Dealing with MS and Stress (Part 3)
Updated: Apr 10
The Role of a Trainer
It is critically important that we, as trainers, understand how stress affects people with MS if we are going to be working with them. Part 1 and Part 2 of this article provide you with a lot of crucial information and it is important that you understand each section. But your role as trainer means that you will be working with a person on a different level than anyone else and in a different arena. Therefore, there are several other factors that you must be aware of to aid you in helping relieve and avoid creating unnecessary stress for your client.
1. Get to know your client. If you are a trainer worth your salt, then this is something you already do. But I want to remind you that a person with MS has issues that are unlike your other clients. And to complicate the situation, each client with MS has their own unique set of issues. Find out as much about your client as you can. But don't just focus on their MS. They are more than MS. They are a person. They have likes and dislikes. They have family. They have hobbies. Get to know them and they will be more comfortable around you. You do need to understand their MS, however. What type do they have? What are their symptoms? How often do they have flare ups? What are their triggers? What works to calm their stress? These are all things you need to know. Showing a client that you care about them and want to understand them goes a long way in helping them ease their anxiety and feel comfortable with you.
2. Alleviate your client's apprehensions. This may be the first time that your client has ever entered a gym. For them, just opening the doors and walking into the unknown could be very stressful. Many people carry the perception that gyms are for big, strong, muscular people that like to throw around weights and grunt a lot. There is a great possibility that your client is dreading entering through those doors because they believe they will be totally out of their element. Will people stare at them? Will they be made fun of? Will they feel self conscious? Will exercise hurt? Will they be able to do what is required of them? These are some of the questions that may be flying through their heads. It is up to you, the trainer, to make sure that your client has their fears and apprehensions eased as quickly as possible.
First impressions go a long way in relaxing the client. When a client walks in to your place of business, they should feel welcome and at ease. Make sure that there is someone there to greet them, direct them or answer any questions they may have. This person, whether it is you or someone else, should be polite, friendly and knowledgeable. The clients immediate impression should be that they have come to the right place.
The environment should not feel sterile or impersonal. It should be inviting as well as neat, clean and orderly. Restrooms should be clearly marked. Many people with MS suffer from bladder issues and locating bathroom facilities is one of the first things they do to put themselves at ease upon entering a new environment. If your restrooms are not visible from the point of entrance, make sure that directional signs are clearly visible.
The overall atmosphere should help your client understand that this is not a clinical setting such as a hospital. Your client should feel as though they were eagerly expected, that their time is a precious as yours and that they are the only person that matters during their slated session time.
It is imperative that you answer every question your client has. The more they know about what is going to take place will allow them greater comfort. You may also need to address questions they may be afraid to ask. Many of these people may be silently wondering how they will ever be able to exercise when just climbing a set of stairs drains them of every ounce of energy they have. It is a good idea, even if they don't ask, to explain to them that the program you will be developing for them will meet them where they're at. Let them know that the exercise will start light and the pace will be slow until you both discover what they can handle comfortably. Explain that this is a process that happens over time and that through this process you hope to help them find renewed energy, strength, mobility or whatever else their particular symptoms may require. But make sure they know that for the process to be effective it will take dedication on their part.
Always be conscious of your clients body language and signals. If you notice apprehension on your client's part, take some time to set them at ease and make sure you constantly assure and encourage them.
The ultimate goal in working with your client is to help them improve their quality of life. For this to happen, they will need to continue returning to your place of business. Therefore, make sure when your client is done with their session that they leave happy and convinced that they made the right decision choosing to work with you.
3. Assure them of your abilities. Training a person with MS requires a special knowledge and skill set on your part. Your client may have a lot of questions about your credentials and your experience in working with people who have MS. Be truthful with them. Tell them about your training, certifications and experience. If you have not had much or any experience working with people who have MS, let them know that too. But make sure to present it in a professional and confident manner. Explain to them that each of your clients is an individual that comes to you with their own set of unique circumstances and that you have had to work with many different types of situations and ailments over the years. Share with them testimonials from some of your other clients. Whatever you do, don't be apologetic for lack of experience. Be sure of yourself.
The best way to be sure of yourself is to learn as much about MS as possible. Experience will be an awesome teacher. But until you gain that experience, you need to take it upon yourself to read as much as you can about the disease and its effects on people. Go on-line and search for people's stories about how MS has affected them and what they have done to battle it. Talk to trainers who you know have experience working with people who have MS. Don't stop learning as this is a disease with a lot of unknowns and new information is always being released.
MS FitEffect is here to help you with any questions that you may have. Simply contact us and we will be happy to work with you.
American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) has produced a specialty certification course for fitness trainers who would like to work with people who have MS. You may find out more about the MS Fitness and Wellness Specialist course at the following link:
Remember, as a trainer, your client has come to you as the professional. They are seeking your expertise to help them change their lives for the better and they are putting their health and welfare in your hands. Do not take this lightly. Be prepared and be the best that you can be so that you can help create a positive difference in the life of someone who needs your help.
Feel free to contact me at any time. I am happy to talk to anyone about defeating this disease.
Thank you for joining in the fight to overcome MS!
To health, happiness and continued success.