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Advice & Guidance For Personal Training Blind Clients

Advice & Guidance For Personal Training Blind Clients

Learning how to adapt your personal training for blind clients is a hugely important skill, especially as those with visual impairments often engage in lower levels of fitness compared to their peers who have sight.

It’s crucial to know how to adapt training sessions to suit those with partial or complete sight loss, and with this guide we’ll explore:

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What You Need To Know About Personal Training Blind Clients

 personal training blind client

According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), there are an estimated 2 million people with some form of sight loss in the UK. By 2050, this figure is expected to double.

As a personal trainer, one thing to be aware of is that most people aren’t born blind, sight loss often occurs later in life. In fact, the Royal Society For Blind Children (RSBC) estimates there are only around 36,000 blind children and young adults in the UK.

However, while partial or complete sight loss commonly affects the elderly, it’s still crucial to ensure you accommodate people of any age with disabilities who want to use your services.

 personal training blind client

It’s also a common misconception that people who are blind ‘see black’. As you may be training clients with varying types of visual impairment, you should be aware of these different levels as this will impact how much guidance they typically require.

Here’s a rough guide to what you’ll need to know about personal training with blind clients, and what guidance they’ll require:

 personal training blind client

You should speak to clients prior to beginning their training to fully establish what they need, and how this will align with the level of guidance mentioned in the table above.

While there are varying levels of necessary guidance, everyone with a visual impairment who comes to use your services will need some level of assistance.

The bottom line is that each blind person’s experience is different, meaning you should treat visually-impaired clients on a case by case basis rather than having the mentality every blind person experiences the same thing.

 

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5 Key Tips When Delivering Personal Training For The Blind

 personal training blind client

Personal training partially sighted or blind clients may seem like a daunting task for those who aren’t used to it. 

However, our tips will help smooth out the process so you can successfully train each client.

#1 - Give Clear Verbal Guidance When Training A Blind Client

 personal training blind client

When personal training visually impaired clients, effective communication is the most important thing to ensure successful sessions.

This can be difficult to get right if you aren’t used to training clients with complete sight loss. 

While explaining every step of an exercise may make you feel like you’re being condescending, this is necessary to help your client.

When using verbal cues, you must break down each step of the movement with as much information as possible - don’t just assume a client knows what you mean!

 personal training blind client

To ease both yourself and the client into a workout, begin by trying easier exercises you already know you can explain in detail.

For example, if you’re wanting to engage in strength training for visually impaired clients, we’ll use a basic pushup to demonstrate what we mean:

  • Guide the client into an open space.
  • Stand in front of them and let them know they’re safe to lower to their knees.
  • Instruct them to lie flat on the floor, facedown.
  • Guide their hands to the correct position, telling them to straighten their arms until their torso is raised up at an arm's length.
  • Have them hold the position for a few seconds until lowering them down until their chest touches the floor.
  • Ensure they are inhaling as they lower their body.
  • Have them exhale as they push their upper body back up to the starting position using their chest muscles.
  • Complete the first rep.

 personal training blind client

Once you’ve talked them through the first rep, you should explain any errors, such as flared elbows or incorrect head placements. 

After you and the client have been through the process a few times, they will understand how to perform the movement and shouldn’t need as much guidance or explanation.

Even if a client has exercised regularly before, it’s still best to talk them through each exercise to ensure they are using proper form, and they understand your process when instructing them through later exercises they’re unfamiliar with.

#2 - Use Physical Contact To Help With Your Client’s Form

personal trainer blind

Depending on whether you’re personal training partially sighted or blind clients, most of them will need some form of guidance when verbal cues aren't enough. 

However, we should begin by mentioning that you should only ever do this if a visually impaired client consents to it. 

Most blind people are very aware of their surroundings, meaning you should only ask them if they need help when they look like they actually need it.

Although you may mean well, one of the worst things someone can do to a person who is visually impaired is grab or pull them, certainly when they don’t require your assistance. 

personal training partially sighted

If someone needs assistance across the gym floor, allow them to hold onto you for guidance instead of pulling their arm to where they need to go. Many blind people will react negatively to this.

Simply ask them if they look uncertain of where to go. If they need help, allow them to hold onto your arm as you slowly direct them to the area you’re going to be training them in.

The same thing applies when working out with them. As a personal trainer, you should already be aware of not touching clients without consent, so it should be no different when undertaking training for the blind. 

personal training partially sighted

Always ensure you ask someone if they’re comfortable with you using physical contact to guide them through certain exercises.

Visually impaired clients may only require you to assist them with certain movements when verbal cues aren’t enough. 

Once you’ve built up trust, it will become easier to guide them through exercises as you’ll understand what they respond to and when exactly they need help.

 

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#3 - Always Assess Your Blind Clients On An Individual Basis

personal training partially sighted

As highlighted by our table earlier in the article, there are varying levels of blindness. Even these levels differ between individuals, meaning you can’t generalise when it comes to personal training for visually impaired clients.

If you have a client with partial or complete sight loss who comes to use your services, you should begin by asking them a few questions such as:

  • What’s your history with exercise?
  • Have you used personal training services before?
  • What are your training goals?

Doing this will help you gain better insight into how much guidance and information they need when you talk them through a workout.

personal training partially sighted

By not finding this information out, you run the risk of irritating clients who may have a history of exercise. If they’ve used personal trainers in the past and you talk them through each step of a simple push up, they may become frustrated as they already know what to do.

Asking questions and finding out the fitness history of your clients will assure them you’re trying your best to accommodate their needs and ability. 

This means you can adapt your guidance to suit their level of experience and make their workouts much more personal.

#4 - Adapt The Physical Environment For Blind Clients

personal trainer blind

Although the advent of touch screen technology is intended to make our lives easier, this isn’t always the case for visually impaired people.

It’s much harder for blind people to freely walk or exercise alone, and activities such as outdoor cycling or running in the park are nearly impossible to do without assistance. This means they often have no choice but to use gyms.

However, as reflected by this article, many feel gyms are very inaccessible which can be daunting for those with sight loss.

Although gym machines have become extremely advanced, able to track anything from heart rate to calories burned, they still don’t effectively accommodate those with sight loss.

personal trainer blind

A lack of braille on machine buttons and no headphone slot or Bluetooth compatibility for audio are also common complaints. While there isn't a lot you can personally do about equipment, it’s still important to adapt the environment as best you can to help those with visual impairments. 

You can resolve these issues with simple things such as setting the programme for the client yourself so it’s ready when they step on, or use machines that start automatically. 

Training in areas of the gym that are usually less populated will also give you and your client more space to spread out.

However, if most gym machines aren’t practical, you may find strength training for visually impaired clients to be most effective. Weights and mats can be moved away from people so you can set up an area and train without being disturbed.

Although if you regularly offer exercise for the blind and know they frequently use the same equipment, you may consider moving certain machines closer together, making it easier for them to navigate different areas during a workout.

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Looking to develop your knowledge and expand the services you offer? These articles can help with this:

#5 - Keep The Training Area Organised For Blind Clients

personal trainer blind

Although this may seem like an obvious tip, it’s still an important one. While it’s unlikely gym machines will be moved around every other day, there are members who may leave weights or exercise mats out on the gym floor without putting them back.

It’s not unusual for members to leave a gym looking like this when they’re finished:

personal trainer blind

Putting equipment away should be routine for any gym! However, if you are working in a fitness centre or studio that those with visual impairments frequently attend, it should be even more important to ensure other people tidy up after themselves.

If members fail to clean up after themselves or if the area is constantly untidy, take a few minutes before each session with blind clients to ensure the space is clear and can be easily navigated. 

You could also leave signs around the area, reminding people to put their equipment away if the problem continues.

It’s also vital to keep the gym set up in relatively the same way when offering training for the blind. The reason for this is because blind people can become very familiar with their surroundings even though they can’t see them clearly.

personal trainer blind

Often, those with visual impairments can quickly familiarise themselves with the layout of a room and specific areas within it. This means you should keep the areas of the gym set up in a similar way for them.

If the fitness centre you train at is undergoing a renovation or refurbishment, inform any visually impaired clients before they arrive and be sure to meet them at the entrance when they do.

The Crucial Skills You'll Need When Working With Visually Impaired Clients

exercise for blind adults

Although there are many important skills required to become a personal trainer, certain ones need to be prioritised when it comes to personal training blind clients.

Both your training sessions and attitude must be adapted to better accommodate those with partial or complete sight loss to ensure they have a successful workout.

 

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Use Clear & Detailed Communication When Personal Training Blind Clients

exercise for blind adults

As mentioned earlier in the article regarding our point about verbal cues, one of the most important things when it comes to personal training for partially sighted or blind clients is to be clear and concise in your communication.

This is all about being more aware of your actions and surroundings by taking notice of things you usually don’t need to during other sessions. You also need to be concise in your explanations of certain exercises, especially if clients don’t frequent the gym.

We’re aware the balance between detailed and concise instruction can be difficult. However, using our push up example from earlier, take a look at these two instructions:

Straighten your elbows so your torso is raised an arms length off the floor. Keep your head facing down.

Carefully straighten out your elbows and use your arms to quickly push your torso up so it’s about an arms length away from the floor. As you’re doing this, keep your head facing down so you keep proper form.

While the first instruction may seem simple and less detailed than the second, it’s much more effective for telling the client exactly what they need to do. 

When speech is too detailed, it’s unlikely to be followed successfully, meaning you will be asked to repeat yourself.

exercises for visually impaired

Over-explaining points often makes things more confusing as the direction becomes too long winded to follow. As you will only have your words to instruct clients, keeping speech simple and concise is always more effective 

Hone Your Ability To Reassure Your Blind Clients

exercises for visually impaired

As many people who live with partial or complete sight loss feel intimidated stepping foot into a gym let alone working with a personal trainer, it’s crucial you make them feel as comfortable as possible.

For clients who can’t see anything, even things in front of them, they will only have your voice to form an impression of you. This means you need to be able to put a client at ease, especially if they’re a beginner who has never worked with a personal trainer before.

Exercise for blind people who aren’t familiar with it means a whole new experience for them altogether. If this is the case, speak to them at different times about how they’re coping with your training.

exercises for visually impaired

These can be phrases or questions such as:

  • Are you OK to carry on?
  • Do you want me to explain it again?
  • Is this exercise alright for you?

Asking clients with partial or complete sight loss if they need you to explain something again or in more detail is a good way to relax them. Some people may feel awkward asking this or may not want to admit they require more help.

exercises for visually impaired

Be sure to remind clients there’s nothing wrong with needing more assistance or guidance when they don’t clearly understand something. 

Building this reassurance can also help make blind clients more receptive to your physical guidance, and ultimately put more trust in your abilities as a PT.

This will go a long way in building a trusting relationship and help them feel safe during workout sessions.

 

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Show Greater Sensitivity & Compassion To Your Blind Clients

strength training for visually impaired

Sight loss can often be a very difficult thing for visually inpaired people to come to terms with. This isn’t just a result of living with a disability, but also because of how society often views people with partial or complete loss of vision.

The RNIB found in 2015 that 35% of blind and partially sighted people have experienced negative attitudes from the public in relation to their sight loss, with another study finding that nearly half of people attending NHS low vision clinics for help with sight loss suffer from symptoms of clinical depression.

With this in mind, it’s important to be as friendly and caring as possible when training the blind as it’s likely those who haven’t been to a gym before will feel anxious about attending one.

strength training for visually impaired

This also means it’s vital to be patient and understand that personal training blind clients will be different to sessions with clients who don’t have vision problems. 

It’s likely sessions will also take longer to complete so you must take this into account too, and allow for additional time before, during and after your training.

The last thing you should do is rush through a session as you haven’t left enough time between clients. This can even be dangerous when performing exercises for blind people as not explaining things properly because you’re going too fast may lead to injury.

strength training for visually impaired

Three key things to prioritise when personal training blind clients is:

  • Offer guidance where necessary
  • Take your time
  • Use clear and detailed instructions

Doing these things during multiple sessions will help build client confidence and regular fitness will have great mental and physical benefits, such as developing a more positive mindset and boosting self-esteem.

Before You Go!

Now you’re up to date with what’s involved when personal training blind clients, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into practice!

Our range of Level 4 Personal Training Courses are here to help you train those with disabilities more efficiently and effectively, with options including our industry-leading Level 4 in Advanced Sports Nutrition.

To find out more, download our course prospectus or enter your details below!

Written by James Brady

Fitness Writer & Enthusiast

James graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. His desire to find a place where he could combine his passion for writing and love of fitness is what brought him to OriGym. He believes his passion for daily exercise, especially running, is imperative in keeping him motivated and productive. As a result, he has a particular interest in the psychology of health and fitness and the relationship between physical and mental health. Outside of work, James enjoys reading, swimming, writing short stories, watching classic movies and has a keen interest in journalism and filmmaking.

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