Fitness, Personal Training, & Exercise Science

8 Ways Personal Trainers May Design Healthier Post-Pandemic Weight Loss Programs

An Overview of Weight Loss the “Healthy Way”

A program targeting weight loss helps clients decrease overall body weight. Further, this bodyweight change ideally and intentionally focuses on losing fat but can also unintentionally consist of protein, muscle, and other bodily substances. 

And yet, a personal trainer’s approach to weight loss should take into account more than just the scale dipping. It rectifies unsustainable ways to get there, too. Personal trainers can add these areas to their existing business practices to design healthier weight loss programs per client:

  1. Does the client need to lose weight from a medical standpoint and/or is the client’s desired weight loss a personal choice?
  2. If a personal choice, is both their aesthetic and larger life goals tied to losing weight?
  3. What types of physical movements will support this person’s unique body?
  4. What kind of nutrition will support this person’s unique energy and nutrient needs?
  5. Generally, is this client emotionally balanced around their weight and health? If not, what are certain habits to look out for during the weight loss process that may cause them to be triggered and require additional support?
  6. What is a reasonable amount of weight to lose during the client’s goal timeline? Do any adjustments need to be made to their timeline and expectations?
  7. Can you build in a system of healthful rewards along the way?

There is one more factor essential for personal trainers to consider in approaching post-pandemic weight loss and that is the fact our world is still enduring a global pandemic that comes with its own distinctive relationship to weighing less. As evidenced by personal trainers’ repeated asks to help their clients lose “pandemic weight,” many have in fact gained pounds, and “according to a poll by the American Psychological Association, 61% of U.S. adults reported undesired weight change since the pandemic began.” While it is important to emphasize the potential adversities of clinically dangerous levels of weight gain, there is also a need for grace and acceptance in eating more and moving less during such an unprecedented time.

A personal trainer’s job would not be complete without additionally acknowledging how many clients were already unfairly set up to cope through food (and less nutritious food at that). For instance, the stress of the pandemic exacerbates existing health and wellness challenges that can lead to weight gain, such as overconsuming food as a way to mitigate anxiety and depression. Further, “The pandemic has disproportionately affected the health of communities of color. Non-Hispanic Black adults (48%) and Hispanic or Latino adults (46%) are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder than Non-Hispanic White adults (41%). Historically, these communities of color have faced challenges accessing mental health care.” Understanding the complexities that go into weight loss programming post-pandemic supports personal trainers to create their most successful and most informed programs to a wide range of audiences.



8 Ways Personal Trainers May Design Healthier Post-Pandemic Weight Loss Programs

Motivated by the purpose to achieve client weight loss needs within reason and also help them achieve sustainable results with respect to their individuality, background, and resources, here are eight ways to navigate healthier weight loss planning during and after pandemic times:

Tackle Underlying Weight Loss Hows and Whys

Make sure to take clients through the entire 7-question prep work listed above before designing their program at all. Instead of just making a program based on numbers and expertise, try and involve your client in the preparation process so they become a more active participant in the programming. This fostering of education and building of intrinsic motivation create higher success rates in achieving weight loss goals than any surface-level quick fix. 

Source Out Beyond-Scope Areas

During the 7-question prep work, it will become apparent what areas of need go beyond your personal training scope in your client’s weight loss journey. It is recommended that you have a network of relevant professionals you can refer out to when needed, such as holistic nutritionists if their dietary needs exceed your expertise, primary care physicians, and therapists (check out How to Legally Give Nutritional Advice here). Having these thoughtful suggestions on hand also allows you to focus on the programming aspect more of the time.

Preliminary Analysis of Client’s Body

To create pragmatic objectives related to your client’s body, you must understand and assess your client’s body. For instance:

  1. Do they have any injuries or disabilities to accommodate for?
  2. What was their body like before and after the pandemic? What can they tell you about how they gained the weight, and where does it show most?
  3. What is their capability for strength exercises?
  4. How is their cardiovascular fitness?
  5. How might their age factor into all the above?

Go Back to the Weight Loss Basics

In addition to weight loss workout plan tips we’ve recommended before, here are some very general considerations for client weight loss:

  1. They will need some degree of caloric deficit.
  2. They should undergo a mix of strength and cardiovascular training. 
  3. If weight loss and strength gain are concurrent goals, have them do weight-bearing exercises about 3 times per week and cardio workouts approximately 2 days per week.
  4. On the other hand, if weight loss and strength maintenance are their goals, design a program with weight-bearing exercises about 2 times per week and cardio workouts averaging 3-4 days each week.
  5. Your client will get much farther toward their weight loss aspirations if the strength and cardio elements you implement are ones they at least sort of enjoy. This may require that you brush up on fitness modalities that aren’t your go-to ones, so be ready to adapt.

Exercise Options with Minimal Tools

With being stuck at or near home for so long, clients may feel pretty powerless to lose weight. Instead, your personal training programs can utilize their surroundings or home-like resources for physical movements. Here is a list of homebody exercise tools that work:

  1. Stable furniture such as a bench for squats or incline lunges
  2. Weighted objects such as soup cans, books, and door stoppers that can be used for high reps
  3. Tools that maximize vertical moves such as a jump rope and/or tools that maximize lateral motion such as bands
  4. Compound movements with heavier furniture
  5. Using kitchen surfaces like ballet barres to stabilize oneself 
  6. Using those same kitchen surfaces and even the living room couch to assist in stretching 
  7. Any of the above as seen outdoors, such as curbs, hills, and steps

Flexible Discipline

For now, at least, in an especially stressful era, gone are the days where working out at the exact same time and place are going to cut it. As an alternative, create “workout windows” for your clients where they can meet you at a set time between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., which could mean Mondays at 7 a.m. and Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. With the power of technology, you also have the ability to pre-record curated exercises, and with their commitment, they can watch them between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on movement days. You can also create personal training sessions of various times, such as 20 minutes, 40 minutes, and 90 minutes. With flexible discipline, you still encourage your client to uphold discipline while also allowing for flexibility. The idea is to do it right more often than not since rigid benchmarks likely won’t serve in today’s wellness climate.

Weight Loss-Enabling Energy Hacks

While you don’t have the ability to coach and monitor all the other time your client spends on their weight loss, you can teach them the valuable tool of boundary-setting so they have enough energy to actually put into your personal training sessions with them. Energy for working out always comes from someplace else earlier in the day or week. For instance, are they setting healthy work boundaries? Are they practicing balanced nutrition at least 80% of the time? Do they limit technology intake? If a person is really draining them, can they let them go and/or shift the relationship with them? How is their self-dialogue before, amidst, and post-workout (are they subconsciously berating themselves for some reason)? Are they sleeping adequately? And finally, do their workouts themselves inspire them or serve to replenish their energy in some way? Try giving each of those queries an “energy score” where 1 = tiring, 2 = neutral, and 3 = energizing, and have a discussion with your clients on how they can reduce the 1’s by any means possible. 

Strategic Check-Ins

Weekly if possible, check in with your personal training client to see if they have lost weight and how they are feeling. In the best-case scenario, they’ll have a scale that also measures their percent body fat so that if the scale is moving up and down during their weight loss journey, you have additional metrics to adjust their program by. You can also have them return to the 7-question intake survey. Both of these accountability deliverables are easy for you to integrate by way of systems such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey.

Main Takeaways

As much as “losing pandemic weight” can be a very irresponsibly marketed concept in a vulnerable time no less, there are certainly many clients who have put on an amount of weight unusual to their body’s normal functioning and comfort level. Personal trainers now have the ability to professionally re-route that weight gain while also demonstrating compassion for their clients’ weight loss journey. 





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