How do I keep my clients on track in the New Year and maintain their motivation?

It’s no secret that January is a busy month for the fitness industry. New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, motivation levels are at an all-time high, and clients are willing to do what it takes to reach their goals.  Then February comes… and more often than not, that fire that was lit inside of so many people seems to go away.

You may have even seen this happen with some of your clients in the past.  No matter what you do, they start off strong and then disappear. Of course, every client is different, so there could be a million reasons why this happens.  However, I am going to break down three of the most common reasons why New Year’s motivation is lost, based on my experiences, and how you can help your clients to push past those barriers.

maintain motivation

  • Unrealistic Expectations

As a society, we tend to crave instant gratification.  I find this to be very true in the fitness world especially.  People may want to get to their desired level of fitness in an impractical timeframe. Or they may see a picture of someone they’d like to emulate physically without even considering genetics or other factors may completely preclude them from looking like that in the first place!

Help your clients separate unrealistic expectations from S.M.A.R.T. expectations.  Sit with them to understand their goals and make sure those goals make sense from a compliance standpoint.

The S.M.A.R.T. acronym has a few synonyms for each of the letters but I like to use the following:

S – Specific (clear and well-defined)

M – Measurable (set parameters to assess ongoing success and progress)

A – Action-Oriented (success is dependent upon certain steps being completed)

R – Realistic (achievable within a reasonable amount of predetermined time)
T – Time-Based (goal attainment is within a certain amount of time that is neither too generous nor too restrictive)

Have you laid out S.M.A.R.T. goals with all of your clients?  If not, January is the perfect time to do this to set the expectation for the New Year!

  • Too Much Too Soon

People tend to be SO overly motivated on January 1st that many go from literally doing zero physical activity to deciding to go to the gym every day.  That’s impressive if they can pull it off and stick with it.  However, it’s generally not a plan that will set them up for success because it is not sustainable.  They may be able to stick with it for a little while but going from zero exercise to exercising every day is a surefire path to a quick burnout and/or injury.

Let your clients know that although it is certainly admirable and a positive lifestyle change to do something active every day, starting off gradually is a much ‘S.M.A.R.T.er’ way to approach fitness.  There are no shortcuts to health and fitness gains, much to the chagrin of those hoping for instant gratification!  We want to keep our clients healthy and injury-free.  This means that progression involves baby steps in the beginning but that is a much better alternative than taking two steps back for every one step forward.

Also, rest days should be encouraged!  Not only do days off give muscles crucial rest but it’s also important for your client’s emotional wellness.  We want to instill good habits within our clients and encourage the consistent but not obsessive behavior.  Remind them that rest days are needed and part of the equation.

In addition, remind your clients that fitness doesn’t necessarily have to be within the four walls of the gym, nor does it have to be a structured workout every day.  Going for a walk, playing catch with a dog, dancing on a date night… are all great forms of active rest and a way to change things up.

  • All or Nothing Principle

Just like eating one healthy meal doesn’t automatically make a person healthy, skipping a workout doesn’t automatically make a person fat.  It’s all about the sum of the parts… the whole picture.  How a person lives their life and what they do on a regular basis is what sets the tone for their health and fitness status.

You may find some clients are seemingly doing great but then have a few potato chips that weren’t ‘on plan’ or had to skip a workout one day… so they consider it a complete loss and proceed to skip all workouts for the rest of the week or eat the entire bag of chips.  If your client leans towards perfectionist tendencies, then this scenario probably sounds familiar!

This ‘all or nothing’ thinking is a big reason why people get thrown off track. If you suspect that this is happening to a client, help them realize that they have the power to turn it around in that moment.  One mistake doesn’t cancel out all of their hard work up to that point.  They can choose to make a healthier decision for their next snack or meal and immediately get back on track.

We can’t expect our clients, or ourselves, to be perfect at all times.  Fitness should be a journey.  There will be some cake eaten certain days (hopefully!) and some missed workouts along the way because life happens.   However, help your clients realize that making an authentic effort towards their goals, coupled with an understanding that perfection doesn’t exist, will have the most impact in keeping them on track and maintaining that motivation.

Maureen Faherty

Moe oversees corporate wellness and fitness initiatives as a Wellness Specialist for a financial services company and all their U.S. locations.She is also a Personal Trainer at Harvard Business School and the creator of Fitness MoeJo, a blog in which she shares advice, personal experiences and inspiration on maintaining a healthy, fit lifestyle.

She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Framingham State University and a M.S. in Physical Education/ Strength & Conditioning from Bridgewater State University. She is certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and with USA Weightlifting as a Sports Performance Coach.

Moe lives in Boston where she keeps busy crossing things off her fitness bucket list.
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