Written by Kyle Johnson (@3roadsfitness)
Over the last few years, after training upwards of 400 clients, I’ve noticed a concerning trend in how clients approach fitness. For clients who have a goal of losing weight, they fixate on a goal so much, they become results-driven. Having a goal is a great thing but when we become results-driven, we lose sight of the process of how to get there.
Motivation comes from experiencing success. When we see success, we are motivated to keep going, but if we define success rigidly - like seeing a certain number on the scale - we delay that feeling of success and thus are more likely to feel demotivated, especially if we’ve put in a significant amount of work. This can lead to certain cognitive distortions, like mental filtering where we ignore the positive steps we are making and only see what we lack: that sought after number on the scale. Due to this, clients tend to lose heart and fall off track.
I don’t blame clients for thinking this way though, because when I look around the fitness coaching industry, the way we market ourselves engenders this very type of thinking. When we sell our programs, we veer towards selling the sexy results that clients want.
“Lose 30 lbs in 6 weeks!”
“Get chiselled abs while still eating delicious food!”
Not only do we tend to sell this way, I see many programs out there actually follow through with these types of promises. They push their clients to do intense workouts, commit to restrictive diets so they achieve more dramatic weight loss results. The reason they do this is to get the one thing most coveted by coaches to market themselves with: the revered before and after transformation picture. These pictures are the creme de la creme of our marketing materials because they serve as proof that we coaches know what we are doing and “can do this for you too.” However, it ignores so much of what the client can experience as “results”.
These pictures ignore the many successes a client has along the way to that “after picture”. It ignores their learning how to cook their own meals, their improved blood cholesterol, their improved view of themselves and their capability to learn and grow. The transformation picture doesn’t show or reward all the efforts these clients put in that are just as worthy of celebration as their bodily results. Yet it was those efforts - these healthy habits - that, ultimately, led them to success. If anything, they’re more worthy of celebration!
Good coaches know that healthy habits are what helps a client achieve long term results. They are what will help the client lose weight and keep it of, but selling fitness in this way just doesn’t sound as sexy:
“Learn healthy habits to lose fat and gain muscle - all in 6 months or more!”
So how do we as fitness coaches - who are in this industry to truly change lives - mitigate the effects of our marketing or at least adjust our marketing so we can both show off our ability but also have the client start off on the right foot - with the right attitude. Is there a sexy way to say that on my Instagram Stories?Perhaps not, but we can market with better integrity if we start respecting that there is no one-size-fits-all program, nor promising precise results. I think about the quote from Swiss playwright, Max Frisch, “We asked for workers, we got people instead.” It’s much the same with fitness coaching, we ask for clients - those that would follow programs and nutrition plans to a tee - but what we get at the end of the day is people. And people need different things and will progress at different rates. However, at the end of the day, our marketing can still promise, if nothing else, t