Running Start Chapter 12 | Clients: Firing Their Passion

This chapter will reveal how to fire the passion of your clients and help them achieve their fitness goals.

Firing their passion

Stay on with me to learn how!

As a personal trainer, you are an expert when it comes to designing exercise programs for a range of different clients.

The thing is, while you were working through your certification, you were given all the head knowledge to do that.

But there is another critical part of your job that’s not touched on while you are studying to become a personal trainer. And it’s something that you cannot ignore.

Because you may be able to design an excellent program for a client and yes, that’s essential but you also need to fire their passion and get them to buy into what it is you are proposing.

A fired-up, passionate client is one that’s going to be willing to run through brick walls for you, but more importantly, for themselves.

And that’s how they will meet their own needs, expectations and reach all their goals.

So that’s exactly what I want to focus on in this chapter.

Just how do you go about getting your clients fired-up, passionate and motivated?

And to do that, you need to try to identify what it is that drives them. 

As I have already discussed, this is no simple task.

With some clients, it’s easier than others.

For most, finding that deep down motivation, the real reason why they have either come to you is paramount

So just how do you fire their passion?

Well, let’s take a look.

Spelling it out in black & white

In Chapter 10, where we discussed how to prepare yourself when dealing with a new client, I briefly covered client triggers.

And that involved trying to find the real reason why a client needs your help.

The problem, as we have discussed numerous times, is that the client might not be that forthcoming with information like that.

And in some cases, they truly might not even know the real reason why they want to go to a gym to workout with a personal trainer. 

I just want to say here that not all clients have deep down triggers but you will find that many do.

If you can identify these, define them clearly in black and white, implant them in your client’s brain as to the real reason why they should follow your exercise program and guidance, you are well on your way to firing the passion inside that client. 

And a client that has clearly-defined reasons, or a trigger if you must, will see you as an important step in helping them to take their life back, for example, if they are overweight. 

It’s also important that while you work with a client, you find significant moments that you can continue to use as motivation for them.

It’s almost like setting mini-goals along the way because sometimes, the ultimate trigger or goal might seem so far away that a client can quickly become despondent and lose motivation. 

But how can you do that?

Keeping it interesting in sizable chunks

Ok, you’ve heard that analogy: “How is it possible to eat an elephant?” It’s so huge, that it seems like an impossible task.

And the answer? “One bite at a time”. 

When a client sees their goals as something as big as an elephant so to speak, you need to break them down.

That’s especially true if you are looking to get a client to sign you up as their trainer.

For example, after your initial assessment where you have tried to identify their goals, needs and expectations, it simply might be too much for them.

They just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, only darkness.

In fact, they might give up before they start.

It’s up to you to overcome this by firing their passion, their motivation.

But how can you do this?

Well, there are a few simple techniques that can help. 

Simplify it

Clients may have a whole range of goals that they want met when they approach you as a personal trainer.

Some of these might simply not be necessary, while others can form the basis of the exercise program you devise for them.

Remember, you want to meet their needs and get them to buy into what it is you offer for a solution.

And to do that, take their goals and simplify them into easier to achieve points in their journey.

Get them to see their goals and success in their mind’s eye

Once their goals have been redefined into smaller, attainable points in their journey, the task then is to get them to start to visualize their starting point as well as the first goal they have in mind.

So take a client who wants to lose 30 pounds of excess weight, most of which is found around their belly.

That’s a lot and a little daunting.

But by applying the point above and simplifying it, you have broken that down into five mini-goals of 6 pounds each month. 

Now, they can visualize that after each month, they will be 6 pounds lighter.

Show them the main part of the exercise program that will get them to their goal

After devising an overall fitness program that incorporates their goal, in this case, to lose 30 pounds, it’s time to take them through those core exercises that will help them reach it. 

You can give them a demonstration, or even show them on your smartphone or tablet just what the exercises are and what exactly they will do for them.

Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Good Option
50% off
Best CPT for you?
Get Free Trial

Explain that you will also incorporate other exercises but that these core exercises will be the ones that help them to shed weight. 

Talk about overcoming barriers

Next up, it’s important to discuss any barriers that might trip up your client and especially how you both can deal with them.

For the most part, the most obvious of their barriers are old injuries, for example.

If a client has an old injury that you determined during their assessment, explain how you have made sure that exercising muscles related to that injury will be low impact. 

Other barriers could include muscle imbalances or even times when the client cannot train, for example, a student who needs a few weeks off to study for exams. 

This will…

So the reason for doing all of the above is the following:

  • Not only does this help to underpin the client’s main goals but it also makes them far more manageable by breaking them into smaller mini-goals.
  • It also shows their path towards their main goals through these mini-goals. Everything is mapped out for them and their progress also can be easily checked and mapped along the way.
  • All barriers to that potential progress are identified and ways to overcome them are also put in place. 
  • This also shows that you will provide all the tools necessary and facilitate the whole program to allow them to reach their final goals. Ultimately, however, their success or failure lies in what they put in. 

The end of the journey remains important

So now we’ve covered lots of information regarding a client and their goals, including breaking them down into smaller, manageable ones. 

But also remember the end of the journey remains key.

By continually using these ideas above, always come back to the main reason as to why a client is working out with you. 

And this is something you can continually reinforce at each session by reminding them just how a particular exercise will benefit them in the long-run.

This helps to tap into their emotional state in the best way possible where they associate their hard work with success down the line. 

As their program progresses, you can even use the steps above to get them ready for the next step.

For example, when you want to introduce new exercises that they are not quite ready for, there is no harm in taking them through what you plan, the reason for doing it including the advantages and what it will do for them in terms of reaching their goals. 

That’s mapping the way forward and helping to create further expectations in your client as you educate them on how something new will be beneficial.

And it’s an excellent technique to keep clients motivated as well. 

It does one other crucial thing, in the fact that it drives home the point that exercise programs aren’t just short-term.

Success and reaching your goals take time and hard work but with your guidance and focus on building the best program possible, goals can be achieved. 

This helps clients understand the “why” behind their training and certainly can reinforce their commitment levels.

So keep on reminding them that they are building towards new exercise moments and make them special when they happen. 

Understanding motivation

So what exactly is motivation?

Two types of motivation

Essentially, motivation can be broken down into two types when it comes to fitness and exercise.

A client will have either:

  • Intrinsic motives
  • Extrinsic motives

Let’s look at these two a little closer.

Intrinsic motives

Do you know that feeling of wanting to fit in? The feeling that you want to belong, to be accepted.

Well, that’s intrinsic motivation and it’s linked to our self-esteem and wanting to feel good about ourselves.

Extrinsic motives

Extrinsic motives are based around our actual needs, for example, every day we need to rest and eat.

But it also has a factor of belonging, even peer pressure if you like.

Some aspects of a person’s extrinsic motives can overlap with their intrinsic motives.

From a fitness point of view, an extrinsic motive might get a person to acknowledge that they need to go to a gym to improve their health and even get them there, but an extrinsic motive isn’t the thing that keeps them coming back.

In other words, there is no long-term change created from extrinsic motives but they do get a person to act. 

So what drives these two types of motivation?

That’s a good question which I’d like to take the time to dwell on.

Let’s start by looking at something called the self-determination theory.

A concept introduced in the 1980s, this states that as humans, we are more prone to take part in something for two reasons:

  • We feel that we are competent enough to be successful in the endeavor
  • Or if we place merit in the result of the behavior/action

Self-determination theory further breaks down this concept into three basic psychological wants and needs which I am going to specifically relate to the world of fitness.


The first want or need is autonomy.

An example of this is when you as a personal trainer show empathy towards your clients.

You help them, support what they do, and don’t put too much pressure on them when training.


The second want or need is relatedness.

This is when a client feels a connection.

It can be with other gym members who they see as their peers, or even with their personal trainer.

Through relationships such as these, that connectedness leads to them feeling supported and encouraged as well.


Exclusive PTP CPT Offers

Gold Standard Cert
Save 25%
Most Popular Cert
3 Certs for 1
Best Study Materials
See MVP discount
A Good Option
50% off
A Good Option
50% off
Best CPT for you?
Get Free Trial

The final need and want is competence.

For a personal trainer, this can be showing the client that you are an expert, provide them with positive feedback to keep them motivated but challenge them at the same time and help the client ensure they reach their goals successfully. 

It’s important as a personal trainer to contemplate intrinsic and extrinsic motives when dealing with our clients.

Also, consider how to give clients chances in their training that help them realize their autonomy, relatedness, and competence needs.

Moving from extrinsic motives to intrinsic motives is key

Earlier, we discussed the fact that extrinsic motives get someone to act, for example, they understand that they need to join a gym to exercise to aid weight loss. 

The secret then is to move them from those extrinsic motives to intrinsic motives. 

It’s essentially changing their mindset. Extrinsic motives are coupled with phrases like “have to”.

For example, “I really have to start going to the gym to try and exercise and lose weight”.

When their motives become intrinsic, the phrase will change to “want to”.

So an example of that would be something like: “I really want to go to the gym today, I am seeing such positive changes”.

And when that happens, they are certainly more likely to be in it for the long run. 

Other ideas for motivating clients

The great thing about motivation is that it’s different for everyone and that means other techniques can work for a range of clients.
So it’s always good to have a few in your bag of tricks that you can fall back on when needed.

And that’s what I would like to cover here, including some extremely useful practical ways to help motivate.

Goals should always be attainable

I’ve covered goals in-depth already, but it’s important to revisit them because let’s be honest, they are one of the most crucial aspects of any exercise program you devise for your clients. 

Without goals, what’s going to drive them and motivate them to change their lives.

The thing is, sometimes we let our clients get a little ahead of themselves on their goals.

So it’s your responsibility to reign them in and help formulate realistic goals that can be achieved in bite-sized chunks.

By hitting these mini-goals along the way, you can be sure that your client’s motivation remains high at all times.

That’s because nothing beats the feeling of attaining something, even if it’s a small goal to start with.

And with their levels of motivation kept high, you can push a client on more easily because they want to achieve more.

Keep their focus on the process

I cannot stress enough that you can keep a client motivated by continually driving home the process that they are following to help them achieve their goals. 

That’s because sometimes, by getting too fixated on the results, motivation can dip when those aren’t as great as planned. 

You can even make their goals more process orientated than outcome orientated.

Without a doubt, focusing on the process on a day-to-day basis can work as motivation for your clients.

Use fitness rewards

For a more practical solution when it comes to motivating your clients, you can consider using fitness rewards. 

For example, for that client that always struggles to do the final reps in a range of exercise, why don’t you tempt them with a protein smoothie if they nail them at their next gym session.

Rewards don’t have to be anything massive, and you certainly don’t have to hand them out to every client at every session.

They are a great idea to push motivation levels when clients are struggling, however.

Part of the resources for chapter 10 included a list of gifts that you can use for your clients.

These are perfect as a reward/motivation in situations like these or can be used for other milestones, like attaining their goals or even for a client’s birthday.

Change it up

Yes, sometimes training can get a little boring.

That’s why it’s not a bad idea to change things up now and again.

For example, why not sign clients up for a group fitness class every once in a while. 

Or you could even ask your clients if they would consider training with someone else.

Then you can hold a joint training session as something completely different.

Changing things up is a great way to beat boredom, especially in clients who you have trained over a long period.  

Make use of social media or your own personal trainer website

Social media is a great tool to motivate your clients when you aren’t around.

If you run your own Facebook page or Twitter account, for example, most of your clients should be following you, right?

And you can use this fact to your advantage by using motivational posts, interesting quotes, relevant articles and other methods to reach out to them at any point. 

You can even use social media such as Facebook messenger or other messenger programs to form support groups where clients can motivate each other. 

Or you could host material such as this on your personal trainer website.

That gives you full control in terms of content and it’s easy to just refer your clients to content on your site as well.

Point out the little things

As a personal trainer, you need to be vocal.

There’s no point in taking your client through a routine and not telling them why a certain exercise is part of it. 

Even if you just point out the basics, inform them what the exercise will help with and how it fits in with their short and long term goals.

For example, maybe it’s leading to another more complex exercise down the line that will benefit them but first, this is necessary to build up their core strength, for example. 

Pointing out the little things is a great way to build overall motivation. 

Keep it fun and engaging

It should go without saying but you’d be surprised how many personal trainers keep their exercise sessions dull and boring. 

The first way that you can keep a client engaged is just by paying attention to them.

That means being present and helping them along.

There’s also nothing wrong with bringing in a little bit of humor. 

Let’s be honest, a client is going to be spending a fair amount of time with you during the week.

By making it fun and engaging, you can make it something they look forward to in their week instead of “Oh no, not a personal training session today…”

Mixing up the exercises is also a brilliant way to keep training sessions fun and engaging, especially when a client might be expecting something but you change it.

In chapter 9, we included the ultimate exercise library resource.

You can use that when looking to mix up client exercises.

Use technology

We live in an age where technology is everywhere.

And you can use that to your advantage, that’s for certain.

For example, you can make use of training apps that allow you to keep track of what your clients are doing away from the gym.

Or you can simply set reminders on their phone to keep them motivated in between sessions.

For example, ask your clients permission to set reminders about eating properly, remembering to stretch or other little areas in which they need motivation.

It’s a great way for you to speak without even being present

In chapter 8, we covered a range of personal training software applications that can do this for you. 

If you have your own website, you could even integrate this technology with it.

This helps make you look even more professional while making it far easier to manage your clients and motivate them.  

Just be you

Each personal trainer has a unique personality.

And that’s something that you should allow to shine through when dealing with your clients.

And by that I mean, don’t try to push a certain style of personal training if that doesn’t fit in with who you are as a person.

For example, you might feel the need to act like a “cheerleader” for your clients.

That’s all good and well but if it’s forced and comes across as unnatural, clients might be put off by it.

And that can cause their motivation to drop.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with showing a little bit of energy, being enthusiastic and pushing your clients.

Just don’t force it. 

Lead by example

You have to realize the importance of how you can have an impact on your clients.

For example, meeting your client in the smoothie bar while scoffing down a chocolate brownie is not leading by example.

And that comes to your motivation as well.

If you aren’t feeling motivated, it’s going to be picked up by your clients, that’s for sure.

And why should they give their all when you are not. 

All of these points raised about are pertinent regardless of where you end up training one day, be it a large commercial gym, your own gym, or even online.

Of course, online training is a little more unique than the first two examples, and if you want more information about that specific niche be sure to check out my online personal training course.


One of the key traits of a successful personal trainer is the ability to motivate your clients.

While we looked at aspects of that in the chapter before this one, it was here that we touched on a range of ways that you can motivate clients.

Of particular interest here was the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motives and how they can drive client motivation.

Ultimately, you want your clients to exhibit behavior that shows they are intrinsically motivated.

That’s when you know they are in it for the long run. 

Don’t forget to take the chapter takeaway quiz to make sure you have a good grasp of everything covered here.

Chapter 12 Takeaway Quiz

Running Start Chap 12

1 / 8

In Chapter 12, we dealt with the subject of firing a client’s passion. One of the ways you can do this is by finding that emotional trigger that really is the deep-down reason they want to train. True or false?

2 / 8

Take this scenario. For a client that wants to lose 100 pounds, the start of the journey is daunting. How can you make their path towards their goal easier?

3 / 8

Once you have devised an exercise program for a client, you should ______?

4 / 8

True or false? It’s important to identify potential barriers that might prevent a client from reaching their goals before they start their exercise program?

5 / 8

As humans, we are motivated in two ways: Intrinsic and _____?

6 / 8

True or false? Intrinsic motivation can be summed up as the feeling of wanting to fit in and be accepted.

7 / 8

There are many ways to help to motivate clients. Pick which of these you think is best.

8 / 8

True or false? Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic values is key in helping clients reach their goals.

Your score is


Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

PTPioneer Editorial Integrity

All content published on PTPioneer is checked and reviewed extensively by our staff of experienced personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and other Fitness Experts. This is to make sure that the content you are reading is fact-checked for accuracy, contains up-to-date information, and is relevant. We only add trustworthy citations that you can find at the bottom of each article. You can read more about our editorial integrity here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Find the best Cert for you

Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Exam


Before you spend your money on the wrong personal trainer, nutrition, or other fitness certification. 

Which Certification Is Best For You?


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The CSCS Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACSM Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ISSA Nutritionist Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NCSF CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CNC Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM PES Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM CES Exam


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the ACE CPT


Get the top 5 Tips for Passing the NASM CPT


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NSCA CPT Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The ACE Exam


Get The Sectret Cheat Sheet For The NASM Exam

Scroll to Top