Running Start Chapter 7 | Getting ready for your first personal training session

At last, you are about to put all you’ve learned into practice.

I’m gonna be showing you all you need to have and do before having a face-to-face encounter with a client.

Getting ready for your first personal training session

Let’s get along, shall we?

Up to this point, we have covered a lot of information that deals with you as a personal trainer.

From getting certified to how to prepare for your first interview, how to dress for success as well as how a personal trainer needs to carry themselves. 

Nailing all of those things will help you into your first proper job and that means starting to deal with clients.

These aren’t like the family members or friends you practiced honing your skills on. 

No, these are clients that pay for a service and expect something in return.

And that’s a personal trainer that is prepared, knows what they are talking about and above all, can help clients to meet their unique goals.  

So when you land that first client appointment, it’s not just a case of rocking up and winging your way through it.

You need to be prepared. 

You owe it to them.

But how do you go about it?

Well, let’s take a look. 

Preparation is key

While you might think that all the hard work is done when sitting with your client for the first time, you certainly can’t go into that situation blind.

That means you need to prepare properly.  

That doesn’t just mean printing out the required forms that you would expect your client to fill in during their assessment.

You need to take some time to work through a few key questions and ideas that you will apply for each client.  

So how do you do this? 

Start with proper planning

But you knew I was going to say that, right?

As with many things in life, planning is key for a personal trainer, especially when dealing with new clients.  

So what do I mean when I mention planning?

Well, the most important thing about meeting a new client for the first time is not jumping straight into an assessment and seeing where they stand health and fitness-wise. 

No, it’s far more important than that.

Your first and foremost goal here is to find out what it is that a client wants from their time with you.

Essentially, that means taking the time to speak to them to determine their goals and expectations when it comes to training sessions and what they expect to achieve through them. 

For example, do they: 

  • Is losing weight their primary reason for making use of a personal trainer?
  • Or do they want to build muscle and improve their strength and conditioning?
  • Perhaps they just want to tone their bodies?
  • Or simply feel that staying fit and healthy is a prerequisite as they get older

Take the time to formulate a plan that’s going to get the answers you need out of them.

And yes, this is part of the assessment but it also means you need to ask the right questions and guide them.

Sometimes, a client might not have a clear idea in their heads as to why they feel the need for a personal trainer. 

But why are goals and expectations so important?  

Well, just think about it from the client’s point of view.

If you have formulated some reasons why you think a personal trainer is necessary and after trying one out for a couple of months, you don’t seem to be reaching your goals, are you going to stick with that personal trainer, especially if you are following their plan to the letter? 

Use a questionnaire to get key information even before you meet 

Even before you meet your client for their first assessment, you should already have some key pieces of information about them. 

And to get these, you should make use of a questionnaire that you email to them and ask them to fill in before the first meeting.

This also falls in line with the point regarding client goals and expectations and will form the guidelines for that initial meeting. 

But what questions should you ask your client? 

Well, there are many ways to approach this, but I feel these are some of the most crucial. 

Establish if they have any existing medical conditions

A pre-existing medical condition can be a game-changer when it comes to fitness programs for individual clients.

So the first thing that you need to determine must be whether a client has any health concerns 

What health concerns should you be looking out for?

Well, the most common are problems such as high blood pressure, insulin resistance and diabetes as well as obesity. 

And based on their medical condition, does your general personal fitness certification qualify you to train them?

Or do they need to find a specialist trainer to help them? 

Determine their expectations as well as short-term and long-term goals 

A little earlier I mentioned that part of your responsibilities before dealing with a client is to try and determine what their expectations are when it comes to working with a personal trainer.  

Certainly, the easiest way to do this is by working out their short and long-term goals, which I also mentioned.

And part of your initial questionnaire to them should be dedicated to this end but including questions that can help a client identify what they want to achieve. 

Of course, this will give you a good idea but during your initial assessment with the client, this is certainly something that you will deal with even more.

This is to make sure that both parties are on the same page when it comes to goals and expectations and that you are indeed the person to help them achieve them. 

Other health considerations 

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The questionnaire to your new client should also find out other important information that you will need to know before the initial assessment.

For example: 

  • Is the client a smoker?
  • What is their family history when it comes to health conditions?
  • What are their sleep patterns like and how many hours on average do they sleep each night?
  • Ask them about their eating habits and have them keep a food diary for a week, if possible.
  • What’s their line of work? Does this mean they are fairly sedentary, moderately active or extremely active?
  • Have they suffered any major injuries?

 All of these questions can give you a very good idea of what you are working with when it comes to each specific client and the level that they will be starting from.  

Most of this information can be secured by having them fill in a questionnaire.

We have dealt with this specific questionnaire before in chapter 3 but I have included it again in the resources for this chapter.

It’s called the Client Information Questionnaire. 

There are a host of other forms that you can send them along with this questionnaire.

These include ones to determine their physical readiness for exercise as well as a form to protect you as a personal trainer should they suffer an injury.

These are also part of the downloadable resources for this chapter.

They are called the PARQ form and the Waiver and Release of Liability form. 

Remember, whether you are training a client in the gym, or even online, all of these points above are important, especially before you take a client through their first exercise session.

I cover all other important aspects of training on the web in my online training course.

Pre-plan a client’s first session 

So now you have all the information you need before you meet with the client for the first time.

And much of this information will be covered again in your first meeting with them.

For many personal trainers, the initial meeting isn’t even one where they do any kind of assessment and there certainly isn’t any exercising either.

It’s up to you how you want to handle your first meeting with a new client but why not take the time out to meet them at the gym and take them for a coffee or smoothie to just sit down to talk (if your gym permits this).

Here, you can go through all the important things you have learned about them, thanks to the questionnaire that you sent them earlier.

In particular, you can discuss their goals and expectations and help form them into something attainable. 

Many clients might have grand ideas about what a personal trainer can do for them, so you might need to just reel them back in.

Or perhaps, they don’t have very many expectations and together, you can help them to devise some.

By pre-planning and visualizing your first session with a client you are ensuring that you are properly prepared to meet clients for the first time.

What you do with them during the assessment is something we will look into for the next chapter.

Shed the nerves

Even for experienced personal trainers who have taken a client through their first meeting, assessment and training session, the butterflies still fly around the stomach before meeting a new client.

The only difference is that we experienced personal trainers have taught them to fly in formation!

So while we are nervous, our experience makes everything a little less scary. 

But for an inexperienced personal trainer, nothing can quite prepare you for meeting your first paying client and that nagging feeling of “I hope that I nail this and that I can help them.”

Being nervous is natural, it’s how you control it that counts.

Perhaps the best way to control your nerves is to feel prepared.

If you know that you haven’t done everything you needed to do before meeting with a client, your nerves are going to be through the roof.

By preparing properly, taking the time to work out the necessary questions you need to ask based on their questionnaire answers and making sure you have everything covered, you don’t have a reason to be nervous.

And if you are still nervous because you are meeting someone new, don’t be.

Remember, the client is probably just as nervous as you are.

In fact, they are probably even more nervous.

Take someone who is overweight and going to a gym for the first time.

That’s a tough situation to be in.

They know they need to make a change in their life to improve their health but they are taking themselves to a place right outside their comfort zone, right?

So bear that in mind and don’t worry too much about nerves.

They will keep you on your toes and that’s a good thing!

Don’t forget the insurance

The last thing I would like to cover in this section and something that is of critical importance is the subject of personal trainer insurance.

Do not step into a gym and train your first client without it!

It’s a crucial part of any personal trainer’s armory and something that you must have in place at all times.

That’s because it offers you protection, for example, a client gets injured while you are training them.

Depending on where you are based and who you work for, you need to determine who covers your liability insurance.

For example, if you work for a large franchise gym, the chances are that they take out liability insurance for all their trainers.

If you are renting space in a gym and working as an independent personal trainer, you would first need to find out if you fall within the cover provided by that gym’s specific insurance or if you need to get your own.

And I cannot stress enough that it’s so important to have the right coverage, although if you have to sort this out yourself, it can be a little daunting.

Don’t leave it, though.

If you are a little confused as to what cover you need should the gym you work in not provide it, you can first approach the training organization where you received your certification.

That’s because all the large certification organizations will typically offer personal liability insurance.

It’s important to see exactly what you are covered for, however.

For example, does your cover include an incident in which a client is injured when performing part of your exercise program for them, perhaps because you pushed them too hard?

Or if you are a freelancing personal trainer who visits clients in their homes, are you covered?

Generally, you want your personal trainer insurance policy to cover you in the following areas:

  • Property damage 
  • Harm to your professional reputation  
  • Third-party injuries  

There are three other types of insurance that you might consider at some point as well.

Firstly, commercial property insurance.

This is the type of insurance that you would need to take out one day when you own a gym.

It covers various business assets, for example, buildings and equipment.

That’s not going to be a concern when you start out, however.

Secondly, something extra you might consider should your budget allow is professional liability insurance.

This provides specific cover for legal fees in situations where a client has taken you to court.

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Examples where this might happen include:

  • You have a client lift weights they were not yet ready for and they get injured
  • You give advice that you are not allowed to offer, for example, medical advice or nutrition plans to help treat a disease or ailment.
  • Not delivering on the services you offer

In situations like these, professional liability insurance will cover your legal costs. 

Thirdly, sexual misconduct liability insurance.

Another additional insurance that you can consider, this type of policy offers cover when a client might accuse you of sexual misconduct. 

Note that no matter where you train, even if you take your career online exclusively, you should have insurance cover in some form.

Insurance for online trainers is something that is covered in my online personal trainer course. 

3 important considerations when getting insurance as a personal trainer

When looking to secure your personal training insurance, there are a few important things to consider. 

What are your risks?

First up, you need to evaluate your risks.

If you aren’t covered by the gym you are working in, what coverage do you then need?

Will regular liability insurance give you the cover you are looking for or do you need to look beyond that?

Take an objective look at the kinds of incidents that can happen in a gym when it comes to personal training and decide if coverage for these is essential.

In most cases, the answer would be yes.

What’s excluded?

Once you have found an insurer as well as a policy that you think fits the bill, take the time to sit down with an insurance advisor to make sure you find out what coverage is excluded.

Often, policies go at great pains to tell you what you are covered for but in the fine print, there are plenty of exclusions.

It’s important that you identify these inclusions and how exactly they will work.

Get a summary of your insurance coverage

A summary of your insurance coverage is a useful thing to keep handy.

It gives you a good idea of how you are covered without you needing to page through a policy and read all that fine print.

And the easiest way to get a summary of your insurance coverage is to ask for a certificate of insurance from your provider.

Note also that the gym where you work might also ask for your certificate of insurance to prove that you have coverage.

Do you need disability insurance?

What exactly does disability insurance cover?

Well as a personal trainer, your ability to do your job properly means you need to be injury-free.

So what happens if you cannot work because you were involved in a car accident and need to spend three months recovering from your injuries?

Well, you certainly won’t be able to do your job and get a regular income, that’s for sure.

And that’s where disability insurance comes in.

If a situation like the above occurred and you had disability insurance cover, you would be paid an income each month till you recovered.

This amount, of course, would vary depending on the coverage you took out. 

There are plenty of different disability insurance options out there, so if you can afford this type of coverage, make sure you select one that provides the right type of coverage you need.

What about health insurance?

As a personal trainer, don’t forgo health insurance.

You need to cover yourself should you end up in the hospital or need medical treatment.

Although when you are fit and young, you might not see the necessity of health insurance at that point in your life, anything can happen and so you should make sure that you are covered.

So health insurance is a must in my opinion.

And life insurance?

While we are covering all insurance options, the last form of insurance I want to look into is life insurance.

This is often one that young people forgo, especially if they don’t have a family.

The thing is, as soon as you get married, you should consider life insurance options.

That’s just to help cover any of your debts that won’t then become a problem for your family should you pass away.

Life insurance is also imperative if you are starting your own business as it provides cover for your family if tragedy strikes. 

Tips for saving on insurance

Insurance can be costly, especially when you are first starting out as a personal trainer and your initial salary isn’t that great.

Luckily, there are ways for you to look at saving on your insurance options.

Let’s look at a few tips to help you do that.

Always shop around

While it might seem convenient to just jump at the first quote you see, sometimes it pays to do a little homework and shop around, especially if you are looking to save money.

By shopping around, you can compare the different coverage options available.

Remember, always look into what is covered as well as the value of the coverage offered.

Sometimes, the ideal package is one that costs a little more per month but provides tons more coverage. 

In some cases, certification organizations also offer personal trainer insurance.

See if the organization through which you received your accreditation does so as a good place to start. 

Bundle up

Often the cheapest option when it comes to insurance is to bundle a range of policies together.

That might be something to look into, especially if an insurance company also offers health, disability and life insurance options.

Insurance options for personal trainers

For this section, I want to take a look at a few insurance options that are available to personal trainers in the United States.  


Ideafit offers a range of insurance coverage options that can be tailor-made to suit your needs as a personal trainer.

It’s best to check on their website as to which package fits your budget.


  • Personal trainer insurance for both part-time and full-time trainers
  • Even while studying you can get coverage
  • Offers both professional and general liability insurance coverage


  • No coverage on stolen equipment
  • Identity protection is not included

Next Insurance

Next Insurance offers four different personal trainer liability cover options.

These protect against client injury, sexual misconduct allegations, providing wrongful information that leads to injury/sickness as well as not meeting the expectations of a client.


  • Protection includes everything you could want to be covered against
  • Insurance is easily processed online and coverage is immediate
  • Cheap


  • Stolen equipment not covered
  • No coverage on-premises rental

K&K Insurance

K&K Insurance doesn’t only offer personal training insurance but a range of other options that cover most of the exercise types you would find in a gym, for example spinning, aquatic exercise, yoga, pilates and others.


  • Great for gym owners that need to cover all fitness programs
  •  Includes an identity protection plan


  • Expensive

Insure Fitness Group

No matter what type of trainer you are, from a personal trainer to a group fitness instructor and even an online trainer, Insure Fitness Group has a specific insurance cover for you.


  • Specialized insurance for a range of fitness professionals
  • Very competitive prices
  • Includes rental cover damage, stolen equipment and identity theft


  • Some other insurance companies offer larger payouts options

Sport Fitness

Sport Fitness provides coverage for both personal trainers and students studying towards their certification. 

  • Includes student coverage, perfect for when working towards your certification


  • Not the cheapest option available
  • Doesn’t include product liability, rental damage, identity theft coverage or stolen goods

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Not only does ACE provide a range of certifications for fitness professionals, but they also cover them from an insurance point of view across multiple price points and coverage options.


  • Coverage not only in the gym but outdoors and in the home of clients
  • Personal trainers are covered outside of the United States for 30 days.


  • Certain insurance options only have limited coverage when it comes to the amount ACE will pay, for example, $100,000 for damage to premises.

National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Just like ACE, NASM is one of the top certification organizations for personal trainers in the United States as well as worldwide.

They too offer insurance cover for trainers who are accredited through the organization. 


  • Trainers are covered wherever they train their clients, not just at the gym
  • Various insurance coverage options to choose from


  • Not as cheap as some other options


The nerves of dealing with your first client are something you will remember for the rest of your career as a personal trainer. 

In this chapter, we took you through all the ins and outs of what you need to do in preparation for that moment the client walks into the gym.

This included the importance of pre-planning as well as not forgetting the importance of covering yourself by having liability insurance and what that entails.

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


Course Resources – Chapter 7 – Client Information Questionnaire

Course Resources – Chapter 7 – PARQ Form

Course Resources – Chapter 7 – Waiver & Release Of Liability

Chapter 7 Takeaway Quiz

Running Start Chap 7

1 / 8

Before you train a client for the first time, which of these is the most important thing to determine?

2 / 8

 True or false? It doesn’t matter if a new client smokes or not. In fact, it’s none of your business.

3 / 8

Which of these forms can help you get information about a client even before you have met them?

4 / 8

When determining the goals of a client, they should only be long-term goals. True or false?

5 / 8

Which of these options is one way to save on personal training insurance?

6 / 8

A personal trainer that’s married and has a family should consider a life cover policy. True or false?

7 / 8

True or false? Many of the certification organizations offer their own personal trainer insurance.

8 / 8

As a personal trainer, what should you never do for a client?

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.

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