Australia is known for having a high standard of personal trainers due to the quality of education and the passion of these trainers. It is common knowledge that there are guidelines that govern the exercises that are prescribed by the personal trainer, but there are also a set of unspoken rules that exist around behaviour and communication which are just as important. Personal trainers are in danger of giving themselves and the industry a bad name when these rules go out the window. So whether you’re tired or having a bad day, here are some of the golden rules you must never forget:
DON’T be lazy in a session. Being lazy includes things like sitting down while your client works, eating, drinking coffee and watching your clients work without saying anything, like this guy. Acclaimed international fitness business consultant, Thomas Plummer, said the worst he has seen was a trainer sitting on the floor eating a club sandwich while telling a client to stretch.
DON’T wear inappropriate clothing. This means no skimpy gym wear for both guys and girls. And, please, don’t wear a hat inside. Plummer explained that wearing a cap inside is never a good look, it only hides your eyes and does not improve your cool factor. ‘Appropriate clothing’ also means clean clothing, so bring a few spare shirts to change into, keep your sneakers from smelling and remember that even though you are exercising, you are still going to work, so look presentable at all times.
DON’T use the session for your own gain. Some clients may feel more motivated if you do the exercises with them as it builds camaraderie and establishes you as the able-bodied professional you should be. But this isn’t an excuse to just do your own workout! Your actions should only be to help your client. They won’t like you sweating it up next to them so teach through words and demonstrations instead.
DON’T complain about other clients. Clients often tell their trainers personal things in confidence – and it should stay that way. Talking about other clients is a very fast way to have clients lose respect for you. You will come across as judgemental and they will leave the session wondering “What does he/she say about me behind my back?”
DON’T talk yourself up. Remember that this training session is not actually about you. It is about helping your client get the best out of their time to improve their lives. At best, talking yourself up can make you seem arrogant and self-centred, and at worst it intimidates and isolates your client.
DON’T touch your phone. Not only is this high in the rude stakes but it signals to your client that they do not have your full attention. And if you’re not thinking about them, what are they paying you for? If you need to time them, I’d suggest getting a stop watch.
It’s not all bad news though. There are a few small things most trainers don’t know that can make your clients love you and keep coming back for more! Whether you’re a veteran or new to the game, here are some tips to take your personal training to the next level:
DO listen first. Before telling your client what they need, first listen to what they want. Even if you think you know what’s best for your clients, if you don’t meet their needs as a personal trainer then you can guarantee they won’t keep coming back. Perhaps start by addressing all of the points that the client wants, such as weight loss exercises, and then slowly add in the things that you think they really need, such as more cardio and a little nutrition advice.
DO record everything. As you may already know, keeping organised is an important part of being a successful personal trainer. In line with this, try to write down and consolidate as much information as you can from the sessions. You should already write down what you do each time but also take note if you said you’d do something in the next session. By writing this down you’ll be able to follow through, showing your client that you are committed to them and have a long term plan instead of just making up each session on the fly.
DO practice what you preach. You need to keep fit and eat well because your body and health are like advertisements for your services. You also need to be able to demonstrate good form so that you can pass it on to your clients and really shouldn’t be telling them to do any exercise that you can’t do yourself.
DO prioritise safety above all else. Injuring your client is a fast way to have them leave and shows your incompetence and carelessness as a trainer. So maintain a safe environment for your client by keeping your equipment clean and in working order. Be intelligent when choosing a workout location and consider the hazards each one presents. For example, outside areas can have uneven surfaces, beaches sometimes have hidden nasties waiting for bare feet, and wet conditions can spell disaster. Choosing suitable exercises for your client’s ability is also essential. As much as you want to push your client, it is your job to understand their limits and keep them safe from harm.
DO network. Veteran personal trainer Amelia Burton said that teaming up with other health and fitness professionals catapulted her business to success when she first started. This way you can refer each other clients and generally work together to make your clients healthier and happier. So visit a nearby massage clinic, physiotherapist, chiropractor or nutritionist. If you start to know all the best health professionals in town it will also boost your credibility.
DO keep an eye out for good resources. If you’re reading a health or fitness magazine or journal, looking at a website or watching a good documentary, have a think about how you could relate it to your clients. If you think it could really help someone out then get a copy and give it to them, or at least mention it. This shows you are going the extra mile and caring for your clients, even outside of a session.
DO save the best until last. After an intense session, finish on a nice note like a quick massage or stretch session so the last thing your client remembers is something pleasant. They’ll definitely be back for more!
Helen O’Neill is the National Communications Manager for the Australian Institute of Fitness. She has over eight years of experience in editorial and communications work in the fitness industry. Helen connects the Australian Institute of Fitness to its audience through fitness articles, blogs, social media and PR.