motivate teams

It is February, which means that most of the world has abandoned — for yet another year — their health and fitness resolutions. Now, you might be thinking “not my clients,” but let’s be real — even those of us who train primarily “die-hard” exercise devotees still have a few “on-again, off-again” individuals. It is, literally, our job to find a way to motivate those people to stick around long enough to push through the “hard/hate” phase and begin to feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. Plus, even the most motivated client, or trainer, can use strategies to stay on track; I know I always appreciate an infusion of pep, purpose and motivation.

So, how do you help your clients stay motivated?

You encourage them to “ditch discipline” in favour of working to change “systems.” You need to embrace that your clients will have moments of low motivation — their future self will eventually be hungry, tired, sad, lonely, drunk, etc. Instead of letting your clients buy into the self-defeating fallacy that “blind discipline is enough”, which is akin to sticking your head in the sand, help your clients establish systems NOW that will save them from their future lesser selves!

When “out and about”

Suggest clients read menus ahead of time and decide IN ADVANCE what to order: Client going out for a nice meal? Instruct them to look online and decide what they will eat – chicken and vegetables or a big salad? When they arrive tell them not to even look at the menu, just order what they had previously selected. Even better, tell them to ask the waiter to only bring half and to pack up the other half to save for tomorrow’s healthy lunch.

Help clients locate (in advance) healthy “grab and go” take-out options: Client running errands? Suggest they plan the route and map out the healthy restaurant options and/or pack a healthy snack. Are they working late and need take-out dinner? Ordering lunch for a work event? Help your clients’ research healthy options around their office.

When going to a party

Tell clients to offer to bring something healthy: When I go to a party I always offer to bring a dish I want to eat — a big salad or steamed greens, etc. That way I know there will always be at least one healthy option.

Tell clients to have a “drink” plan: Remind clients that “liquids count” — that they contain calories and, more important, impact our blood sugar, which affects our hormones and fat production — and thus that a “drink plan” is always needed.

Before every work event, party, etc, suggest clients decide in advance how much alcohol they will consume and what their plan is. For example, tell a friend how much you will drink, write a goal down, decide to have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink, combine fizzy water with wine to make one glass of wine stretch into three drinks, or sip a vodka soda to stay away from the carbs in beer.

When at home

Help your clients learn how to stock their fridge so they can “assemble” a healthy and FAST meal! Your clients need to learn to always make healthy food as convenient as possible and unhealthy food as inconvenient as possible.

At home, this means stocking the fridge with healthy and EASY to assemble food that can be turned into a meal in no time. Experiment with vegetarian and meat options. I always have containers of cut vegetables; vegetarian protein like quinoa, lentils, and/or beans; pre-washed salad greens; and a meat such as chicken ready to go. Then when I get home I can easily create a big salad by grabbing greens, lentils, and vegetables or a yummy bowl on a bed of quinoa with the beans and vegetables.

In general

Help your clients have a hydration plan: Suggest clients carry a water bottle, set a “water alarm,” and/or set an amount of water they have to drink before their morning coffee. Too often we misunderstand dehydration as hunger.

In addition, suggest clients watch what they put in their coffee and tea, limit caffeine, and avoid calories from sugary liquids.

Suggest “the power of 3”: Help clients avoid “food overwhelm” — what I call “option paralysis.” Making healthy food choices can feel all-too confusing and when overwhelmed it is easy to say “screw it” and fall completely off the wagon.

The “simple” (but not always easy) system I follow is the “rule of 3.” I save my cognitive energy by telling myself that every meal has to have a protein, a vegetable or fruit high in vitamins and minerals (green leafy vegetables or berries), and a healthy fat. Once I eat those three things I don’t have room for any of the less healthy stuff!

Remind clients about “Portions. Portions. Portions”: Most clients have to be reminded, often, that portions count, that one slice of apple pie is not the same as three slices.

This may sound like obvious information but never forget that you are a personal trainer. What is obvious to you is not always obvious to your clients. Many newbie health enthusiasts buy into the “Well, I already messed up so I might as well keep going” myth.

Remind clients to always “be aware”: Again, this may sound obvious, but many of us, especially lay individuals, make less-than-ideal health choices because we are not aware of what we are putting in our mouths. Most of us — yes, even trainers — underestimate our unhealthy choices and overestimate our healthy choices.

Suggest to your clients that they take a pause before eating, sit when possible, not mindlessly pick off someone’s plate, not eat while they cook, put their fork down between bites, and consider journaling or tracking their food.

Main Take-away

Give your clients the “wake-up” lecture that blind discipline does not work. Health roadblocks, such as work events, stress, and family functions are an inherent part of life. Sure, you might be motivated NOW, but you have to plan for the inevitable future you who is not as motivated. Then, help them set up systems that will save them from their future self and thus stay motivated throughout 2019 and going forward.


Kathleen Trotter holds a masters in Exercise Science, is the author of two books including the new book Your Fittest Future Self, and is a Personal trainer, Nutritionist, Pilates Specialist and Life Coach. Visit her at

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