Running Start Course
Post 8 of 18
- Intro (IMPORTANT)
- Exam prep
- Learning the ropes
- Looking for PT work
- Getting the job
- How to present yourself
- Preparing for your first client
- Your first training session
- Time between sessions
- Client relations
- Various client types
- Client motivation
- Inspiring your clients
- Difficult clients
- Pitfalls to avoid
- Programming tips
- Continuing education
- Making more money
Here, I’ll be sharing how I handled my first and subsequent paid personal training sessions.
I’ll also reveal great tips for starting on the right footing with new clients.
Let’s go for a ride!
Post 8 of 18 in the Running Start Course
We sure have covered a lot to get to this point, right?
But now it’s down to the nitty-gritty.
And that’s the part when you deal with your first paying client in hosting them for their first training session.
It’s an exciting time, that’s for sure and as we have already covered how you should be prepared well beforehand, it doesn’t need to be stressful as well.
Much of the critical information that you need on each client will be gained well before you meet them.
That’s thanks to your pre-planning, for example as we covered in chapter 7, specifically with sending them a pre-workout questionnaire that they need to complete.
For some trainers, you may have already met with the client – as we discussed earlier – to determine their goals and expectations as well as to work through any questions or concerns that you have from their completed questionnaire.
Getting organized for training sessions
As a personal trainer, it’s your commitment, professionalism and overall knowledge that will keep your clients coming back time and time again.
That’s because if you excel in those three key areas and they are prepared to put in the work, they WILL see results.
I just want to take the time to talk a little bit more about the commitment and professionalism part.
We’ve already discussed how a personal trainer should dress as well as how they should act in a gym and towards their clients.
And in this chapter, we will also cover how to deal with your first client as well as what you need to take them through for their first session with you.
But commitment and professionalism can run even deeper than that.
So what am I getting at here?
Well, let’s just say you have 20 clients each week.
That’s 20 unique training programs that you would have devised for them.
At each of these 20 sessions, your client is going to go through a range of exercises that will help them towards their ultimate goal, whatever that may be.
And to help them there, you need to be as organized as you possibly can.
So it’s not a case of taking each client and trying to remember what exercises they need to do in this session.
That’s where workout schedules come in.
Essentially, this is the basic skeleton of each client’s fitness program.
In it, you can add what they need to accomplish for each training session in terms of exercise, movement and the reps they need to complete.
This is all based on where they are fitness-wise currently as well as their end goals.
But how will you handle these workout schedules?
Will you keep a hard copy on hand and record all your client data using the pen and paper method for each client?
Or do you choose the technology route and use a tablet and personal trainer software? Let’s look quickly at the pros and cons of each.
Pen and paper
Up until 15 years ago, all trainers used pen and paper to record their client information.
This was stored in a client binder when not in use.
- It’s quick and easy to record data
- It looks professional when a personal trainer carries a clipboard
- If a client wants a copy of something, you need to find a way to get it to them
- It’s easy to mix up client records, especially if you are working with several clients a day
- Organization is key in keeping track of all the client data you need
Personal training software
More and more personal trainers are turning to software as a way to keep track of their clients and their workouts.
- No worrying about losing information from a training session as everything is saved on your device or in a cloud
- Software allows both clients and trainers to keep track of information relevant to them
- Includes other handy tools, for example, easy billing and payment options
- Recording data can be a lot slower than the pen, paper and clipboard route
- It costs more
It’s up to you to decide which way you will record client data but for many personal trainers nowadays, training software is their preferred choice.
5 tips for starting on the right foot with your new client
Before we get into things like the assessment and what you need to measure – all the technical stuff – let’s look at some critical tips that you can use to help make sure a client feels welcome.
Because remember, I already mentioned that they are probably far more nervous than you are, especially if they are gym scene newbies.
It kind of goes without saying but if you are a person that struggles with punctuality, don’t let your first meeting with a client be an occasion where time-keeping lets you down.
In fact, say your appointment is scheduled at 10 am, make sure you are 15 minutes early.
The chances are they may be early too.
Meet and greet at the gym reception
Don’t hang around on the gym floor waiting for your new client to come and find you.
I’ve already said you should be punctual and that means waiting for them at the gym reception
It just makes the right impression if your client walks in and there you are, smiling, energetic and ready, just to help them.
It’s a great way to make them settle down and feel less nervous.
Don’t jump straight in
While your client’s first assessment is the reason why they have come to the gym, you don’t need to jump straight in and get busy with the technicalities.
There are plenty of things that you can do just to ease both yourself and your new client into everything. For example:
- If they are new to the gym, take them on a quick guided tour, explaining where everything is, the toilets and change rooms, for example. You can also show them where exactly the training sessions will take place for each session.
- Each gym has its own rules so take them through the ones that you feel are the most critical to adhere to.
- If they have never been in a gym before, tell them the importance of gym etiquette and what they should and should not be doing while working out, for example, muted cell phones, talking quietly, and any others you feel necessary.
Keep it simple
When it comes to gym and exercise lingo, there are plenty of words that your new client simply might not understand first up.
That’s why it’s necessary to keep things as simple as you can.
There’s no need to quote phrases from your certification textbook or to weigh them down with technical terms.
Just explain to them in as simple a manner as possible which will be far less intimidating than sprouting words that you think might impress them.
There is no need to worry, they already see you as the expert, that’s why they are using your services in the first place.
100% focus at all times
Ok, so this might seem obvious but sadly, lots of personal trainers get to the point where they just go through the motions.
If it’s a new client or even a well-established one that knows what they are doing, it’s imperative that at all times, you still give them 100% of your focus.
So that means not walking around the gym while they train, staying away from your cell phone and not standing talking to other trainers who don’t have clients.
You should only be dealing with your current client at all times, helping them with their workout.
Also, by focusing just on them means you are listening at all times.
They might have a few questions to fire off and if you aren’t paying attention, may well be too shy to ask you something.
And that just puts you in a bad light.
So once the forms are filled out and you’ve had a good chat with your client about their goals, expectations and what you can offer them, it’s time for the next critical part – the assessment.
Your first decision when it comes to taking a client through an assessment is how you are going to record the details and measurements that you take.
These are vital to helping you draw up an exercise program for each of your clients, so you can’t just jot them down on a scrap piece of paper.
Most new personal trainers would probably make use of a client binder system to track the records of each individual.
Of course, the first thing to add to that is the fitness assessment but other important info that you can keep here include:
- The initial exercise program you draw up for them
- Any follow up measurements to record their progress
- New exercise programs you devise as they progress
- All other client forms (client screening questionnaire, PARQ form, waiver and liability form, client confidentiality forms or others a client may have signed).
As mentioned earlier, instead of using a binder, paper and pen, you could use the option of personal training software.
It really is the option many personal trainers are choosing as the system itself is streamlined.
Don’t stress too much about this now, as we cover it in a little more detail later.
What equipment do you need?
So before you can run a client through a proper assessment, you are going to need some equipment to carry out the necessary tests.
Of course, you won’t only use this equipment when you perform an assessment.
They will be used many times while working with clients so it’s your while getting hold of quality pieces that can last you many years.
This is what you will need.
- A pair of calipers for body composition/body fat measurements
- Measurement tape to record circumference measurements of areas of the body like waist, hip and thighs, for example.
- A stopwatch of some kind (it could be on your smartwatch)
So now that you have the equipment, let’s look at the assessment itself.
Start with basic measurements
The first thing you need is a set of basic measurements that can continue to be monitored as your client undertakes your specifically designed fitness program.
At points in the program, you are going to relook at these as a judge to how well the client is getting along.
So let’s remember all the measurements you can take here.
- Height: A measurement used to set goals as well as to calculate body mass index (BMI), for example.
- Weight: Another measurement needed for BMI and body composition calculations.
- Body composition/body fat: Called either of these two names, this measurement can be done in several ways, either by calculation or using a specific tool, the calipers.
- Circumference measurements: These are an excellent way to keep track of how a client is performing during their time working out with you. For example, sometimes when weight loss hits a plateau and it often does, you can still motivate a client as these measurements continue to fall. So make sure you continue to track measurements around the waist, hips and thighs.
- Other measurements: No matter what the goals of your client, be it to build muscle or to lose weight, for example, it’s also key to track a range of other body measurements. These should include shoulders, neck, biceps, chest, hips, thighs, and calves.
Test cardiovascular fitness
Despite what they tell you or what they may have written down in their questionnaire, you still need to take the time to see where a new client’s current cardiovascular fitness stands.
That’s because the whole fitness program that you intend to design for each client will be based on that starting point.
There are many ways to test the cardiovascular fitness level of your clients, but I would make use of two of the most simple tests that give you the results you need.
These are the step test and the one-mile-walk test.
Or you could simply follow the guidelines as set out as per your certification.
There are a few important things to note, however.
For example, a client that struggles with balance or who is significantly overweight is not an ideal candidate for a step test.
So that shouldn’t be the only test that you have in your armory.
Also, you need to focus on your client when these tests are taking place.
Watch them extremely closely and if they seem overly stressed or uncomfortable, it’s better to rather stop the test than to push them through it.
You don’t want to put them off training even before they have begun.
Once they have finished their cardiovascular workout, you can measure their pulse to see just how fit they are based on their heart rate as well as their age.
Remember, a client is probably new to this and if they are unfit, it can be pretty stressful for them.
So make sure you are on hand to help reassure them especially as things will be easier when they take back control of their lives and start to get fitter.
After the cardiovascular test, it’s time to move on to testing their overall flexibility.
Again, this is crucial information for you to know when looking to design an exercise program for each client.
What you want to do here is have them perform a range of exercises that will see just how flexible important muscles in their bodies are.
Many factors can influence flexibility, for example, an old injury.
When showing a client each exercise, you should always use the correct form and take the muscle group through the full range of their motion.
Then take the client through the same exercise, noting where problems arise while correcting their form when needed.
Examples of exercises that can be used here are squats, lunges, arm extensions, and others.
Now it’s time to see how strong your client is.
Strength measurements will again impact the fitness program that you end up designing for them.
There are many ways to do this, for example, using a push-up test, bench presses, leg presses or barbell squats.
Whatever you are familiar with is the one you should choose, just as long as you can get an accurate idea of each client’s relative strength.
If you are going to use gym equipment, you should perform the exercise first, showing the client the correct form.
Always guide and correct them while they perform the exercises as well.
We have covered all the basic tests that you should perform during your assessment of each client.
There are others that many personal trainers opt to do as well based on the goals of their clients.
- Speed tests
- Acceleration tests
- Agility tests
- Evaluation of posture
They aren’t always necessary, however, and it’s up to you if you need to assess your client by using all or some of these tests.
Why testing is also a crucial marketing opportunity
So while testing our clients help us learn more about them and where they stand from a fitness point of view, it’s also a time for you to sell yourself and your service.
Yes, it is a critical marketing opportunity.
That’s because clients, particularly those who have no gym experience or are relatively unfit will find it tough going during the testing phase.
If they are looking to improve their overall fitness, encourage them by saying that you can devise a program that will do so and that they will see results quickly if they stick to it.
Or if they struggle with the range of their movements, tell them how a specialized exercise program can help them improve, bringing them closer and closer to their goals.
It’s about showing them that you can provide the solutions they are looking for.
Here, you are not only establishing a relationship with every client but you are also showing them that you’re the expert that can help them.
Sealing the deal
So once you have chatted with your client about their goals and expectations and then taking them through the various fitness tests, it’s time to tell them exactly what you can do for them.
And to start that process, you can sit your client down and give them an overall summary of their fitness, flexibility, posture and all the other raw data that you have recorded.
With their assessment and goals in mind, it’s time to review what it is the client hopes to achieve and how you would go about guiding them towards those goals.
You can even show them a few program ideas that you could draw up for them as well as how much they would cost.
Give a few pricing options to encourage them to make a decision.
Ask them if one of the options would work for them and hopefully, you can go on to close the deal.
This is certainly something you need to master with all potential clients and it’s covered in my marketing, sales and business guide.
If a client doesn’t commit, there is nothing wrong with following up around a week later asking them if they have come to a decision or not.
If they don’t want to use you as their personal trainer, don’t take it to heart, move on to your next client.
Why your clients need a workout template
From the first training session you hold with a client, even if it is just an assessment, you should give each client a copy of the workout template.
It’s the perfect way to accurately keep track of not only the exercises they are carrying out but various other client-based stats as well.
These are great to have on hand and can act as an excellent motivation tool as well.
And that’s because a workout template is a perfect way to show them the progress that they make as they get fitter and stronger.
Seeing meaningful change and progress, well nothing motivates more than that.
I’ve included the perfect template you can use for your clients.
It’s a downloadable chapter resource called Workout Template.
Remember to take notes!
I see it time and time again at the gym.
You have a personal trainer taking a client through their workout and although they are focussed on what needs to be done, nowhere in sight can I see a clipboard and pen.
Now you might have an excellent memory but when you are seeing lots of clients every week, you can’t possibly remember everything about their last training session.
And while a workout template certainly will help in this regard, you also need to take notes at all times for each client.
Note-taking is not only about recording what a client is achieving but you will need to review your notes to make fine adjustments to their program.
So what kind of information should you be recording?
During the session
So you are probably thinking, where can I find the time to take notes during a client session.
Well, it’s not that difficult.
Set them up for each exercise, guide them through the first few reps and then you have some time to take a few notes, if necessary, as they come to the end of that set of reps.
You are not going to write an essay, just pointers and things you notice that could be important.
For example, you can make a note of the number of reps and intensity level for each exercise. If you make adjustments, you can note that down as well.
You can also record their form, whether you have any injury concerns about the client and anything else that could have affected their training.
For example, the client is a new mom and her baby is keeping her up all night and so her energy levels are down.
You will quickly work out the things you need to record that will come in handy when adjusting each client’s workout as they progress.
And let’s be honest, it shows that you are professional and totally committed to helping that client.
After the session
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Once a client has finished their session for the day, take a few minutes to chat with them.
This is also a time when you can take notes, especially by asking them a few questions related to their training as well as how they are coping away from the gym, for example:
- Did they have issues with any of the exercises, length of reps or intensity levels?
- How did they feel after training?
- Are they implementing the changes you suggested when they are away from the gym?
- How are their motivation levels?
- What are they finding to be a struggle, if anything?
- What factors outside of the gym environment are proving difficult to overcome and which could sabotage their efforts?
There are plenty of things you can ask, just keep track of all the information they give you.
Finally, you must also keep track of the exercises that formed part of the session as well as what’s coming up the next time you meet with the client.
So if you are taking all these notes and producing workout schedules, you are going to have to keep all that information neat, tidy, and in one place.
That’s especially true as your client list grows.
The easiest way to keep everything in one place is to make use of a filing cabinet with client binders alphabetically arranged.
That means that when you need information on a certain client, it’s readily available and more importantly, easily found.
What about personal trainer software?
Thanks to smartphones, there are plenty of softwares and apps out there that are tailor-made for personal trainers and their clients to plan and enhance their workout experience.
Let’s look at a variety of options that you could consider.
Just for the record, my top two are PT Distinction and True Coach.
With a video exercise library of over 1,000 exercises, from a training perspective, PT Distinction has all that you and your clients could want from a training software app including a handy exercise program builder.
Over and above the training side of things, PT Distinction also includes business and marketing tools, nutritional help such as meal plans, result tracking, adherence charts and even a photo food diary where you can track what they eat.
A messaging center also allows trainers to keep in contact with their clients either by sending messages through the app or using it to send SMS’ or even emails.
TrueCoach is extremely popular amongst personal trainers and their clients and regularly gets excellent reviews across all platforms.
One of the particular areas in which TrueCoach shines is that it’s so simple to use, both for trainers as well as their clients.
That’s something that other apps often miss.
While a personal trainer might find certain software easy to use, often clients don’t especially those who aren’t as tech-savvy.
It’s an all-round package as well which includes business and training tools.
For example, on the business side of things, TrueCoach includes a payment gateway, a messaging system between you and your clients, various marketing tools and even a website builder.
Of course, the training side of things is well covered as well with TrueCoach offering workout planning, the ability for clients to track their goals, a scheduling tool as well as nutritional tools.
Trainerize allows a personal trainer to connect with multiple clients, all in real-time.
A cloud-based application, Trainerize can be used to draw up individual fitness programs that can include pictures as well as videos and exercise descriptions to help clients.
It’s a perfect tool to help both clients and personal trainers keep track of all workout schedules without the need for any handouts.
It also includes a reward system where clients get badges as they progress, which is an excellent additional motivation.
Other features include the ability to monitor clients over the app, a workout builder, the chance to upload custom exercise videos, built-in fitness libraries, voice-over audio, payment facilities as well as marketing and business tools.
My PT Hub
Next, let’s look at another piece of personal training software that regularly gets rave reviews from those personal trainers and their clients that make use of it.
My PT Hub allows for a 30-day free trial along with a host of useful features.
The makers have recently introduced a streaming function, perfect for when you cannot meet with your clients or for trainers who operate online only.
From a training perspective, PT Hub offers 7,500 exercise videos and you can upload your own.
It also syncs with Fitbit wearables, one of the most popular training accessories currently available.
Over and above that, PT Hub allows for the creation of custom exercises, keeps a history of client workouts, includes various nutrition-based features such as a barcode scanner and calorie counter and offers a host of business tools including the processing of client payments.
Finally, it can even be used to generate shopping lists for clients.
Another software application with excellent review scores, Trainer Metrics includes all the tools a personal trainer needs to not only manage their clients but their business as well.
While it is still relatively new, Trainer Metrics has several noteworthy features that personal trainers and their clients will love.
These include the standard sections that an app of this nature should have, such as client tracking, the ability to share stats with each client and the ability to easily organize each profile.
It also includes the ability to set and track client goals, graphs and more.
And it’s easy to use.
For online training, personal training software is a critical part of your interaction with your clients.
I cover the use of personal training software for those training on the internet in my online personal trainer course.
Conclusion and assignment
Dealing with your first client is a nerve-wracking time in your journey as a personal trainer.
In this chapter, we covered many of the critical things that you need to do to ensure that a client becomes a long-term paying customer.
Much of this involved the nuts and bolts of personal training, from the assessment which includes various aspects that need to be tested in your client, to finding out about their medical history.
We talked about what you should be doing when they do a workout as well as personal trainer software that you can utilize to your advantage.
Don’t forget to take the chapter takeaway quiz to make sure you have a good grasp of everything covered here.
For the assignment in this chapter, I think it’s important that you take the time to formulate your own questions you can ask your client after a training session.
As mentioned earlier, those couple of minutes when training comes to an end is the perfect time to find out if they are enjoying your sessions, how motivated they are, where they think you could improve as a trainer and more.
So come up with a list of questions that you think you need to ask that will get the information you need to improve as a trainer and improve sessions for your clients.
You can scribble them down on the chapter resources entitled After Sessions Questions.