The Real Talk With Client Series

Posted on December 17, 2018

(Last Updated On: December 17, 2018)

Stemming from We’re way overcomplicating gaining muscle and getting stronger I’m going to have a series where the motto is, I don’t know, let’s call it something corny like “ruthless pragmatism.”

There has been a trend in the fitness space of investigating research, then attempting to work backwards to a practical recommendation. On the surface, this makes sense.

In the real world, with actual, breathing clients, you basically can, and should, never do this.

In fact, let’s work backwards from **practicality** on this very topic.

The two personal training models:

  • Semi-private training i.e. group training 2-6 people
  • One on one training
    • 30 minute sessions
    • 60 minute sessions

-> I don’t consider classes of 10-30 people to be personal training. You can’t personalize anything at those numbers.

When viewing this at scale -you want to train more than a handful of people- you’re reduced to semi-private or 30 minute sessions. Hour long sessions are expensive to the point few can afford it / few trainers can get many people to pay that much.

-> Frankly, after one or two initial sessions, almost nobody needs 60 minutes one on one attention either. The only clients who do have dementia. (Literally.)

Alright, so you’re a trainer. You have 2-6 people at a time, or you have one person at a time, in 30 minute intervals.

You’re asked…

“How much protein should I eat?”

In the real world, an extremely obvious practical consideration comes into play: time.

How long do you have to answer? Many of the most popular writers will write an article well over a thousand words on this. Many get over 3,000 words and or use multiple articles, AND have done interviews on the topic. If you type “how much protein do you need” into Google, the top page is 1,800 words.

Humans read at roughly 200 words per minute. We read faster than we speak. That means a thousand words is a minimum of 5 minutes.

Are you really going to take

5 minutes / 30 minutes = 17%

of someone’s training session to tell them how much protein they should eat? If they ask you five more -in their view- utterly basic questions, you’ll have spent the entire training session on your answers.

If you’re semi-private, are you going to ignore all your other clients for 5+ minutes?

Have you ever talked to someone for 5 minutes without them speaking back to you? Do you really want to be lectured to like that yourself?

Do we think the average person in front of you WANTS to listen to you talk for 5 minutes about protein?! Yes, you became a trainer because you love fitness, but your clients hired you because they don’t love fitness.

What are the odds the average client, who has 35+ pounds to lose, is going to track their protein intake? Should they be worrying about it at this stage? (Does the average person ever need to worry about it???) The learning of which foods are protein rich, needing to read food labels, downloading MyFitnessPal to type in their food log multiple times a day? When it’s all but a coin flip whether they even show up their next session? We’re in the precarious stage of whether this person can make a 2-3 time per week change (come to the gym), yet we’re also going to ask them for a 3-6 time per day change (track their protein every time they eat)?

The rules of the series

I’m going to rattle off as many topics I can think of. The rules for addressing each one:

  • An answer and rationale has to be given in 60 seconds or less. Roughly 200 words.
  • Answers need to be simple enough a 12 year old grasps it
    • That is, a person with no exercise science background, and likely no desire to ever have one. Hell, no desire to ever have much math or science knowledge period.
  • Questions happen. We’ll allow another 60 seconds or so for each common follow up question
  • That said, in the real world, follow up questions are rare. Thus, most topics will not have much follow up.
    • People who aren’t that interested don’t probe much.
      • Please remember who this series is for: the majority. You have to constantly think of the average person in the average commercial gym. We are not going to spend 99% of our time on the dedicated 1%. We’re going to spend 99% on the 99%.
      • Think of it as we’re a waiter and a diner (the client) asks us “How’s the special?” Or “What goes well with such and such?” If they can answer a question revolving around something as variable as human taste buds as succinctly as they do, we should be able to answer “how many reps?” in a lot less than thousands of words.
  • We will allow for different stages of the client’s experience level. For example, brand new vs been around 6+ months, as answers can differ. (Still though, only 60 seconds for each stage.) By the very nature of this domain, brand new is the most common scenario, because most people do not stick around very long.

Ideas for topics

Feel free to send me a note if there’s something you want to see. Here are some ideas so far. This will be a working list as I write-

  • Is alcohol ok?
  • Supplements?
  • Is caffeine ok?
  • How many reps?
  • How much protein?
  • How many calories?
  • Soreness is good, right?
  • Weights or cardio first?
  • Should I use machines?
  • Why do my knees hurt?
  • How many carbs or fat?
  • Should I buy [x] gadget?
  • What do you think of p90x?
  • How do I stretch [x] muscle?
  • How can I get into a routine?
  • Should I get a standing desk?
  • What apps should I download?
  • How much should I lift to start?
  • Should women train differently?
  • I have arthritis. Can I still do [x]?
  • What kind of cardio should I do?
  • How can I speed up my workout?
  • How many times a day should I eat?
  • I’m a woman. Will lifting make me bulky?
  • How many times a week should I workout?
  • My one arm or leg is stronger, is that normal?

Something that could be worth doing with this series is read each topic’s title, then think of either how you would answer the question, or how the question is commonly answered online. Then contrast that with my answer. Some might be thinking it’s impossible to answer these in 60 seconds or less. Hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And for those who think they have a better answer, be sure to share!

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