Developing Post-Rehab Strategies

Tracy D’Arpino earned her bachelor's degree in exercise science from Springfield College. She has been working in the fitness industry for 15 years as a personal trainer, group exercise instructor and educator. Tracy owns her own personal training studio, the Fitness Factor in Quincy, MA, and is a Nautilus master trainer, faculty instructor for TSI, a member of sunshine fitness resources and has worked closely with Wayne Westcott assisting in research at the South Shore YMCA. She is an avid runner and triathlete; she has completed four marathons and enjoys outdoor sports as part of her fitness training.

Post-rehab training involves continuing the process of returning to a pre-rehab state or returning to what normal function was for that individual client. For most health clubs, the typical personal training clients are trying to lose weight, just beginning their exercise regimen or signing up for a personal training session to stay motivated. While your personal trainers can make a difference in their lives, there is more of a need for post-rehab trainers due to the amount of individuals who are being discharged from physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or their medical doctor early due to the ongoing changes in managed care. Clients are now turning to personal trainers for continued guidance in their rehab and as the bridge between therapy and an independent workout program in a fitness facility.

Post-rehab clients are usually very motivated because something has happened in which they may be unable to do things they enjoy or may have disrupted their life financially etc. Some post-rehab clients may also be depressed from their condition. Personal trainers' role is vital to clients' success and motivation.

To better serve your clients in your club, your personal trainers can specialize as a prenatal or postnatal trainer or work with individuals with injuries. Personal trainers may also find themselves working with members who have suffered a stroke or heart attack, who may be in treatment for cancer, or who have a disease such as Multiple Sclerosis or Cerebral Palsy.

This is an area where trainers should consider specializing. The more trainers work with this population, the more knowledgeable, confident and natural they will be with their clients.

It may seem overwhelming for your trainers to work with such a broad population, but they are not expected to act as a doctor, physical therapist or be able to cure anyone. By using the following steps, they can work with post-rehab clients in a less intimidating way.

1. Prepare. With the use of the Internet, your trainers can look up a disease or condition and gain some general knowledge.

2. Get the client's physical therapist's or medical doctor's name and phone number and ask the client for permission to call. Trainers should let the medical or rehab professional know they are their patient's personal trainer, and they want to work with them in order to design a safe and effective exercise program. This will help them start designing an exercise program, gain information on their client's condition and develop a relationship with the medical community.

3. Your trainers should talk to their clients about the program they designed and explain short-term goals. Make their goals attainable especially at the beginning. Prepare your clients for success.

4. If the client can't afford to work with trainers more than once a week, they should give them a specific exercise prescription for the other days they should exercising. They should also make them accountable for those sessions by either giving them a workout card to be given back to you or report what they were able to accomplish.

5. Most facilities offer one-hour personal training packages. One hour may be too long for this population depending on the individual's client and condition. Do not feel like you have to kill an hour with a client. Consider 30-minute training sessions.

6. Start your training sessions slowly. Take the first few sessions to feel out the clients, see what works and what does not. With this population, slower is better.

7. Trainers should never assume they can cure someone. Their goal is to get their client at the highest functional level that they can. On the other hand, they should never give up on thier client.

For example, imagine your trainer is working with a client who had anterior cruciate ligament repair. The client is done with his physical therapy but needs to continue to strengthen the knee to get back to work. Your client has been out of work from the injury because he is in sales and can not bend the knee enough to get in and out of their car. This may seem overwhelming, but after following the steps above, he will have talked with his physical therapist who can tell you exactly how to progress this person using the equipment you have at your facility. As your trainer works with the client, always remember not to continue an exercise that causes pain. As your trainer's client progresses with the exercise program, do not hesitate to contact the physical therapist again if needed.

Once your personal trainers develop relationships within the medical community and prove themselves to be a successful trainers, they will be surprised at the referral system they will have. While it can be extremely challenging for your trainers to work with post-rehab clients, it can be extremely rewarding.

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