The Good Client : Being a Client Worthy of the Trainer You Seek
“The worst part about personal training is the clients.”
It didn’t take long for me to understand what MY first trainer meant when he told me this years ago. While not the most encouraging thought to have as an aspiring trainer, it would not be the last time I would hear it, and I’m sure I’ll hear it at least a few more times before my personal training career is done. Now please, do not mistaken me. The opposite of this statement is equally true!… but that’s not what this article is about, AND since I play for both the Trainer AND Client teams, I dedicate this one to all the trainers out there!
Let me begin by stating that NOT ALL CLIENTS are “bad.” A good majority of them are hardworking, dedicated and loyal… but let’s be honest, we ALL have had at least ONE! It might be the 6 a.m. who consistently shows up 15 mins late when you almost broke your neck sprinting out the door to make it on time. It could be your 15-week out, prep client who sends you 65 text messages all before noon complaining that he/she’s not getting leaner yet he/she bailed on cardio last week. Or maybe it’s that one client who has no respect for personal time and Saturday night at 11:40 p.m. is just as good as Monday morning at 7. Truth is, clients pay the bills! We could not do what we do without them. However, ask any trainer and they will agree, having a team of good clients makes a huge difference.
Making it even more challenging is the fact that personal training is a widely misunderstood profession. I think even my own mother still questions what exactly it is that I do. I tell people to pick things up and put them down… right? “LIft this,” “Eat that!” or more accurately, “DON’T eat that!” The notion that it’s a trainer’s job to “get me in shape,” or “make me eat right,” is probably one of the largest set backs to the trainer/trainee relationship. In a profession where success is dependent on both parties understanding completely what is required or expected of one another, being on your A-Game is a MUST!
“So what makes a “good” client,” you ask? Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of working with some pretty amazing clients, and for some not so wonderful ones too. One long-term client is an incredible communicator during workouts. She has learned her body enough to know when it’s “hurting’ as opposed to “working” and I can always count on her to let me stretch her limits. She is very appreciative and she always double checks to make sure I’m paid on time. I would walk through fire for her! On the opposite end of the spectrum, a very demanding and high-maintenance client with unrealistic expectations for the amount of effort exuded. It’s comical, except when they blame you for the lack of progress.
So as 2018 comes to an end, I thought I’d share a few “Best Client” denominators. As a devoted and dedicated personal trainer who invests just as much into my clients as I do my own coaches, here are a few tips on ensuring your place among that list in the upcoming new year.
R-E-S-PECT! (Find Out What It Means to Me…) Probably one of the most important signs of a great client… and one of the easiest to get wrong. Anything from being on time to giving proper notice of cancellation to paying on time, respect is one of those courtesies that will get you EVERYWHERE. I can tell you this for certain, as a trainer, I am 100% more likely to have flexibility with clients who have proven to have 100% respect for my time and the goals we both set forth, as opposed to one who needs to be chased down for payment or repeatedly cancels without adequate notice. If I care more about your success than you do, Mission Control… we have a problem!
Responsive and Communicates Effectively. Trainers are not mind-readers. Being able to communicate with your trainer, both about the good and the bad, is extremely important. Outside stressors and other worldly problems can have massive effects on not just physical, but mental progress. If you are unable to communicate effectively and honestly (for all you fibbers…) with your trainer, it will be next to impossible to achieve the best results. Remember, trainers can’t fix what they don’t know and we can’t help ease a mind we don’t know is in turmoil.
If You Can’t Do It, At Least Try: I can’t tell you how infuriating it can be when clients constantly question or ask why they have to do something, or throw out my personal favorite, “I can’t!” Trainers want clients who will at least TRY and want to do their best. You can usually tell the natural born athletes or the ones who truly want to succeed. They don’t whine or complain; they suck it up and just do whatever it is they are told. Can’t never could, right? I wish every client for every trainer could be so easy. (Trainers: Try assigning 20 push-ups every time a client says “I can’t,” during workout! Works for my people…)
Ask Questions, Learn a Little Bit: This is not to be confused with “questioning” methods or undermining the plan (as touched on above.) Clients who ask a lot of questions and want to know what’s going on are, in my opinion, some of the most enjoyable ones to train. It shows interest in what they’re doing and a willingness to learn and step outside their comfort zone. It goes beyond just doing the exercise because “I said so.” IFBB FIgure Pro, Stacey Cummings agreed. Good clients, “ask questions and do their own research in order to have more knowledge on what it is they are trying to do vs. blindly going through the motions.”
Follow the Plan: Unless you are experienced or possibly a trainer yourself, there’s no way to explain the time and detail it takes just to prime a metabolism and a body for maximum output and results. If a trainer is going to take the time to put together a plan for the in-between and off days, or even more importantly, if you’re willing to PAY a trainer for this plan, then isn’t it only fair to be just as committed to sticking to it? As Cummings says, “as a trainer, i can give them all the tools for success but i have zero control on how they use them.” Most trainers are not interested in working with people who are not committed or constantly switch from hot to cold. Just like respect, commitment is a two lane, one-way street.
It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint… Enjoy the Run: Good clients are going to be in for the long haul. Understanding that TRUE health and fitness is not an overnight sprint or even a race to the finish is a cornerstone of being a good client. It is important to embrace the physical and psychological adjustments that can accompany a permanent lifestyle change, such as a fitness journey, or it can easily become a yo-yo effect. Obtaining fitness goals can take months and in extreme cases, years. So many people view exercise and diet as just a means to an end, but those who an appreciate it as more of a privilege, as a gift; as a body with the ability to move and move well is something to be cherished. Especially in today’s society where approximately 36-38% of the adult population is considered obese. Being a client who can look beyond the aesthetic perspective and understand the preventative health and performance benefits as well can make it easier to commit to a long-term relationship with Gym and not just a “one night stand.”
A Little “Thank You” Goes a Long Way: As simple as this last on may seem, it’s always effective. A Number One tip to clients of all genres; expressing gratitude and appreciation for a job well done or an above average experience is the prize in the pudding. A “Thank You,” does not mean your trainer’s head is going to swell with ego and raise their fees. It does not signify weakness nor does it initiate a less than professional relationship. As professionals, it’s our number one goal to provide the best service for every client that steps on our treadmill, but trust me when I say it’s a lot easier to do it when you know it’s appreciated.
So there ya have it; be on time, pay on time, show respect, be positive, do what you’re told and get involved with enjoying the process. It’s actually great advice for fitness, in general, even without a trainer. Good clients provide value to an otherwise worthless service and the harsh truth for us trainers is, no matter how good you are at what you do, without someone willing to PAY you for that service, it has no value when it comes to being a professional. Truth for us clients, however, as human beings, it’s the client who exudes great value that will earn the extra mile every time.
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