutrition so I could help my clients achieve those incredible transformations they all sought.
Five years later, after spending a ridiculous amount of time and money earning a PhD in exercise and nutritional science, I was a little disappointed. While I wouldn’t trade my grad school experiences for the world, when I got back out into the field I wasn’t much further along.
I learned that it wasn’t the high level physiology stuff that was tripping my clients up. Instead, it was the simple habits and practices built into their daily lives. Unfortunately I hadn’t learned anything about helping clients with those.
In other words, your programs aren’t missing any mystery nutrient or exercise protocol. They’re missing change psychology.
When I realized this, I completely reworked our coaching approach here at Precision Nutrition. And the more we learned about change psychology, the better the results our clients achieved.
Learning the basics of change psychology
If you’re interested in learning more about this dynamic field, the best way to get acquainted is to read a few excellent, and landmark, books:
- The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
- Influence by Robert Cialdini
- Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and colleagues
- Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
- The Blackmail Diet by John Bear
- Motivational Interviewing by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick
These books will open your eyes to a whole new way of coaching.
For example, one of my biggest ah-ha moments came when reading Motivational Interviewing. Until I read this book it never really occurred to me that with my coaching strategies I could be making my clients less likely to change.
That’s right, even with the best of intentions, even if I deeply care about helping my clients, my own agenda — even my language! — could literally make my clients less able to make important changes in their lives.
Powerful stuff. Lessons we all need to learn if we want to be the best fitness pros we can be.
Wrap-up and today’s takeaways
That’s it for part 1 of The Compliance Solution.
For now, here are some key points.
- Real world coaching requires a mix of physiology and psychology. Psychology is perhaps the most important of the two.
- To improve your knowledge of change psychology, start with Motivational Interviewing. It’s the best book on coaching behavior change that I’ve ever read. The insights come fast and furious.
- For most clients their biggest stumbling block is compliance: the ability to do what they know they should do. Understanding how to help them overcome their limiting factors is the most important skill you can have as a coach. For more on this, check out part 2 of this series.
Take the next step
Regardless of which field you’re coming from, developing your skill set and becoming a great coach takes education and practice.
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
You can help people build sustainable nutrition and lifestyle habits that will significantly improve their physical and mental health—while you make a great living doing what you love. We'll show you how.
If you’d like to learn more, consider the PN Level 1 Nutrition Coaching Certification.