3 things I’ve learned as a client
Paul's journey hasn't just been about seeing physical results. Here he discusses what insights he's gained in being a client, not a PT.
Sometimes instructing rather than coaching IS appropriate
As an advocate of the importance of coaching for personal trainers, it’s probably a bit surprising for me to say this. However I’m not referring to the performance of individual exercises here. Whilst (as you’d expect) I enjoy reading, researching and learning about exercise and nutrition, the thought of having to plan my own diet and training programme for this 12 week project would probably have put me off. Having Shaun email me the programme on a monthly basis, and provide nutrition guidelines with tweaks every couple of weeks meant all I had to focus on was doing it (not that this was easy). For me, perhaps being used to teaching and being the giver of advice and support, being told exactly what to do took the mental pressure off and gave an element of simplicity to the process. It also pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of what I had been prepared to do (see below).
You need to park your own opinion to one side.
A consequence of number 1 is that you must have trust in your personal trainer. As a fit pro myself, I was probably more likely than most clients to have my own thoughts on what we were doing, and whilst Shaun offered good explanations for everything, I was at times sceptical about things that contradicted my beliefs and personal opinion. I remained open-minded though as this was one of the key aspects of Project Paul – seeing what it’s like to work with a PT. I resisted the temptation to disagree with Shaun, beyond just asking for explanations of why we were doing what we were doing which is a legitimate part of the PT/client relationship and should be encouraged. I had to remember that ultimately I hired him as an expert due to his credibility and experience – and, as they say, the proof is in the pudding; if it works, it works!
Behaviour changes don’t just affect you
I consider myself to be well-motivated when it comes to a healthy lifestyle – I enjoy training and eating well, so I didn’t think I would find it hard to adapt to any changes Shaun advised. On the face of it I didn’t – I was already training 3 times a week and I didn’t need asking twice to eat more food. However what I hadn’t fully appreciated was the impact it would have on my family. As I was eating 5 or 6 meals a day, often preparing them in advance for convenience, my wife and son began to think I’d moved into the kitchen permanently. The gym sessions I was doing were also pushing an hour or slightly more in length from the time I left the house to when I returned, rather than the 40-45 minutes I would normally do, and that extra 20 minutes or so meant by the time I got home and served dinner, it was often very late which I was in the dog-house for on more than one occasion…
This led to a sense of guilt that actually made me surprisingly resistant to any new major changes that Shaun suggested. When he wanted me to add in extra high intensity interval sessions on top of my resistance work, my initial reaction was “I can’t do that”, as I didn’t think I had the time (one of my criteria had been a maximum of 3 training sessions a week). This in turn frustrated me as I knew it was a ‘typical’ client response to the suggestion of a new behaviour, and I was determined not to fall into that trap!
It required me to do a bit of self-coaching, firstly to confirm in my own mind the benefits of doing the extra training and therefore want to do it, then to ask the question “how can I achieve this without it impacting on my family?”. Cue 6am HIIT sessions in the local park before they woke up… (“They will be your nemesis or your best friend” said Shaun ominously).
Arguably, as the PT it should have been Shaun that coached me through that process but he knew I had the intrinsic motivation to come up with a solution myself. For less-driven clients this could potentially be a downside of online training.
So being a client has been an insightful experience for me. It’ll be invaluable in helping me develop the School of PT to make sure we provide the most effective education and resources to fitness professionals in order to help you support your clients.