picI recently saw this picture and laughed out loud.  It’s so true.  It seems like the magic in life doesn’t happen in the daily, mundane routine.  It happens when we stretch ourselves a little further than what we are comfortable with and manage to find ourselves in a new place that might not be that familiar.

I recently hung this graphic up in my office because I use it as a tool.  In my every day work, I like to “nudge”, and it usually involves me dropping hints or making subtle suggestions to people.  Sometimes these people are dwelling right along the edge of something really great, and I like to encourage them to explore and move outside of their comfort zone. Something great might be waiting for them, and they just need someone to nudge them to pursue it.  Sometimes I wonder what it is that is holding people back.

I think the same is true for those of us who work with clients who are seeking to improve the quality of their life.  We can do more than just help them physically.  Regardless of age, gender, physical ability, race, or anything else that someone brings to the table – it’s our job to nudge.  We need to start with a thorough understanding of our clients through intake paperwork, medical histories, and interviews, but in order to facilitate their success we have to be able to help them overcome their individual obstacles to achieve their goals.  A very common thing I see standing between where they are and where they want to be is some kind of mental, invisible fence.  That fence is usually serving as the perimeter of their comfort zone.

So, without exceeding the scope of our practice, how do we help our clients break through these invisible fences in order to achieve success?  Here are some approaches that you might find helpful:

  • Acknowledge Fears:  Fear is the single greatest thing that holds people back.  Some of our clients are afraid to enter a gym setting that makes them feel self-conscious, concerned about appearance, or insecure.  For others it might be a lack of competence if they haven’t had experience with sports or physical activity.  You need to acknowledge their fears.  Encourage them to share them with you and talk about them.  You don’t have to have all of the answers, but getting it out on the table is the best first step.  Have you explored something that scares you lately?  I encourage you to try something completely new in a setting that intimidates you. It might give you some perspective as to how some of your clients feel.
  • Build Confidence:  Competence breeds confidence.  Progress at a pace that allows clients to master skills and activities while still being challenged.  Too much, too soon can be a deal breaker.  It’s a delicate balance.  The more competent and confident clients become, the more they will realize that they can achieve.
  • Educate:  Don’t just instruct your clients – educate them.  With education we become empowered and gain understanding.  You need to tell them more than just the “how”, but also explain the “why”.  As they begin to understand the human body, they will gain an appreciation what their body is capable of doing.
  • Pain is temporary:  Everyone has a different threshold for pushing themselves physically.  If you have educated them, they will begin to have a healthy regard for their capabilities and that can be helpful.  Draw on any past experiences they have been through that were physically or mentally challenging to get them through uncomfortable exercise sessions.  The comfort zone is just that – comfortable.  Where the magic happens might be physically uncomfortable.  It’s only temporary.
  • Reflect: Have them reflect on their experiences daily and focus on things beyond appearances.  Keeping a journal might be a good tool to do this.  How do they feel?  Is their confidence building? Are they presenting themselves in a new way?  Have they identified an invisible fence holding them back?  Some of their reflection can serve as a good bridge of communication between client and professional.
  • Believe In Them:  Tell your client that you are confident in their ability to achieve their goals because they are realistic and attainable.  You can then give them the tools to get there.  Sometimes it just takes someone encouraging and believing in them to make it happen.
  • Commit:  Have them sign a commitment contract which outlines what each of you commit to bring to the table that will contribute to their success.  It’s important for them to understand that ultimately IT’S UP TO THEM.

Laura Kennett has motivated and empowered exercise science, fitness and wellness professionals across the country as an educator, speaker, and event organizer.  She has worked in many professional settings most recently at Grand Valley State University training future professionals. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Sports Medicine and received her Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from Michigan State University. She is a Certified Strength and Conditional Specialist and Group Exercise Instructor among other professional certifications.  You can find more of her writing at http://www.laurakennett.com

About caseystutzman

Casey Stutzman is an AFAA certified trainer and has been actively involved in the fitness industry since 2004. Since 2006 he has acted as the Head Trainer at the Bay Athletic Club in Alpena Michigan. Casey’s love of athletics and competition drove him in to the fitness industry. He uses his experience as a division 1 college football player, amateur bodybuilding competitor, strongman competitor to help others reach their goals in all areas of fitness. Casey spends his time at Bay Athletic Club teaching Boot Camps, small group training sessions, training clients and working with participants in Bay Athletic Club’s Corporate Fit Challenge program. He also develops strength and conditioning programs and does performance training for a number of local athletic organizations and high school teams. As an Ignite Performance Master trainer and Master Instructor for TRX Casey travels North America to educate and connect with fitness professionals to help them offer more to their clients and athletes. Time outside of fitness is occupied with reading, travel, indoor rock climbing, snow sports and being an active outdoorsman. He enjoys spending free time with his wife Mary Beth, his daughter Vesper, son Indiana and Turkish the family dog.

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  1. […] am fascinated by this concept of fences holding us back and revisit it often.  I wrote about this topic a couple of years ago as a guest blogger in the context of how personal trainers can help clients break through invisible fences.  But […]