Put Goals in Writing
Setting goals is much more effective when you put them in writing. Seeing your goals on paper makes them more real. Have your clients actually do the writing, as this will make them feel even more involved and invested in the process. Keep a copy for yourself in their file so you can reference it when designing programs. This will also help you remember to track their weekly and monthly progress. If your clients will comply, have them keep a copy for themselves on an index card and carry it with them. The more they look at the card throughout the day, the more focused and in tune they will be with achieving their goals.
Long-Term versus Short-Term Goals
Your clients may hire you with one goal in mind, or they may have ten. It is best to limit the number of goals so you can really focus on them. One long-term goal and two to three short-term goals are usually sufficient. You can always add more as the program progresses.
Long-term goals should be challenging enough to require six months to one year to accomplish. For someone who has never exercised before, a long-term goal may be to jog three miles. To make the task feel more manageable, long-term goals are broken down into smaller, short-term goals. Short-term goals may be daily, weekly, or monthly, and provide a way to celebrate smaller successes through the process. Achieving the smaller successes of short-term goals will help give your client the confidence and motivation to achieve the bigger, longer-term goal.
You, as the trainer, need to help your clients set goals that are challenging but attainable. Your client may want to lose twenty pounds in a month, but that is unhealthy and unrealistic. Have them make a long-term goal of twenty pounds in four months, and a short-term goal of one to two pounds per week.
How to Write Goals
Goals need to be specific, measurable, and achievable. They should also be positive and written in the first person. A goal of losing weight is insufficient. It leaves you with too many questions. How much weight do they want to lose? Is it one pound or one hundred? How long do they have to lose the weight? A month? A year? Have your client specifically state how much weight they want to lose, and a precise date for the completion of the goal. A better way to phrase this goal could be, “I will lose ten pounds by August first.” If a client wishes to run a marathon, they may make a goal stating, “I will run this year's New York City Marathon in under four hours.” When goals are stated in this manner, as the trainer, you will be better equipped to create the program, because you know precisely what the client wants and what type of time frame you are working within. You will be more focused, and so will your client.
Once the long-term goal has been set, make a plan for how to reach it using short-term goals. Include particulars about how the exercise will be performed. Answering the following questions should ensure adequate detail:
When will the client exercise: before work, at lunch, after work, or some other time?
Where will they exercise: at the gym, outside, at home?
How much exercise will they perform: thirty minutes, an hour?
How often will they exercise: every day, every other day, five times per week?
Well-written short-term goals might look like this: “I will run outside three times per week before work for three miles. If it is raining, I will run on the treadmill.” “I will lift weights twice a week at the gym for forty-five minutes during my lunch. If I cannot get to the gym at lunch, I will go after work.” The more detail that is included, the more accountability your clients will have in meeting their goals. Obviously they will not be perfect at it. That is why it is called a goal; it's a work in progress.
If a client's goal is to look a certain way (flat abs, more muscle definition, bigger arms), have them find a picture of what they want to look like and put it on the back of their index card. If they can vividly imagine their success, they will be more motivated and their goals will feel more attainable.