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How to help your clients adhere to lasting change.

By understanding exercise behaviour and how to encourage individuals to participate in regular exercise, instructors can help them adhere to regular exercise to achieve their goals and increase their quality of life in the long term.

As an instructor or personal trainer, before you can start to discuss each individuals motivators, it is necessary to open up effective communication. Doing this will enable the client to feel comfortable and feel supported in the process of becoming more active or working towards achieving their goal(s).

It is also important that you incorporate the following areas into your personal practice as a trainer:

  • Good listening skills

  • Empathy

  • Use of appropriate body language

  • Personal appearance

  • Avoidance of technical language or jargon

  • Being non-judgemental

  • Appropriate and comfortable environment

Building Rapport

Building rapport is essential of effective communication is to take place. In order to establish rapport, it is vital to understand the individual prior to progressing with the rest of the session.

Rapport is more than just a conversation. It also includes body language; mimicking your clients posture and position. Voice tone is also important as well as vocabulary. Does your clothing also project a professional image?


Empathy is the ability to see things from another person's view as if it was your own. You need to be aware of your own prejudices, biases or beliefs. This will help you to minimise any projection of your own issues onto your client. You should show your clients unconditional positive regard, showing warmth and respect.


Attending involves active listening, using observation skills, eye contact and attentive body language. When listening, actually hear what your client is saying and analyse whether their words match their body language. For example, a person could say they enjoyed an activity, but their facial expression/body language says something different! Active listening also involves repeating back the content of a conversation to prove what was heard was correct.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a client-centred counselling style for helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence about behaviour change.

It involves establishing where the client is and what they are motivated to do, helping them move along to making a decision for change. As a trainer you must listen to clients, help when talk about their concerns and patterns of behaviour, gathering information about them and negotiating goals.

The motivational interviewing process moves through three phases:

The Eliciting Phase - The goal during this phase is to get your client to state as clearly as possible their concerns about this area of their life and for them to convince you that something must change. Use open questions.

The Information-Gathering Phase - The goal here is to help your client gather and assimilate relevant information and to look at it's implications for change.

The Negotiating Phase - This during this phase is to help your client come to the decision about what ( if anything) they want to change: the goal of change, the means of achieving it and where to begin action.

Steps To Building a Successful Behavioural Programme

1. Build a positive and accurate expectation about results. People respond better to immediate benefits than to longer-term ones.

2. Precisely define your recommendations. Avoid providing vague instructions like 'exercise more'.

3. Help clients set realistic and achievable goals.

4. Identify their Stage of Change and offer relevant support strategies (check out our free cheatsheet download at the end of this article).

4. Use written agreements/contracts to enhance commitment.

5. Prepare for relapses - identify situations, feelings, events where a relapse may occur and develop and practise skills to cope with these situations.

6. Provide regular feedback and reward achievement.

7. Encourage social support - involvement of partner or friend may result in greater adherence. A buddy system may improve compliance.

8. Build a positive relationship with excellent communication skills.

DOWNLOAD our cheatsheet on 'Strategies to Support Clients in Each Stage of Change'.

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