As a personal trainer, I have helped clients with a wide range of needs. One client in particular stands out because he is blind. This changed my approach to every step of the training process, which is naturally very visual.
I implemented a new system of teaching to accommodate my client’s lack of sight and after 18 months of training together he has made impressive strides in reaching his fitness goals as well as in his ability to flow easily through the movements.
Here are a few of my techniques that I recommend other trainers use when assisting someone with a sight deficiency:
When implementing verbal cues, break the movement down with as much verbal information as possible. Let’s use the example of a Push-up to demonstrate what I mean. I would first guide him to an open space. I would then take a few steps in front of him and let him know it’s okay to drop down to his knees on the floor, followed by lying flat on the floor face down. I would then break the movement down step by step. I would guide his hands to the correct positioning and tell him to straighten his arms until he was holding his torso up at an arm’s length. I would explain his head positioning, and how his body should feel at his major points (such as his shoulders, hips, etc.). The next cue would be to lower himself downward until his chest almost touches the floor, and he should be inhaling on this step. The following step would be to explain breathing out and pressing his upper body back to the starting position primarily using his chest muscles. This would be the first rep. I would then explain any faults, such as incorrect head placement or flared elbows.
It will be necessary to physically guide a blind person through the motion. After gaining permission from the client, use what I call a “ghost” motion. This means I guide the person’s body to move in the correct while explaining how each joint should bend and the form should feel to him.
When you have a client without sight they will have trouble with spatial recognition. Movements like the lunge or the jumping jack will be harder to teach, but guiding them by the sound of your voice to “step to my voice” will help them with feet placement, rhythm, etc.
We want the brain to connect to the movements, and the instructions should be explained as perfectly as possible. At the beginning of the session I want to work on centering the breath. I then have him follow this step with the Performance Statement. In this step, the client reiterates the steps for executing the movement. We then start the workout and after I explain a movement, I will move him to the Personal Highlight Reel Zone. In this zone, I have him imagine the last time we did this movement, which I am tracking, and to remember the experience. The next step in mind-muscle connection is the Identity Statement. This step is when I remind my client of how much work we have done, and the strides we have taken. This is positive reinforcement to help them push past their plateaus. The final step of the workout is to work on centering their breath again as well as lowering their heart rate back to normal.
Finally, always train people with the respect they deserve, regardless of any disability or limitation. Your clients trust your expertise and professionalism; make sure they are in good hands.