CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Power Systems
Each day in the health club industry, you meet prospective members and clients with a variety of goals. As most fitness professionals would agree, if your goal is to sell a prospect a membership or a training service, it would be in your best interest to ask the prospects about their goals. However, asking wide open questions such as "What are your fitness goals?" likely will result in wide open answers such as "lose some weight," "put on some muscle" or "get in shape." Although those goals are all fine, what do they really mean to the individuals?
For example, if a prospect responds to the question about their goal with a general response such as "get healthy," ask a follow-up question, such as "Okay, if you don't mind me asking, what does a 'healthy' version of you look like—lean, slender, muscular?" And then follow up even more by asking, "And as a healthier version of yourself, what would you do—run a 5K, play actively with your children?"
As you get to know your prospect a little better by helping them articulate their goals, they become more comfortable and the sales process starts to become less painful. Believe it or not, people like to talk about themselves. As you start to build rapport, the conversation begins to shift as you talk to them about the "how" and "what it will take" to reach their goals: cardiovascular training, strength training, proper nutrition, rest, etc. However, there is another aspect to achieving goals that has nothing to do with muscular strength or endurance or how many calories they eat in a day.
Mental toughness (aka grit or drive) is key to achieving goals. At some point during a client's transformation, physical strength won't be enough, and mental strength will have to take over. Although mental strength is intangible, it is a common character trait of successful people. So is it possible to train someone to be mentally tough?
Whether your members are training for weight loss, a marathon or some other level of competition, their bodies will become physically exhausted at some point. When their lungs burn and their muscles ache, their brain will act in their best interest to try to protect them. The brain will tell them to slow down or stop, but that is where mental toughness training begins.
U.S. Army General George S. Patton once said: "You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up... you've always got to make the mind take over and keep going."
Each time the internal monologue from the brain says "you can't," but your client is about to drown it out by their personal desire to succeed, they have achieved one big rep for grit.
The surge of extreme training for obstacle course racing, the Crossfit games, American Ninja Warrior and other fitness competitions shows everyone how mental toughness is required of these athletes as well. They, like an average client, are tasked with a goal that might have seemed impossible at some point in their life, but with the right strength training, both physical and mental, they accomplish things they never thought possible.
Extreme workouts are an effective tool to test an individual's grit, but a human's ability to perform in stressful situations includes both physical and mental training. A person's true grit—or strength of character—is not measured by physical strength; it is measured when physical strength fails and mental strength perseveres.
If muscular strength develops one rep at a time, then mental toughness develops one more rep at a time. The most successful trainers earn their clients' trust by asking them to perform exercises that take them out of their comfort zone and end with a surprisingly successful result. By taking your clients right to the precipice of success and failure and coaching them right over the finish line, you have helped them achieve another rep for mental toughness.
Grit develops one more rep, one more mile and one more pound at a time. But before you can push your clients to the next level, you must coach them to master the basics that are required. Owning the fundamentals such as proper form and technique in traditional weight training serves as the strong foundation on which to build physical and mental strength. These techniques must become second nature to your clients before moving on to overcome the mental challenges that await them.
Now let's go back to day one, when a prospective member walked into your facility and you started talking about fitness goals. It is highly unlikely that person would list "develop mental toughness" as a goal. However, it is a favorable byproduct of a successful transformation. It doesn't matter what role you play in the fitness industry—club manager, membership sales associate or personal trainer—it is up to you to provide the best environment, experience and expertise to help your members acquire the physical and mental strength it takes to reach their goals and keep them coming back to your club.
Elisabeth Fouts is a 10-year veteran in the fitness industry. She has served many roles from personal trainer/group fitness instructor to regional fitness manager. During that time, she also was responsible for hosting staff trainings on a variety of topics including membership sales and personal training programming. Fouts has a bachelor's degree in exercise xcience and actively teaches four Les Mills group fitness programs. She serves as the education coordinator for Power Systems and is a senior coach/master trainer for PowerWave.