Motivating fitness clients through the winter blahs of January and February is challenging on the best of days. The moment your client wakes and feels the chill in the air, you know it’s going to be an uphill battle. Dark mornings and early evenings can sap the motivation of even the most dedicated individuals.
As a personal trainer, your mission extends beyond the physical workouts; it’s about kindling the fire of motivation and keeping it burning through the frosty months. This article aims to arm you with strategies and insights, leveraging both your expertise and innovative technology, to transform the winter doldrums into a period of growth and invigoration for your clients.
Get ready to turn the cold months into a time of solid resolve and even more robust results. Let’s get into this.
Understanding Winter Blues
Everybody knows that when the weather outside is frightful, it can really bring you down. Most people shrug off this sort of thing and make adjustments to their schedules as needed. However, about 5%(1) of people have a massive challenge dealing with this situation, and winter can really set it up as an immovable object blocking their paths in life. In psychiatric circles, this phenomenon is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Being a professional personal trainer, you need to understand how SAD can affect your clients. Furthermore, you need to know how months of winter can trigger SAD in those who suffer from it. Being empathetic is crucial for you to understand what your clients need to hear from you to fight through the slush of winter and step into their confident and happier selves.
Remember that with 5% of the population dealing with the winter blues like a nightmare come to life, you will likely already know people who deal with it. Furthermore, it would be best if you considered how feeling down and out may not be a topic your client wants to talk about – all the more reason for you to empathize with them to help pull them out of their mire.
The Role of Personal Trainers
As a personal trainer, you already understand that you need to encourage motivation in your clients. In fact, it may be more important than the exercises themselves when you consider how detrimental negative emotions can be to a person’s mental health. Furthermore, stress and depression can often be a significant detriment to other aspects of a person’s life. Therefore, it’s up to you to recognize the symptoms while maintaining a positive and supportive stance with your client.
It would be best to understand all of the symptoms of depression. However, your focus is on physical health, and the field of psychology takes years to learn. So, let’s summarize by reviewing a few of the more relevant symptoms you’re likely to face as a personal trainer.
Winter Blahs, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and Depression: What To Watch For
You may notice clients are aloof or not really ‘present’ when they talk to you. They may seem distracted like their thoughts are somewhere else.
Clients might lash out and seem grumpy or irritable. You may notice them getting annoyed at specific ideas or exercises, and they might lash out with irritation.
Loss of Interest
Loss of interest, in general, is a typical symptom of depression(2). You may notice your client is seemingly no longer interested in the goals that previously drove them forward.
Over or Under Sleeping
If clients complain that they haven’t been sleeping right, either too little or too much, it can be a sign of depression or SAD. Encouraging exercise to help rectify sleep patterns is a great idea here.
Mystery Physical Problems
If a client complains that, for example, they have a sore back but don’t recall an activity that could have hurt it, it might be a psychosomatic response to depression that even the client may be unaware of. Studies show a strong link between depression and complaints of gastrointestinal problems, limb or joint pain, and even appetite changes can be a symptom(3).
One of the more apparent symptoms of depression is a lack of concentration. As I mentioned earlier, your client may seem distracted. They may have a difficult time staying focused, difficulty remembering things that were just said, or they may seem like they want to rush through any conversations that make them think more than a little light conversation.
Leveraging Technology for Motivation
I’m sure you’ve seen those people who just can’t put down their smartphones. If they aren’t texting, they are playing some game or scrolling their way through the day. The reason many people can’t set their phones down is due to the minute amount of dopamine that is released in the brain when an action is taken on a smartphone, like reviewing a notification.
According to Dennis Buttimer (M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC), dopamine is a motivational chemical that encourages us to take action(4).
Customizing Workouts for Winter
You can help clients stay motivated by taking advantage of their dopamine spike due to smartphone notifications and other events that inspire action. For example, you could use a professional training management application, like Elite Trainr, to help keep your clients motivated. With over 3,000 GIFs to explain exercises, you can encourage your clients to use the application to address their workouts and, therefore, use the phone/dopamine connection to help drive positive encouragement.
Aside from using a professional white-labeled application like Elite Trainr to help with managing and communicating with your clients, there are a few other things you can do to help them recover from the winter blues:
Suggest Light Exposure
One of the primary triggers of SAD is the shorter days and decreased light exposure people face in the winter months. So, you can encourage your clients to get more light exposure to counter the effects of the shorter and darker days. Clients could even try getting a few plants and buying a plant light they set to a timer. They could set the timer to provide a more prolonged exposure to light, more similar to the length of summer days rather than the short winter ones.
Focus on Enjoyable Activities
Suppose there are certain physical activities you know your clients like. Suggest including more of those activities. This solution is two-fold: first, you’re encouraging something fun, and second, you are promoting physical activity, both of which are proven to help counter depression’s icy grasp.
Igniting Winter Wellness: Your Strategic Blueprint
In the coldest months, when shadows linger and the air bites with chill, the battle for wellness wages fiercest. You, as a personal trainer, stand as a vigilant guardian of health, armed with empathy, expertise, and technology. The journey through January’s gloom and February’s frost is not just about enduring but thriving. With each word of encouragement, every tailored workout, and the innovative use of apps like Elite Trainr, you light a torch against the dark of winter blues.
Recognize the signs of SAD in your clients and react not just with workouts but with understanding and adaptive strategies. Harness the power of light, the joy of engaging in activities, and the rhythm of routine to rekindle your clients’ passion for fitness. Let technology be your ally, turning every notification into a call to action and every success into a shared celebration.
As winter unfolds, remember: you are not just fighting against the cold. You are nurturing resilience, fostering wellness, and creating an unbreakable bond with your clients that will outlast the season’s chill. So, embrace these strategies, personalize them with your unique flair, and watch as your clients transform winter’s challenge into their victory.
- “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” 2024. Psychiatry.org. 2024. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/seasonal-affective-disorder#:~:text=About%205%20percent%20of%20adults,and%20less%20sunlight%20in%20winter..
- “Depression: Supporting a Family Member or Friend.” 2023. Mayo Clinic. 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20045943.
- Trivedi, Madhukar H. 2004. “The Link between Depression and Physical Symptoms.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 6 (Suppl 1): 12–16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC486942/#:~:text=Physical%20symptoms%20are%20common%20in,activity%20changes%2C%20and%20appetite%20changes..
- “Seven Reasons to Break Your Smartphone Addiction | Piedmont Healthcare.” 2024. Piedmont.org. 2024. https://www.piedmont.org/living-real-change/does-your-smartphone-cause-anxiety#:~:text=%E2%80%9CWhen%20we%20check%20our%20phones,and%20leads%20to%20a%20letdown..