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The Fitness Zone

Goal Setting for your Clients
May 7, 2013

Goal setting is absolutely paramount in assisting your personal training clients feel the benefits of your service, says Australian Institute of Fitness ACT Coach, Jane Boyle. Setting goals is one of the key factors of being a personal trainer and usually one of the first things to be addressed with a new client. But, why is it so important and how should it be completed? Follow some of these simple tips to helping your clients with their own personal fitness goals.

Why Set Goals?

As Personal Trainers, it is of the utmost importance to help our clients develop suitable goals, so you can then proceed with an appropriate course of action for them. Without goals, it would be hard to know what your client is looking to achieve and how they wish to achieve them. Goals also help you to track whether you are helping your client move into the desired direction in order for them to do what they hope to achieve.

As a result of setting goals your clients will perform better, have a greater feeling of accomplishment, improve their self-esteem, and have better clarity and direction in knowing where they are going and where they want to go. So, it sounds worth it, right? Goal setting is definitely worth the time and effort investing into it.

What Type of Goals Should You Set?

We can look at goals as falling into two categories: transactional and transformational.

  • Transactional goals tend to be more about achieving specific tasks.

  • Transformational goals have far more meaning and provide longer-lasting benefits.

Both types of goals are essentially internally driven with, as appropriate, guidance from you as the Personal Trainer. In order to develop a more powerful goal you need to look at turning transactional goals around into transformational ones, for example turning the transactional goal of joining a gym and going to a couple of classes a week' into the transformational goal of being able to enjoy physical activity and improve health in the process.

There is certainly far more longevity in the latter. What must be remembered though is that goals must be for the individual, not what is best for a group of people (a common goal) or what someone else may think is best. It must also provide some challenge, otherwise what's the point? And there's nothing wrong with establishing smaller goals around, or to support or lead to, the bigger ones. This is going to be far more motivating and will keep them on track, setting them up for feelings of success along the way.

What is the Right Goal for Your Client?

In knowing and understanding the drive behind someone's actions, we can further help them along the way to achieving their goals, help them deal with setbacks and support them along the way.

Some suggest that what motivates us comes from within, our self-esteem and belief in ourselves; others suggest it comes to us externally, or extrinsically. Behavioural experts in fact claim that it comes more from external reward and punishment the carrot and stick approach.

Most evidence suggests, however that intrinsic motivation is the key, leading to more fulfilment and success. It must be remembered though that what motivates one person may not be a motivator for another. The key is to determine what motivates the particular individual and use that as the driving force for reaching that person's goals.

The best way to determine this is to talk with your client (which may be done on the very first session) and talk through what they hope to achieve. Their goals will likely vary between clients, which is why goal setting is not a “one size fits all approach”. Some clients may want to lose weight, gain weight, increase muscle mass or just want to work on their endurance. Once you understand what their goals are, you can work on deciding on how they can achieve those goals. You may suggest a meal plan, a particular type of exercise to be performed or maybe even a goal weight.

What if the Goal Isn't Achieved?

Realistically, not all goals will be achieved so it's vital that the person's self esteem and self worth be kept where it needs to be that is, at the highest level. It also needs to be kept in mind that a goal can change. There is nothing wrong with this. The simple fact is, life changes, perceptions change, and people's' wants and needs change. Achieving goals is not just about the reward at the end. It is, for lack of a better term, the journey that someone takes. What they learn along the way can equip them with better skills for the future. Setting unrealistic goals is a surefire way to dampen a client's confidence levels, therefore achievable goals (but not too achievable) are best. If a client wants to change their goals, then by all means work out some new goals with them and discover what they hope to achieve. There is no right or wrong when it comes to goal setting as it is very personal to each and every person.

At the end of the day, you should be able to be approachable about goal setting, help a client discover what they really want to achieve and how you can help them get there. Goals will help the client to be more accountable of their efforts and actions and will ensure keep you in check to see if you are helping them to move in the right direction.  

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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