We all do it and we all see it. We go to the gym, we press play on our music and we check out, ignoring our bodies and minds as we move through the motions— and we don’t just do this at the gym. We’re in a constant state of distraction, including when we’re eating, trying to sleep, walking and driving, and spending time with friends.
The concept of mindfulness is about reversing that distracted behavior. It’s about understanding how to plug in and be present in the moment, which is the ultimate form of self-respect.
As trainers, instructors and coaches, we want to instill the concept of mindfulness, of being present in your movement patterns, so you recognize your results, where you’re going and maybe if you’re going too hard or too easy. If you’re not paying attention to that, to your heartbeat, your breath and your thoughts, you won’t know how you’re really doing.
“People often say they just need to ‘get their workout done’, but I think in order to have a positive relationship with exercise, we need to change our mentality towards it,” says Merrithew® Master Instructor Trainer PJ O’Clair.
We spoke to PJ and Lead Instructor Trainer Carol Earle, both of whom are personal trainers, about how and why personal trainers, gym-goers and athletes should combine mindful movement practices into their training regimens.
1. Why should personal trainers consider training in mindful movement?
Better serve your clients
Carol Earle: “The more education you have, the better you can serve your clients. If your clients are like mine, they want a well-balanced workout schedule that includes cardio training, strength training and at least one mind-body modality like yoga, Pilates or barre.
“When you have an understanding of mindful movement practices as a personal trainer, you can then help your client connect more deeply to their movements and muscular activations, which carries over to every other physical activity. Having a broad education also helps you add variety to your programming, which is important if your clients come to see you more than once a week.”
Increase your marketability
PJ O’Clair: “The more skills you have as a trainer, the more marketable you are and the more options you’ll have to teach and find work. A lot of people stick to one specialization, but as a studio owner, I know that what we’re looking for is someone who has a varied skill set. I want to hire staff who can teach a spin class and a Reformer class. You can’t just be one thing anymore.”
2. What are some of the benefits of combining athletic conditioning with programs like STOTT PILATES®, ZEN•GA® and Merrithew Fascial Movement?
Full-body conditioning to prevent injuries
PJ: “I’ve always been involved in many different forms of physical activity and I think that's why I've stayed so fit over the years and have come back so strong from some of my injuries and surgeries. That's because my body's conditioned in a unique way, not just exclusively in cycling, Pilates or yoga. People get hooked on doing just one sport or activity and that can lead to overuse injuries.”
Safer and more effective exercise
Carol: “Having an eye for form and an ability to cue correct movement patterns comes from my experience as a STOTT PILATES Certified Instructor and those skills have transferred over into my work as a personal trainer. My knowledge, experience and understanding of how to apply modifications and build progressive programs have also been helpful.”
3. How did adding mindful movement help you grow your personal training business?
Keep clients engaged
PJ: “My clients know that at my studios, they have an opportunity to try different things and that's what they talk to their friends about. ‘You should come here because we do everything. Every day is different and we always have fun and we never get bored.’ People are looking for diversity, variety and excitement in their fitness routines. They don't want to do the same thing all the time.”
A natural complement to personal training
Carol: “I was actually a Pilates instructor first and then pursued personal training afterwards. So my Pilates clientele followed me into my personal training. And from there, the word of mouth from my clients to other members at our facility helped me build my customer base. They trusted my eye for form and biomechanics and knew I could coach them successfully into strength training without fear of injury.”
4. How have you applied the STOTT PILATES Biomechanical Principles in your personal training programs?
Optimize your clients’ understanding of exercise execution
Carol: “Applying the STOTT PILATES Biomechanical Principle of Shoulder Girdle Movement and Stabilization has helped my clients add load to exercises like an overhead press and progress successfully with upper body strength.
“Clients have made huge progress in their performance of planks and push-ups on the TRX® by applying the Mindful Movement Principles of Support and Yield from ZEN•GA.
“Helping my clients understand and apply the Merrithew Fascial Movement variable of Expand has been valuable in their performance of deadlifts and various strength movements using kettlebells, while the Bounce variable has helped me cue my clients when using the battle ropes. They understand that it’s a full-body movement and that they have to find flow and rhythm throughout the entire body, not just the arms.
“I cue breathing in my cardio-based classes, like cycling and rowing, using a mixture of the STOTT PILATES Biomechanical Principles and the ZEN•GA Mindful Movement Principle of Breath.”
Find mindful movement training near you and learn how to elevate your clients’ workout routine.