When you meet and greet a new client for the first time, are you doing so as a Coach/Trainer making an extra effort to be welcoming, approachable and giving the impression your glad to be part of this clients lifestyle change? Are you making certain your client is thinking they made the right decision in choosing you to help them achieve their fitness goals? Are you making that first impression golden? As Coaches and Trainers we tend to be very social and enjoy helping people attain their goals and to reach their full fitness potential. This is our passion! However, has there ever a time when maybe a new client is not getting the best of what we have to offer due to a preconceived notion or because of the client’s appearance? Have you ever had a client that you just did not want to work with or feel you cannot work with? Are you just having a bad day? This most certainly can happen in our line of work and in our daily lives as well. There may be a time when there is a personality conflict and the working relationship isn’t cohesive. I will always give these relationships a little time as first impressions can sometimes be deceiving and there are times that the client is genuinely nervous about making a fitness commitment. I evaluate what I’m feeling from the client, how I feel when working with the client and how we work as a team. If the professional relationship really isn’t benefiting the client, then I feel that ethically I must step back. I will handle this situation in a professional manner with a very kind, to the point explanation as to why I feel the working relationship isn’t the best for the client and provide the client with a referral to another Coach/Trainer that I feel their expectations are more in line with. This client should never be made to feel that they are unwanted but rather made to feel that you have a better solution for them to attain their goals and their success is important to you. When discussing a situation such as this with your fellow Coaches make certain it’s in a private and secure area. Do not risk the client overhearing this discussion or worse have it repeated by someone who doesn’t know the entire situation but overhears and repeats the conversation. We never want our clients to feel hurt or dehumanized by our words or actions.
I would like to share a personal experience that actually started me on the path to becoming a Certified Wellness Coach. I joined a gym and paid for several personal training sessions. I was never an active person. I truly had no idea how to work out other than to get on the treadmill and walk. I was so excited to meet my trainer. His greeting was “Hey, ready to get started”? No enthusiasm and no questions about what I was looking for as far as my goals and no questions regarding my previous exercise history. This man had no idea I knew nothing about gym equipment. He proceeded to put me on the treadmill for 30 minutes with no explanation and the next 30 minutes on the bike. End of session. I felt cheated and quite honestly embarrassed. I made my second appointment with a bit of dread. I went to the gym and waited. He never showed up and no explanation. I got on the treadmill and did what we did the previous session. I made another appointment for a session and he stood me up again. I really felt defeated. I sat by the door as I was deciding what to do. I unfortunately overheard a conversation about the personal trainer. The gossip girls said he had called off his session because he was tired of working with “fat clients that would never stick to an exercise program”. At that moment I was filled with rage! This trainer didn’t know what my goal was and he made a judgment about me based on my appearance! Sadly, this happens to many obese people in our society and part of the reason this demographic doesn’t go to the gym is because of a fear of being judged! I slinked out of the gym and went home. I got on the internet and started reading blogs (thru my tears) about how to go from couch to 5k, how to weight life and every other piece of information I could get my hands that related to becoming physically fit. I went back to the gym and started applying everything that I read. I was in that gym 6 days a week. I was unstoppable! The judgmental personal trainer did everything he could to avoid me for months. After about 8 months of training on my own, I could run 60 minutes on the treadmill, leg press 200lbs and spend a couple hours just having epic workouts that I designed! I had also lost 175lbs! The personal trainer came over to talk to me one day just as I hopped on to the Stairmaster. I stopped my work out and said to him I knew he had stated he didn’t want to work with me because I was obese and wouldn’t continue exercising. I explained to him that he judged me on my appearance and his judgment was so off course. I had had bariatric surgery and desperately needed to exercise and needed help and he turned his back on me. He apologized and I could see the embarrassment in his very flushed face! I told him if he truly wants to help people realize their fitness goals, that he needed to be less judgmental and more open minded!
I continued being my own personal trainer based off information I’ve acquired. The Spencer Institute and NESTA taught me so much of what I learned prior to becoming a graduate of the Wellness Program. I lost 277lbs in 15 months and could out run most of the others in the gym! I was in beast mode! I became incredibly healthy! I became a competitive runner! I was winning medals! I wanted to share what I learned about getting fit with others. When I saw newbie’s at the gym struggling, I would volunteer the information that I now had so that their workouts would be effective! I knew what my next step was and I took it. I became a Certified Wellness Coach and I did become the type of Coach that I myself had needed to help me get physically fit! Having had the experience I did, I became hyper vigilante about my first impressions and interactions with clients. I always spend a bit of time meditating prior to a Coaching session clearing my mind of everything so that my Client is my sole focus. I greet clients with kind words, a welcoming smile and an emotionally safe, nonjudgmental environment to be in. Be genuinely happy to see your Clients because as Coaches, we are making a huge impact on their lives! Not all clients are going to be easy to work with and these will require extra effort. Sometimes you can win them over and sometimes you can’t! I do what I can to be at my best for my Clients but there are those rare few that may need a different approach and by helping them find a Coach better suited to their needs I am still giving them my best. Make that first impression with your Client a shining one! Let them know they are important and as a team their wellness goals are going to be met. Make certain your client feels comfortable physically and emotionally. With hard work and dedication anything is possible after all…..this chubby duckling turned into an athletic swan!