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Helping your clients achieve their goals: what can professional athletes teach us?

With the current lockdown restrictions meaning clients are currently unable to visit the gym, for some, their New Year’s resolutions may feel like a distant memory, while others might still be looking for guidance on where to begin with setting their goals for 2021.

So, what can we, as personal trainers (PTs), do to help our clients achieve their aims and keep on track this year?

And when it comes to goal setting, what can we learn from the habits of professional athletes?

Two of our health and fitness tutors from The Training Room, Nick Hewett and Martin Hamer, and professional athletes, Daniel Ballard and John Hart, shared their top tips.

The Importance Of Setting Goals

According to footballer, Daniel, who is currently on loan from Arsenal at Blackpool FC, while setting big goals can feel daunting – and at times unrealistic – giving yourself these targets can be a great way to measure what you’ve achieved and how.

This is something we, as fitness professionals, can also apply when it comes to our clients.

He said: “We set goals every year, especially at Arsenal, as they are very focused around that.

“At the time, to me, it’s something that seems a bit unrealistic, such as you want to play a certain number of games or play for your national team, but it’s amazing to look back at the end of the season and see why you have been able to achieve that and maybe why you haven’t.

“At the start of the year before last, I wanted to make my appearance for the under 23s and wanted to be called up for the Northern Ireland national team. I met both of those goals and it was an amazing year.”

Last year, Daniel set himself a goal to play more games in the football league but an injury while on loan at Swindon and the Coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, left him unable to play.

However, he found that he also learned a valuable lesson from not meeting his goal, highlighting how important it is for trainers to spend time looking at where a client didn’t reach their objective – and what can be learned from that.

He added: “I went from having one year where I set all my goals and smashed every single one to the next year where I didn’t hit any. Especially as a young player, you can feel last year was almost a waste, as you always want to progress your career.

“It was extremely difficult, but I’m also grateful in a way, as it opened my eyes to many different things, not just in football but in life.

“I’m now a more rounded person; it’s made me fall in love with education again and build a more balanced life, which, in return, has helped my football massively.”

Adapting Goals To Suit A Client’s Needs

Former Wasps player, John, played professional rugby for over 10 years.

His experience of goal setting changed over time as, working with his coaches, he learned how to adapt and adjust his goals to deal with issues such as injuries.

He explained: “At the start of the season, you set out big goals to try and achieve, but if you pick up an injury, that’s when you need that flexibility to be able to change these goals.

“I found that with injuries over time, when you’re young, you get that disappointment of not being able to achieve these big goals, but as you start to learn to adapt, you can find other things of interest which will probably benefit you in the long run through the game.

“It’s about adjusting your goals within the season and also how your goals will meet the team goals.

“In team sport, this can be quite challenging as you have to make sure your goal fits in with the bigger picture of what your team is trying to achieve.”

Adjusting is the key word here. The difference between a good PT and a great PT is the ability to adjust clients’ goals and programmes effectively and proactively, so they keep making progress and achieve results.

Where can strength and conditioning fit in?

Strength and conditioning (S&C) work with clients can be the perfect place to set goals.

When our tutors at The Training Room are teaching strength and conditioning courses, they show students that, as S&C coaches, they have two main roles.

One is to improve performance – both of the individual they are working with and the whole team if they are part of one. The second is to prevent injury.

But when it comes to setting goals linked to S&C, whether you are working with elite athletes, in grassroots sport or as a PT with a client in the gym, education and trust are key.

If you explain to a client why they are doing something and how it fits in with their goals, this leads to trust.

And when the client trusts their trainer, they will allow the trainer to push them harder, therefore, getting them closer to their goals.

This is something which can be applied at all levels, as John found when S&C was first brought in as part of his training at Wasps.

He added: “At first, it was a huge shock to the system being pushed that hard. Probably people were worried they would get injured, but as S&C became more commonplace, the players started to get a better understanding as the S&C coaches were very open about what they were doing.

“From my experience, a good S&C coach comes from the trust a player puts in them. They are then able to push them as far as they can because they trust them.”

Renewing your client’s focus

Scheduling downtime and recovery is also vital when it comes to setting goals, so make sure your clients know the importance of being able to switch off.

For Daniel, this has involved finding things he enjoys away from football, including focusing on his education by completing a diploma in financial training and starting an Active IQ Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training course with The Training Room during lockdown.

During his rugby career, John – also studying to become a fully qualified PT with The Training Room – found having something to focus on away from training gave him a renewed focus when he came back.

He added: “In elite sport or anything in life, you can be really focused on something you want to achieve and sometimes people think if you have downtime or recovery you are losing your focus, but actually it’s probably the most important thing.

“We all have things we love, but if you do them 24/7, they become a chore. Having that time to be able to switch off means, when you come back, you are more focused and determined to hit your goals.”

The Training Room’s strength and conditioning programme can equip you with the tools to help your clients achieve their goals in 2021 – and beyond.

The Training Room | 04/02/2021 09:00:00

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