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To Plan or not to Plan?

28 Jul 2008

In a recent issue of “Personal Fitness Professional,” Kaiser Serajuddin of GoHard Fitness defends planning training sessions as a great way to set yourself apart as a trainer. Having a program designed ahead of time along with in-session note-taking, he adds, may be time-consuming, but will pay off with a little patience. When clients and referrals notice the thought, effort, and extra time you put into devising an exercise plan, they will be more likely to pay a premium price for your services. Having a plan and updating it regularly will help in delivering high quality service and make a good, professional impression.

The ideas of planning a training session ahead of time as opposed to delivering one off the cuff have supporters on each side. When I first started out as a trainer, working for a large commercial club, we had to write summaries of training sessions with clients, but there was no obligation to write down a detailed program for each session. Computer access was limited when there were a dozen trainers sharing access to half as many computers, most of which were often exclusively used by membership sales reps. Planning sessions was often a personal objective completed off the clock.

When I moved into a private, training-only setting, more of an emphasis was placed on delivering goal-specific, high quality training sessions. Knowing your game plan ahead of time, taking the time to program for unique needs and goals, is not just encouraged, it’s almost an imperative. It’s interesting how a matter of setting can change you day-to-day responsibilities for the same job!

Even though many clients may be impressed by a trainer with a planned exercise chart in hand, there are pros & cons to both planned and spontaneous approaches. Planning ahead is considered professional, good for record-keeping purposes, and helps you avoid having to think about what you’re going to do during the actual session! But some trainers think well on their feet, and detailed planning would create a training experience for your client uncharacteristic of your style. Many great fitness professionals train in the moment, thriving on the energy between coach and client.

Aside from what’s compatible with your training style, sometimes planning ahead may not be practical if you are working at a huge club during peak hours when you don’t know what equipment or space may be available. In that case, you have to think on your feet. Not all professionals have the convenience of a private studio conducive to set workouts.

So what’s best? Regardless of your training style and space and equipment restrictions, most professionals would agree that some degree of planning and record-keeping is always helpful. No one can completely remember every single training session, so writing down what you do can be helpful to track progress so you and your client can see how far you’ve come together towards a common goal.

If you enjoy training spontaneously, stick to that, and take a few minutes to record your client’s workout after each session. You can keep the chart on file in case your client would like some homework, and you can refer to the record right before the next session to make sure your clients’ routines stay consistent with their goals. This same strategy will work if you’re a trainer at a large club working with clients during peak hours. If you’re consistent with programming ahead, and you enjoy having your clients’ routines designed ahead of time, there’s no harm in continuing to do so. Everyone deserves some play time with their hard work, so be sure to regularly include new exercises and fun drills!

Lastly, planning sessions takes on even more importance if you are an independent trainer. When you have your own business, especially starting out, exercise programming and regular updates carry more importance as you grow your business. Every thing you can do to distinguish yourself from the competition will pay off–literally!

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