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Q&A: How to Keep Exercisers Engaged in the Current Times

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Health coach Shaista Dharamsi-Bhimji weighs in on specific strategies for keeping exercisers engaged in health and wellness post-COVID.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Shaista Dharamsi-Bhimji, an American Council on Exercise-certified health coach who incorporates behavior change theory to help her clients live healthier, more active lives. Dharamsi-Bhimji shares how she incorporated health coaching principles to help her clients achieve their health and fitness goals throughout COVID-19, while also advising fitness clubs on how they can adapt to a virtual environment.

How has COVID-19 affected your fitness practice and the fitness clubs you work out of?

Shaista Dharamsi-Bhimji

SDB: Our focus has shifted from an exercise and nutrition standpoint to more of a well-being standpoint. Since the pandemic, many of our clients have been mentally and physically exhausted. Therefore, instead of diving into coaching sessions with a focus on activity and instilling new behaviors that may not benefit their mental health, we ask questions like, “What are some activities that can bring you joy?” This has truly shifted our mindset moving forward on how health coaching should truly encompass a well-being aspect as well.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your clients?

SDB: One of the biggest struggles with my clients during the COVID-19 pandemic is getting back into a healthy routine. Everyone was used to their pre-COVID-19 schedule, where they had allocated time for work, rest and exercise. However, with the pandemic, it has been extremely difficult to establish a healthy work-life balance.

Based on my experience as a health coach and using the tools given to me by ACE, I focus on creating small and manageable habits that help them lead a healthier lifestyle. By working on one specific habit or routine that they want to re-establish, I help provide my clients with the encouragement that they do, in fact, have control over how they lead their life. They realize they can make small changes in their routine without impacting their work schedule or pandemic lifestyle.

What are some ways that you were able to increase revenue for your business even throughout the pandemic?

SDB: In order to increase revenue throughout the pandemic, it was important to digitize and market health and wellness on social media platforms. It’s important to take advantage of platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram and online videos where we can showcase what the health and wellness business has to offer and how it can benefit someone during this pandemic.

One of the key takeaways we noticed was that, because everyone was working from home, it was important to meet them where they are at — which is online. By doing so, we were able to grasp client attention and provide easy tools that can be used on their computer, at their desk or wherever they may be in their home.

What are some ways that clubs and personal trainers can connect with clients virtually and keep exercisers engaged?

SDB: The best way for clubs and personal trainers to connect with their clients virtually is through social media. People are looking at alternative ways to get healthier and they are turning to social media for quick tips. A great way to connect is by taking advantage of new platforms such as Clubhouse, TikTok and Zoom and creating content where people can listen, learn and take action right away in their own comfort zone.

What advice do you have for coaches and fitness clubs transitioning to a virtual setting during COVID-19?

SDB: Virtual settings mean you need to get creative with how you deliver your content. It is no longer about talking to your clients face to face. Rather it is about showing techniques, creating personalized videos, guiding clients through exercises online or even through providing questionnaires on a monthly basis. This can help you, as a coach, understand where your clients are at and meet them there. Asking more personal professional questions such as “What are some wins this week?” or “How are you feeling about your goals thus far?” are crucial. A true coach knows that asking the right open-ended questions will yield more reflection from the client thus resulting in better outcomes.

What advice do you have for clubs and trainers interested in attracting new clientele?

SDB: When seeking to keep exercisers engaged, start with the basics. Ask your 3 Ws:

  • Why are we here?
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • Where do we start?

It’s important to brainstorm the basics and look at alternative marketing methods online such as these new platforms and researching what will best fit the company’s mission and vision.

Also, to keep exercisers engaged, it is highly advisable to create easy workout routines that people can do at their desk or even during a conference call. Many people who have now shifted to a work from home lifestyle have had a hard time allocating time for a workout. Therefore, it is time to meet them where they are at and create 10 to 15-minute exercise routines that will not only be an easy behavior change that they can adapt to but can also work with their schedule. Offering video calls and quick email touch points with your clients, to check in and see how they are doing, is also a great way to build rapport with your clientele.

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Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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