You can’t teach old dogs new tricks: If you have been coaching for any length of time, you probably know this can also be true of human beings at your gym.

You know the ones? The ones who started training with you eight or ten years ago and are too stubborn to embrace whichever new training direction you have evolved to embrace in the last decade?

Case in point: Fifteen years ago at Madlab School of Fitness, we taught all our clients how to snatch and kip and tried to get everyone upside in a handstand at some point (insert face in hand emoji here).

Alas, people got injured way too much, as most of our clients performed movements that were simply not appropriate for their abilities. 

Today, however, like many gyms that have been around for a while, we have developed what we believe is a more sophisticated client assessment process that helps us determine where our clients are at and seeks to help educate clients about their bodies and the training program. 

Old Dogs Resist!

As many gyms in our position can attest to, changing the way you do things often comes with resistance from long-term members, like the people who snatched ten years ago, and now we’re telling them that their shoulder flexion range of motion, not to mention their training goals, aren’t really compatible with needing to ever snatch a barbell. The whole old dog thing makes them resistant to these new (we like to think more enlightened) ideas… Sigh.

 Three Tips to Getting Buy into What You Do

1. Start on Day 1

What has helped us get buy-in from all of our clients, including the old dogs, has been to slowly change the culture by focusing first on educating our new clients about the long game we want them to play, about the difference between training and just exercising hard every day, and how these are the keys to long-term success. 

By doing this, over time, the old dogs have slowly been able to see firsthand how our new systems and our programming, which doesn’t look all the way we did things ten years ago, can bring them better results than the days of the past.

Tip: Introduce a First Day Sit-Down Consult

A client’s first day at a Madlab client gym involves sitting down with a coach for nothing more than a conversation. 

Though it can be tempting to give the client what they think they want that day—a workout that leaves them sweaty—we have found it more valuable to take the time to really ask the client the hard questions and to find out their true intention of being there. 
Once you do this, it’s a lot easier to connect their why—aka their purpose and intention for being there—to your services and your vision of what training will look like for them. This helps them buy into your vision.

2. Be Clear About Your Purpose

As we mentioned, Madlab School of Fitness is all about longevity and about educating clients about the training process so they understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and how their training is connected to their goals.

This might not be what your gym is about, however. Maybe your intention is to be a sport-specific gym for high-level athletes, or perhaps it’s a boot camp gym that’s meant to give people the sweat of their life each day.

But whatever your gym’s vision is, it’s essential to be crystal clear about what it is you’re offering—you’re not going to be able to cater to everyone, and that’s fine—and then, even more importantly, make sure your coaches are on board so that what they offer is the same as what you’re promising to your clients they will receive. 

3. Don’t Preach: Empathize 

Another is saying that you can’t force a square peg into a round hole.

If someone’s intention, for example, is to get a hard conditioning workout each day because it’s the only way they can turn their brain off and forget about the divorce and financial struggles they’re going through, it’s important to take the time to hear them out and really listen to them, instead of just telling them that what they want isn’t what they need.

As we know, we’re in the relationship business, and even though it can be tempting to put on your patronizing coaches hat to talk your clients out of bad ideas, it’s not always the best way to get through to them, let alone retain them.

Final Tip: One of our tools to educate our clients and keep them accountable to their training plan and their goals was the introduction of hybrid memberships, which we started about seven years ago. By hybrid membership, we mean clients do a combination of group classes and one-on-one training (and/or individual design) with their coach.

At first, long-time, old dog clients didn’t see the value in paying more money to meet up with their coach once every six weeks. However, this all changed when they started to see new clients meet with their coach more frequently and see quicker results than they had seen, and all of a sudden long-term clients who had been with us for ten years began asking to go on a hybrid membership. 

The bottom line: Sometimes, it’s easier to sit back and let people come to terms with things on their own time than to push your message aggressively to them. You know, like the sneaky old trick to let someone think something was their idea and not yours?

To learn more about Madlab and how we might be able to help you, book a call now.

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