During my training as a personal trainer I looked at how to categorise a client’s suitability to be trained using the Stages of Change model.
This model is commonly used not only by fitness professionals but also by those wanting to help people to quit drinking and smoking and in the health sector at large.
During this post I am going to take a look at the model in the hope that it will help you identify where you sit within it allowing you to make an informed decision about whether you are ready to make a change.
The Change Model
As you can see there are 5 stages to the change model and every client can identify where they sit within it.
The stages are:
This is where you (as the client) wouldn’t be aware of the need for change within the next 6 months. Essentially you may not have enough information about your health for you to even know that you needed to change. You could have also attempted and failed at change several times in the past leaving you severely de-motivated and that you want nothing to do with change.
Or you could be going through life blissfully unaware that change is needed.
“Most clients don’t come to train with me at this stage as I won’t even be on their radar. I do however see some clients at this stage who have been bought sessions as gifts. Clients like this find it very difficult to make any progress and have no motivation. They don’t tend to take responsibility for their training and nutrition outside of sessions and never continue after the gift sessions run out. As the trainer it is very frustrating and the client doesn’t really want to be there!”
At this stage you now have enough information to know that change is needed. You will be weighing up the pros and cons of change and would like to do something in the next 6 months.
This stage can last a very long time as you can “spin your wheels” whilst weighing up the pros and cons and get stuck in this cycle of not wanting to make a decision and procrastination.
“As a coach I sometimes deal with clients like this but not that often. I would rarely actually meet them in person unless in a social setting. After they find out that I’m a coach they would ask for a business card as they know they need to change and just by being there, I have reminded them of that.
I also receive emails from people wanting to know more about what I do but then never hear anything back sometimes for years.”
This is where you would be ready to make a change in the next month or so. You will have made some preparations or are seriously planning on making them. You may have spoken to gyms about memberships and even contacted coaches to seriously enquire about costs etc…
It’s almost time for you to begin.
“Clients that are at this stage are usually motivated to make a change in the coming days or weeks and once they have made their mind up are raring to go. They have been weighing up the decision and have come out in favour of doing something. It can be a bit of an all or nothing approach from them and they can need a bit of steering in the right direction.”
The title really says it all. You are right there in the middle of it and actually getting your hands dirty. You have a gym membership and are attending classes or are training with a coach on a regular basis. Motivation is high at the beginning of this period.
For some, the action period can also be a gradual move. You may be only attending one session per week which then increases in frequency over time once you have become comfortable.
“Clients at this stage are a pleasure to work with but they have to be treated right as they can be very fragile at the beginning. For some, it wouldn’t take much discomfort to knock them back a stage so a softer approach is needed. For others, they have become so focused and motivated that you could throw just about anything at them and they would be fine.
It takes an experienced coach to help the client navigate this part of the journey.”
This is where you have been training for at least 6 months. During this period, you should have your goals monitored and changed as required. The early forming of good habits during the last phase will help you massively during this time. Motivation has waned and you are fighting the urge to relapse. Studies suggest that this phase can last up to 5 years.
“I believe that clients at this stage are fantastic to train. They have the basic skills required to perform movements correctly with only the lightest of coaching touches. Clients are fitter, faster and stronger than they were and so can also be pushed harder. They are also aware that they are so much stronger than they thought they ever could be. I love to watch them realise this and how it transfers to their lives outside of the sessions.
On the flip side, I also have to be aware that although they are ”flying” it still wouldn’t take an awful lot to knock them off course and for them to relapse.”
So, now we are aware of the model, where do you sit in it?
Are you chomping at the bit to get started, not even aware that you need to make a change or are you 1 year in, fighting the urge to quit?
For ease, there is a way of finding out and that is this short questionnaire.
And once you have answered the question you can get a score and find out what stage you are at.
I personally think that this model accurately illustrates the stages that people pass through on their way to starting a change and their journey along it.
The most interesting point is that you could relapse at any stage to any other prior stage. I think this is really important to consider as I don’t think that as a society we want to talk about failure.
The prospect of relapsing is ever present and that’s ok. It’s ok and natural to fail at some point along our journey.
There are tough times ahead for everyone.
I work with people that have wrestled with failure and relapse for years but still they continue to make the changes needed.
It’s what makes us human.
What’s important is that we pick ourselves up after the bad times and move forward again.
If you have any thoughts on the change model I would really like to hear them below in the comments section.
Be all you can be
P.S. If, after reading this you are realising that you need to make a change and wouldn’t mind some help, drop me a line.