A personal trainer’s job doesn’t end when their client completes the last rep of their scheduled workout.
The trainers who achieve the best results are generally those who continue to play an active role in their clients’ lives between training sessions, through regular engagement to motivate them and help clients make positive personal health and wellness behaviour changes.
Helping those who are willing to help themselves
In addition to all the fitness and strength testing a trainer performs when they take on a new client, it’s also important that they establish to what degree the person is self-motivated to train and stick to their diet, and how much motivation and support they require.
“This evaluation will also highlight their ‘why’ – their intrinsic or extrinsic reason for wanting to make a change in their life – and whether the client is truly committed to the process and is invested in achieving their goals,” suggests Sarah Ezzideen, a certified personal trainer and student advisor at HFPA.
“While fitness professionals should offer some degree of motivation to all their clients, those clients who lean on their trainers to get them through the process don’t tend to succeed.”
The reason for this is that those two or three hours a week with a trainer is insufficient to have any meaningful impact on a client’s lifestyle. It is up to them to stick to the program and eat according to their prescribed eating plan.
Leverage digital tech to feed, reinforce behaviour
“A trainer’s key role is to motivate clients to stick to the program when you’re not with them and keep them accountable,” adds Sarah. Thankfully, technology is making this a lot easier.
The emergence of training apps have been particularly effective in this regard. They not only allow trainers to send clients updated programs, but they also offer an ideal means to track adherence.
“Clients tend to stick to the plan more closely when they know they’re been monitored. And it’s also a great way for trainers to spot trends, like which days clients are more likely to skip. This creates an opportunity for the client and trainer to work together to find a solution and improve compliance to the plan.” Sarah adds that it is also a good idea to keep a food diary for the same reasons.
Create a community of support
Many trainers also manage closed Facebook or WhatsApp groups for their clients, which creates a platform to share daily advice and offer motivation and support.
“It also makes clients feel like they are part of a community and that they aren’t going through their journey alone, which can be a very powerful motivator.”
Sarah suggests that trainers use this channel to also share success stories and enable clients to connect with each other to provide additional support. “Connecting with people who they can relate to can make this often overwhelming journey seem less daunting,” adds Sarah.
Empower clients through education
It’s also an important platform to continually educate clients, as this empowers them to make better decisions when their trainer isn’t around.
This educational element should also extend into the individual engagements trainers have with clients, both during and between sessions.
“These engagements are opportunities to provide the individualised advice and personalised education that will help clients achieve their specific goals,” continues Sarah.
These more personal engagements, both inside and outside the gym, also serve to build rapport between the client and trainer, which is so important to establish trust.
“This is how you build and nurture a relationship that will benefit the client as it better positions the trainer to help them.”
This also establishes the long-term client relationships that build sustainable personal training businesses for trainers.
The other way trainers should earn their client’s trust and ensure there is no dip in motivation, is by being open and honest when setting goals.
“It is so important to set realistic goals because so many people hire a trainer in the hopes of a quick fix or miraculous transformation. And it is this mismatch between reality and a client’s expectations that often sours relationships and leads to lost business.”
As the relationship evolves, trainers must also constantly review and update their approach to ensure clients remain engaged and interested in the training.
“That doesn’t mean chopping and changing every week – a program must have a chance to work. Trainers must ensure that training never feels like a chore with intelligent and innovative programming, though. This can entail including new elements in the basic program, or creating weekly challenges to ensure clients stick to the plan while enjoying the journey.”
Reward positive behaviour & achievements
And rewarding success – like winning a challenge or achieving a weight-loss target – is one final, but extremely powerful motivator, says Sarah.
“Regular weigh-ins or weekly or bi-weekly measurement sessions are great ways to track a client’s progress and demonstrate the gains they’re making. This in itself is a powerful form of motivation, but when you add in rewards like a free smoothie or supplement hamper, for example, you create a more potent tool that drives the type of behaviour that delivers results!” concludes Sarah.
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.