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The Fitness Zone

Should you Become Friends with your Clients?
February 28, 2013 | by Annette Chatterton

As Personal Trainers we need to develop relationships with our clients, but is it ok to go the extra step and become friends with them, asks Annette Chatterton Fitness Coach and Director at the Australian Institute of Fitness SA.

Great Personal Trainers need to create great relationships with their clients through being understanding, having empathy, being a good listener, having a good memory, being interested and interesting, and above all, going the extra mile.

They also need to deliver great customer service which means that they give clients 100% of their attention during the training session, and also past the session with communication about nutrition, lifestyle, motivation, weekly plans, etc.

The level of how far you take the relationship between you as the Personal Trainer and your client is up to your professionalism and personality.

The first question to ask is 'could your intention be misinterpreted'?

Calling to visit your senior client to deliver some homemade soup when they are sick not only establishes a long-term friendship, but shows you really care about their health and wellbeing.

Going for a coffee after a training session is also a great thing to do if you think it would be a good opportunity to discuss your clients' progress or their nutrition for example, but if the coffee leads to lunch or a drink at a bar discussing other topics then you may be crossing the line of professionalism.

I have socialised with many of my clients, and some of them are great friends, but we discuss things like long-term goals, lifestyle, new jobs, shopping, and cooking and it's an immensely valuable key for me to build relationships both professionally and personally.

If a natural friendship develops that can be great, but if you are unprofessional with a lot of your clients your reputation as a professional Personal Trainer could get tarnished.

There are many scenarios where the line between a Personal Trainer and a client could be crossed. Attending a client's birthday drinks for example shows your support, however drinking too much at the party demonstrates a lack of professionalism and role modelling. Nor should you flirt and chat up their friends.

There is a line in the sand that designates a professional boundary. Stepping over this line not only has the potential to destroy your career as a Personal Trainer, but could also tarnish the reputation of the fitness industry. Making friends and networking however is invaluable just don't get the two mixed up!

Professionalism is key in the fitness industry, especially as a Personal Trainer, as many of our clients confide in us and share things about their lives that is unrelated to their workout session. As a Personal Trainer, you will challenge you clients, sometimes to breaking point and you will see them in a vulnerable state, so keep these moments personal is essential to establishing a trusting relationship.

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Annette is the Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Fitness SA/NT. She has been an active Coach and Fitness Presenter for over 30 years. Her interests lie in aqua, personal training, triathlons snow skiing, and sports coaching.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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