A text recently sent to me by a student within my last course inspired my first post for a few months, and finally prompted me to write short piece about how we (as fitness professionals) deliver the technical content within our sessions or classes. More to the point: how we connect with our clients to ensure they get the most of their session.
The text I received thanked me for encouraging self-awareness and improving his ability to connect with those he currently teaches. Creating self-awareness is the first step in the developmental process. He now is attempting to deliver his class/session plan with the foresight of not only giving his client particular exercises, but also considering the method in which he delivers them.
I, like most of the industry, focus on the technical aspects - concentrating on what’s actually being delivered within the class. Being honest, nowadays there isn’t much difference in the core of what a good (well, excellent) trainer delivers within their session. You’ll know an exercise or two that I haven’t thought of using and I’ll know an exercise or two that you may not have thought of using, right?!
So, what makes us different?
Within my courses, I assess each trainer by marking them against a set of KPIs. There are around 12 KPIs, of which half measure the student's actual class plan content. For example: How appropriate is the exercise versus the participant’s ability? And, could you make this exercise a little harder or easier for those who may need to modify the exercise?
The other half measure the trainers’ ability to connect with the class participants. So, in theory, it matters just as much that the trainer connects with each individual on a personal level, as well as a physical level.
So, the way we deliver the same exercises can make all of the difference. The way I talk them through the exercise step-by-step, whilst giving them a visual cue to be aware of, helps them develop an awareness of the muscles we are using and why they are important to engage. I then follow this delivery by creating tactile correction. Whether it be your hands or the client’s, it can create an extremely important experiential feedback loop between [the client's] brain and body.
So, why is all of this important? Other than being a ‘bums on seats’ industry, we can help facilitate our clients’ learning by creating more ‘buy in’. This could produce more engagement from your client, possibly expediting them towards their goal. Now, all of this is hard to measure, however, in my experience, focusing on the former point can be the key to delivering the client holy grail - retention.
Delivering an exercise can be complicated, especially if it is multi-faceted. Focus on how you deliver the ‘need to knows’. Do you simply create verbal cues, or do you create a visual cue by positioning yourself, so that the client can see the angles to your body? Knowing that clients learn in the same way we do, is an extremely important point to acknowledge. Therefore, consider creating both a verbal and visual cue to assist the client’s learning.
Allow your client time to set themselves correctly. Possibly give them a static hold at the start to create awareness of where the client should activate the movement from. Once the client is moving, refrain from giving feedback too soon. This allows the client to refine their movement and create a little internal feedback. At this stage within a class, you could then offer the possible progressions and regressions to this exercise based upon how the client feels at this time.
Within a session/class you can now create an awareness of what the client is working and why it is that we (as trainers) have selected to work this particular muscle/synergy of muscles. We can then follow by pinning this to the client’s goal. You now have a client that is fully engaged with what you are doing.
Let’s now become ‘handsy’! You have previously given both forms of learning facilitation (verbal and visual). Let’s follow this with some kinaesthetic feedback. With appropriate tactile feedback, you can reinforce an instruction that the client has missed within your former learning cues.
During the resting interval, focus on feedback from the previous set. Become focused on summarising the set, rather than becoming drawn into conversation. This creates focus on the session, while keeping things personal with your client.
As always, please feel free to contact me or comment if you have any particular queries about the content of this blog. I hope that this has helped a little, even if it has created a little awareness of what maybe missing within your teaching. Remember, creating awareness is the first step in the developmental process.
Thanks for reading,