Here, we’ll attempt to gain an understanding of the internal motivation crucial to helping trainers achieve success.
This and much more are what you’ll learn in this chapter.
I’ve mentioned this time and time again and probably will do so many more times during this course.
To be a successful personal trainer you have to retain clients.
It really should be one of your main areas of focus for each client once they have trained with you on a few occasions.
You don’t just want them coming back once.
Ultimately, you should be aiming to turn each client you work with into a regular that stays with you for an extended period, even beyond them reaching their initial goals.
In chapter 12, we covered ways of getting your clients motivated by getting them passionate about their goals.
And in this section of the course, I want to cover ways to keep them inspired.
Because that’s the way they stay with you long term.
I mean, if you are fulfilling a client’s needs, not only in terms of building an exercise program that works but by keeping them motivated and inspired, why would they need to go elsewhere?
And as you know, no two clients are the same, so what inspires one might not inspire another.
For example, those clients that are quiet and like to keep to themselves certainly won’t be inspired by the techniques you would use on a more outgoing person.
Ultimately, you want to reach a point with each one of your clients where they reach self-efficacy and can motivate themselves.
Of course, you are still there to back them up.
But where do you start? It’s easy.
Treat each client as a unique individual.
Understanding each individual
Whenever we have to deal with a variety of people, to make a success of these relationships, it’s best to try and understand each individual in their unique way.
While that’s certainly a skill that you as a personal trainer needs to learn, it’s true of life in general, right?
The better we understand people for the unique beings they are, each with their own likes, dislikes, goals, motivations and more, the easier it is to connect with them on an interpersonal level.
When we truly connect with someone, it’s far easier to build a meaningful relationship.
And for a personal trainer, having a meaningful relationship with a client means that motivating them becomes a little easier.
Well, it’s because you understand more about them, what makes them passionate and how they operate.
Getting to know your clients should certainly be a huge part of your retention strategy.
For new personal trainers, this can often be a little awkward.
But it doesn’t have to be.
Getting to know your clients is something that doesn’t happen in the first training session, it’s information that you garner from them over time.
And that information can include things like:
- Are they single or married?
- If they are married, do they have any children?
- Where do they work and what is it that they do?
- Do they have any hobbies, or how do they prefer spending their free time?
These are just some tidbits of information that can tell you plenty about your client.
But you will pick up even more as you spend time with them, for example, are they pretty shy or do they mix easily with others?
So now let’s start looking at a few ways to help you as a personal trainer in the ways of client retention.
Write it out
A great way to keep your clients involved with their fitness as well as record their progress is by getting them to keep fitness and training logbook.
While this is a great tool for most clients, for those that are approaching things very analytically, it can be a real help in retaining them as clients over a long time.
The major advantage of keeping a fitness and training logbook is that it’s the perfect way to help clients keep at their routines.
Not only can they record the numbers of what they have achieved, but you can also allow them to plan and see what the future holds for them in terms of your exercise program.
Encourage them to keep track of their workouts once they are finished and if they have a fitness tracker, they can record additional information as well such as their maximum heart rate, calories burnt, active minutes and all the other nifty things that these devices track.
Personal training software can also be used in this way and provides clients with even more ways to track their progress.
Access to information like this is a real motivator for your clients.
This isn’t something that will work for all clients but if you see that some tend to be competitive and like to be pushed, a fitness test is something you can use to push their motivation levels even higher.
And don’t just spring it on them.
The idea behind holding a fitness test for a client is to see them raise their workout levels even more as they build up to it.
Client’s with a driven, competitive nature will thrive when you use this technique, that’s for sure.
For those of your clients that are really into analyzing their programs and reading up on exercise and other information about the world of fitness, providing them with additional literature is a must.
So any articles that you come across or even fitness books that you can lend to these clients to help them broaden their overall knowledge is something to consider.
But what kind of information is relevant?
Well, it probably will differ from client to client and it’s only as you get to know them that you can think of material that would benefit them.
For example, a relatively new client of yours is now only back training after they suffered a serious injury a year ago.
You could send them articles about how to overcome the psychological fear of getting injured again.
Or perhaps you have a client that’s trying to lose weight through eating healthily and following your workout program.
They are the perfect person to send motivational type articles as well as good news stories of people who have lost weight through working out with a personal trainer and then kept it off for good.
I’ve mentioned it before but will do so again.
An excellent personal trainer should always have access to a massive resource of articles about health and fitness that they can share with their clients when needed.
What’s even better is having your own website where you can refer them to.
Identify articles on specific topics that your clients would need to know about during their training.
Or write about these topics yourself on your site!
Either way, you should have an ultimate resource page that you can share with your clients.
Chapter 17 includes a resource list of sites, magazines and more that you can use in this regard.
Give them the plaudits they deserve
For many of us, a simple “well done, you’ve done amazingly well” goes a long way to continue to inspire and motivate us.
And your clients are no different.
What does it cost you to give a compliment to your clients when they have worked hard in a training session?
Or when they have made important gains towards their goals?
It costs ZERO!
So if your client deserves some praise, you should be throwing it their way, especially to help supplement any habits that you want them to continue with.
That said, a client will know when you are trying to butter them up, so keep it related to their achievement and always let your compliments be heartfelt.
Here’s a way that I use compliments to good effect.
For clients that are overweight, you will probably notice that most will wear clothes that are not tight-fitting, so they hang a little.
As they lose weight, however, things will start to change.
They now begin to gain confidence and start to hate those clothes that are hanging off them.
Soon, they will start to wear gym outfits with a tighter fit.
When they do, it’s time to compliment them.
Always keep it focused on the individual and concerning their achievement.
That’s because it takes a serious mind shift to change from clothes that they used to feel comfortable into tight-fitting clothes they once would never have dreamt of wearing but now do, simply because of the progress they have made.
A word of warning about giving praise and plaudits… don’t overdo it. If it’s not going to be sincere, your client will be able to tell straight away.
And that’s not something you want.
Keep it competitive
Tapping in the competitive nature of the human race is something that you can use to your advantage when it comes to inspiring clients.
And many personal trainers make use of a system where clients who have worked out well or reached a mini-goal get acknowledged for all other clients to see.
You can do this in many ways.
For example, a simple whiteboard where you keep track of the scores of each client.
Every time they have done something that you think deserves recognition, they receive a point, as an example (but you could use anything really).
At the end of a certain period – it could be a month, 3-months or a year, it’s up to you – the winner with the most points gets a prize, for example, a free month of training.
If you don’t want to use a whiteboard, you can create a group on Facebook for example and run the competition in that way.
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That also creates a platform for clients to interact with each other, which leads to my next point.
If you have some sort of group set up for your clients they might get closer by interacting with each other.
And that’s a good thing because you can then use that to your advantage.
To do this, you could approach the subject of setting up groups of two clients as partners who can workout together.
Some of your clients might just want to handle their gym time on their own but others could be spurred on by the fact that they are working out with someone else, especially if they have similar programs.
This is a great form of extra motivation and incentive.
You could even use the old-fashioned approach of using a whiteboard for training partner slots and see who signs up that way.
Consider training agreements
So what’s a training agreement? Well, it’s an undertaking between you and a client that sees them buy into either their whole training program or perhaps a smaller mini-goal.
For example, if a client wants to lose weight, the overall target can be broken down into smaller training agreements, each with their own date.
The first could be to lose 5 pounds in the first month after they start making use of your services.
The great thing about this form of inspiring a client is that it’s particularly useful for those that are reserved and shy.
For those types of clients, working out with another individual or taking part in a competitive challenge against others is simply not something that will inspire them.
They probably will run away in the opposite direction should you suggest it.
If you use this technique, it’s not only a commitment from the client but you as well and it should be signed by both parties to show that.
All expectations from both parties as well as the end goal should also be clearly stated.
A training agreement can work wonders, that’s for sure.
Help them discover their inspiration
Last, but not least is something that can really help your clients find something that both inspires and motivates them.
For those who have trained with you for a while, it’s always a good idea to take them aside and let them perform a little self-introspection.
And what do I mean by that?
Well, when they originally signed up to use your services as a personal trainer, they would have had their reasons for doing so.
And after your initial assessment and sitting down to set some goals and expectations, that probably would have been modified slightly.
But what about now, some time down the line?
Could things have changed even more?
Yes, without a doubt.
Clients certainly learn about themselves while making life-changing decisions about their health and fitness and then acting on it.
But not only can they learn from this, but you can also learn to be a better personal trainer when you talk to clients and take them through some self-introspection.
But what can you ask them? Well, things like:
- What was their original goal when they wanted to make use of your services?
- What are their goals now?
- For what reason did they opt to use a personal trainer to reach their original goal?
- And why did they choose your services?
- Do they think it’s working?
- Have they reached any points in their journey where they had a moment where they knew they were doing the right thing?
- What motivates them now?
- Are there other things they can think of that can motivate them further?
- Are they able to get a point where they can say that they are self-motivated and inspired?
All of these things that I have covered here are important ways to help your clients remain inspired.
And the first prize in motivation is not when it comes from you but from within the client.
I’ve already touched on this, a concept called self-efficacy, briefly.
But now, let’s take a look at it a little more closely.
Internal motivations: Teaching clients the art of self-efficacy
I want you to think back a chapter ago.
There we covered two types of motives: extrinsic and intrinsic.
Well, let’s recap a little anyway.
In a nutshell, extrinsic motives are something that gets you going, starting an action if you must.
And while they are important, it’s intrinsic motives that you want to see in your clients.
When a client has intrinsic motives, phrases like “I want to” replace “I have to”.
It’s a point where they are motivating themselves.
We call this self-efficacy.
And if you can get your clients to reach that point, it’s a win-win situation, for sure.
Motivations that come from within every individual client are the strongest there are.
Certainly stronger than anything you can provide.
So, that’s what you should be striving for when it comes to every client that you see.
Self-efficacy gives a client belief that they can reach the goals and expectations that both you and they have set.
But isn’t that having self-confidence?
Well, although self-confidence is similar, it’s not the same thing as self-efficacy.
Comparing self-efficacy and self-confidence
Ok, so what’s the difference then?
Well, you can have general confidence in your abilities but that can be both positive and negative.
For example, you might be an excellent woodworker and have confidence in the fact that you can build a beautiful table.
That’s a positive, right?
But you could also be a terrible public speaker and as the best man at an upcoming wedding, have confidence in the fact that you will struggle to deliver a decent speech.
So that’s why I say confidence can be both positive and negative.
Self-efficacy is a little different.
It’s also a belief in one’s self, in your ability to accomplish something but from a task-orientated perspective.
It’s about putting in time or practice, for want of a better word, and improving our ability at a certain task.
And as we improve in doing something, our enjoyment levels also start to rise.
That’s because we are more in control and become more consistent at the task we are attempting.
That leads to us not putting something off because it’s too daunting we begin to excel at it and overall results start to improve.
As that happens, our self-efficacy also progresses.
So you see how this can be of value when exercising?
When a client develops levels of self-efficacy, in essence, they start to believe in themselves, particularly in a way that they feel that they can complete a certain task and that will then lead to a specific outcome.
Simply put it’s a client getting the necessary skill set together that sees them perform a range of exercise in a workout which helps them achieve their long-term goals over time.
The thing is, self-efficacy is task-specific, while confidence is a more general thing, but not without its place either.
Where does the concept of self-efficacy come and what it entails?
Now that we understand what self-efficacy is and before we look at ways that we can help our clients reach that point, I want to just cover where this concept originated.
Well, it was the brainchild of a Canadian psychologist, Professor Albert Bandura who first noted the concept in the 1970s.
He drew up four areas that influenced self-efficacy.
- Mastery experiences
- Social modeling
- Social persuasion
- Physical and emotional states
When it comes to clients and personal training, mastery experiences probably are the most important of the four areas of self-efficacy as described by Bandura.
He stated that with mastery experiences, a person who gains success in what they are trying to achieve builds up their self-efficacy.
The opposite is true as well.
If someone has failures, there is a decrease in their self-efficacy.
So in an exercise context, we want our clients to be able to complete a task successfully to build their self-efficacy.
A client that succeeds regularly builds up competency and that increases their confidence as well.
That said, there is a role that you play as a personal trainer in all this.
And that’s guiding them along the path by not rushing a client, pushing them too hard, too fast.
It’s about giving them the perfect exercise program at that point in their journey.
In other words, you are not going to expect them to complete something that’s beyond their ability.
Because as we have already noted, failure to do so certainly won’t build self-efficacy.
But of course, even when you have the best program for a client in place, from time to time, they might fail.
Don’t let them worry too much about that but rather move them onto something that they have succeeded with before and build again from that point onwards.
The name pretty much gives away what the area of social modeling is about.
It focuses on seeing the success of others similar to oneself as a way to both drive and motivate as well as to aspire towards.
This also is key in fueling one’s belief that because if a peer can succeed, so can they.
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And as a personal trainer, you can use this to your advantage.
For example, say you have a client that has had a massive injury and are returning to training.
Perhaps you could have them meet up with another client who has gone through a similar situation and are now back, better than ever.
This can be applied to any number of situations, for example, weight loss, strength and conditioning training to improve performance and more.
The area of social persuasion deals with creating the correct environment which drives success and lowers the chance of failure.
And this is something you as a personal trainer has full control over.
It’s about being present in the moment with your clients as they train, encouraging them when they struggle, praising them when they succeed and helping them to build self-efficacy in the process.
And that’s because the environment you have created helps lessen self-doubt and raises their belief in their ability.
Physical and emotional states
The last area I want to look at relates to what Bandura termed physical and emotional states.
This is something we all can relate to.
In essence, it covers the fact that people who are in a positive frame of mind find it easier to build their self-efficacy while those who tend to be more negative will struggle.
That’s not only in terms of their overall state of mind either, but it can also fluctuate daily as well.
And that can certainly have an impact on your client during a training session.
This is especially true when a client is faced with a new situation, for example, a new range of exercises that you are introducing them to.
Here, you want to keep them focused on the positives of what these new exercises will bring which can help build towards success and therefore, self-efficacy.
How to help your clients reach high levels of self-efficacy with these tips
Ok, so now that you understand the need to build self-efficacy in each of your clients, let’s take a look at ways in which you can achieve this.
Of course, these are just guidelines and you are going to have to work out what’s best for each individual that trains with you.
Set reachable goals
It’s not the first time I have talked about goals and it’s probably not going to be the last!
Without a doubt, one of the best ways to help your client along towards self-efficacy is by setting goals that are realistic and reachable.
And yes, there should be a long-term goal in mind always but it’s the smaller goals along the way that are key to self-efficacy.
Starting out, it becomes a process of building your clients up.
A small success, even though seemingly insignificant can mean a whole lot to them.
This means their self-efficacy will improve and then they are ready for even larger challenges.
The power of positivity
There is no doubt that a positive outlook is something that we want our clients to have, that’s for sure.
But many personal trainers tend to forget that the buck stops with them in that regard.
And I am not talking about your overall positive demeanor here.
No, it’s more about their experiences when working out with you.
So here’s a simple example.
If you take a new client through a really difficult workout just to test them and they struggle, is that going to turn into a positive experience for them?
Most certainly not.
We can break it down even further.
If there is an exercise that a client hates to do, try to avoid it rather.
Replace it with something else.
Or if a client says they love the outdoors and don’t really like coming to the gym, even now and again, change things up.
Have a session outside at the local park, if your gym allows, of course.
A client who is enjoying their exercise is certainly having their self-efficacy levels rise.
Sure it’s a little bit more work on your part, but believe me, it will be worth it in the long run.
More certainly isn’t less
The traditional fitness model when it comes to a personal trainer involves just two people more often than not.
In most cases, a personal trainer is not only leading a client through an exercise program to reach first some mini-goal and finally, an ultimate goal.
But that doesn’t mean that more people can’t be involved in the journey.
And what do I mean by that?
Well, you can first start with the client’s family.
Find out how engaged they are in helping them reach their goals.
A little cheerleading from someone other than you, a loved one, for example, can go a long way to help motivate clients.
And that motivation means they are more likely to push on towards their goals, gaining success along the way and that leads to more self-efficacy.
It’s even better if they can find someone who they know, be it a family member or friend that has succeeded with something similar.
But there’s more you can do in finding support.
For example, you can suggest to them that they join a group exercise session at least once a week.
This puts them in a group of like-minded people who are also trying to reach their own unique fitness goals.
Group fitness, be it aerobics, spinning, kickboxing or any of the other multitudes of options give an immense sense of camaraderie.
It also causes people to be encouraged by others in a similar position.
This also lends itself to social persuasion, one of the four key areas of self-efficacy.
Other than signing them up for a group fitness session – not everyone’s into that – you can perhaps pair them off with another client in a buddy system.
Again, that covers the area of social persuasion that we talked about earlier.
That’s because two people can not only motivate but they will also feel accountable to each other.
Having someone to workout with is the perfect way to overcome potential barriers that might be holding them back.
For example, one person doesn’t feel like training today as they are tired but turn up anyway because they don’t want to let their training partner down.
Seek help from the past
Sometimes, to help your clients on the road to success, you need to delve back into their past.
For example, someone who is looking to lose weight now probably has gone the healthy eating and exercise route before and had success for a time.
That’s what you need to tap into when they try to start again with your help.
Start by finding out what it is that brought them that success.
For someone who wants to tone their body and look like they did in the past, you might find that they were on the college swim team.
No wonder they were toned and well-built!
For someone like that, you could incorporate swimming into their exercise program.
But what if they haven’t ever really had exercise success before?
Well, then you tap into something elsewhere they have been successful.
For example, perhaps they are skilled musicians, or they can paint beautiful watercolor landscapes or they are excellent woodworkers.
In each of these, they would have become better and better and certainly established self-efficacy as they did so.
So they understand what it is.
Now just try to help them apply it to their current health and fitness situation.
Do you see what I am getting at?
Self-efficacy is something we all have gone through in our lives.
It’s about learning to apply it to new pursuits, for example, trying to get healthy and fit.
Lastly, there is the importance of mastery in building a client’s self-efficacy.
Now imagine someone who comes to the gym for the first time.
They’ve never seen most of the equipment on display and probably only know what a treadmill and an exercise bike is.
The other machines can be a little daunting.
But with your guidance, you can show them how to master a specific exercise.
Add to that the fact that your client should log what they are doing to track their workouts and continued success will see a sense of mastery building.
Not only does that help raise their self-efficacy when it comes to exercise, but in turn that leads to clients having confidence later on when newer exercises are introduced.
That’s because they feel they can master those as well.
Dealing with the latest diet fad or workout
During your career as a personal trainer, you are going to have to deal a lot with the latest celebrity diet or a particular workout endorsed by a Hollywood A-lister.
And these can throw a real spanner in the works because some clients may be convinced that it will work.
While some of them might well work for a period, you don’t want your clients to be a guinea pig and try it out, that’s for sure.
You will also find that in most cases, a client comes along with one of these workouts or diets at a point in their training where they seem to be making important progress.
Why has it always got to be like that?
But how do you deal with it? What’s your best course of action?
Well, when it comes to a celebrity diet, you just need to nip it in the bud right there and then.
That’s because, as you know, while you can tell a client to eat healthily, you certainly cannot be passing on nutritional advice.
So here’s what you do.
The first thing you should do is start with honesty.
While you might not know much about the diet, ask your client to provide you with more information so that you can investigate it a little more.
And with all of them, you will find some outrageous claims.
You know, lose 20 pounds in 10 days.
It’s just not going to happen.
While a client might lose weight at a fast rate with these diets, it’s mostly water weight, to begin with.
Also, these diets are just never sustainable, because, for the most part, they aren’t healthy.
That’s because, with most of them, you end up starving your body.
When you report back to your client tell them the truth.
And that truth is simple.
A fad diet is a short term solution to a long term problem.
As soon as they stop the diet and go back to their normal ways, their weight piles back on, and sometimes, they end up heavier than they were before.
Your next task is to be realistic with your clients.
For those looking to lose weight, the need for success and a quick fix is often what drives them.
For those of us who have never been overweight, it’s difficult to understand the psychological pressures that heavier people have to go through each day.
And so a quick fix is always going to be something they are drawn to.
But that’s where you need to step in and help them with realistic expectations.
Just like they didn’t take a day to put on those extra pounds, so it is with losing weight.
Sustained success certainly is going to take some time.
That also again reinforces that most of these diets use marketing strategies to sell themselves.
Why wouldn’t an overweight person want to buy into a diet that promised them that they would lose 20 pounds in 10 days?
But if you sit them down and talk them through it, even they would acknowledge that that kind of weight loss is just a pipe dream.
This is also the time that you reinforce the notion that “slow and steady wins the race.”
That and the fact that a consistent decrease in their weight by one or two pounds a week is far healthier for them as well.
For those clients that struggle with effective weight loss, a food journal might be the perfect solution.
Many people don’t even really focus on what it is they eat.
While they might remember their main meals of the day, it’s the in-between snacks that we have on the run, in between meetings, or while watching our kids play soccer that is often the real problem.
And that’s where a food journal comes in.
That’s because it makes a person accountable.
The results can be staggering at times, especially for the person putting the food in their mouths.
The trick with a food journal is to include a weekend because what people choose to eat and drink over weekends is often significantly different from their choices during the week.
A journal could be kept for five days at a time, or perhaps broken down into two separate three-day journals – one covering weekdays and the other, the weekend.
Once the food journals are complete, there will be plenty to talk about.
And it won’t be how a fad diet can help them but more about how they can help themselves.
Those talking points should focus on their food choices, especially if they are managing to curb their weight loss efforts.
Although you can’t give nutritional information, telling them they are consuming too much sugar in the form of soft drinks or in their coffee, that their portions are too big or that they don’t eat enough vegetables is something you certainly can point out.
But it’s not only the negatives you should focus on.
There are bound to be positives too and you should use those to help build up and encourage your clients.
So it’s praise for the healthy choices and pointing out the poor ones. And with that, you will have a steady foundation to initiate change.
Suggest solutions that will work in the long-term
Long term change is lasting change.
Now it’s up to you to provide your clients with long term solutions that will work.
Again, this isn’t about providing nutritional advice, but suggestions.
You could even point them in the direction of a registered dietician if their food diaries reveal that they need plenty of guidance.
Helping people with healthy eating could simply be encouraging them to eat at home instead of take-outs or at a restaurant.
Of course, you can broaden your knowledge about nutrition as a way to help your clients by getting a nutrition certification.
Or point them towards resources that cover healthy cooking both in terms of ingredients and preparation.
And those could be online or even in the form of a cookbook.
You could even have a resource for healthy recipes and cooking ideas on your personal trainer website that you can direct them towards.
All of these suggestions can lead to lasting change.
The next part I want to cover in this section is the celebrity workout.
These come in many forms but either it’s a workout endorsed by a famous Hollywood celeb or it’s something devised by a personal trainer or fitness instructor that has made their name on television.
In some cases, these have merit but overall, they are simply going to mess with your structured exercise plan that you have in place for your client.
So what do you do when a client suggests incorporating a celebrity workout into their visits to the gym?
Well, it can lead to a difficult situation.
You see, the reason that people jump at these types of workouts is that perhaps they haven’t quite bought into the solution that you have worked out for them.
Earlier, we covered the concept of finding the right emotion, the trigger that will get your client on board with your fitness solution.
And if you’ve not found that yet, then they might look elsewhere, such as a celebrity workout that uses marketing to sell itself, not actual concrete results.
But if they take that at face value, in other words, believing a celebrity over you, it’s not often a situation that you can win.
If that’s the case, dust yourself off and try to find that emotional trigger in your other clients so hopefully it won’t happen again.
A chapter in which we covered a huge amount of important ground related to inspiring our client, it’s the idea of self-efficacy that’s one of the key concepts for a personal trainer to instill in their clients.
Self-efficacy is something that once it’s attained by a client, really is the best way for them to continue to drive themselves towards their goals.