Whether you’re new to personal training or are well-established, communicating effectively with clients is critical to your long term success – and theirs. Don’t forget to ask your clients these questions, writes Ben Cook, former Coach with AIF in NSW.
One of the key things to understand about your client’s motivation is the reason ‘why’ they want to achieve a certain goal. Weight loss is the ‘what’ but to really tailor the training experience you must know the ‘why’. It could be to feel good about themselves, to impress their partner, to stay healthy for their kids or any number of personal reasons. Whatever their key reason, regularly reminding them of it will be a strong motivator, so try to unearth their true ‘why’ when they start training with you.
It is an all too common practice for personal trainers to pick up a new client without performing any type of pre-screening. A health screen should be the bare minimum for all new clients – here’s how to perform one.
Ensure that they are effectively screened using a tool such as the Adult Pre-Exercise Screening Tool (updated in 2019) which provides an evidence-based system for identifying and managing health risks of exercise.
This process can unearth information about any previous or recurring injuries which may contraindicate certain exercises, as well as issues relating to blood pressure, cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular health and any medications they may be taking which can affect their training.
The most effective type of exercise is the one that your clients will actually do! If your client is not enjoying your sessions, or is intimidated by an overbearing style of delivery, it won’t be long before they become one of the 50% of people who quit gym programs within six months.
You may know that a certain program has the potential to help your client achieve more than the type of training they appear to prefer – but if they quit on you altogether then it will achieve nothing. Ensure that you are providing a service the client is excited to pay for, and that is also effective. This is the art of balancing want and need that all personal trainers strive to achieve.
As experienced exercisers, personal trainers know the ‘burn’, become accustomed to it, and even get motivated by it. Many clients, however, have no idea what type of response to expect from exercise, and can feel like they are tearing every muscle in their body when they are actually just experiencing lactate system by-products.
Conversely, some clients assume all pain is normal and may therefore ignore searing, hot tingly pain because they think it is necessary. It is essential, therefore, to communicate with clients to establish which of these categories they fall into.
You can’t outtrain an unhealthy diet. When you’ve been training your client for six weeks and they haven’t shifted a kilogram, it becomes clear that something is not in order. While it could be your training style, most commonly it’s got more to do with what your clients are eating and drinking.
A simple food diary can be a useful way of helping clients keep track of what they are consuming. This can be done in the old school way of just jotting down everything they eat and drink, or via any number of apps, which often contain detailed information about the energy/caloric values of foods and beverages.
Small group training is a big deal in the fitness industry. It provides a greater yield per hour for the trainer, while costing less for clients than one-on-one personal training. It also promotes competition and camaraderie to spur clients on. If you can get your client’s whole family or circle of friends or colleagues involved, you can make a big difference to their lives.
Soft selling the benefits of your services will reinforce the value you are delivering. The client saying that you have changed their life for the better, for example, will help you retain their custom and generate new leads from their friends and family. By asking them what issues they used to have that have disappeared since improving their fitness, you can subtly remind them of the unhealthy self they don’t want to go back to.
Showing humility in asking for feedback, and then applying that feedback, shows that you care about your client and makes them feel valued. It also benefits you by drawing your attention to areas that require your attention, thereby enabling you to improve yourself as a trainer. Remember: feedback is the breakfast of champions, and you have to practice what you preach, so don’t skip breakfast!
Constant upskilling is necessary to grow as a personal trainer. Adding profit centres like massage therapy to your core PT services can help fill your schedule with variety and assist in ensuring a stable income. Ask your clients what else they would like from you in terms of training or supplementary services, and use this information to guide you in deciding which certificates to study or training to undertake.
Perhaps you could be providing pregnancy-specific training programs, stability sessions for older adults, nutrition coaching or corrective exercise. In addition to its fitness professional qualifications, the Australian Institute of Fitness offers a wide range of online professional development courses to help personal trainers stay at the cutting edge of their industry.
This is a very simple, but effective, question that builds rapport and strengthens the PT-client relationship. Sending messages and well wishes on special dates such as birthdays or anniversaries shows not only that you care, but that you have become a part of the client’s life beyond the time they spend with you in training sessions.
To learn more about the safest way to train clients, click here to check out the AIF’s Master Trainer Program™ course which includes dual qualifications in Personal Training (Cert IV in Fitness) and Fitness Coach (Cert III in Fitness).