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Requirements for Successful Behaviour Change

Effort (or a lack thereof) is seldom a reason for clients ceasing exercise. Discover the three essential elements all clients must have to successfully change their behaviour here, and what you can do as a trainer to 'plug any gaps' your clients may have.

There are three key elements required for behaviour change to be successful, these are:

  1. personal%20training%20requirements%20of%20successful%20changeDesire (want to do it, will put in the effort, have made it a priority)
  2. Knowledge (know what to do, when, where, how)
  3. Skills (can do it properly/effectively)


Successful change is built from the combination of all three.  If you are missing one, you will often not sustain the change you are attempting.

Let’s talk about an example.  If a person was trying to eat more nutritiously they would have to:

  1. Want to do it – usually because they have some sort of change they want to happen (e.g. lose weight) they are keen as a bean to eat more nutritiously.  Evidence of someone’s desire is that they will spend resources on causing the change – money, time, effort.
  2. Know what to do – they need to know what types of food are healthy, where they can get them, how to prepare them, what they cost, what meals they can make with them, how long it takes to prepare and cook them
  3. Have done it enough to have the skills – they must practise shopping, preparing, cooking, serving, and enjoying the nutritious food.  They’ll also need skills of time management (to get to the shops and make time for cooking), and self management (able to encourage and coach themselves when things don’t work the first time)


Given the above example, now imagine removing one of these elements.

  1. If someone doesn’t want to ‘eat well’ what is the chance of it happening?
  2. If someone doesn’t know what the difference between healthy food and unhealthy food is, or where to get it and how to prepare it – what is the chance of them being able to change?
  3. If someone hasn’t ever bought, prepared, cooked, or served healthy food what chance have they got of being able to do it perfectly the first time without the need for support and coaching?


One of the key things a personal trainer does is work out what is missing in a clients ‘change tool kit’.  Quite simply by providing the missing elements wrapped up in an experience that the client appreciates, the trainer can rapidly help the client with long term change.


So, helping any member to successfully change their behaviour requires that we find out:

  • Why they want to change and what exactly they expect to happen
  • What they understand about what they are trying to achieve, what they are prepared to learn to make it happen, what support they need
  • What they have done before and what they are prepared to ‘get good at’.  What coaching/refinement of existing or new skills do they need.


What you must realise is that change doesn’t ‘just happen’ and that the Nike catch phrase of ‘just do it’ is fine for those with all the desire, knowledge and skills – but is absolute nonsense for almost everyone who is seeking support at a fitness club.


What happens in the ‘action’ stage when someone is trying to change?

When someone is in ‘action’ they will be trying new things.  Their desire will have laid the foundation, they will have a belief that they can make it happen and overcome any barriers, and they will have committed resources (money, time, effort). 

However, they may or may not know what they need to (knowledge), and they may or may not be able to do the things they need to (skills).  So, they will have some ‘slip ups’ along the way to deal with.

When these ‘slip ups’ occur their support system should help them deal with what’s going on in a positive way, to learn from it, modify what they are doing, and try again.  Great athletes do this over and over again to improve and they have massive support to achieve the changes they seek.  A fitness club member has their goals, pays membership for support, and should always be able to achieve change... if they are looked after appropriately.


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Client Back Care Guide

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