With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 32% increase in the number of personal trainers and fitness instructors, it’s safe to say that the fitness industry is booming. Personal training is becoming a more viable career option than ever due to options like online and virtual coaching, group class popularity, and rising concerns of the public about their health and wellness. This flood of new trainers, though exciting, will undoubtedly bring plenty of competition to the field. Rising to the top of the personal training industry will take more skill and passion than ever before. Education, certifications, and accolades will only go so far if you fail to get results for your clients or deliver a great experience. This article will bring to light several often-neglected skills and strategies for being a great trainer and coach. Get a jump on the flood by incorporating as many as you can into your coaching practice – and good luck!
Build Trust and Keep It
People don’t buy personal training or programs; they buy the trainer or person behind the program. Improving your ability to gain the trust of your potential customers is a guaranteed way to increase sales and add clients. Building trust takes time, and in many cases, starts before a potential client is ever on your radar.
Testimonials and reviews are extremely important as a personal trainer, but I would argue that transparency is right up there with them. When I say transparency I’m talking about how you portray yourself in your marketing, social media, and public persona. Showing potential clients that you are human and make mistakes, just like them, automatically builds trust and rapport before you ever meet them.
Once you gain trust, cherish it. As difficult as it is to gain trust, it’s equally as easy to lose it.
No one knows everything, so don’t pretend. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared other trainer’s articles, videos, or information with a client. To date, not a single one of my clients has showed anything but gratitude for sharing. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
And if a client has an injury or medical concern, please send them to the proper healthcare professional. Just because you have been to the chiropractor doesn’t mean you should try cracking your client’s neck.
Find Limiting Factors
What is the one thing you could improve today, this week, or this month that would propel you to greater success as a trainer? Your point of sale conversion rates? How about your marketing or social media advertising? Or maybe putting together a testimonial form to send to all your long-standing clients would be a great idea? Where to start?
Nine times out of ten, that’s exactly how a new client feels. Chances are, they have 50 different things they know need to be improved. It’s your job to help them find the easiest, yet most important “thing” to change, and laser-focus in on that. If your new client drinks a soda every day and wants to lose fat, that would be an obvious place to start. It’s relatively easy to replace soda with something else, and their chance of success is really high. Don’t forget, small wins build up confidence and momentum to tackle larger limiting factors.
Care & Support
You should be asking about a client’s support system at some point in your initial consultation/assessment and if you’re not, start now. In most cases, a client isn’t going to have super active friends or family who will be cheering them on and motivating them outside the gym. If they spend 3 hours per week with you, that leaves 165 hours to lose motivation and fall off the wagon. If you think your work is done when that client walks out the door, you will never be a truly great trainer.
You want all your clients to get awesome results and be rock stars, right? Well studies have shown that daily “healthy” nudges via text increased adherence to a weight loss protocol to >80%. I think we can all agree, if you are getting results with 80% of your client base, you will have more clients than you know what to do with.
If you’re really smart, and I think you are. You’ll automate your basic check ins or nudges and save your personal interactions for in-person sessions.
Aesthetic Goals Are Not Enough
Aesthetic goals will always plateau or discourage a client at one point or another. Setting other goals based on performance, competition, event, etc. give clients other points of focus to know they’re making progress. They may not care about their deadlift 5RM in the beginning but after you show them a progression chart that’s skyrocketed since they started with you, they will take interest.
You may be the rare fitness professional who is always “on” and never needs motivation to train or stick to a diet. But for the rest of us, having things to aim for like a competition, event, or even a time-sensitive aesthetic goal are all driving forces. If a client can’t come up with something, create it for them. Get creative, it’s your job.
Make It Easy
Most clients could care less about the science behind your programming or what micronutrients do for metabolism. They care about what will get them results, and the simplest way to achieve it. Sure, you will have some who want to know everything you know. (Aren’t those fun clients?) But the large majority, need practical advice.
Instead of showing them how many calories to eat or breaking down a perfect macronutrient ratio, give them recipes to make healthier versions of their favorite foods.
“Hey Mrs. Jane, you love pizza, right?”
“Great, here is a recipe for an awesome homemade pizza with 1/3 of the calories and a 5-minute prep time.”
“Hey Mrs. Jane, you told me that you’re having trouble making it to the gym for your extra workouts, right?”
“That’s ok. We’ll get there. For now, here are 5-10 workouts that I want you to complete at home. These are comparable to the workouts I had for you at the gym anyway, so don’t worry about falling behind.”
The Best Program in the World
If a client hates doing deadlifts and squats, and you program them in two times per week, how much will that client enjoy their training? And if that client doesn’t enjoy their training, how motivated will they be to continue and push forward when times get tough?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a clients training should be all butterflies and rainbows. After all, we are here to push them past their limits. But could we not switch out barbell squats for lunges, split squats, leg press, or (insert lower body exercise here)? Unless that client wants to compete in powerlifting, why should they care about their barbell squat?
If they love an exercise, include it, no questions asked. (Unless it’s standing on a stability ball or some frou-frou shit that could cause injury or humiliation.) An enjoyable exercise experience will increase a client’s adherence tenfold. Meaning, less work for you in the motivate and support department, and a great testimonial to add to your repertoire.
Think back to when you started your fitness journey. Chances are, you did a lot of bench pressing and bicep curls with little to no rhyme or reason. Also think about how long it’s taken you to accrue all of your knowledge and fitness expertise. Years, right?
The typical client will be in that absolute beginner stage, and they probably don’t have the desire to learn about everything like you did either. So keep that in mind when you get frustrated at them for telling you they eat low-carb but had potatoes and oatmeal for breakfast. Instead, teach them the difference and remember that nobody likes being told they’re wrong.
Understanding that a client has a long way to go, is a mistake-prone human, and will have plenty of road bumps along the way is one of the best things I can leave you with. Being empathetic (put yourself in their shoes) is a tough skill to learn but once mastered, will make you an awesome personal trainer and an even better human being.