The 6 Steps of Motivational Interviewing for Personal Trainers

Motivational Interviewing can be a great technique for personal trainers to use to understand and encourage clients to stick with fitness.

I'm going to explain the basics of motivational interviewing for personal trainers. This will get you to understand how you can use it among many other tools at your disposal. It is designed to speak with people in a way to change their behavior, what personal training is all about. 🙂

1. Ask Deep Questions

At this point it is best to start with easy questions with a client. This includes open-ended questions about general health, fitness activity, SMART Goals etc.

You want to move to important questions that make the client think. If the the family has a history of coronary heart disease, “Did you know that regular fitness helps prevent heart disease?” is something that the client should consider and think about.

2. Listen

As I've discussed before listening to people, really listening, is an extremely hard thing to do. As a personal trainer though, you need to do this.

Effectively listening will show you care, understand, and respect your client's feelings. Remember they likely will be intimidated by exercise, unlike how you feel about it.

You can gain important information when you really listen to someone. I also don't mean listening with your ears but also your eyes.

3. Educate

You will want to educate your clients about the risks involved with not keeping up an active lifestyle.

This can be done via sharing resources such as videos, articles, handouts, etc. Point your client in the direction of good materials. Encourage them to search out information they want to know about and always keep the dialog open in a back-and-forth.

4. Be Friendly

Always show empathy and respect for a client's feelings. When they express negative feelings you do not want to get into arguments about that will make them feel defensive.

Acknowledge and be aware of how they feeling. Keep the conversation friendly and neutral.

5. Build Self-Confidence

Always find the “small wins” that a client is doing to motivate them.

Let's say your client used to take short walks with their dog. After sessions with you they are starting to take longer walks with the dog. Praise this type of behavior change.

6. Generate Ideas

Get your client to generate ideas on how they can best keep up with the workout routine you have set out for them. Goal-generating questions are a great way to accomplish this.

Encourage small changes which can lead to “small wins”.

Motivational Interviewing

The reason motivational interviewing works so well is because it has it's origins in addiction-counseling with therapists. Be aware of whether motivational interviewing is working with your client, or isn't.

Has the client stopped paying attention or listening to you? Then start listening to what the client is saying via their words, voice tone, and body language. You can learn a lot this way and like I already said, avoid arguments at all costs. The trainer-client relationship should always be friendly and respectful. You need to find ways to nudge, motivate, and encourage without seeming pushy.

I'd like to hear from personal trainers and others in the fitness industry. Have you used motivational interviewing in the past? Did it work well or not well with clients?

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