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Stage of Readiness

Hadyn Luke posted this on Friday 4th of January 2013 Hadyn Luke 04/01/2013

Tags: Client analysis


This week, our blog investigates the Stage of Readiness model and how a personal trainer or fitness instructor might apply it to their clients.

The Stage of Readiness model identifies the process we go through when looking to change our behaviour. It’s important for a personal trainer or gym instructor to understand what stage their client is at in order to:

  • understand their client’s goals
  • identify how to approach the client
  • work out how to motivate the client

Classically, the model is made up of six stages.

1. Pre-contemplation phase

This occurs when an individual hasn’t been thinking about exercise but for some reason is influenced to change. They might see a government-funded initiative, such as ‘More People, More Active, More Often’. They might read something in the paper, see a TV show or hear a radio programme that prompts them to take action. They could be influenced by friends or family or want to get fit or lose weight for a particular goal, such as a wedding or a holiday. Alternatively, they may have developed a particular medical condition or have been advised by a doctor to take more exercise for general health benefits.

2. Contemplation phase

At this point, the individual might chat to their family and friends or contact a gym to find out more. This is one of the many reasons that a personal trainer or fitness instructor should build up a good reputation of their work and their gym, as current clients are more likely to give positive referrals to other people.

3. Preparation phase

In the preparation and planning stage, the person will do something more concrete to advance the process, for example, shop for gym clothes or trainers, sign up for classes with a fitness instructor or visit a gym for an induction session with a personal trainer. At this stage, they are ready to change their behaviour.

4. Action phase

Once they progress to the action phase, they will be taking part in some form of regular exercise, whether working with a personal trainer, following a fitness class with a gym instructor or simply using the gym regularly. If a client succeeds in maintaining an exercise routine of three (or more) times a week for six months, they will then progress to the Maintenance stage.

5. Maintenance phase

This is when the client is maintaining the behavioural change for an ongoing period of time. This is counted from six months of the Action phase because although people often change their behaviour for a couple of months, they don’t always stick at it for as long as six months, whether it’s for financial reasons, a change in job or lifestyle, or a particularly busy period in their lives. This is because people are more likely to drop a newer activity than a long-established one. So if someone continues training at the gym for more than six months, it means it has become more ingrained and is a regular part of their lifestyle, so all they have to do is maintain this.

6. Relapse phase

At any point in the cycle, it’s possible to have a relapse. For example, someone may go from Pre-contemplation into Contemplation, realise the cost of going to the gym is more than they can afford and go back to the Pre-contemplation phase. Equally, someone might reach the Action phase, start taking regular exercise, stop because of a short illness like flu and lose the impetus to go back to the gym when they are well again.

How personal trainers and fitness instructors can use the Stage of Readiness model

By understanding where their client is in the cycle, a personal trainer or fitness instructor can use the model to give motivation and encouragement.

For example, a personal trainer might get chatting to an individual who says that they have been attending the gym three times a week for 12 months, but who doesn’t feel they are achieving their goals. From this the personal trainer can deduce that that person is motivated to continue attending the gym, has a reasonable base level of fitness and an awareness of how to use the equipment. They could, therefore, devise a fitness programme that suits the specific needs of this particular client, which would be different from someone who has never trained before and has just arrived for their first gym session.

A personal trainer is most likely to come into contact with people in the Preparation or Action phase, when they are thinking of joining the gym and looking for advice, or in the Maintenance phase, once they’ve stopped achieving their goals and are looking for help to progress their training. However, the fitness instructor might also meet people in the Pre-contemplation and Contemplation phases, for example chatting to someone socially or through a referral from a client. At this stage, the personal trainer is in a good position to explain the procedures, costs and benefits of regular training.

The Stage of Readiness method can be used by a personal trainer when they are carrying out a gym induction, in order to establish what stage the client is at. They may be a complete beginner, they may have trained at a gym previously but let their membership lapse, or they may train regularly and are new in the area. Whatever the case, once the personal trainer has established where the client is in their Stage of Readiness, they will be better able to advise them.

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