Over the past 20 years, the fitness and nutrition industries have exploded. Unfortunately, over this span of time, many Americans have exploded too, with obesity now at epidemic levels and increasing daily. If the current trends continue, the entire nation will be obese by the year 2230. I am sure you are well aware of the dismal statistics for long-term weight loss success. The only long-term successful programs have incorporated healthy eating, including core nutrient supplementation, sound exercise and behavioral modifications. Plus, you can only assess if someone has been truly successful in a program when you take it out to that five-year mark. I believe that we, as fitness professionals, are perfectly positioned to make a huge impact in the obesity epidemic if we approach the problem scientifically and pull in a team to support our clients through the process. The obesity epidemic represents an amazing opportunity for us to make a major difference in the world and to be outstanding in our field.
Controlling the Uphill
The challenge in dealing with this problem now is two-fold: Most of your clients aren't even doing the basics correctly due to the plethora of mis-information that is flooding the marketplace, and even if they are, many of them have been on multiple "diets" and have lived poor lifestyles that have created "weight loss resistance." Weight loss resistance (WLR) is the inability or difficulty in losing weight despite following appropriate diet and lifestyle recommendations. I have identified 8 key areas of weight loss resistance that are common causes of "plateaus" or lack of weight loss success. These are chronic stress, sleep deprivation (even slight), insulin resistance, thyroid fatigue, toxic burden, hormone imbalances, gut dysbiosis and food sensitivities and neurotransmitter imbalances resulting in cravings and/or excessive appetite.
I teach a two-day workshop called, "Overcoming Weight Loss Resistance" with Linda Lizotte, RD. We have a wide variety of allied health care professionals in the audience including doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths, therapists, nurse practitioners, personal trainers and nutritionists. We discuss the basics for weight loss and then review each area of WLR and how to treat it using diet, exercise, lifestyle interventions and targeted supplements. I review how to create a weight loss program, how to price it and how to market it successfully. When I discuss setting up a program, I recommend that a doctor (MD, DC, DO), nutritionist and personal trainer team up. The doctor identifies the areas of WLR and creates an action plan for healing these areas; the nutritionist works on basic healthy eating as well as therapeutic supplementation, and the trainer creates an exercise plan to help correct the areas of WLR, raises basal metabolism, enhances fat burning and boosts metabolic rate throughout the day. The trainer and nutritionist support each other, and both work as coaches to take the client through the program.
Creating the Business
This presents a dynamic business opportunity for the personal trainer. First, it puts you, the personal trainer, in front of a huge and growing (no pun intended) audience. Second, you have built-in referral sources by working as a team. Third, you differentiate yourself from your competition by doing so. When you work as a team, you will need to keep the communication open between you and your allied health care professionals.
You will be seeing the client more frequently than either the doctor or the nutritionist, so you will be the first line of defense should they have any concerns or problems. I recommend that you provide a monthly report to the doctor and nutritionist so that they will see if there are any issues that they need to address i.e. the client having trouble with fatigue, recovery, poor fat burning, poor muscle development and/or compliance. These areas can then be addressed medically, nutritionally and with exercise to increase the client's success. It is important for you to understand how every member of your team works and what they are recommending so that you can back them up, and in turn, they can support your program. This way, the client doesn't receive conflicting information that will confuse him or her. I recommend that you offer any health care professional with whom you share clients a complimentary training session so they can familiarize themselves with your skills and knowledge. You will also want to find out who their ideal clients are and what their areas of expertise are so you can send them referrals. Allied health care professionals will be much more likely to refer business to you if they know you are going to support their recommendations and help their clients be successful. Your clients will appreciate the communication and support between their clinician team as well.
One of the single biggest determinants of a client's success is their mindset. If they think that they are going to fail, it is almost certain that they will. One of the biggest challenges ' with many of the commercial weight loss programs is that they lack the basic elements needed for long-term success, and so they set their clients up to fail. If you have a client who has been on three or more diets (and this will be nearly all of your clients), this means that they have failed three or more times, and now they no longer truly believe they can be successful. They will tell you that they will "try" your program. But the bottom line is that you can't get more committed to their program then they do, which means they can't just "try" it. They have to decide that they are going to commit to it and go through the process.
One of the best ways to commit is with the wallet. When a client pays for a month in advance, they are making the commitment to you and to the program. I teach all of the allied health care professionals in my seminars to put the client on a program after they have done their initial consultation and identified their needs. The program is done on a monthly basis and includes training sessions and some value-added services these could be body composition testing, Fit Tips handouts, complimentary gym memberships, etc. In addition, I then create a three-month program and add incentives because I know that the more of a commitment the client makes up-front, the greater the likelihood of their success. As an example, below programs are based on a trainer's hourly rate of $50 and a twice-weekly training program:
Fitness Assessment and Program Design $150
(takes about 2 hours). Includes body composition, fitness intake and assessment, goal setting and exercise prescription and program design.
Monthly Fitness Program $400
(i.e. $100 a week, paid by the month). This includes 8 training sessions, total metabolism testing, as well as to weekly Fit Tips.
Three-Month "Commit to Get Fit!" Program $1,200
Includes everything in the monthly program, a pedometer and fitness journal (as incentive to commit!).
Monthly Fitness "Check-Up" $100
This is for the client who wants to do it on their own, each month you do a mini fitness assessment, body composition and a program design (should take 1-1.5 hours). Again, this is based on $50/hour. If you charge more or less, you can shift the numbers.
As you can see, the programs have value-added services so that it takes the focus off of the hourly rate. The program designs can be charged at a higher rate as they have a higher perceived value.
Consult: The First Step
Be sure to start with an initial consult and fitness assessment. If your client has been referred by one of your team members, then get as much background information as you can on them (with their written approval to stay in compliance with medical HIPPA regulations). If you are seeing them first, have them fill out your background history form before they come in to see you. During your initial consultation, you are going to need to uncover their exercise history, what they enjoy, why they have quit in the past, what they are looking to accomplish and why this is important to them. You also need to find out what kind of time they have available and what they are willing to do on their own. Together you should set specific goals, both long-term and short-term; make them measurable and build in rewards. Figure out how you will be monitoring and measuring their progress. It is a good idea to record this in a commitment contract that you both sign. If you find that they are wavering in their commitment at any point, bring out their goals and their commitment sheet and see if their goals have changed. Point to the "why" that has brought them to you, show them their success so far and help them recommit to their long-term success. Just as your client has to make the commitment to living a healthier lifestyle as well as fitting fitness into their life, you will need to make the commitment to implement new ideas and to continue to grow and improve in your own business.
JJ Virgin is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist from the American College of Nutrition and a Certified Health and Fitness Instructor (ACSM). For more information on her seminars, please visit www.jjvirgin.com, www.designsforhealth.com or call 800.847.8302.