My PT Hub | Evolution Nutrition Guest Blog
Meta Description: Encouraging clients make positive lifestyle choices is part of your job as a personal trainer. Use these tips to help them build healthy habits that stick!
5 Tips for Helping Your Personal Training Clients Build Healthy Habits
Has anyone ever told you that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit? The idea came from a book written by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in 1960 called Psycho-Cybernetics and, for a while, spread through popular culture like wildfire. The only problem? It’s not true.
It’s not really Dr. Maltz’s fault that his observation — that it takes a minimum of about 21 days to get used to a new change — got distorted; people simply took it and ran. The truth is, how long it takes to form a habit depends on the person, behavior, and situation. It could take one person three weeks, but another two months or more.
When you’re a personal trainer trying to help your clients establish healthy behaviors, this disparity can be tricky to navigate. But it’s important for fitness coaches to focus on habit-building, as this is what will achieve and sustain the results you’ve been working hard to help your clients reach. In this article, we’ll give you some tips to help your clients create healthy habits that last a lifetime.
1. Dedicate a session to setting SMART goals.
The first step to building healthy habits is to decide what you want those habits to be. Schedule a session or set aside part of a session to sit down with the client and identify SMART goals that will help them establish the behavior to which they’re aspiring. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Write down a list of actionable goals that will allow the client to work up to the desired habit. This list should include a combination of small goals —so wins can be celebrated along the way — and big, long-term goals.
2. Work goals into your client’s program one by one.
Taking on too many goals at once will overwhelm your client and spread their focus and efforts too thin. Instead, implement one habit at a time with actionable steps to take to get there. For example, if your client wants to get 8 hours of sleep a night, actionable steps toward that goal might include choosing a regular bedtime and wake-up time and turning off electronics 15 minutes before bedtime.
Depending on how many habits your client wants to establish, it might be helpful to create a habit timeline. Designate an order of priority for their habit list and start with number one. Then, every week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks, or however long you agree upon, introduce the next one on the list.
3. Encourage clients to track their habits.
Building sustainable habits is much easier said than done. Just like you have to hold clients accountable for completing their workouts, you should keep them accountable for practicing healthy habits too. Having them track their habits is a simple, effective accountability solution.
There are plenty of apps or journals available that clients can use to track all types of behavior from drinking water to meditating. With My PT Hub’s Habit Tracker, you can even see their tracking from your own app, adding an extra layer of accountability! Actively tracking and seeing their progress is also a great way to keep your clients feeling motivated.
4. Teach them to habit stack.
Habit stacking is a practice for building habits that entails pairing a new desired habit with one you’ve already established. The science behind the concept is that your brain goes through a process of synaptic pruning. Essentially, it eliminates connections between neurons that you don’t use often and builds up the connections you use more frequently. Certain habits, such as taking a shower or brushing your teeth, have strong connections that have made the associated behavior almost innate. By stacking a new habit onto those existing connections, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Fitness coach and influencer Chase McKesey recommends habit stacking for his clients as an easy way to incorporate healthy choices into their routine. For example, he mentions drinking 20 oz of water before each meal and before brushing your teeth to reach a goal 100 oz a day.
5. Offer motivation along the way.
Considering it takes several weeks to months to truly build a habit, it’s no surprise your clients are likely to get tired and think about giving up. Your job as their trainer or coach is to provide the motivation they need to get them to their habit goals! This motivation should be positive and make them want to engage in the behavior, not just do it to get you off their back.
Here are some habit motivation ideas:
- Make creating a habit into a 30-day challenge with celebratory benchmarks and prizes.
- Have regular check-ins to discuss a client’s progress, challenges, mindset, and remind them of their “why,” i.e., their intention behind forming the habit and their ultimate goal
- Do the habits with them or create a group chat for clients working on similar behaviors to help them feel supported.
- Send regular emails and/or texts with motivational quotes or your own words of encouragement.
- Give props to clients who are working hard with a social media shoutout highlighting their journey and progress.
Help Clients Reach Their Habit, Workout & Wellness Goals with My PT Hub
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