Lessons from a personal trainer

By Casey Dorrell | February 7, 2014 | Last updated on February 7, 2014
3 min read

Personal trainers have been working overtime to build plans for people who made fitness resolutions. But the good ones keep their clients lifting weights long past the post-holiday exercise binge.

We talked to Jodi Livingston, a personal trainer with Goodlife Fitness in Halifax, to find out how she keeps people motivated.

Problem: A client has unrealistic expectations: he thinks he can shed 50 pounds in just two months.

Solution: “Explain that it’s a good goal, but the timeframe needs revisiting,” says Livingston. To avoid discouraging clients, she sets multiple, shorter-term goals.

“It’s easier to stay on track because they can see the change,” she says. She also finds out why they want to achieve those goals.

The client who wanted to lose weight? He’s going on vacation and wants to look toned in his trunks. Maybe 50 pounds isn’t realistic, but he could lose an inch off his waist or tone his arms.

This way, the new goal becomes realistic, so “toning his arms” becomes “losing an inch of fat on his biceps.”

Problem: A client doesn’t understand how a plan works.

Solution: Livingston’s clients don’t want to know every detail—that’s what they pay her for—but educating them more generally can help keep them on board.

“If I’m telling a client that protein is important, they want to know how, not why. So explain that eating protein after a workout will help muscles recover. If your muscles recover, they’re going to grow.

“The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate will be, allowing you to lose fat.”

Problem: You can’t monitor your clients all the time.

Solution: If you’ve done your job properly, a client will keep hitting the gym when you’re not there.

But sometimes they need an extra nudge. When Livingston isn’t with clients, she’s emailing them healthy recipes or workout tips. This reminds them of their long-term goals. Depending upon how much help each client needs, her emails range from a few times a week to once every few months.

With a full roster, she focuses on those who need the most encouragement. The emails don’t take long to prepare, and her clients appreciate the extra effort.

Financial fitness tips

  • Diversify among exercises (and assets).

  • Monitor metrics (weight or net worth), but realize long-term progress matters more.

  • Start with hand weights (not barbells); save 5% of income before trying 20%.

Problem: A situation is outside your expertise.

Solution: Livingston, who’s currently working on a kinesiology degree, is constantly learning new things. She’s also certified with the International Sports Sciences Association. But when she encounters unfamiliar client situations, she doesn’t pretend otherwise.

“If someone has an injury where you don’t know what exercises to do, research it or refer them to a doctor.” That shows clients their health, not her ego, is the priority.

Livingston sent Joanna*, who has a serious foot injury from a physically demanding job, to multiple specialists, including a physiotherapist, chiropractor and masseuse.

Those specialists then advised Livingston whether the planned exercises were suitable for Joanna’s condition. That extra care has helped Joanna recover, and she’s still a client a year later.

*Not her real name

Casey Dorrell is a Toronto-based financial writer.

Casey Dorrell