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The one thing that makes all the difference

For a big shift in the number of Personal Training clients you produce results for focus on this one thing

Consistency rules!

If you take all the technical advances we’ve made in the last two decades in exercise science, programming, equipment design, training systems etc, wrap them up in a big parcel and call it progress, they would barely register on the scale when compared to the one and only king of success determining factors: consistency.


We ALL struggle with consistency

Consistency is the single biggest determinant of success because it's just so damn hard to do.  There are, based on the statistics I look at, about 4% of the population who can latch on to something and keep it going without flaw - that 4% is dogged and has a self-determination rating beyond the rest of us. 

I'm not saying the rest of us can't stick at something - I'm saying we stick at the stuff that suits us.  I'm pretty good at a few things (sorry, rating myself a bit there) and I am very consistent with them. 

This is simply because I'm good at them, I enjoy doing them, they come easy and I've grown fond of the rewards (both in recognition, mastery, self-esteem building stuff and some of the material rewards aren't bad either). 

But, I'm not good at being consistent around the stuff I find hard or in fact, just a little less attractive to spend time on than something else I get more from.  Basically, I think I'm consistent around the stuff that's easy for me to be consistent with - and I think most the people I meet are similar.

Is consistency the 'leap forward' we are looking for?

If I was looking for a leap forward in Personal Training I wouldn't be looking for a vibrating kettle bell or a suspension system or a metabolic conditioning programme - that stuff is easy (sorry engineers, physiologists and dabblers). I'd be looking for a programme that could give me a quantum shift in my ability to help clients (and myself for that matter) to be more consistent with the slightly more difficult things in my life.  I'd give my eye-teeth for some better consistency when and where I needed it.

Well, hate to tell you folks, there isn't a complete programme that focuses on this yet.  In fact, most of the work being done in Personal Training is in the aforementioned technical areas. 

Some time ago I was exposed to a saying 'be effective first, and efficient second'.  The basic premise here is to spend time on big effective things as much as possible, and deal with how efficient you are being once you've sucked the easy wins out of the bag.  This approach applies in business as much as it applies in fitness - but here let's concentrate on the fitness aspect.

In fitness, all this technical progress is great but it's the efficiency end of the equation and not the effective end for the majority of our clients. Simply put, more consistency would lead to us being more effective than more of anything that made each workout more efficient at burning calories.  The fact of the matter is, you don't burn any calories or get any fitter if you don't turn up - and that is by far the most significant issue facing the majority of our clients (and potential clients) today.

Most clients who join clubs and many who have been members for a while fall into a group that I label 'beginners'.  We've talked about the general categorisation of club members and personal training clients before but to summarise beginners have not exercised consistently (there's that word again) for the last six months.  To put a finer point on it, for the club members, I define 'consistent' as at least three times each week for six months.  The total members in this category I approximate at 70%. 

So, if I were a betting man, I'd say about 70% of everything we research, ponder and develop systems around should focus on helping the 70% of our club members become consistent.  That means effectiveness for Personal Trainers is for the most part about developing and encouraging consistency in training in the first instance.

I don't need to tell you that consistency can be tricky at times.  Trickier than measuring physiological outputs and creating fancier prescriptions and a lot trickier than coming up with a new exercise to progress mechanical loading. 

How to think about consistency

I like to think about consistency as the catalyst to all results.  A catalyst is something that gives out energy providing the trigger to get a reaction happening.  Consistency is the catalyst for results.  Consistently taking structured actions toward a pre-determined goal is hugely empowering and therefore vital to success.  Being consistent proves, to the person involved in change, that they can complete the tasks required repeatedly in order to change.  Once a person is consistent in their actions the rewards of change are simply a matter of time.

Consistency is so important because it teaches a client to be successful in the very first and most basic of things - turning up and completing the prescirbed fun stuff (called exercise).  Consistency develops the neurons in the part of the brain involved in goal directed behaviour and, as it is with muscles, when neurons are repeatedly stimulated they grow and link more deeply within a neural network.  Essentially consistency lays down the neural pathways required for success to happen over the long term.

Consistency is also permeable.  That is, the act of being consistent builds self-esteem and feelings of self-mastery that can creep into all areas of a clients life.  Because a person can be disciplined and consistent over time they prove to themselves they have a recipe for success - that is, set a goal and get consistent with the actions that will lead to the realisation of that goal.  Consistency changes the physiology of the brain in a vital area and changes the overall psychology of the person giving them feelings of control over their environment and future.

I think we dramatically under-value the importance of helping clients create training plans that will lead to long term consistent training.  We focus too much energy on what is physiologically 'efficient' with deep analysis of workout protocols and far too little effort on structuring early training to enhance consistency and the client's perceptions of success.

We need to realise that our future value could increase dramatically if we focused on helping clients change long-term.  Not one of my clients said to me 'hey Steve, I want to lose 23kg this summer but make sure I have it back with interest for next summer!'  Given nearly all clients are looking for sustainable changes in their lives we have a duty as professionals to concern ourselves with developing our clients training consistency over almost all other matters as we work with them.

Consistency isn't everything, it's the only thing

I've come up with a very simple yet powerful 'top 10 tips to create more consistency with your clients'.  I'll be releasing it soon on this blog and I'd love for you to use some or all of the tips with your clients.

Les says:
Sep 03, 2012 08:56 PM

Sound advice I'd say.

Cyrus says:
Sep 03, 2012 10:44 PM

Look forward to reading the "top 10 tips" having "CONSISTENCY" makes good sense!

Lori says:
Sep 04, 2012 03:49 AM

I'm looking forward to reading your upcomming blog "Top 10 Tips to Create More Consistency with our Clients."

Velcia Scott
Velcia Scott says:
Sep 04, 2012 07:41 AM

this was a great read i love address ingthe emotional side of my clients so as to understand where their at and where i need to help them go

Trude Cameron
Trude Cameron says:
Sep 04, 2012 08:56 AM

The key to helping our clients to be more consistent with their training is to find ways to help them to develop consistency of their actions. One way that's worked for me is to use the time they are doing their cardio session to really explore with them what is holding them back and what they can do to make getting to their fitness sessions more convenient. Is it the timing of sessions, being organised and prepared in their busy lives, feeling supported by their partner? Your active listening skills and brainstorming for solutions are really important here. Being an awesome trainer is so much more than prescribing and supervising exercise.