By Karyn Gallivan, MS, ATC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT
Contributor, Sports+Fitness Network
Many clients come to us because they know that they need help to reach their goals. They may have made many attempts in the past, but life has a way of getting in the way, or taking over altogether, and they end up frustrated and short of their goals. As personal trainers, the more experience we have, the better able we are to leverage our education, expertise, and people skills. With our help and the power of S.M.A.R.T. goals, frustration can be abated and results can be realized.
What often holds clients back is that they have a big goal –their ultimate long-term goal- but no real plan for getting there. An ideal scenario would be that a client is ready to make some changes, along with having a plan to take small, but appropriate steps along the way. First, it is important to have an appropriate awareness of their current state of health and fitness, along with their daily scheduling challenges. In addition, being aware of their current habits including what they eat and how much they move, helps to identify a valid starting point. This awareness helps your client to understand where they are and how to begin moving forward.
Developing action-oriented goals and activities will help teach a client how to work smarter instead of harder. I like to tell my clients that my goal for them is to always move forward, always get better, even if the steps are small. This is always better than having to take a break, or stop for awhile… Long-term success can be attained by being clear about goals, why they are important, and what one is willing to change in order to accomplish these.
To help your clients succeed, use the S.M.A.R.T. goal process. Your expertise as a personal trainer will be valuable in helping a client to understand goals and timelines. Then, an appropriate timetable can be set, with smaller weekly or monthly goals. To be clear, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals includes:
S – Specific Goals. “Getting in shape” is a general, not specific goal. Learn to ask questions until your client can settle on something specific. I like to ask, “What do you mean by that?”.
M – Measurable Goals. Unless you actually have a starting point, it is often difficult to convince a client that they are truly making progress. For this reason, I like doing at least some version of body composition and fitness assessments.
A – Attainable Goals. This could actually be one of the most important aspects of the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting process. As well, this is where your experience, expertise, and people skills are called into play as you discuss a client’s goals. Their current metabolic and orthopedic health status will often be the determinants of whether or not a goal is attainable. Quite often, the answer is not “no, this isn’t going to be possible”, but rather, “this may not be possible yet; let’s start here”.
R – Realistic Goals. Referring to the Attainable section above, here is where I might advise that the long-term goal may be so big and so far away that it is best to focus on smaller, more appropriate goals first. Also, given one’s health and orthopedic state, the bigger goals may, in actuality, may not be realistic. However, my experience is that if I am leading the client appropriately, they will often come to this realization on his or her own. This is then the point where we might spend additional time identifying a more realistic goal. Let this be a client-driven process, with your experience and leadership abilities as the guiding force.
T – Timely Goals. Lastly, goals should be time-bound with enough of a sense of urgency to both hold clients accountable and help them feel a sense of accomplishment and success as they reach each goal.
Goal-setting is a challenging process, for sure. In addition, it is an ever-changing process. As things and circumstances change, it is good to re-evaluate goals and time frames. This is an organic process that helps keep clients moving forward and healthy. Of course, there will be challenges, but as barriers appear your expert guidance as a personal trainer will help guide your client to continued success.