A Conversation with Simon Shawcross

Transcript taken from Fitness Candor Podcast episode 134

Eric:                          Hey everybody, welcome back to Fitness Candor Podcast. Simon Shawcross joins us again, the founder of HITUni.com. He’s been on the podcast multiple times, so I’ll link all of his show notes if you want to learn more about him, I urge you to do so. But, Simon, how’s it going man? After a little bit of work, we finally connected.

Simon:                    I’m in a great place, Eric. It’s great to be back on the podcast and I’m excited to talk about what we’re going to discuss today.

Eric:                          Yep. So am I, so you just hit the nail on the head right before we started recording. Our job as trainers is probably the easiest equation to a client’s overall picture in terms of them getting healthier, getting stronger, maybe getting leaner or losing some body fat. You know, things like that on the inside of the gym. Once a client walks into the inside of the gym, we know exactly what they’re going to do and we know for the most part, you know, barring any kind of injury or any unforeseen events that we don’t know about coming into the gym, they’re going to be doing exactly what they should be doing once they step in and work with us. Now, the hard part for us and for them, for the client to get the most out of their strength training, they need to have a lot of stuff on the outside of the gym, tightened up, sleep, stress levels, nutrition. They need to get some play time in which means, you know, go out and enjoy, enjoy the world, you know, decompress, have some fun, enjoy family time. So again, the things that you and I helped them with the trainers help them with, that’s the easiest part. How do you help your clients when they’re not in the gym? Let’s start with that.

Simon:                    Number one priority comes down to how much do they want it. And I think that’s something that’s really important to express to the client. And the way I often couch that, I would say it’s awesome coming in, working out once or twice a week together, enhancing your strength and your overall fitness, and you’re going to get so much benefit from doing this, from just doing this with me, with us. However, if your goal includes improving your overall health and wellbeing and also in particular, if your goal includes any aspect of body fat reduction, then you’re going to need to put a lot of energy initially into outside of the gym stuff because the gym especially, let’s take weight reduction because that is one that a lot of people an effect or an impact a lot of people want to have from exercise and from when they start to get motivated to attend the gym and get their butt in the gym.

Simon:                    What they want often is to lose body fat and to look better despite all the other wonderful things that we can do for them is, a key factor for many people. Some people do have or a lot of people do have a skewed perception of all you’ve got to do is turn up to the gym, do the workout, and then you can go and eat kind of wherever you want, because the workout’s allowed you to do right now and you’re still going to lose weight. And as we know, that ain’t gonna happen, particularly if you’re a long way from where you would want to be on need to be. And I, and I’ll say, look, I’m happy to work with you, unless there’s any, any dangers to that person coming, I’m happy to work with you on your strengthening and that is going to have a knock on impact, a positive impact on your metabolism.

Simon:                    However, what I need for you to fully understand is that if you want to maximize that and if you want to achieve this goal of weight reduction, then you will need to be motivated enough to make changes outside of the gym too. So they have to take responsibility for that aspect. You know, I’ve seen trainers sort of almost bullied by their client. The client putting this huge amount of pressure, sort of this expectation on the trainer that it’s their fault if they don’t lose weight and I, I think it is, if they don’t make the picture clear to the client, but start out that relationship by making it ultra clear that they need to take ownership of that side. You can support them, you can give them nutritional advice. You can send them to a dietician if they need to go down that route.

Simon:                    There’s many ways as a trainer you can point them in the right direction, but they will ultimately need to take ownership for their actions outside of the gym and if a person can’t or doesn’t commit to that, then the likelihood of them achieving their goal is, is fairly slim. So they need to really get that message and then they can go, “Simon, okay, I’m not prepared to make those changes yet, but I still want to get the benefit of strength training with you”. Fantastic. Or they can go, ah, well I’m not gonna. Get the weight loss. It’s not for me. Well, they would probably not going to be a good or longterm client for the trainer anyway, or they are going to be, these are the clients in many ways I love. They can be very black and white about it and they go, just tell me what I need to do, tell me what to do, and then I will…because I have got this huge motivation now for whatever reason in my life to get to this place, that I want to go to to lose that body fat and the example we’re talking about here.

Simon:                    Those clients are great because all you’ve got to do is say, do this, cut this. You know, we’ll work on it week by week and you can see their motivation and their desire to change. And if they don’t have a kernel of an inkling, a spark of that inside them. If they don’t have the motivation, you’re just going to end up another person, another personal aspect in that individual’s life who they can go, yeah, I tried that and it didn’t work for me. They didn’t have the motivation to make the change. So long as we’re talking about trainers who are going to provide decent advice then, so it is on the trainer’s shoulders to a degree, but to a much smaller degree than the clients.

Eric:                          Right. No, I agree with everything you said and I think being in the in the space that I’m in, I see it a little more how you said it where a person… so there’s two things on my end to different parts of what you said. Number one, when the client, the client already, if the client is coming to you, that’s a good sign because it already means that they’re willing to make some change, right? It’s not like they’re outsourcing their efforts to exercise because we’re still going to show them exactly what to do, but they still have to put in the effort. Again, that’s on the the client or the trainer side to say if this is not heavy enough, if this is too light, if you don’t feel challenged, we need to make an adjustment.

Simon:                    The stuff we talked about in our last podcast as well as how to get the most out of a client who is hard as someone.

Eric:                          Yep. So, so there’s that piece of it, but it ties into what you just said about like having the client be upfront about that or excuse me, the trainer being upfront about that. And number two…

Simon:                    By the way, just to get this correct. I wasn’t. The way I expressed it just now is not the way I would personally express that to a client, but it’s how I would express it to a trainer. Because I would be much softer than I was just now. I think trainers really need to get this. You do need to make a picture clear that they will need to invest some of their energy in this process.

Eric:                          Correct, and my second point was going to be, I think some trainers take it 100 percent on themselves to be the only reason this person is going to lose weight, lose body fat in the, in our instance. So they see this as almost a personal challenge where it shouldn’t be like, this is a teamwork event. Majority of it is on the client side and I know a lot of trainers who get into this trap of, well, I’m going to beat the piss out of this person because you know, I don’t know what they’re doing on the outside because I know this person’s going to have five glasses of wine a night and you know, let’s not, let’s not joke. A lot of the clients that we work with have those kinds of lifestyles where the out at business meetings, you know, are maybe they, they spend a little more money to go out to really nice meals four nights out of the week and they don’t cook at home and things like that.

Eric:                          So we know that going into this situation. But having that conversation with that person like, look this, your goal might not fit your lifestyle. Goals and lifestyle should fit each other and you can be flexible with both but you can be molded with both. This is not, we’re not saying that we every client’s going to walk in and say, give me six pack abs and you know, a chiseled back, that’s not what they’re looking for. But in terms of our specific goal, the trainer and the client both need to be on the same page. And I think defining those is definitely on the trainer side. So what are some techniques that you’ve used to maybe to motivate your client or to get that, get that through to them? Because I’ve got a couple unique ones that I’m interested to hear your thoughts on.

Simon:                    Cool. With the dietary stuff the way I would start that out usually would be one of those clients I just referred to, he’s like very black and white. It’s like, just tell me what to do and I can do this. I’ll make this happen. In which case I’ll layout pretty much what I would want for them to do nutritionally. Taking into account their personal preferences and their lifestyle, as you just mentioned, all of that stuff. It’s got to be thrown into the equation. They’re at the other end and I get the sense that they’re not hyper motivated yet and they are going to find this process of challenge. One of the first things I would do is to have them just change one thing, nutritionally be like set the bar really quite low from my perspective, but I know having a positive result in them they can come back sort of beaming to me and saying I was able to do that.

Simon:                    Rather than overload them with stuff that you know they’re not going to be able to do in week one and week two, you know, okay, just eliminate this or eliminate that for this week and let’s see what happens for you. And then once they start and establish a positive habit in that respect, then we can add the next thing and the next year and ultimately they’ll end up toward the place about black and white client. But it’s, some clients need that gentle nudging in that direction and many successes along the way. Other people can just jump from where they are off the edge of a cliff into. Right. I’m going to get in amazing shape now. So that’s how I would typically start out with this sort of two ends of extreme. I’m really interested to hear your super secret tips are.

Eric:                          This is not super secret! And actually I had a client kind of helped me with this. So, you know. All right, I’ll just put this whole thing in context. So I had this idea, this person wasn’t, they were coming to the gym that were showing up to all their appointments. They were working hard. They weren’t seeing the results that they wanted. They were still getting, getting stronger. They weren’t losing the body fat. And this is the type of person who was not doing little extra on the outside of the gym, like let’s say going for a couple of walks throughout the week. They weren’t, they weren’t maybe like reducing that one extra drink during happy hour. They weren’t getting to bed, they weren’t getting seven hours of sleep, there was no way that was going to happen because of whatever reason. So I said, okay, that’s a high stress person.

Eric:                          Okay, so when you automatically, when we say to a person who’s already high stress, and they want to come in and just work me out hard like that, you have to understand, first of all, that is a stressor exercise as a stressor. You can dig yourself into a deeper hole if you beat the piss out of yourself every time you go into the gym, right? And then you have to work out of that hole just to get back to baseline. That means no exercise. That means, you know, all sorts of different things. Anyway, so I’m having this conversation with this person and I know they’re financially motivated, right? So I said, okay, they, they hate late canceling on me. They hate paying me that money. So I’m like, okay, tell you what I said, which is good. You know, that means I get the framework that I’m in.

Eric:                          So I say, okay, I’ll tell you what, I want you to try to get one one walk in for 30 minutes once a week, okay? And I want you to take a picture of like where you’re walking. Take a picture of yourself, send it to me or send me a short video of you walking and I want you to be out of breath once a week. And if you don’t do that over the course of one month, if I don’t get four videos, you owe me $100 extra, right? Because again, some people don’t give a shit. Some people will say, well, here’s your money. I’m not going to do that. This person was. I think for the most part, if you’re paying money, you don’t want to owe the other person more money. I don’t want to go someplace and pay money for a service and then just throw money down the drain if I don’t live up to my end of the bargain.

Eric:                          So for four weeks go by and they miss it and he walks in with $100 bill. He was like, I couldn’t do it last week. Too much. Gives me that money. He goes, I want to up the ante. I want to do the exact same thing, $150 and I’m like, I’m like, that’s, that’s aggressive. I said, I like your style. I said, I tell you what, why don’t you give me that $150? Now you’ve already given it to me. Now I want you to earn the money back so I’m going to pay you essentially to do this. Now I know some trainers out there freaking out and all, you’re a terrible person. You’re taking the money. Look, this person is financially motivated. This is one way to do it. You can find other routes. Okay? Persecute me if you want to say, I’m a terrible person all about the money.

Eric:                          I’m not all about the money. I’m telling you that right now. This person just happened to respond this way. My point is if you find something that that your client is so passionate about or it is in front of them and they have to work towards it, use that as leverage for both of you. It could be. I don’t know. It’s hard to compare other things to money because it’s tangible. It’s right there in front of you, but if they, if that person has a trip that are coming up on, you know, I don’t know if it’s like a… If it’s a certain point in time where they have to be ready for set certain milestones that maybe, they earned something along the way and a lot of people out there thinking, well you know, you’re, you’re taking away the motivation factor for a client.

Eric:                          Maybe to a certain extent you are, but my point is not to get like, and I’m not trying to defend my stance because it ended up working for this person and I’ve done that with multiple people and they’re like, you know what,I can’t I’m not going to do this. The money isn’t a motivator for me. I’m, I’m done with it. Okay, fine. Sometimes it could be just the fact of they’re showing up to the gym knowing that they haven’t sent you a picture of them doing cardio and they’re like, oh man, I failed. Not that you want them to feel like a failure, but find them the real motivation behind the person and use that with them. Use that to your advantage. Use it to their advantage is my point. But, it was kind of a funny story all in all. Like he how he was so motivated and he was just like, he came in and was like, here’s $100, man. I failed. But then he was like, what? I said, why don’t you just give me the money upfront and you earn it back, you know, every time you send me a picture you get $25 back or something like that. Find the reason is my point.

Simon:                    Yeah, I think that can be a good one. That can be a good one. I know as you’ve said yourself are personality types. That wouldn’t work for him. My very, very first gym I used to hang out in, who would, who would come in a couple of days after new year’s Day every year with years membership in cash and that was the last you see of him for a year.  You know, there are a lot of gyms that do work on that model where people pay direct debit thing and they know gyms have them over a barrel because they don’t want to sort of cancel it because they always feel like they’re going to do something but they never do. With the gentleman you were talking about, obviously it’s like because business personal relationship he’s got with you, difference about the way that would work with a financially motivated individual.

Simon:                    Yeah, it’s a cool one. Because sometimes the client is not going to tell you what their actual motivation is coming through the door always. They don’t always let you know and it, it, you know, it can be something as simple as like they want to be in shape to it very, a little bit more senior to enjoy their grandchildren. They might not say that or they might have had a family member who died of a heart attack or at an age their starting to approach now, but they might have, that’s what’s got them through the door and the more sort of exploratory and perhaps you know, after you get through the first few sessions and they get more comfortable, you can sort of start exploring a little bit to find out these genuine motivations are.

Simon:                    Because when you’ve got those, when you’ve understood those, it does make your job as a trainer easier. It allows you to, okay, I know, I know why they’re here. Now I’ve got it. And, and you know, it really varies from the ones. Again, if we take that far end of the scale, who just wants somebody to hold their hands and they’re often from a trainer’s perspective, I think the ones who are hardest to work with. All you’re going to be doing is providing all the energy all the motivation for two people and they’re going to suck that up and thrive off that, but the moment they leave the gym they’re not going to do anything more with that. Right, and then the other end of the scale you’ve got, you’ve got the guys who will do a 100 percent and then somewhere in between you’ve got people who once you find their motivations and you tap into those and you find a way, okay, this is how I’m going to sort of suggest or wrap up why we’re doing this for them. And they’ll get it because it serves their true purpose that they’re deep defining reason for doing this with you. And yeah, that’s critical to find, to find what that is if you can.

Eric:                          I think so too. Another thing I wanted to bring up was; let’s go right to the nutrition thing or the sleep thing, because I like to use technology to our advantage. I’m a big fan. I have an apple watch. I’m a big fan of like sharing stats with people. I use the Sleep ++ app. I like having clients send me photos of their meals. So for instance, another motivating thing would be to help them be more compliant on the outside of the gym. If they’re going to a meal and, and let’s say they usually get the, lobster mac and cheese, you know, and then like whatever side dishes. One thing that I would say is it’s not just sometimes it’s not enough for us as trainers to say you need to eat asparagus. Why is asparagus maybe the choice or find the vegetable that they want to try and then follow up on that, on that reason why we gave them choose this meal because it’s more calorie dense, more nutritious, more X, Y and Z and make it a habit. So give them like maybe a little bit of research. Not like an entire pamphlet, but if you can find a well written piece on Brussel sprouts and why they’re beneficial, you know, once they start making that a habit after three or four times of them sending you a photo of them eating Brussels sprouts with a meal instead of a French fries. Not that there’s anything wrong with French fries. I actually don’t mind French fries at all.

Eric:                          Yeah. Something terrible. I don’t know. Just pick, pick, pick the person’s poison it after awhile of them sending you a picture. Great. Do you think that is a, you think that’s, we’re going to now try to reaffirm those positive behaviors instead of just, you know, letting it go by the wayside. What’s the next thing you can build on? You know? Okay, great. Let’s start tracking your sleep. Can you think you can get to try to start getting ready to bed, you know, a half hour sooner and find, find like a common ground where maybe it’s them sending you a picture of the, you know, their alarm clock by the time they went to bed or tracking their sleep on their Apple Watch and not just tracking it because that data just sits there. But talk about it. Talk about why it’s important. You want to start getting to bed by 10:00pm, maybe start getting ready for bed at 9:15, you know, start going through the motions. Setting those small goals. Keep the conversation going though because the moment that we think just because they’re using their sleep app that they got it figured out now. If that data is just sitting there with no conversation, it doesn’t do us any good.

Simon:                    It sounds very holistic and as you said, you’re using more than technology to your advantage but you’re not using it as is just a thing that you’re advising people to go and do. Your giving them feedback based on it and encouraging them through the use of the technology.

Eric:                          Yep. It’s the feedback that I think the trainer gets so stuck with. I think the feedback is that’s the hardest part. Giving them, giving people honest feedback. If you’re, for instance, going back to the sleep tracker. If you’re looking at this thing, okay, now let’s break this down. Do you understand what all these lines mean? Do you understand that just because you were in bed, you fall asleep until 11:30 or 10:30. Do you know what that means? Start having those conversations with people and I think that keeping the dialogue open on the outside of the gym will create more useful discussion on the inside of the gym and then that and that becomes their framework, their mind. They recognize you as someone who’s still a tool in the toolbox. This isn’t, you’re not like, you know, they still to make the efforts, but at least they have the context of like, oh, okay, I know what this means. Now I know what I need to do. That takes more pressure off of you as a trainer, I think.

Simon:                    Trainers need not be fearful of this whatsoever because if technology was the answer and all you needed was your Apple Watch, couple of fitness APPS, everybody be in shape already because to be worried about the technology as you’ve, as you’ve done, embrace it. Use them as tools, encourage your clients to use them. Because we know these things will, will tend to end up as shiny toys but get used for a week, two weeks, a couple months maybe. And then what about just like anything else and in most people’s cycle with exercise.

Eric:                          That’s right. No, you’re absolutely right. And look this, you know, I know I to wrap this up pretty soon. Have a appointment come into. But, you know, what we’re talking about, this is just to people’s perspective on how we’re helping. There’s, there is, there’s not a single one right way to address every single individual that you work with. It’s just not. You can’t do it.

Simon:                    Again, this is, this is the stuff that’s the quality of a mark of a great trainer is adaptability. That individual in front of you right now and the more individuals you are in front of and you become intuitive to and attentive to the more flexibility you have as a trainer to work with all sorts of different people as you, as you nourish your career.

Eric:                          Right. Yup. And it’s just like you said, the adaptability…obviously if you figure out something that works well for most people, start trying to implement that, but you should be able, you should be comfortable abandoning things that simply do not work for some individuals. Instead of just forcing your idea of what a healthy lifestyle of how to approach a healthy lifestyle. You know, it’s so easy for you and I to say, you know If you and I wanted to focus on getting a little leaner or something like that, like our mind frame, our mindset is so much different than what a client’s would be, so we have to take ourselves out of that position. And I think a well seasoned trainer might be able to do that. But it just adaptability, like you said, and be able to be open to many avenues and to be able to abandon some things and come back to some things.

Simon:                    We live, breathe and sleep this stuff. And our clients are never going to get to the place nor wanted be. Nor do they really need to be. Just help them get the most out of what works for them and their lifestyles and then the odd one or two will ultimately want to become trainers or want help or we’ll go, actually this is, I love, I love fitness and I missed out. I hadn’t realized I missed out on such an awesome thing and now I want to be involved in great. But the vast majority of your clients and not going to be in that place and therefore, but as you’ve said, the mindset that you have is not likely to be at least the initial mindset that most people coming through your door. And adaptability is key.

Eric:                          Well, Simon, I gotta wrap this up. Literally my, clients just pulled in. I’m in my truck right now, so they pulled it like right behind me. So if anybody has any questions, comments, concerns, where’s the best place to reach you?

Simon:                    HITUni.com is our website. They can get on email and on that website there’s all the social media channels too if we want to get direct message or whatever to me by twitter or whatever. Yeah.

Eric:                          Perfect. Awesome. Thank you Simon. So much. Always a pleasure and we’ll talk to you soon.

Simon:                    Absolute pleasure!