For Personal Trainers: Accountability, the best way to get personal training clients’ results
Of all the things that make the act of training a client difficult, accountability is one of them. It’s really difficult to do sometimes. There are times where you just feel like a broken record and your words fall on deaf ears. For some clients, it comes to a point where you want stop going above a beyond. It even causes you to want to stop trying.
You get the client, you set the program, ground rules, expectations and goals and somewhere along the way things kinda stop working. The honey moon phase ends.
You have a client named Sally you’ve been training for about 3 weeks. Sally ends up missing an appointment because she has to stay late at work. Then she has to skips the following week because she had a business trip planned (she told you about well ahead of time). The week after, you get her on track and it’s like you’re starting over, but you’re not because the momentum, excitement and motivation to train has died a little. When you’ve been coaching people for a while it can become easy to fall into the trap of “going through the motions.” Or maybe it’s not that, maybe it’s you get that feeling like “this person isn’t serious about their goal, so why should I try so hard.” Or it could be “this person isn’t willing to do that. I’ve tried my best.”
Clients pay you to help them achieve their goal, that usually means holding them accountable to an assortment of tasks that will lead them there. Sometimes the “difficult client” has no idea what to expect. They are like children that cheat on everything. It’s important that you remain an authority figure, set clear expectations, follow up and are clear about the consequences if they “cheat.”
How do you hold your clients accountable to achieving their goal? If you think about it, it’s no different than in corporate America. Of course there are differences, but at the end of the day the employee or the personal training client is required to get results. In a capitalistic market, the “results” of an employee is to turn a profit by adding value to the company. For a personal training client, the results are analogous to weight loss, muscle gain, increased fitness, etc. These results require a series of behaviors that lead to the end goal in mind, but the incentive schematic is obviously much different.
As an employee you are paid.
As a client they pay you.
Motivations to follow behaviors are inherently different and it’s important that you push the right “buttons” to get them to follow through to the happy ending.
If there is one thing I’ve observed about personal trainers (my self included), it’s that re-evaluations are not done often enough. Interestingly enough, this applies to real world jobs also. Here is an example:
Imagine being at work and you’re called into your supervisors office. You’re sitting in front of your supervisor’s desk with some blonde haired lady next to him. You’ve never seen her before. You look at her name tag and it has the letter HR below her name. “HR – Manager” is what it says. Your direct supervisor goes into some sh-peal about how valuable you are. Yadda this, yadda that, blah blah this, blah blah that. “We are trying to make you better.” is what the HR manager says. After you responds with a series one word answers and speechless head nods, the meeting ends with a paper you have to sign.
You leave the meeting in shock, thinking. “I don’t know why I’m being written up, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
If you haven’t experienced the above following example, I hope you never do. It’s a horrible feeling. If you’ve experienced it you may find it entertaining. It makes me laugh to write about.
Do you really have to make a client feel that miserable? It depends on your client and it depends on your personality and style of training. What it comes down to is getting them to follow through with the necessary behaviors to get the results they are paying you for. A re-evaluation with a client doesn’t need to feel like an HR meeting. What it does need to feel like, is a professional consultation. You are a fitness professional. People pay you good money for your professional service and if all they get is a workout, it’s hard to justify a higher hourly rate. I never really liked the idea of paying for “just workouts.” People pay you for results, a program and a good workout. They need to experience that value.
A re-evaluation should be a conversation about how good or bad they are doing. You talk about what they are doing well and what they can improve on. You coach them on what they need to change to improve or speed up their results. You have a conversation about how their strength, endurance and flexibility are progressing or regressing. It doesn’t have to be long, it could be as little 3 minutes or as long as a 20 minute lecture. It depends on the client and it depends on your style. You could do measurements, you could review their nutrition in detail, talk to them about their strength progress or it could be all of the above. The one thing that needs to be clear is that they must know how they are doing. People like to know the truth about their performance. If it is crappy they want to know how to improve. If their performance is good, a pat on the back never hurts.
Break them down to build them back up.
Build them up so they keep getting better.
You need to decide what it’s going to take to influence your client to get the best results. On the flip side, no personal trainer likes a failing client. Another perspective you may want to take is the results of your client is a reflection of your leadership.
What’s the best way to do a re-evaluation? I don’t have a best way, but I will give you my take on it. Just be honest and consider your client’s motivation. Be yourself and care about the person you are talking to. Let your passion for fitness and helping people be your primary guide. Use your client’s “why” to influence change with negative and/or positive feedback tactfully. There is no answer, but there is one that makes the most sense to me. Be genuine.
PS. Not that kind of happy ending.
Ryan Saplan has been a personal trainer since 2001 and currently still trains clients one on one full time as a primary source of income. He also has management experience and has worked for large facilities such as 24 hour fitness. He is currently employed with UFC Gym in Concord, California and has been since December 2009. Ryan Saplan provides real world, in the trenches advice for how to be a successful personal trainer. Follow him on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ryansaplan If you enjoyed this article, encourage him to write more, send a message via twitter or become his friend on facebook.