One of the most important things that you can do when you approach a new situation is to gather information. This is done in a variety of different settings and sometimes done subconsciously. When you are driving and you approach a stop sign, looking left, right, and then left again is simply gathering information about the surroundings.
The amount of information gathered from a situation can ultimately determine the outcome or time until solution. When it comes to the health and fitness/coaching field, gathering information about the client or person whom you are working with has the same benefits/purposes. As a health and fitness professional and also a client myself, I have sat on both sides of the consultation process. This consultation is the first conversation, most of the time, between the professional and client. A lot of talking and information can be taken from this one meeting. I am a firm believer in acquiring as much information as possible up front before any program or plan is put into place. I feel that this is the best possible way to provide efficient and effective planning and programming to see results and also to eliminate the possibility of avoidable problems along the way.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
The only way to get crucial information from the client is to ask specific questions throughout the course of the consultation. Yes you do want to get to know the individual you are speaking with and know about their day, their favorite sports team, favorite car, etc. This type of conversation and friendly personality builds rapport and ultimately a friendship. You have to keep in mind that you are there to help them throughout their journey, however long that may be. They may need your help further down the road or have someone to refer to you for help.
Specific questions need to be asked in order to gain essential information pertaining to the individual that can have beneficial impacts on the plan put together and the outcome overall. These questions should pertain to the individuals main goal, time frame to complete their goal, exercise history, if they have ever worked with a fitness professional before, success in the past, medical history, any injuries past or present, current medications, doctors limitations, circle of influence, etc. These types of questions put you right into the clients life and circumstances. They also cannot be determined by the professional if not asked. So why are these types of questions important?
✓ Has the client worked with a professional before?
Did they see success? Why did they stop or what plan was implemented to see such success? Was it the professionals persona, attitude, accountability, etc.
✓ Medical history and injury history
This is extremely important because when it comes to exercise protocols and nutrition recommendations, the professional will need to adjust the plan accordingly. For example, if the client is suffering from a nagging rotator cuff injury, the professional can provide alternatives to exercises or alter the structure to provide a reduced risk of injury during the workouts. Of course the client has to execute the workouts effectively and safely as well. When it comes to nutrition, a client may be on a specific medication or have an allergy to a particular food. This information is useful in order guide them down the right path for adherence and also for the maintenance of optimal health.
✓ Knowing the clients circle of influence or support system
This can be one of the most important elements of the experience. Just because the professional and the client are the two main people in the journey, the support system of the client plays a role as well. A supportive group of individuals that can help keep the client on track or help motivate in times of struggle can be extremely beneficial. The professional will not be with the client 24/7 and may not be able to be reached right away in these difficult times. The people around the client can offer words of encouragement and a person to talk to in place of the coach. These people can be loved ones, coworkers, friends, colleagues, etc. Knowing if the client has these kinds of people in their life is useful information because it can give you confidence as to their mental state outside of the gym and throughout the journey. There are some people who do not have a support system at all and the coach is the only person in the journey with them. Those situations need to be handled in a particular manner.
✓ Information can also come in the form of a physical assessment
From both resting and movement posture, strength parameters, starting weight, starting body fat percentage, progress pictures, and circumference measurements. This information, like the specific questions, is specific to the client and provides direct feedback for them. If their posture is faulty and they suffer from chronic aches and pains, it is important to determine why this is and set up the program accordingly. Is it over-active and under-active muscles, their lifestyle, or maybe they have a deformity of some sort. Knowing their starting weight and body fat can allow you as the professional to set realistic goals with the client that will keep them accountable and motivated. Lastly, the pictures and circumference measurements can provide direct feedback that is much more concrete than the numbers on the scale. This information is very important as well.
Take Home Message
The purpose of this article was to provide insight on the importance of gathering information and how crucial it can be to the success of the client. You cannot be afraid to ask questions. In my opinion, the more specific questions and more elaborate the assessment, the better the plan will come out and thus the better the result. Of course, like I said earlier, the client has to execute and put the plan in motion. Gather as much information as humanly possible even if at the time it may not seem important, it may play a beneficial role down the road.