woman exercising on beach with smartwatch

By Susane Pata

According to some recent statistics, over 102 million devices were sold in 2016, an estimated increase of 15-20% year-over-year. Due to this increase in sales and usage by consumers, chances are high that some or most of your clients are using some method to track their input/output. Furthermore, they monitor when it comes to nutrition, calorie burn, heart rate, sleep or other health and fitness-related metrics.

Here are a couple of actual examples. Can any of your clients relate?

Teresa, a Creative Services Manager at a busy home textile business in New York City, wears a Fitbit Charger 2 Tracker to track her steps. Wearing the tracker reminds her of her goal to stay active. On days where she finds she does not get up from her desk because of stressful deadlines, she tries to squeeze in quick walks so she can stay close to her daily step goal of 10,000 steps. She is very motivated and loves that the feedback helps keep her on track.

Bonnie, another business professional in New York City, trains for triathlons. In contrast to Teresa, she prefers to use wearable technology to track her training performance rather than her steps. Even more, she uses the Apple Watch to track her swim strokes or swim pace, during her training sessions. This helps her stay within the Ironman swim race time (the mandatory swim cut off for the 2.4-mile swim in an Ironman is 2 hours and 20 minutes).

woman wearing fitness watch

Training with Wearable Technology: It’s All in the Numbers... Or Is It?

Over the last few years, the popularity of wearable technology, like Fitbit, Garmin, Apple Watch and MisFit, has been increasing steadily. This fitness trend made it to #1 in the ACSM 2019 Worldwide Survey’s Top 20 Fitness Trends--and with good reason.

Why Wear Wearables?

People are paying more attention to the data they are receiving from the “wearables.” Wearable technology supplies the user with some valuable outcome measurements, such as heart rate, distance traveled, steps taken, and even sleep quality. When people are motivated to track such data, they become more self-aware and begin making better decisions about their health. In many cases, this type of data helps create favorable exercise habits and assists with fitness goals.

Numbers Versus Emotion

However, as fascinating as it can be, these measurements are mostly numerical, and when human emotion enters the picture, numbers may not be enough motivation to help users stay on track. Numerical data from wearable technology has no tie-in with the emotions or behavior of the user, which is a big factor when creating new habits for life. A credentialed trainer or coach with an education/background in human behavior and motivational techniques could catalyze the development of those new fitness habits.

Numbers Are Only Part of the Health and Fitness Profile Puzzle

Two people lose 25 pounds, weigh-in and celebrate their outcome. However, what if one of these individuals had a miserable time completing the task because they couldn’t mentally adapt to the diet changes and increased exercise demand? While the other person thoroughly enjoyed the process and the journey? Who might have the longer-lasting change? There needs to be someone communicating with the individual as they go through a variety of challenges and changes to their norm.

Using Technology for Different Goals

Teresa’s step data helps her balance her activity to not allow her lifestyle to become sedentary. Her ultimate goal is to lose weight, and while wearing a tracker can certainly help, she sometimes feels that having an actual human expert to guide her would be more effective. There are times when she cannot get as many steps and feels frustrated about it. She feels that all her previous efforts are worth nothing because she is “back at square one” with her weight loss progress. Having someone to consult with could help identify what it would take for her to stay on track. 

When it comes to Bonnie’s training time, she comments that there are days when it would be ideal to have someone, like a swim coach, to guide her through the process. Then she could interact with on those training days when she feels emotionally worn out. So having someone listen to where you are in life and coach you based on what you need, would make all the difference in the training experience on rough days.

Integrating AI with Emotion

Blaine Wilson, the Senior Director of Wellcoaches in Lubbock, TX and an internationally recognized expert, comments after ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2019: “When artificial intelligence is truly integrated with algorithms to replicate authentic human traits (connection, communication, and navigation of emotions), wearables will become more common and powerful to facilitate positive behavior change.” During our interview, he stated that we are missing behavioral outcomes in our data and measurements. Consequently, we are just looking at the numbers and not behaviors that are tied to the goals individuals have.

photo of smart watch


The Missing Puzzle Piece: Human Connection

Human connection is undeniably powerful. When credentialed personal trainers build a good rapport with clients, change for the better can happen. However, what happens when the rapport is not there? It leads to communication that is inadequate or poor between trainer and client. 

Importance of Client Rapport

Although well-intentioned, some fitness professionals may not always interpret a client’s emotions in a way that may help the client in the long run. Wilson states: “Our clients have emotions and personal values… We focus on managing [emotions], which means to exploit, diffuse, or sanitize them...” rather than “...staying with them long enough to discern their meaning.” In a sense, these trainers have not established the right kind of rapport with their clients.

For example, when a client demonstrates poor training adherence, a fitness professional may erroneously interpret this as “the client is just not committed to their fitness goal.” Certainly, if the client feels comfortable in sharing, fitness professionals may need to dig a little about the client’s emotional state. Wilson states that when emotions are brought to the forefront, they become real and a conversation can happen. This can promote client-specific action, and in turn, this can produce a better health and fitness outcome that can last.

A Fitness Professional That Has What It Takes

Do you have to become a wellness coach to engage this way with clients? Not necessarily. Fitness professionals who want to learn about effective ways to communicate and coach their clients for long term success can find many valuable concepts and tools in PTA Global’s education curriculum. PTA Global creates education that teaches fitness pros how to explore a client’s mental and emotional drivers. These subjective, more “human-being-centric”, measures, combined with objective measures of visual tracking, can be great incentives for clients.

PTA Global’s Certified Personal Training Course and Behavior Change in Exercise Credential, for example, are specifically designed to empower the personal trainer to “train the human being, not just the human body.”

The graduate of these courses will know how to apply “Behavior Change and Motivational Interviewing” —a set of communication techniques and program-building strategies with a client-behavior-centric design.

Finding the Balance in Numbers

Understanding how to track progress, but also motivate an individual to want to continue to work hard when the numbers don’t move, requires both art and science.

In PTA Global‘s Exercise and Stress Management course, fit pros will not only have a more clear understanding of the damage created by stress and its impact on client results but also how to manipulate exercise variables to ensure the client sees maximal results from every session.

A multiple-day version of the PTAG Daily Readiness Observation TOOL (from ESM) is just an example of the kinds of tools available to help fitness professionals “get ready to be ready” for their clients on any given day. 

Ideally, courses like these can help fit pros take their client’s wearable technology data and have meaningful conversations regarding the client’s behavior around the data. In turn, this can help create a rewarding training experience and increase the likelihood of them sticking to their health and fitness plan—for life.


About the Author: Susane Pata

Susane Pata is a Global Master Instructor for TRX, and a Presenter and Author for PTA Global, as well as the Life Fitness, and TriggerPoint brands. She delivers live fitness education to wide audiences in North, Central and South America, Europe and Asia, and has begun writing for a variety of websites and publications. Susane created TRX’s first-ever group fitness program in 2004, and launched their education department and first-ever group training studio in San Francisco. When not traveling, Susane resides in New York City, instructing and advocating strongly for creative—yet smart—group fitness training.