The one thing you might *NOT* be doing that is leaving money on the table
I wrote this post after presenting at the fitness industry conference that was in Perth. It was a beautiful day. I got to meet a whole bunch of trail blazers that are in the industry, lots of experts and fun presenting at the event. I attended a couple of the lectures and they were really well put together. It was a very enjoyable time learning more about my craft. And I really respect my peers in the industry and the other trainers that are out there that put time into learning because as soon as you're putting time into learning, learning your craft even better. It's telling me that you're part of the 1%. The 1% that strives to be different and doesn't think that they know everything, these were my people because they are interested in learning more and they've made that commitment to learn more.
So that made me think, what is one of the “things” we might not be doing to show we are the 1% in our customer practice?
“So, Susan, tell me what the thing is?”
The “thing” is adequate screening, in terms of movement as well as getting medical screening. And on top of that, correct warming up principles. Now I say this with absolute love. So this is me helping you understand why these things are important, even if you believe you already do these things. And what it can do for you in terms of continuity of training, client retention, and just understanding things a little bit better. So that said, let's talk about how we get someone on board.
Now other blog posts you read within this site, you will find out how you can reach out to prospective leads, how you can attract prospective leads and have those conversations but let's take it a step further. We've now got someone who wants to actually train with us. And so therefore, we want to make sure that they are the right fit and also that we can cater to their needs, whether it be in a group environment or whether it be one on one.
So let's talk about that a little bit more. How do we do that? Well, one of the ways that we can do that is by sending people a medical screening form. The medical screening form is legitimately to work out what factors we need to be aware of when the person is going in. For many places: Big Box gyms, personal trainers studios, this form actually forms part of your insurance policy. It forms a part of you knowing how to best help the client.
But on top of that, it covers your back for any injury related claims that could be tied back to your training. So if you're not asking these questions, not only could you be leaving money on the table, because you're not tailoring exercise, or having the awareness of what to know with your client, you also could potentially be setting yourself up for litigation. I cannot begin to tell you the number of gyms that I have actually visited to try them out to see whether it was the right gym for me and I haven't haven't been asked so much if I had an injury, nevermind been given a screening form. And that to me is quite scary and dangerous because for me, I have bodily awareness to a higher level in terms of like I've learned a lot about other people's bodies and my own body.
One thing I have going on is I have got back herniations as a result of being hit by a car when I was on a pedestrian crossing. So when I am attending a gym or when I have been instructed to do exercise, if it's sheer force, such as kettlebell swings etc (lateral shear force actually if we're gonna get really technical), I shouldn't be doing it. It will just trigger my injuries to be worse and could potentially mean that I have soreness (but not in a DOM's soreness way) and maybe won't be able to get out of bed the next day. And that's not really something that I'm looking to gain from exercise and probably what shouldn't be what you're looking for clients from exercise.
But if no one asked the question, and I didn't have that level of awareness of what the trigger is for my back, I could be in a situation where I'm doing something in class and because of a pre-existing injury my back gets really bad. If I wasn't aware of the triggers, and it was something that seems really quite innocent such as a kettlebell swing, like a single arm kettlebell swing, then what happens if the person goes to see someone about their newly injured back with that history that you could've had? You could now potentially be putting yourself up for litigation because first of all, you had no awareness of the injury in the first place. You didn't know the triggers of the injury. And you also probably made it worse as a result of your programming.
Now this is not all doom and gloom and I'm not trying to say that any of this is your fault: when people exercise they do put themselves in a more vulnerable position because people that actually move and exercise their bodies are more at risk of injuring themselves, but they get better payoff in the long term. They get stronger, they get fitter, and they actually make themselves more robust as a result, and they're less likely to get chronic illness and disease as a result of long term participation and exercise.
But wouldn't you like to know what things you can do to work around whatever injuries that the person is walking into? Let's get this straight. Anybody that is walking into you, over the age of probably 25, probably 30 they likely have a whole bunch of injuries that they got in their childhood adolescence. From incorrect technique, from just falling, from playing sports in the past, that sort of thing.
And when somebody is unable to train with you because they are injured because of something that could have been switched out. You're actually missing out on money. The person is not able to train with you so they're not able to give you their money for the next week's training or the week after that or the week after that. So even if you didn't have a conscience in terms of not injuring a person or it's not my fault, because it was a pre existing injury. The point is if you want someone to be able to keep paying you and also for you to be able to get them results in the future. They have to be able to train with you in the first place. And they can't keep training with you. If they have an injury that puts them out for another six weeks, or puts them out for another 12 weeks and that's realistically what could be happening.
I'm telling you a worst case scenario. If they've got something going on that you're not asking them about: you don't even have that opportunity on a screening form for them to find out. Now, that seems all like doom and gloom, but protecting yourself legally is important. And also knowing the things that could potentially affect the personal training session, or the group training session that you're doing is really, first of all protecting yourself but also protecting the person from getting injured. A person doesn't get more robust from triggering their injury so much that it “goes away” that just doesn't happen unless we are maybe talking about modern research on tendinopathies (but that's a story for a different day and not the same thing).
I'll tell you a little story. So I, as a common practice, get someone to fill in a screening form, and I, which we'll talk about later, do a movement, analysis and goal setting. So I am training this person for about four weeks and I do a decline chest press with them. And when they go to get up, they make this kind of wail and they're clutching at their lower stomach on one side. And I'm like, oh my oh whoa, what happened? You know, I am absolutely confused and baffled. They said, “Oh, like that really hurts getting up there”. Their legs are higher than their body. So their abdominals are helping them get up. I helped him up and I said, Have you ever felt that pain before? The gentleman told me… “Yeah, it's right at the site where I used to have a hernia”.
Guess what? the person hadn't said they had a hernia before. But because I had them fill in the form in black and white, I actually told them: “this is not on your screening form”. It meant that if something had happened as a result of the preexisting hernia, then because it wasn't on the form, and because it never was discussed, I couldn't be proven to be responsible for that because it's never been discussed despite me doing a thorough examination. I’d even done a core test (although not to give too much away, the gentlemen couldn't complete any of the core test, so it was a false negative). From that point on I decided to add a little more core investigations even for men.
Now the next level, after I get someone to fill in a screening form, and I have checked through it, always make sure that you read through it before you actually meet the person and make sure that you are actually reading what they're saying. Make sure that it's properly filled in. For me, it's always a question mark, when somebody has a form that they've written N/A for, pretty much every single condition and every single set of boxes when they're over the age of 30 or 40. If they do not have a single niggle, or if they do not have a single medication that they're taking I am like, really? Wow. Tell me more about this. That's the first thing.
Next of all, when I get the person in, because I have read the screening for them, I know what parts of my movement analysis that I need to remove. If someone has abdominal separation, maybe not the best to do any sort of core things with them unless that is being completely okayed by their specialist. So the screening form should lead into the movement screen and when you're doing the movement screen, you're looking at things that can tell you more about what they need from their training, and what they need to do with their style of training. So, a movement session is a really great way to get to know the person, it breaks the ice. It also sets you up as the expert in the situation, because most people that I train will tell me that they used to be a personal trainer. And I think to myself, great, well, how come you're not still a personal trainer, you know? So everybody thinks that personal training is something that they can do or they used to do, and pretty much everyone in their dog thinks that they can do your job. I can't tell you how many times I've been at parties and someone said, “Oh, I was going to be a personal trainer, you know if accountancy didn't take off for me” or something to that effect. And I think yeah, because it's exactly the same attributes.
I mean, don't get me wrong, you need to have a level of number literacy. And I mean in the business sense not in the rep counting sense. But you know, it comes in handy knowing numbers. But what I'm getting at is not only will it actually help you set your level of experience with a person when you're doing your movement screen, it becomes an icebreaker to be able to build rapport with the person. It also gives you the opportunity to have a think about whether certain movements are good for a person: you can see their form. What things they can and can't do, based on injuries they might have and that sort of thing, but how will you be able to tell what that looks like in front of you unless you get the person moving? So that's one of those things that can really set you apart as a personal trainer, especially if you take that half an hour to just meet with the person and see how they move.
There you have it, some reasons why a screen is imperative. I really hope that it highlights the importance of some of the things that need to be considered in getting a client in the door and getting them to continue working out with you. Remember, you are the one that needs to have the best informed decision on how to tailor a program for someone. And the only way you're going to be able to do that is if you're looking at the way someone moves, looking at what their goals are so that you can always align with the goals and also making sure that there's no contrary information in their medical history that are going to get them in trouble injury-wise Do you not do a movement screen? Have you found anything better than what I have just said? Let me know right in the comments or give me a call. I'm always happy to chat to you. I've been working in industry for quite a long time and I've made quite a lot of mistakes along the way. I'm telling you this stuff so you don't have to make those mistakes again. Enjoy!