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Trainer’s Prerogative: How to Change Your Client’s Mind

It’s a Mind Game

Many people think that personal training is all about sweat and deprivation. But seasoned trainers know that when it comes to goal achievement, working out and healthy eating are only the tip of the iceberg. The real challenge of training is to overcome your clients’ mental obstacles to success. In order for your clients to achieve optimal results, they need to cultivate mental toughness. In his book “The New Toughness Training for Sports,” Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute identified mental, emotional and bodily toughness as key ingredients leading to peak performance.


Mental Toughness

Many of your clients will begin with low levels of mental toughness. Past failures, lack of confidence, and low intrinsic motivation present obstacles that the trainer must address. Asking open ended questions during the initial health screening interview, then listening carefully to your client’s responses, can give you insight into a new client’s mental preparedness for training. Setting concrete and realistic goals for your client will lay the foundation for success. Giving your new clients a realistic overview of what it will take for them to achieve their goals will help prepare them mentally for the rocky road ahead.

Hard Times Ahead

Emotional Toughness

Emotional toughness is marked by flexibility, responsiveness, strength, and resiliency. Being able to recover from setbacks and having a strong belief in the ability to succeed are key. Positive reinforcement, social support and anxiety coping strategies are tools you can use to help your client build emotional toughness. Visualization of successful outcomes and mentally rehearsing are tools used by athletes to build confidence and overcome the emotional obstacles that undermine success.

Tough Workout

Bodily Toughness

Being well prepared and acting tough are identified by Loehr as elements of bodily toughness. As a trainer, you can help your client achieve bodily toughness by first laying a solid foundation of good mechanics and core strength. Applying excessive overload before your client is ready will result in a sense of failure and self-doubt. Focus on clean execution in the early stages of training and apply progressive overload as your client becomes stronger. Target the muscles of the core early on to prevent injury and to prepare your client for the challenges that lie ahead.


To learn more about helping your clients succeed, consider enrolling in the W.I.T.S Lifestyle Fitness Coaching course, available online.

References and Credits

James E. Loehr: The New Toughness Training for Sports: Mental Emotional Physical Conditioning from One of the World’s Premier Sports Psychologists.


Journal of Athletic Training: Development of the Mental, Emotional, and Bodily Toughness Inventory in Collegiate Athletes and Nonathletes.


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