Over time, you may find clients suffering from burnout. They begin to lose the motivation to exercise, and eventually you lose them. It may be permanently or just for a period of weeks or months. This is not only discouraging for the client, it is also bad for business. Remember that when you are training a client, other members are watching. People can see when you start working with someone new and when you stop training a client. If you are losing more clients than you are retaining, people will notice and it can negatively impact your reputation.
Overuse injuries are slow-onset, nagging injuries that get progressively worse over time. They are also referred to as repetitive-stress injuries, because they are caused by repetitive motions. Common overuse injuries are tendonitis, bursitis, and shin splints. Performing the same motions excessively tends to cause these types of problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
Burnout can manifest itself in many ways. One major indication is a significant increase in cancellations by a client who has been very consistent in the past. Many times people do not realize they are getting burned out. They may feel overwhelmed or unmotivated, and the only way they know how to deal with it is to cancel their appointments. Your client may also feel bad or be afraid to tell you they need a break. Pay close attention if your clients start exhibiting any of the following:
Changes in sleep patterns or appearing overly tired
Dramatic changes in appetite
Emotional changes such as agitation or depression
Being unable to complete their usual workout
Unusual increase in the number of cancellations
These will likely be your first indications that your client may be suffering from burnout. Your job is to watch for signals and have a plan to recognize and overcome burnout so you do not lose people.
Discovering How and Why Your Client Is Burning Out
Once you have recognized that your client is presenting signs of burnout, you need to get to the root cause. Burnout can occur for a number of reasons, though the primary reason is overtraining. Over-training is a result of inadequate rest and/or lack of variety in the program.
In order to figure out why your client is burning out, you must examine not only the overall training program, but how they are spending the rest of their days. Consider the type and intensity of the exercise they are performing, both with you and outside of the gym. Also take into account what they are doing for work, and what is currently going on in their lives. If your clients are overly stressed in other areas of their lives, they will be more susceptible to burnout.
When you begin to suspect a client is starting down this path, ask lots of questions. The more you can get them to open up, the better the chances you will be able to help them. If the problem has more to do with their personal lives than their workout program, you can still be of assistance. Helping them become aware of the cause is the first step in finding a solution. They may need to get more sleep, address a problem at work, or try some other forms of exercise. Once the cause is determined, the ball is in their court. They may choose to handle it on their own or seek the help of another professional such as a counselor.
Preventing and Recovering from Burnout
Your plan of action for preventing burnout should be threefold: educate, create, and motivate. First, educate your clients about burnout before it happens. Explain that exercise has health benefits, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing. Address the concept of training intensity, and teach them how to push hard enough to effect physical changes without causing too much stress on the body. Emphasize that without adequate rest and proper nutrition, problems can arise. Education is the best defense against burnout and the resulting loss of business. Second, create a sound exercise regimen that continuously evolves so your clients are not performing the same routines repetitively. If your clients are receptive, give them a complete program to follow including weight training, cardiovascular, and any other activities they enjoy, such as Pilates or yoga. Be sure to schedule time for rest and recovery so they do not overdo it. Third, motivate your clients with goal-setting. This will help keep them working toward something and reduce the chances of boredom. Using manageable time frames can minimize frustration and prevent people from trying to accomplish too much too quickly.
Fun, excitement, and diversity are keys to keeping your client on the path to success. Cross-training is a great way to keep things fresh and new. Cross-training simply means choosing a variety of exercise methods and techniques. If a client enjoys running, they may choose to cross-train by swimming one or two days per week to minimize stress on the joints.
Client burnout is difficult to recover from. The earlier you catch it, the easier it is to fix. A good place to start is by addressing sleep patterns. Eight hours of sound sleep is the average needed by most adults. You need to examine and modify goals, and may need to rewrite the exercise program. If injuries are a factor, you can reduce exercise frequency and intensity. Other professionals such as doctors, massage therapists, chiropractors, physical therapists, social workers, life coaches, and acupuncturists can be helpful additional resources if you feel the issues are beyond your scope.