DREC, the subject of this blog, explores people’s attitudes to change, which is why it can be a useful tool for personal trainers and fitness instructors looking to grow their businesses (see also our blogs on Stage of Readiness and Maximising behaviour change).
As any personal trainer will know, clients need to be in the right frame of mind to train successfully; here, we look at how DREC can help a potential client make the changes necessary to start an exercise programme. We also show how a fitness instructor should examine their own personal approach to change – and how they can use change to develop their business.
WHAT IS DREC?
DREC stands for ‘Denial, Resistance, Exploration, Commitment’. It’s also known in business as the Simplified Model of Change or the Change Curve.
The idea of the Change Curve is usually attributed to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist who helped grieving patients to achieve personal transition. Today, it’s a model that is also applied in other areas of life, including business.
WHAT DO THE STAGES OF DREC SIGNIFY?
Essentially, DREC helps you understand the key phases that people usually experience when they go through change.
Denial – at this stage, the individual does not believe they have a problem.
Resistance – the person accepts they have a problem but doesn’t believe anything can be done about it. They can even become angry about suggestions that they need to change.
Exploration – the individual accepts that there is a need to change and starts to explore the options for resolving the issue at hand. This is a more positive stage than the previous two.
Commitment – the client decides on a plan of action to fix the problem and acts on it.
THE CHALLENGES OF CHANGE IN FITNESS TRAINING
Many people dislike change. Even those who embrace it can sometimes find it hard to recognise when change is needed. And often it seems easier to stick with the status quo rather than to go through the effort that change requires.
During their careers, personal trainers will meet people who don’t believe they need to change their lack of exercise, and those who feel they should exercise more but don’t know where to start or are lacking motivation. They will also encounter people who are starting to make tentative investigations into what sort of exercise they might do, and others who are fully committed to starting a new exercise regime.
Recognising the stage of readiness that a potential client has reached can help a personal trainer or fitness instructor provide the right kind of encouragement and support.
How a personal trainer can help a potential client using DREC
Fitness instructors meet people all the time – not only in their classes or in a gym environment but also out in daily life.
Example: a personal trainer, Anna, gets chatting to her boyfriend’s friend, Jake, who is unfit and overweight.
In the Denial phase, Jake appears unconcerned about his unhealthy lifestyle, laughs off comments from his friends and says exercise just isn’t for him.
At this stage, Anna needs to be ready to provide information without lecturing or trying to bully him to change.
In the Resistance phase, Jake starts to open up about his own concerns about his health but continues to insist that he would never have the discipline for exercise. If pushed he might even become angry.
At this stage, Anna needs to offer clear communication, support and encouragement: for example, talking about other people she has helped who started with similar lifestyles and levels of fitness as Jake.
In the Exploration phase, Jake starts to ask about the different types of training he could take up, what sort of progress he could make and what the long-term benefits might be.
Although this is a turning point, it still needs careful handling. If Anna tries to rush him through this stage, it could have the opposite effect and push him back into the Resistance phase.
In the Commitment phase, Jake commits to a course of 10 training sessions with Anna. He now trusts her and believes she can help him.
By being aware of the four stages of DREC, Anna is able to guide Jake sensitively through what is a major change in his approach to life. Another personal trainer might have pushed Jake too hard at the early stages – Denial and Resistance – and failed to get results, as at these stages Jake wasn’t yet ready to change his behaviour.
HOW DREC CAN HELP A PERSONAL TRAINER DEVELOP IN BUSINESS?
Understanding the DREC model can also help a personal trainer consider their own approach to their business and encourage them to make positive changes.
This can give them a direct advantage over their competitors when it comes to winning new customers.
Example: imagine the case of Ben, a personal trainer who is fully qualified but only has a handful of regular clients.
In the Denial phase, he convinces himself that there isn’t a problem: that he can manage to live on the income these few clients bring, or that more clients will eventually come along without him needing to do anything.
In the Resistance phase, he becomes aware that he needs to market his services more, but puts up barriers to doing this: too tired after a day’s work, not sure where to start, hasn’t got the funds etc.
In the Exploration phase, Ben starts to look at the options for winning more customers, such as setting up a website, printing some flyers or asking his current clients for referrals and recommendations (see our blog on Personal Training: How to attract new clients).
He finds ways to overcome the barriers of the Resistance phase, for example if he is lacking funds, he looks into grants, loans or free marketing training offered by local organisations.
In the Commitment phase, he puts his plans into action and starts to reap the rewards. His personal training business starts to take off and he recognises the benefits of the changes he has embraced.
It may seem like avoiding change is the easiest option, but over the longer term it can make life worse. Someone who exercises regularly is generally less likely to have health issues than someone who resists change and remains unfit. Equally, a personal trainer who fails to work on their business may find themselves quickly overtaken by competitors who embrace change and keep their business moving forwards.
Going through a major change can be traumatic, as it means leaving behind past behaviour and having the confidence and motivation to try something new. A personal trainer should try to understand and be sympathetic to those who are struggling to accept change, and in this way will be more likely to help them achieve it.