Ask any personal trainer if they’re interested in achieving consistently better results for their clients, in making a name for themselves as an effective trainer and therefore being able to charge more, and I expect they would immediately say YES!
No doubt you’re already on this path, adding value to yourself by increasing your ability to deliver more effective training programs on a greater range of equipment, and learning more about nutrition, both proven to have a huge effect on a client results.
But today I want to introduce you to a third component, which often flies under the radar and if left unmanaged can destroy the results of the great programs you are delivering: I am talking about emotion.
Emotions influence our perception of life at every moment of the day. Increasing our knowledge of emotions and how to regulate them better – known as ‘emotional intelligence’ – is one of the most powerful yet unused tools available to a personal trainer: it will dramatically boost your personal effectiveness and your clients results.
Think of emotional intelligence as a brand new, amazingly effective supplement that you suddenly have access to. It will definitely give you the edge over the other trainers as your clients progress accelerates – but your clients need you to show them how to use it.
I’m lucky enough to work with world champions on an almost daily basis, and sometimes I am astounded at the sheer ability, strength and fitness they exhibit. But even the ones with the most freakish skill levels can fall apart when the going gets tough.
That’s where my job really begins; helping the elite to manage, understand and control their emotions even when under the extreme pressure of competition, to ensure they achieve their goals. This is the key to greater performance at any level, and I want to share this with you today so that you can begin to master the same processes I use with Olympic and world champions and pass it on to your clients!
Just as you learnt more about training and nutrition for yourself before helping others, it’s the exact same process here. Learning more about emotions begins with ‘self awareness’ and involves regularly checking your emotional state throughout the day.
When practicing self awareness, if you notice you are in a positive & productive state, think about the ‘recipe’ of circumstances that led to that state, so that you can bring about that state more often. Success leaves clues, however it’s up to you to find those clues. Take notice of things such as your exercise patterns, what you’ve been eating/not eating, sleep patterns, have you been doing more fun things, hanging out with other positive people, or learning something new?
And likewise, when you notice you have fallen into a negative or unproductive state, reflect on what led to it so that you can change those recipes too.
Peak performance is very much about emotion. Of course, conditioning the body with an appropriate regime of nutrition, training and recovery is vital. But the mind needs training too as unmanaged emotions equate to erratic results.
I’m sure you’re familiar with times in life when your eating or training has gone off track because of negative emotions, like sadness, overwhelm, frustration or simple boredom. Then there are those amazing days, when life is humming and staying on track feels easy.
Same for your clients. Their emotions have a huge effect on their training and nutrition, both in the results they get and how much they can or cannot apply themselves. Although you might start out as a guide to help solely with their physical attributes, you have an enormous capacity to mentor and influence them with their emotions, helping them to lead a much more fulfilling, healthier, happier and ultimately more successful life – which will make you a much sought after trainer.
So let’s look at a little science behind emotion. When we are emotionally or physically stressed for a prolonged period of time, the hormone cortisol is released. Cortisol is responsible for holding on to weight, breaking down muscle, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, overwhelm, being emotionally reactive and lacking in enthusiasm – none of which support you to operate as a great trainer or help your clients adopt a consistently healthy lifestyle!
To make matters worse, when cortisol levels remain high, the release of another important hormone called DHEA is prevented. DHEA is the recovery or anti-aging hormone, and it’s particularly important that it be released as early as possible after training to help us repair.
If your clients are already emotionally stressed when they arrive at training (chances of this are high!), you training them is technically an additional stress. It has the capacity to leave them in a worse state, both physically and emotionally. Yes, movement is one of the first things to help them move out of a stressed state, but it will pay to become more aware of the intensity of their emotional state and how long it’s been around. Sometimes a lighter physical session using the rest breaks to help a client move forward with their emotional challenges will give next-level results.
At any given moment, we are under the influence of our chemistry, a concoction of hormones, blood sugar and moods which directly affect our energy levels, emotions, how we perform and our recovery from any training session. To successfully achieve a high performing state and then an effective recovery state, we need to begin to understand three key things which can influence it:
Movement. Motion creates e-motion. If you have been sitting around for too long, your blood flow decreases, as does your mood. If you’re short on time, even a short burst of intense movement (as little as 10-20 seconds!) can increase blood flow into the brain, and release those feel good hormones.
Self Dialogue. We’ve all had clients which are a pleasure to work with, whilst others are a punish. Notice what you are saying to yourself before each client. If it’s negative, you’re influencing your own emotions and chemistry in a negative way. Focus on what’s good about them and give them the best hour of their day, and give your own chemistry a break at the same time!
Blood sugar levels. These act like a chemical blender in the brain. When blood sugar is unstable, the brain’s chemistry and the way we feel becomes ‘mixed up’ and unstable. Meals which are too large, too small, taking too long between meals/snacks and by training for too long in a session can all affect it, so it’s important to get it right.
Emotional intelligence is a key compenent to maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle, whatever level you are at. As you learn more it will benefit you on both a personal and professional level, making you a happier and more fulfilled individual and a more effective and valuable trainer.
Read the article as it was published on FitnessPRO magazine here