Just do it. We are all familiar with that slogan. There is a reason it is so representative in sport and fitness. But what if clients don’t want to just do it? That makes it really hard to get the motivation to get out there and, well, get it done. And for our clients that are just starting out, exercise can be really uncomfortable and not that much fun.
Dread not team — there’s a way to finesse this sitch to help your clients succeed. Find out what your client likes to do in regards to physical activity and leverage that! There are so many ways we can expend energy, get our metabolism up, and build strength.
If the goal is to hype the habit of exercise, then finding a low barrier (an enjoyable activity) makes it easier for your clients to buy into the hype. And the research is there to back up this method.
In multiple studies and fitness organizations     support the use of an enjoyable activity to build regular, and long-term engagement in physical activity.
But what if my client has no idea what they like to do for fun physical activity?
This can be a real challenge. As a coach or trainer, try to encourage your clients to explore many types of physical activity. But be sure to set them up for success first! Spend some time trying to get to know your client before suggesting a particular activity. For example, if they tend to get knee pain perhaps suggesting squash, running, or soccer isn’t a great idea. Aquasize (water aerobics), elliptical, or spin might be better suggestions.
And it can even include less structured forms of physical activity. Dancing, chores around the house, or running around playing with the kids outside are all ways to flex that exploration of physical activity. So be sure to encourage all means of your client moving their bodies.
Set the expectation that they may try some things and dislike them, but to bring you feedback and you figure something else out. This takes the commitment factor away from trying something potentially intimidating to clients new to exercise.
Here is something to consider when making suggestions outside what your client might self-identify as fun; a study conducted at McMaster University found that enjoyment of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIT) increased over the duration of a 6 week period. This was in comparison to moderate continuous training . But this only held true as long as the intervals weren’t too strenuous, or too challenging to complete. The researchers speculated that increasing workload over time adds to the enjoyment of exercise.
What physical activities should I suggest to clients who are starting out their fitness journey?
Starting with activities that are perceived easier may entice your traditionally sedentary client to develop an exercise habit. According to a survey conducted by FitRated, Men and women differ on this topic though .
Men consider the toughest exercise to be running outside (25%), followed by lifting weights (22%), bodyweight exercises (17%), and running on a treadmill (16%).
Women also thought running outside was the most challenging (26%), but then thought bodyweight exercises (22%), and treadmill running (17%) we toughest.
Both groups thought doing yoga and cardio on the elliptical were the least challenging. But remember to keep the experience level of your client in mind. Your client will need to be sufficiently challenged to be engaged in their activity.
Adding the habit of enjoyable activity to a regularly scheduled exercise program
Introducing fun physical activity can be a great way to keep newer clients engaged in their workout programs and exercise for the long-term. As we know, most clients’ goals take a while to obtain, so long-term commitment is great to help them towards achieving their goals!
It can also help you re-engage longer term clients who might be feeling their old workout plan is getting stale. You can do this without needing to abandon their current training plan. As we all know the importance of sticking to a training plan to see progress. Mixing up a client’s training program (without having them change the habit of their program) is a great way to decrease client turn-over.
Exploring generally pleasurable physical activity also helps clients improve their psychological well-being in addition to the extra calorie burn !
So add in this habit once a week (for more established fitness goers), or daily (for those just starting out).
Doing an enjoyable activity in a nutshell:
- Have your clients self-identify physical activities they might enjoy.
- When exploring new activities try to be sure to heavily consider your client’s preferences, physical capacity, and experience level. Set them up for success!
- Add this habit as a bonus aspect to their already set program.
- Marten, R. (2012) Turning kids onto physical activity for life. Quest. Volume 48, 1996 Issue 3: 303-310
- World Health Organization. (1996). The Heidelberg* Guidelines for promoting physical activity among older persons. Aging and Health Programme, Division of Health Promotion, Education and Communication. Heidelberg, Germany: Author.
- Pressman, S. D., Matthews, K. A., Cohen, S., Martire, L. M., Scheier, M., Baum, A., & Schulz, R. (2009). Association of enjoyable leisure activities with psychological and physical well-being. Psychosomatic medicine, 71(7), 725–732. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978
- Heisz JJ, Tejada MGM, Paolucci EM, Muir C (2016) Enjoyment for High-Intensity Interval Exercise Increases during the First Six Weeks of Training: Implications for Promoting Exercise Adherence in Sedentary Adults. PLOS ONE 11(12): e0168534. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0168534