Next in this series of short blogs, we look at how Alex (PT) provides Sam (client) with non-verbal or physical instruction.
The best place to do this would be in front of Sam, making eye contact once the movement has been completed. If Alex stands in front of Sam, there is a greater chance Sam will focus on what Sam is saying. This also removes some of the ‘background noise’ around Sam that could be both daunting and distracting.
If we focus on the squat, Alex will want to give instruction only when Sam is not moving, this will ensure that Sam is concentrating on the movement itself, rather than what Alex is saying, allowing time to self correct.
With Alex standing in front of Sam, it also shows respect and demonstrates that Alex’s focus is exclusively on Sam. It provides an opportunity for Alex to utilise non-verbal communications in their praise, perhaps using a wink, a thumbs up or an open body position matched with a smile and head
This non-verbal communication shows Alex’s enthusiasm and desire to want to help Sam.
By exclusively focusing on the client and their movement, Alex demonstrates both care and concern for Sam, making Sam feel more comfortable and welcome in this strange environment.
To share a little perspective, something I (Chris) didn’t always appreciate with exercisers was the feelings they may have when they began to exercise. I remember working with one particular client who was doing some regular walking. I was monitoring them closely, checking their skin colour, and their breathing using Borg’s modified Rate of Perceived Exertion.
The exerciser seemed comfortable until they said, ‘Chris, I have to slow down.’ When I enquired why, they replied, ‘because I’m starting to sweat.’ To me this was an odd comment to make, so I asked again, ‘on the scale we discussed where about are you?’ They replied a 5 or 6. I was confused.
The exerciser stopped walking and we had a discussion. It turned out that when they were at school, they were always pushed incredibly hard and this made them hate exercise. When I dug deeper it turned out the raise in body temperature made them feel very uncomfortable.
It was many years later that I began to fully comprehend this. After a prolonged absence from any exercise and having had shoulder surgery, I was extremely deconditioned. When I finally returned to some gentle static cycling, I noticed just how uncomfortable I felt as I started to warm up. It wasn’t until I broke into a full sweat that I felt better.
Until that moment I had become so accustomed to the warm up and the feelings associated with it, that I paid no attention to them. From that day forward, I began to become more aware of what I was feeling, although, of course after a long time it became second nature again. What I haven’t forgotten though is that others are experiencing things that we don’t necessarily understand and need to appreciate…
Within the fitness industry, if we are to truly to raise someone’s confidence, we have to show empathy and understanding and we have to convey this understanding back to them.
In the wise words of the late Dr Steven Covey, ‘When you really listen to another person, from their point of view and reflect back to them that understanding, it’s like giving them emotional oxygen.’
EDT: Christopher Rock