14 Top Tips For Being a Great Personal Trainer
We’ve trained hundreds of men and women to become personal trainers and have followed their progress in the industry. Most have gone on to do well. Some of them, not so well. We’ve drawn on the insight gained from the experiences of our graduates to put together these tips to help you get great at finding and training clients…
1) Challenge your clients
You’re a personal trainer, not a cheerleader. You should be challenging your clients as well as supporting them. Don’t set them goals that are too difficult or it might harm their confidence if they fail. Set them goals which are challenging but doable. Think about the best school teachers or sports coaches you’ve ever had. Did they challenge you to get better?
2) Be forgiving to your clients
Your clients will occasionally do things to annoy you. Sometimes they won’t comply with your instructions, they cut corners when their motivation wanes, they don’t follow the exercise or nutrition plans they agreed to with you, or they get frustrated with their lack of progress after only a short time. Just be patient and remember the work you’re doing is about them, not you. Don’t continually bring them up on the areas they fail in. Notice and appreciate when they’ve made an effort and try to give praise more frequently than criticism.
3) Be willing to drop clients
In order to give 100% to all your clients, you need to constantly remain motivated to do your job. This can be difficult to achieve if you find yourself stuck in non-enjoyable training sessions with clients that demoralize you. You’ll serve yourself and your clients much better by only taking on the right clients for you. Sometimes you’ll be in a situation with a client when things just aren’t working out between the two of you. If a client is sapping your mental energies, do yourself and them a favor and drop them. It’s not because you’ve failed, or they’ve failed, it just means the dynamic isn’t right and neither of you are benefiting. It happens.
4) Know when to say no
Personal trainers, especially new ones just starting out, can sometimes fall into the trap of over-extending themselves and committing to undertake work they shouldn’t because they want the money, are over-enthusiastic, or drawn to the other people involved. Personal training is a fun way to make a living, but you need to treat your business like a business, not a hobby. Think carefully before agreeing to work with a particular client or agreeing to do some work for a fitness establishment. If it’s not good for you, say no. If you won’t have the time, say no. If you don’t have the knowledge for a particular job, say no. If you say yes to everything in spite of these concerns, you’ll burn yourself out, do something shoddily or fail to deliver and potentially damage your reputation. Only say yes when you know you can do something.
5) Be prepared to admit a mistake
Personal trainers occasionally make mistakes, just like everyone else. Maybe you got a little impatient with a client or gave some bad advice about exercise or diet. It’s better if you admit you did something wrong and put it right rather than have the client think it’s their fault.
6) Be prepared to admit ignorance
There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t know something. Sometimes you’ll be asked the answer to something you don’t know or have forgotten. Just be honest and say you don’t know but you will get that information for the person asking you.
7) Handle training and nutrition separately
Don’t lecture your clients about diet and nutrition or question them about their eating habits when you’re both standing around the gym in-between repetitions or jogging through the park together. Arrange a separate time to sit down and do a consultation with clients. It’s fine to tell your clients to make sure they eat something in the hour after they finish exercising and explain why, but come up with a complete nutrition plan for the client in a relaxed meeting between the two of you.
8) Build a friendly relationship with your clients
A personal trainer who doesn’t know the difference between a bicep and an earlobe has a better chance of getting clients to pay for their services than one who has a difficult personality or appears uninterested. Always try to act cheerful and focused around your client. Take an interest in them as people, not just as customers. Get to understand a bit about their lives and what their reasons are for seeking the services of a personal trainer. There is a far greater chance of your client sticking with their training program long-term if they think they have a trainer who genuinely cares about them.
9) Give responsibility to your clients
You should be helping your clients to become more self-sufficient with their fitness. Do not make every decision yourself. Give your clients advice and help them to plan things, but also let them make some decisions about things. Don’t every worry that the more you teach your clients the less need they will have of you. This is not the correct attitude for a personal trainer.
11) Never stop developing
No matter how busy or how successful you become at training other people, never abandon your own ongoing training as a fitness professional. A personal trainer should always be learning about new types of training, learning more about nutrition and sports science, learning more about psychology and motivational interviewing, and especially learning more about how to run a business and market themselves. And they should continuously be completing additional courses and upgrading their qualifications, in order to be eligible to provide a wider range of services to clients and get referrals from NHS health professionals.
There is a far greater chance of your client sticking with their training program long-term if they think they have a trainer who genuinely cares about them.
10) Generate quantifiable results
You should always be able to demonstrate to your client what benefit they have received from the work they’ve been doing with you. You do this with quantifiable results. Record measurements of many different things to do with your client’s health and fitness as possible, and update those records regularly throughout the training regime. Weight, girth, muscle size, ranges of motion, anything. You need to be able to refer the client to these (hopefully improving) statistics throughout their training regime, to convince them that they’re doing well and that the training is worth continuing.
12) Have an online presence
In this day and age, all businesses should have some sort of online presence. Ideally a website, but at the very least a social media presence. An online presence, if setup and managed properly, can be an excellent source of new clients for a personal trainer. Here is a great article about basic social media strategy for personal trainers, and here is a guide to setting up a personal trainer website.
13) Network with other fitness professionals
You should try to build yourself a network of fitness professionals such as other personal trainers, gym instructors, health club managers, nutritionists and so on. By developing these relationships, you will open up your business to many potential sources of client referrals.
14) Wear comfortable socks!
If you find yourself spending eight or more hours a day training clients on a gym floor or running with them outdoors, the socks you wear could make or break your day. You always want to feel comfortable and free of irritating sensations when training clients. Don’t wear the kind of socks designed to keep you warm in winter, even if it is winter, or your feet will get too hot. Wear a pair of sports socks, and if your ankles get itchy when you perspire, wear a pair of those shortened trainer socks.