As a fitness professional, you play a vital role in nurturing the overall health and wellbeing of the people you work with. But one of the most important roles you have as a fitness instructor or personal trainer, might just surprise you. It’s your hidden, but not so hidden, superpower. As someone dedicated to helping others on their wellness journey, you have the power to make a positive impact on physical AND mental health. In this blog post, we’ll explore three key strategies you can implement to effectively promote mental wellbeing.
As a fitness instructor or personal trainer, you play a pivotal role in your client’s overall health, and it’s not what you think. You are in the prime position to help your clients prioritize their mental health along with their physical health.
What can you do as a fitness professional to promote mental wellbeing?
- Prioritize and attend to your own mental health.
- Learn ways to boost both mental AND physical fitness.
- Expand your referral network.
Your mental health matters.
Before you can be a source of support for others, it’s crucial to prioritize your own mental health. Make self-care a non-negotiable, seek help when you need it, and respect your boundaries.
In a service industry it’s not always easy to focus on yourself. You are constantly pouring your heart and soul into helping others, but we must prioritize our own mental health. It’s like the cliché says, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” Just as you advise your clients to prioritize self-care, you should too. Incorporate mindfulness practices, movement, and stress management techniques into your daily routine so you’re prioritizing your mental health.
You will have your good days and your bad days as a fitness professional. You’re only human afterall, and we all need help from time to time. Mental health is a spectrum, and it’s okay not to have all the answers. If you’re experiencing mental health challenges, don’t hesitate to seek help from a friend or even a therapist or counselor. Your actions can demonstrate the importance of seeking help, reducing the stigma around mental health.
While it’s definitely not required to advocate for mental health, some people find it inspiring when they share about their own journey with mental health challenges. By talking candidly about mental health, both the ups and the downs, we are acknowledging the spectrum that it falls on. And when we normalize these conversations we’re breaking down stigma, hopefully making it more likely that someone will feel more comfortable sharing when they need help. In order to walk the walk, we must first become comfortable with talking the talk ☺️
Always consider your own wellbeing and comfort level before self-disclosing any diagnoses. If you feel comfortable doing so, you could share your own experiences managing symptoms of depression or openly talk about the benefits of therapy and seeking help from mental health professionals. As a fitness professional, you recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for mental health challenges, so of course you’re not sharing your own experiences to promote one way of coping over another. Your own openness might help another realize they can share how they’re feeling with you or loved ones they feel close to. Your story might even encourage someone to seek out a therapist or local support group.
Balancing your work and personal life is also vital. Evaluate how you feel before, during, and after teaching, and don’t be afraid to switch things up if you notice any areas where you can find more ease and peace in your schedule. Ensuring you have boundaries in place is key to preventing burnout and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Offering to sub classes is a huge help to any studio, but when you pick up so many shifts that you’re losing sleep and dread coming in to teach, then your own mental health may be paying the price.
By taking care of your own mental health, you not only enhance your overall wellbeing but also become better equipped to support your clients’ mental health.
Promote mental wellbeing within your classes.
As a fitness professional, you have a unique opportunity to train both the mind and the body into your classes. By integrating techniques to boost mental health into your training approach, you empower your clients to not only transform their bodies but also strengthen their minds. Here’s how you can do it:
Incorporate mindfulness practices. As a mindful fitness professional, you’re probably already introducing mindfulness techniques into your classes or sessions. And if you’re not, you gotta try it out! Consider reading these other blog posts for some ideas on how you can become a more mindful instructor or personal trainer: When & Where to Use Mindfulness in Your Fitness Classes, Integrating Mindfulness into Your Fitness Classes,
Teaching your clients mindful breathing, meditation, and body awareness not only helps turn your classes into moving meditations, it can help reduce stress, improve focus, and enhance emotional resilience.
Emphasize the mind-body connection. Educate your clients about the profound connection between their physical body and the thoughts and feelings created by their minds. Explain how exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, and how research shows regular physical activity can not only make you stronger and leave you feeling more energized, it can also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Offer empathetic support and guidance where you can. Be a source of emotional support for your clients. Listen actively, empathize with their challenges, and provide a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, a friendly ear can make all the difference.
Recognize where you have gaps in your own understanding and further your knowledge of mental health. Learn strategies for stress management, mindfulness, emotional resilience, self-regulation, and other ways of supporting mental wellness. What’s great is you’re already doing so by following The Mindful Fit Pro!
Stay informed about the latest developments in both physical fitness and mental health. Attend workshops, webinars, or courses that focus on the benefits of physical activity on the brain. This knowledge will enable you to provide even more comprehensive guidance and support for your clients.
By offering a service that targets both mental health and physical health, you’re essentially making your sessions twice as effective at improving your client’s overall wellbeing.
3. Build your referral network.
Recognize that you’re not alone in the journey to promote mental wellbeing. Expanding your referral network can enhance the support system available to your clients.
Establish connections with therapists, counselors, and psychologists in your area. Having a network of mental health experts allows you to refer clients when their needs extend beyond fitness training. Collaborative care ensures comprehensive support for your clients.
You can also build partnerships with local mental health organizations and support groups. Co-hosting events or workshops can provide your clients with access to valuable resources, broaden their support systems, and provide a sense of community.
While what we do as fitness professionals is valuable, we cannot fail to recognize that we are limited to our scope of practice. Knowing where one can seek help for their mental health is important if we want to remain within our lane. A trained mental health professional (psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc.) can often be the missing puzzle piece to someone’s overall health. Take the time to Google local and national resources available to you and your clients, you never know when you might need them.
✨ Consider pursuing a Mental Health First Aid certification! ✨
Mental health First Aid is an internationally recognized program that can help you not only learn how to recognize signs someone may be struggling with their mental health but, more importantly, what you can do to help connect them with additional support and the help they may need.
Fitness professionals who get certified in Mental Health First Aid…
- Establish a deeper connection and sense of trust with their clients.
- Build confidence in their ability to recognize when a client is struggling and needs additional support.
- Provide support for their clients’ mental health, without needing to be a counselor or therapist
- Create a referral network that includes professional mental health services
- Expand their own self-care toolkit that prioritizes mental wellbeing
A few resources every Fit Pro should know…
Here are just a few resources, available within the United States, that you should have handy:
- The National Alliance of Mental Illness is a great place to start looking for community-based programs and support groups.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a behavioral health treatment locator where you can search for providers by zip code.
- The Crisis & Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential assistance, 24/7, to those in crisis. You can call 988 to reach counselors on the other end of the line that are trained to sit with you in those dark moments and offer support by connecting you to local resources.*
*The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) remains available.
In conclusion, as a fitness professional, you have a profound role to play in promoting mental wellbeing. By prioritizing your own mental health, integrating mental fitness and strength into your training approach, and expanding your referral network, you create a supportive environment that empowers your clients to achieve not only physical fitness but also mental resilience and wellbeing. Your impact extends far beyond the gym!