So you showed up at your client's house to train them and you find the person coughing and sneezing and dribbling snot everywhere. Oh, and they STILL want to workout. Has this ever happened to you? What would you do in this situation? Let me try to give you some advice on what to do if you suddenly found out your sick client still wants to workout.
Sick Client: To Train Or Not To Train?
Before we get into the diagnosis of cold and flu symptoms, I really want you to think about this situation from YOUR perspective. Whether you work with people in their homes or in the gym, you train several people during the day. What would happen if you decided to work with this sick client – and YOU got sick?
Remember, personal training is personal. At the very least you will be within a couple of feet of each other. You could be infected by their cold/flu.
How fair would that be to all the other people you train during the day and week? How would THEY feel knowing that you got them sick?
Probably not too good, I'm sure.
What if you don't train people all day long? What if this is one of the few clients you have. I know making a living is important, but you need to ask yourself if the small amount you make is worth the headache (literally and figuratively) of maybe being sick for several days?
What if you have to see a doctor? Do you have a copay? How about that Z-Pack that the doctor prescribed – do you have to pay for medications out of pocket?
Think about it. You might actually end up LOSING money because you trained that sick client.
I really think this is a scenario personal trainers need to think about before it happens to them. Or, if it already has happened, how you might handle it better in the future.
Exercise and The Immune System
There is about 150 years of evidence suggesting that exercise can affect the immune system in 2 different ways – good and bad.
1. A little exercise – an hour or so of exercise a few days a week for example – can actually make the immune system stronger.
2. Too much exercise – like running a marathon or working out too aggressively without enough rest – can weaken the immune system and make a person more likely to get sick.
As an aside, for the personal trainer who also teaches a lot of exercise classes, I wonder if all that exercise makes you more susceptible to a cold due to a reduced immune response? I'm not aware of any studies on this.
Either way you look at it, from the perspective of the personal trainer, I think training someone who may be contagious could, in some cases, be bad for business.
Most personal trainers are not nurses or doctors and so knowing the signs that a client is sick may not be something we are used to noticing. Here are some things to look for that could indicate that the client might be sick and contagious:
- Runny nose
- Spitting up mucus
- Body aches
- Trouble breathing
- Telling you they get tired earlier in the day than normal
- Sneezing and coughing
- Sore throat
- Asking if it's hot – and you don't think it is.
How To Tell A Client No
If you feel your client is too sick to work out and maybe contagious, just say something like “I know working out is important to you, but remember that you can't get better if you are stressing your body with exercise at the same time.”
Another thought is to say something like “Do you think you are contagious because I would hate to pick something up and pass it along to all the other people I work with.” I think when you put it to them like that, most people will be altruistic enough to call it quits for the day.
To avoid this situation altogether, I think its a good idea to have a policy in place that you go over with clients, at your first meeting. If you have a policy page that's part of the information packet you give to new clients, this can be one of those policies. You can say something like:
” While exercise is important, if you are sick, it is appreciated if you please cancel your appointment for the day. That way, you get the rest you need and you reduce the chances of spreading your cold/flu to others.”
Addressing this issue ahead of time can cut down awkward conversations with clients when they are sick.
Keeping Healthy Tips
Here are some tips to help keep you from getting sick.
- Do not touch your face. Doing so helps spread the cold/flu to you.
- Use an alcohol disinfectant. Keep it in your car and disinfect your hands until you have a chance to wash them.
- Wash your hands in-between clients if possible.
- Wash your hands after touching equipment in the gym before you leave the gym.
At the end of the day, its all about being healthy and not being sick.
Have you ever trained someone who was sick? How did you handle it?