“Am I getting better?” is a question a client asked me recently, and I’ve heard variations of it over the last decade and a half. Some can have a negative feel to them, like “I feel like I’m not getting better, our sessions are still hard sometimes” or “I don’t look like I’ve been training with a trainer after _____ (insert duration here)”, or “wow, I’m so out of shape, I can’t do X or my performance on this is Y” (where I have to refer people to the SAID principle).
WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?
To the title question, there is no magical answer, yet people expect magical results. However, the answer is always yes. You may have to cajole someone into the answer, or educate them. As fitness professionals, especially when our clients trust us, they need encouragement, but it also needs to stem in reality and accountability. I had the “am I getting better?” question asked by someone whom I trained via video conference, after 2 weeks of training only. My answer was prefaced with more questions and education so that the answer sinks in, with the following elements:
- Is it easier to do certain things (from the mundane to the workout specific)?
- Is soreness from lack of activity gone?
- Is your appetite going up (physical activity will usually stimulate that, as muscles want to be fed, to simplify this concept)?
I allow people to self-assess from their own baseline while educating them on the process, the idea of consistency and duration of a training program, and how it makes things better in their lifestyle.
WHAT ABOUT THE NEGATIVE REMARKS/QUESTIONS?
When someone feels they’re not getting better, I show them their training logs, anything and everything measurable. “Here, your previous benchmark was at X reps with Y load, today it is X+10 reps with 1.5Y load, so you have improved in strength and muscular endurance”.
As for the visual esthetics, I also emphasize that you can train twice a week and twice a week only, but if you don’t follow a regimented lifestyle that encompasses proper nutrient intake, adequate sleep and recovery, maintenance training will help you from getting worse, and while it will make you fitter and healthier, the only way to tell would be “what do you think you’d look like if you hadn’t trained at all the past 2 years while maintaining the same diet and lifestyle?” While we can never know unless they have a twin as their control group, we communicate and educate our clients.
Also, when someone claims having poor cardio endurance but only wants to train to lift heavy weights, or vice versa; your body adapts to what you get it ready for.
In the end, clients are in the driver’s seat. We just need to give them a good road map.