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Most of us would agree, that on a basic level, Personal Trainers are responsible for training, therapists are responsible for the injury and our clients are responsible for making decisions about their own bodies.

It’s also fair to say that trainers are mainly thinking about the training results, therapists mainly think about the treatment results and our clients are mainly concerned with what they need to do, how long it will take and how much it will cost (both in terms of effort and finance).

Before pain strikes, the simple relationship between you and your clients can trundle along quite nicely. You can focus on delivering awesome sessions and they can focus on putting the effort in to achieve their desired results, but with the first murmuring of pain comes the first deterioration in your credibility as a Personal Trainer.

Credibility Drop #1 – Denial & Avoidance

Most trainers aren’t training clients who are at an elite level, we don’t have a team of specialists around us, and we don’t know a great deal about injuries. We’re taught that if a client shows up with an existing injury problem, we must refer them to someone else… but we know that’s not practical with every client for every session, so we adapt our training plans to use exercises that don’t aggravate the injury problem or risk causing any more damage. Which is great… we’re giving our participants what they want (which is to keep training).

Although adapting exercises so that we can work around the problem can feel like we’re being valuable to our participants, it isn’t really helping resolve the issue, it’s simply avoiding it until the pain gets bad enough to stop our clients from training.

It’s likely at this stage that our clients are simply in denial that they have any kind of problem, and they don’t want to waste valuable time, money and effort looking into it. And it’s because of this denial that our credibility as a trainer drops from driving them forwards towards achieving the results they originally set out to achieve, to facilitating their denial by finding ways for them to keep training at all.

Over time, as the pain worsens, and we’ve tried everything to keep them training, our clients must face the reality of the injury issue and seek help from a medical professional. But this drags our credibility down even further as we get further away from being valuable.

Credibility Drop #2 – Working Blind

When the conversation is focused on the injury itself, once our clients accept that there is indeed an issue to be resolved, there’s not much we can do to help. We are stuck waiting for the therapists’ approval for our client to return to training and more often than not, we don’t get to speak to the therapist directly. Instead, we must rely on the half-remembered, not-completely understood version of events that our clients can tell us about. That’s assuming of course that they think it relevant enough to mention!

This means that we go from working on the sure footing of pain-free movement, to essentially working blind, hoping that we don’t aggravate the problem and send our client right back to being in pain again.

Our job is made extra difficult by the fact that once the therapy has eliminated the pain, our clients become either; fearful of creating the pain again which can make them harder to motivate, or so desperate to get back to the pre-injury training levels that they push too hard too soon.

Once again, we are relegated to managing our clients’ expectations instead of driving them forwards towards their goals.

But perhaps the worst credibility drop comes from the system’s inability to complete the job…

Credibility Drop #3 – Incomplete Solution

At every stage in the injury process, our clients are the one making the decisions. They decide when to seek help, they decide who gives that help and for how long, and they decide when they’re ready to return to training (with or without the recommendation of the therapist).

Any therapist worth their salt will tell you that the job of resolving the injury doesn’t end with getting rid of the pain, but in the minds of our clients, once the pain has gone, so has the problem. That’s why so many will stop seeing the therapist and return to training as quickly as possible once the pain has gone… only to find that it returns within a few months.

And of course, because we can’t get involved in the injury process without being specialist coaches, we’re left playing piggy-in-the-middle, waiting to get back to driving our clients forward towards their goals again. Waiting for other people to give us the green light.

This fragmented approach often means that the injury issues never really get resolved, so we end up dealing with increasing numbers of participants who seem to be perpetually injured, which makes them believe that they’ll be stuck with their “itis” or “syndrome” or “bad [insert joint here]” forever, which in turn diminishes their beliefs about what they can or can’t achieve.

But we’re not innocent by-standers in all this. In fact, our PT practices have been contributing to the downfall of the system. Trainers have been telling clients for decades that they move “badly”, or that they have “incorrect” technique… and we’ve made them so reliant on numbers to tell them their progress, that they’ve lost all trust they had in their own bodies! And that’s exactly why many of them have no idea that they’re actually having problems until they have pain. It’s also why the most common question that comes to their lips is “am I doing it right?“.

Without pain, our credibility as trainers is significantly increased in the eyes of our clients, other professionals and even ourselves! And the great news is that this increase doesn’t have to be dependent on anyone else.

Most trainers dismiss the idea of helping their clients with low-level pain because they don’t like the idea of learning about injuries themselves…

That’s why I created the “Back Pain Buster!” – A Kick-Ass Success Map for Introverted Personal Trainers who want to do more to help their clients with low-level back pain, without having to learn anything about injuries themselves!

You can grab your FREE copy (along with all the training and movement videos) here:

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