You hear your clients say these things all the time.
“I can only do girl pushups.”
“I need to lose these lunch lady arms.”
“I can’t get rid of this baby weight.”
“I need to look like those fitness models on Instagram.”
Whether they know it or not, this kind of self-talk is very negative. In fact, it can actually have the opposite effect on their self-esteem and body image than what they were trying to achieve by signing up with you in the first place.
But it’s not just your clients! Let’s reflect on how you as a trainer are using language to convey your message. Rather than a self-conscious, negative view on training and coaching, let’s be positive!
Here are a few phrases personal trainers should avoid.
#1: “If you can’t do a regular push-up, try a girl push-up as a modification”.
You might have said this without thinking twice because it’s a common phrase, but try looking at those words through a different perspective. If you’re coaching a woman who is trying her best to increase her strength, yet is currently unable to perform a push-up without knees touching the ground, it’s probably discouraging at best (and sexist at worst!) to indicate that the “lesser” push-up applies to women.
Let’s change that phrase to something more inclusive and motivating. Why not say, “If you’re working towards a no-knee push-up, continue with a modified push-up with knees on the ground.” That sounds way more motivating than the first phrase and is more gender-positive as well.
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#2: “Push harder, stop whining, let’s go!”
At first glance, you might think that this is a motivational phrase. Yet, if we look a little deeper, you may see that again, this phrase can be viewed as negativity, rather than a positive message of motivation to your client.
First, as a trainer, you always want to make sure your client is getting a safe and effective workout. If you’re telling your client to push harder, they may actually injure themselves if they’re already putting out max effort.
Instead, provide “safe” motivation by saying something like, “Alright, you got this, give a little more if you can!” This gives them more a persuasive option to challenge themselves.
Another thing to note is that you can use your personal relationship to help clients understand that you’re a team, and it’s not just a client-to-trainer relationship. Try saying something like, “Okay, we have 10 more reps here, let’s get through this together!” Statements like those are encouraging, motivating, and inclusive for both your client and yourself. After all, your client signed up with you to work together, right?
#3: “These [insert name of exercise] are going to help you lose that baby belly.”
There’s a lot wrong with this statement.
This phrase offers no empathy to the mother who has just grown a whole human in their body for the past nine months. Even though her body has changed, she is still working hard. She’s doing a wonderful job in putting in the time for herself to gain her confidence and strength back postpartum!
I use the word “empathy” because that’s exactly what a client is looking for in a trainer. Maybe for trainers, working out and eating healthy comes naturally, but for many people, it doesn’t. Your client wants to know that you can understand their point of view, and provide supportive guidance with a healthy routine made just for them.
Instead of the above phrase let’s try, “These [insert name of exercise] are going to help you strengthen that core!”. That sounds way more encouraging, doesn’t it?
Think about some phrases you might use in your training that could be altered by just a few words to sound more gender-inclusive and encouraging!
In order to create a safe and motivating environment for your clients, let’s be positive. Make sure your client knows just how special they are for coming to train with you and how as a team you two can accomplish anything. Remember, that’s why they hired you as their trainer in the first place!
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