Our industry has fallen victim, myself included.

While we inherently want what's best for our clients, we selfishly want to "prove" our value as a trainer and fitness professional.

Unfortunately, this can be the exact reason why some of your clients or even why you never progress and meet your end goals.

Let me give you an example.

Meet Suzy

You have a client, Suzy, who comes to you looking to lose 20 pounds before her wedding in three months. She has a stressful, full-time job for the government and also is a mom of three kids.

You sign her up right away with the impression you can get her to even lose more "if she does the work."

Now, things get interesting. You have Suzy's diet, cut out carbs, go low fat, and drop calories to about 1500 daily when she is used to being around 2200-2400 per day.

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You then begin training her three days a week, adding two cardio days for intervals on the bike or running.

Your training plan for her is centered around higher rep, endurance-based rep schemes while adding in HIIT on top of her cardio workouts. Suzy hates taking days off, so she even goes for a long run or does her Peloton on her seventh day.

After three months, Suzy reaches her goal. She loses 23 pounds and walks down the aisle with a stunning glow about her that gives her the confidence she needs to continue the training on her own.

Flash Foward Three More Months

Now Suzy is changing.

She begins having trouble sleeping, is experiencing a lot of fatigue, and has muscle aches every day.

She has had to switch her mindset from "crushing her workouts" to "just getting it done."

Suddenly, training becomes a chore, and she uses excuses and work to miss sessions when it was a non-negotiable before her wedding.

She finds herself unable to be energetic and happy for her kids. She no longer can focus when she is working.

The final piece of the puzzle is when she notices her weight plateauing and even going up.

Suzy's Fix

She increases her cardio, starts training for longer durations each day, and cuts calories even more.

What's the Problem with Suzy?

As hard as this might sound, YOU caused this behavior and body changes that Suzy is experiencing.

We, as trainers, need to change. While our job is to help people reach their goals, it is also to better COACH them in health.

One thing maybe you have even learned over the years but still neglect to adhere to when training clients is their health and wellness go further than just what's entered into their program.

Think about Suzy for a second. She came to you with a high-stress job, kids, and a significant weight loss goal in a short amount of time.

This situation right here should send red flags for health. Stress plays a large role in the body's ability to recover. The Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that mental fatigue negatively affects physical performance because your anterior cingulate cortex controls your cognition and muscles. When your brain is already tired before you start exercising, there's a good chance your muscles may be too.

The added stress of training at higher intensities that HIIT demands will also spike cortisol. Remember, cortisol's function is to mobilize stores energy, so when Suzy is going low carb, her energy is next to nothing, leaving her chronically elevated.

Chronic cortisol elevations can lead to poor sleep, adrenal dysfunction, and even risk of injury. All of which is not good for a busy working mom with three kids. The fatigue is making her move less, which has her body's workouts burning less, with her only hope to keep doing more and more training. 

The only reason she felt great initially was because of what adrenaline does. It is why so many people feel great initially on low carb or keto diets. This boost in cortisol also releases adrenaline. While this is great for the short term, our bodies get used to it after about two to three weeks, and the adverse effects begin to happen with us getting used to it.

Can You See Where This is Going?

I know we always want to be the best we can be for our clients, but sometimes we need to focus on our coaching behaviors rather than our selfish desires to showcase immediate effects.

While Suzy's plan can work for someone in a different setting and environment for a short time, nothing can be sustained long term. A conversation like so needed to be discussed with her upon meeting with her or along the way.

I'm not here to rustle feathers for some of you die-hard trainers out there who promise a specific result, but I'd rather under-promise and over-deliver while coaching them to be healthy in the long term.

Far too often these days, I see women come to me with hormone dysfunction, burnout, fatigue, and over-training syndrome. When I sit and talk with them, most say they had previous coaches introduce them into the HIIT world and never spoke on the consequences of constantly stressing your body.

Let's put it this way; if you want to prescribe intense training protocols for your clients, make sure:

  1. They are currently living a lifestyle that can manage the additional stress and nervous system fatigue.
  2. They are understanding of duration and programming of it in accordance to their overall health and goals. If they dont plan to have de-loads, off-seasons, or time off then they are aware of the risks they run.
  3. You be more than a trainer and get ready to coach them in more ways than just their sets x reps.


Remember, professional athletes might train hard and intensely, but they also have off-seasons.

Let's make a change and be better industry leaders.

Fitness is about moving, feeling, and being better, not so much about the number of burpees and snatches you can do in 10 minutes.

Mike Over is a NASM master trainer and owner of Over-Achieve Fitness in Pennsylvania. He works with hundreds of everyday gym-goers and athletes of all levels.