Being the Best Personal Trainer You Can Be

Your clients want more than just a good workout. They want a personal trainer who motivates them, cares about them, and sets a good example. When all else is equal, your professionalism, your attitude, and your knowledge of business etiquette are what will put you ahead of the pack.

Don't be a know-it-all

You're having a conversation with a new acquaintance at a dinner party and he starts talking about the works of Umberto Eco. Instead of saying, "Who in the ever lovin' world is Umberto Eco?" you nod along, pretending that you're deeply familiar with The Name of the Rose and the other works of whatshisname.

C'mon, you know you've done this before. We all have.

Although you may get away with this tactic at a dinner party, you won't get away with it as a personal trainer. If you give false information because you don't want to look stupid in front of your client, you can do more than get found out — you can injure the client.

Be there for your client

Being there for your client doesn't mean you have to trail her, handing her warmed towels when she gets out of the shower and feeding her chicken soup when she has a cold. You do have to put your own ego and wants aside and focus completely on the client.

Don't ever take your eyes off your client during a session. A trainer who's looking around the room is thinking about himself — how bored he is, what he'll be having for lunch that day, how much he likes that hot trainer across the room — rather than about the client.

Your job is to be the most motivating, inspiring trainer you can be, and to set a good example for your client. That requires you to put yourself aside and be there for your client.

Stay within the boundaries

You have your personal self, and your professional self. Your professional self does not offer relationship advice, does not eat candy bars in front of the client, and does not make comments about the client's home or its contents.

Personal training is just that — personal. Your client may come to think of you as her friend. That's a good thing, but it also invites unprofessional behavior. If a client starts, say, complaining that her husband doesn't pay attention to her, you need to draw that boundary line. Say, "I hear you, I understand" — but don't offer advice or tell her what a jerk her husband is. If a client asks you to train her for an extra half-hour free of charge, or to drive 15 miles outside your regular area to train her daughter, tell her you can't do it. If you do, the client may come to expect this from you all the time — and it can hurt your business.

Do what you say, say what you do

When you tell the client to do something, you should do it. Sounds simple, right? Well, you'd be surprised at how many personal trainers forget this simple concept.

The best way to keep your word is to be prepared, to always be on time, and have your bag and files ready ahead of time. To make sure you always have a program ready for the client, have the client's file with you when you need it, and have a place where you can work — a place with a desk, adequate lighting, and all the tools you'll need to stay on top of things. And be sure to have access to all the health information you need so that if you tell a client you'll bring her a recipe or a new exercise or information about heart disease, you can have it ready the next time you see her.

Showing clients you care

Care is more than just a four-letter word. It also stands for "Clients Are Really Everything." You may know everything there is to know about personal training, but you wouldn't be much of a personal trainer without your clients. Clients can make or break your business. That's why you have to care about them.

Here are some tips for showing clients that you care:

  • Return phone calls promptly.
  • Return e-mails promptly.
  • Follow up with your clients to make sure the sessions are working for them.
  • Send your clients thank-you cards for doing business with you.
  • Always be sympathetic to your clients' complaints.
  • Keep individual files on each client so you can track them and create the most personalized programs for them.

Always be on time

Being late shows a lack of respect for the person who is waiting. Not only that, but if you have a personal training session and you show up late, what are your choices? You can either cheat the client out of a few minutes of training so she can be done at 5 p.m., or you can run late — which is annoying for a busy person (and who isn't busy?).

If you're always late, ask yourself why and come up with a solution. Do you get stuck in traffic? If so, find alternate routes or leave earlier. Do you have trouble getting yourself out the door? Have your bag, your client folder, and everything else you need ready by the door early in the day so you can grab it and leave when the time comes. You can even buy a shelf or hook to keep your stuff on — it may motivate you to use it.

Dress professionally

Here are some dress-for-success tips:

  • We'll say it again — no skintight spandex!
  • Don't wear jeans and a T-shirt, no matter how comfy they are.
  • Make sure your clothes aren't too baggy. If you demonstrate a machine, your clothes may get caught.
  • Women, don't slather on the makeup. (Guys, this goes double for you!)
  • Keep jewelry to a minimum. Long, dangly jewelry can get caught in the machines.
  • The same goes for long, loose hair. If you have long hair, you may want to pull it back.
  • The best uniform may be a collared polo shirt, well-fitting sweatpants, and good-quality exercise shoes.

Stay educated

Personal trainers need to stay up-to-date in medicine, fitness, business, and even psychology and nutrition. These fields are constantly changing, and researchers are uncovering new information every day.

Here are some ways to keep learning:

  • Attend continuing education courses.
  • Talk to other personal trainers.
  • Go to conferences and workshops.
  • Read industry magazines.
  • Read medical journals.
  • Read health, fitness, and business magazines (many are available at the local library).
  • Talk with doctors.
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