Ah the wonderful PT-client relationship, filled with positive talk, motivation, mutual trust and respect. Or so you’d think! PTs start in the industry with the best intentions; to HELP people change their lives. Some PTs eat, breathe and sleep all things fitness; high protein, high intensity, low sugar, high energy!
They surround themselves with like-minded people and scour their social pages for those who share their beliefs. This passion and enthusiasm is inescapable and unquestionable. But there’s a LARGE group of people who live very differently; this demographic is called 96% OF THE POPULATION. A small number of this group end up becoming clients of these passionate PTs.
When the two worlds collide, it can be life changing…or totally de-motivating, depending on the way the PT approaches the relationship.
To keep things on the life changing side of the coin, here are five crazy things PTs should never say to a client!
“You’re doing that exercise wrong!” Hey hey, take it easy! You’ve been in the gym since you were born! Clients are learning new skills, techniques and getting reconnected with their physicality. Making your client wrong will create a negative feedback loop in their brain when it comes to exercise, or reinforce a negative feedback loop that already exists! Instead, ask them to try it a different way and ASK them to explore the movement. ‘What if you tried it this way, do you notice any changes?’ OR give them cues they can use! Like “imagine you have an apple between your glutes, now imagine you need to make apple sauce!” (Thanks to the TRX Functional Training course for that one!)
“I know you like the treadmill (insert any exercise here), but I’m putting you on the elliptical.” You may know that some movements are more beneficial than others, but if your client enjoys the treadmill, feels safe on the treadmill and has had a good experience on the treadmill, then let them use the treadmill!! Of course you can gently invite them to try different exercises, but this is an invitation to explore, NOT a COMMANDMENT!
“You need to stop eating chocolate / butter / bread / pasta (etc)…” Much like how they might feel about the treadmill or another movement, people are emotionally connected to certain foods. We know that sugar can be addicting and minimize results, but it’s about finding things they can substitute most days but allowing the occasional treat. For most regular people, in the long run, what they resist persists! The cravings will kick in and they will find themselves standing in font of a supermarket freezer eating a tub of ice-cream – and they won’t feel they can talk to you about it next time, either. Educate them about healthier choices but keep it all judgement free.
“No pain no gain!” This is a classic PT phrase, implying that you need to be in PAIN to get results! What?? Pushed out of a comfort zone, sure, working at the correct intensity to achieve the desired result, yes, but PAIN? NO! This could confuse the client about identifying pain and potentially injure them. A better motto is WORK, REST, REPEAT! Educating clients about the true (and underrated) benefits of recovery will help them learn to look for the signals of overtraining and learn how their body recovers from hard work
“Tired? Drink this energy drink and let’s go!” SLOW down there! Suggesting stimulants to your clients is a red flag!! Energy drinks and other uppers have been known to do some serious harm; too much of that stuff has actually KILLED people. Not really what you want to be known for, right? Instead, ask your clients about their sleep, stress, nutrition and hydration and you’ll start to get an overall picture of why the energy is lagging. Address the cause, not the symptom!
We all make mistakes as PTs and we’ll all learn from experience. We are the guides by our client’s side - like a GPS showing them the way, we may need to help them recalibrate - but ultimately, they are in the driver’s seat!