Being a personal trainer, or coach, takes a certain type of person. Actually, being a successful one, takes a certain type of person, because anyone can become a personal trainer, but it takes more than a passion for fitness to be successful for the long-term. It's more about being passionate about working with people, and helping them work towards (and ultimately achieve) their personal health and fitness goals. In my opinion, the key factor that sets apart a good coach from a great one, is communication. Here are 5 reasons why I think communication is key to being a successful fitness coach.
#1 Listen (and Coach) With Intent
Listening skills are probably the most important, and I don't just mean listening to how your client's day was. You have to listen with intent, listen to both what they say and how they say it, listen to how they respond to their training and the feedback that they give you - which bear in mind could be non-verbal. Some clients (particularly during the early stages of training with you) may not verbalise much about their experience, so actually, you're looking out for what they don't say too - get good at reading body language and facial expressions.
#2: Learn About Your Clients
Some people are better socially than others, and it comes quite naturally to coaches to be good with people, otherwise, well, things could get pretty awkward. It helps to be personable, communicative, and to make the effort to get to know your client, to understand more about their lifestyle, their work-life balance, their eating habits, their social habits, their routine - in order to learn more about them as a person, so you know how to motivate them, how to push them and when to reign it in a little. It also helps to be able to pick up on their mood, to know when they might be having a difficult time personally, so you can use your training session to engage them both physically and mentally. As we know, fitness can help us de-stress in many ways, so knowing where that stress is coming from will also help to drive that session and adapt your coaching skills on that particular day.
#3: Empathise With Your Client
You have to be able to empathise with your client in order to see things from their perspective, to better understand them and therefore how to train them. Coaching isn't about pushing your client to failure with every session, it's about training them intuitively with a programme that best suits them and their capabilities, with of course, their short and long-term goals in mind. Every trainer will have their unique skillset and method of coaching, and that's how they build interest from a particular demographic, which comes down to how they market themselves and how they communicate with their audience. This ultimately will represent the personality of that trainer and how you will experience working with them.
#4: Provide Feedback
Your feedback as a coach is so important - this could be in the form of positive reinforcement to encourage your client to keep moving, to let them know that they're doing well, that they've improved. Or your feedback may be more constructive criticism, which is super important, because the idea is that your client is training with you to actually learn how to move better, how to create a fitness routine, so that they are empowered to train themselves and to create healthy habits for the long-term, it's not just about the hourly sessions they spend with you.
#5: Employ Effective Communication Tools
Communication is universal, but the method of communication is subjective. How you communicate with one client, may be quite different to how you communicate with another. By this, I am referring to a myriad of things, including: tone of voice, cuing style, language use, how direct you are, or maybe you take a slightly softer approach - which might not necessarily be with different clients, but the same one on a different day (which takes us back to points #2 and #3 - learning about our clients and employing empathy).
So, much of what we do day to day is based on how we communicate. Think about the tools or strategies you're currently using with your client base, and this could also relate to how you strategise and organise your sessions and payments with clients - think about how to make it more effective, more efficient, so maybe you have to communicate less and save yourself some time for when you're not training people and just want to switch off and enjoy some quiet time (not communicating at all).