Hiring a personal trainer is an investment – an investment in your health, your wellbeing and your body.
While it’s hard to put a price tag on the potential benefits, the fact remains that hiring a trainer costs money, which is an increasingly scarce resource in our struggling economy.
Clients, understandably, want to realise a return on their investment, not only because they worked hard to earn the money they’re spending, but because they’ve chosen to employ a fitness professional to help them achieve their goals.
It’s a role that qualified sports scientist, certified personal trainer and HFPA brand ambassador Monika Malkowska takes very seriously.
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Over the years, through her experience as a fitness professional and her keen observations in the gym while working out, Monika has defined six valuable insights that trainers can adopt to ensure their clients succeed.
#1: Hold the necessary qualifications
“Prospective clients likely think that all trainers who market their services possess the requisite knowledge and skills to create effective training programmes, but with so much of our daily interaction shifting online, we’ve experienced a surge in the number of unqualified individuals who offer their services as trainers,” says Monika.
This trend was fuelled by talented athletes and competitive bodybuilder and physique athletes who felt their achievements and experience sufficiently equipped them to train others.
“While these athletes may have a good body, or compete at the highest level, that doesn’t qualify them to market their services as health and fitness professionals,” cautions Monika.
She elaborates that without formalised education, these individuals may not understand the importance of screening clients, how to properly test and assess them, or how to programme exercise or structure nutrition plans for the average person.
“That’s why education from an accredited institution like HFPA is essential. If someone is passionate about health and fitness, and wants to improve the lives of others, they must invest in their education.”
In this regard, a foundational course will give a trainer the skills needed to guide clients to their goals in an effective and healthy way, while minimising their risk of injury and ensuring enjoyment in the process.
Monika adds that the fitness industry is also extremely dynamic, with new trends and approaches constantly introduced.
“It is, therefore, essential that fitness professionals build on their basic qualifications to expand their knowledge base. And in the information age, clients are more informed than ever before. That means they’re likely to ask questions about your approach or why you don’t offer a specific service they learnt about, and you must be able to answer them. In this regard, continued education is essential to stay on top of your game, and offer new and relevant services.”
Monika adds that it’s also important for fit pros to consider what happens when their client’s circumstances change.
“If they get injured or fall pregnant, are you able to offer them the services they need, or do you send them to someone else who holds the relevant qualification and potentially lose their business? That’s why offering a broader set of services makes business sense.”
#2: Set realistic goals
Trainers who over-promise and under-deliver set themselves and their clients up for failure. “Promising clients that they will achieve a six pack in six weeks is just not realistic, yet many trainers use the tactic to secure new business,” laments Monika.
“It is best to be honest and truthful with clients by setting realistic expectations. Don’t try to impress clients by agreeing to deliver on their unrealistic goals. Everyone wants to lose weight and get the body of their dreams as quickly as possible, but when they don’t achieve these quick wins they’ll become discouraged, and you’ll probably lose a client.”
The other concern is that trainers might resort to extreme approaches that can be harmful for the client, especially when they chase unrealistic weight-loss targets. “This not only creates a bad reputation for themselves, but also taints the industry, which doesn’t benefit anyone in the long run.”
Rather adopt a healthful and balanced approach that is based on tried, tested and trusted industry guidelines.
#3: Keep workouts interesting and engaging
The start of any new journey, be it a body transformation or new sporting goal, is usually filled with excitement, which means motivation levels are high.
“But when the novelty of the new approach starts to wane, then the same old workout can become mundane and boring. Predictable programming takes the excitement out of training, which is why a trainer must proactively work to incorporate other fun and interesting, yet still effective forms of exercise into the programme,” continues Monika.
An exercise regimen that offers little variety can also lead to stagnation. “And you don’t want your client to plateau or, worse, burn out. Variety will ensure continued progress, but you must have the qualifications and skills to offer a broader range of services. And this relates back to my first point about continued education and attaining additional qualifications.”
Without constant exposure to the latest techniques, trainers won’t know what else is out there and what they can offer their clients. “You don’t need to be an expert in every aspect, just competent enough to offer other training modalities such as strength conditioning, HIIT, Pilates or yoga to keep things interesting.”
#4: Keep your clients going between sessions
A personal training session last between 45-60 minutes. But what happens over the remaining 23 hours of a client’s day will have a bigger impact on their results.
“That’s why trainers have to constantly engage with clients between sessions to ensure they commit to a healthy and active lifestyle to achieve success,” adds Monika. “If clients make poor food choices, binge or remain inactive after their time with you, no amount of effort or expertise during your session will compensate for this lack of commitment.”
As such, Monika advises trainers to help clients establish and stick to good habits with regards to nutrition and daily activity.
“This requires basic knowledge about healthy eating and supplementation. You don’t need to be a qualified nutritionist, but a basic qualification in the subject will equip you with the basic understanding needed to guide clients to success.”
#5: Empower clients through education
The other way to help clients maintain their lifestyle between engagements is to educate them.
“Take every opportunity to explain why you have chosen a specific approach, or why you advise them to eat or train in a certain way. This will empower them to make better decisions in their everyday lives, which can accelerate the rate at which they achieve their goal,” believes Monika.
“In addition, the more a client understands about their body, the better their feedback to you will be, which makes it easier for you to recommend a change in approach if required.”
#6: Focus 100% on your clients during every session
Lastly, and this is a major bugbear for Monika, trainers must give clients their undivided attention during every session if they want to achieve results.
“Clients entrust us to look after their health and their body. If a trainer spends the session on their phone, their focus is not on ensuring quality movement and the correct form. This makes the session less effective and, more worryingly, can lead to injuries,” explains Monika.
“Clients also invest their hard-earned money with trainers, so they deserve your full attention for every minute they paid for. In the end, it’s about respect for your clients and giving them the level of service they rightfully deserve.”
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.