When it comes to a client’s fitness program, most personal trainers and coaches take a single-field approach; they teach a client what they physically need to do to get the physical results they are after, whether that’s to gain more muscle, lose body fat, strengthen their bones or to move better. Unless you have a degree or proper training in another field, such as nutrition, physiotherapy or yoga, this is perfectly acceptable — you’re practicing within your scope of expertise. You can’t always be all things to all clients.
Yet the more I read and learn about health and wellness, the more I’m coming to realize a HUGE part of an individual’s health and fitness journey is tied to mental health and happiness. More often than not, if you don’t have those things in check before starting your journey (or if it’s not a part of your journey at all), no matter how much body fat you lose or muscle you build, you’re going to have a hard time finding contentment. I think that lack of self-love mixed with a focus on changing your physique can create a dangerous environment where disordered behaviours can arise.
I believe fitness professionals should consider this as another facet of what we do in helping to improve lives. I’m not saying we should all go back to school to be psychologists too (just like we can’t all be dietitians or physiotherapists — you always refer out when it’s out of your scope of practice), but just be mindful of what we say to our clients and what we have them do. Though the “tough love” approach can motivate some people, it’s definitely not right for everyone. In fact, I’d argue anything that makes a client feel badly about who they are right now is more harmful than helpful, even if it makes them drag their butt to the gym after work instead of heading straight home and into the pantry for a bag of chips.
If wanting to become more healthy by losing body fat, gaining strength or improving movement is not coming from a place of love for yourself and those close to you, your fitness journey is going to more of a an struggle than it should be. I believe this missing element of self-love and acceptance could be another reason why so many diets and fitness programs fail — not only are most of them unsustainable, but also people tend to jump into them without fostering the right mindset first.
As a personal trainer and strength coach, I’m going to do my best to help clients develop a more accepting and self-loving mindset alongside training. I feel this facet of health and well-being is just as important as being able to keep up with your grandchildren, looking how to want to look in your wedding dress and reducing your risk of heart disease. I’m sure their are some amazing coaches out there who already have this attitude, but I definitely notice a lack of literature about this topic in the top fitness journals and other go-to industry resources.
I’m curious: Are there any fitness professionals who do this already? What are your thoughts on this approach to health and fitness? Let me know!