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Tips for New Trainers Starting Out


I recently became a certified personal trainer. Do you have any advice for me starting out? Do you have some good tips I could use to better myself as a trainer and ideas to help organize my client information? I learned so many things in such a little time, and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I am eager to learn, and this web site is wonderful for new ideas and a good refresher as well! Any advice you have is greatly appreciated!


If you are eager to learn, then your future in this industry is promising. The most common attributes shared by successful fitness professionals in our industry are education, application and integrity. My response to your question is that you apply, internalize and become the epitome of these three principles.


The fact is you are a knowledge worker. This term, coined by Peter Drucker, means you are paid for what you know. The more extensive your knowledge, the more proficient you will be at providing your clients with solutions to their problems and benefits that correlate with their goals. This increases your value. In other words, what you are worth to your company and clients is directly proportional to what you know!

Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge itself is power.” While inspiring, this is an incomplete truth. Knowledge is not power, only power is power. Power is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the capacity or ability to do or accomplish something.” Knowledge, unless it is directed toward a specified outcome, by itself accomplishes nothing. When you know exactly what it is that you want and you have the means to apply your knowledge toward producing a specific outcome, you have power! Therefore, without clarity of purpose, you cannot discern how to effectively apply what you know toward what you want to achieve. My first recommendation to you is to get clear about your professional goals.


Being absolutely clear about what you want to be, have or accomplish is the processor to applying what you learn.

When you have answered these questions, the most important thing you can do is step up and do SOMETHING! A common buzzword today is innovation, the invention of new, distinct products and services that satisfy (or create) a demand in the market. I dispute the notion that innovation is the result of ingenious insight. Innovation is not the result of intense meditation and awaiting the revelation of a mind-blowing concept! It is the result of learning and applying knowledge through action and then paying attention to feedback you get from your result. Once you get feedback, get moving as fast as you can to adjusting your strategy based on that feedback. Most important, keep doing something and pay attention to the result but stay flexible. Given the fact that most people don’t do anything on a consistent basis, your constant compulsion to action gives you the ability to learn rapidly and identify your areas of distinction. Your job then is to figure out how your unique value as a professional can provide a benefit for a potential client’s goal or need.

It is important that you learn to R.E.A.D. effectively. This acronym stands for Rapport, Empathy, Assessment and Development.

Rapport is “a relationship, especially a trustful or harmonious one” (Webster’s). The ability to establish rapport with others is arguably one of the most significant contributing factors to your success as a trainer. When selling a service (i.e., personal training), trust is indispensable. In order for you to obtain or retain clients, they must perceive that you offer a value. Your value is determined by your ability to help someone, to make them better off as a result of hiring you. This is only possible if you know exactly what they want or need, and you can only find that out when you have established trust. Trust is the precursor to honest communication. This means that your ability to master interpersonal relationships is just as important as exercise science.

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
– Zig Ziglar

Regardless of whether we are aware of it or willing to admit it, our decisions are driven by emotion. The ability to build rapport and cultivate lasting relationships is the means to success in any service-driven industry. No matter how talented or educated you are, if you cannot position yourself as a partner in mind of your prospective client, you will not even come close to your potential as a fitness professional. In addition to scientific material (which is essential), learn everything you can about effective communication. Read everything possible about building rapport, psychology, sales, customer service, etc. Study what other people and companies have done to build relationships and a positive brand image with their customers. On your commute to work, listen to professional development tapes. This will give you approximately five hours per week of education on this subject. That’s 20 hours per month. That’s over 200 hours per year! This will make you an expert on the subject of effective communication.

Based on the fact that you are just starting out, I am under the assumption that you are working in a health club setting. My advice to you is, HELP AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. In a service-based position like personal training, your success is related to the number of people you help. If you utilize the R.E.A.D. system, you will be able to create a clientele, provided you have the talent, skills and knowledge to offer tangible benefits. The fact that you are seeking direction leads me to believe that if you have not developed a level of competency in the skills and knowledge necessary for this industry, you are well on your way. Each day, set a goal of meeting five people that could benefit from your services. When you first meet a prospective client, interpersonal dynamics is more powerful than technical knowledge. When you ask people if you can make a suggestion or show them a better way to perform an exercise, it may intimidate them, especially of they do not know you. Unintentionally, you are criticizing their better judgment. People make the best choices they can, with the resources that are available to them. When you make a habit of getting to know all of the members in your facility on a first name basis and building professional relationships, you become less intimidating. Your guidance will be better received, even welcomed.

Empathy is the “identification with and understanding of the thoughts or feelings of another.” Simply stated, it is having the ability to determine why your client's (or prospect's) goal is important to them. When working with a client or prospective client, find out what they are trying to accomplish. More important than the goal is the reason why the goal is important to them. Our behaviors are driven emotionally. If you can identify the reason why someone’s goal is important to them, you can influence almost anyone. A follow up question to ask after identify a person’s goal is, "What is most important to you about _____?" Every aspect of your technical expertise must tie into providing a benefit to your client's goals and needs or providing a solution to a specific problem they have. Every thing that you communicate to your client must answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” (W.I.I.F.M.) People act as a result of emotion. They justify their actions with logic. In order to powerfully affect someone, you must connect with him or her emotionally.

Developing competency in the assessment stage is difficult for many trainers. This is because we are excited about changing lives as well as the information (biomechanics, physiology, nutrition, etc.) that enables us to do that. However, our clients/prospects are not as excited about information as they are about the benefits that we offer them. Therefore, in order to be successful as a trainer, we need to practice asking questions and listening more than we speak. We must resist the temptation to tell our clients/prospects everything we know about our area of expertise. It means very little to them unless we can show them how this information provides them with the tools necessary to achieve their goals. Even then, most people are only interested in the bottom line. Your success in building and maintaining a successful business is largely related to your ability to assess the goals, needs and abilities of each individual prospect/client. In addition to information on professional development, you must develop a high level of competency in understanding Human Movement Science. The ability to conduct a comprehensive kinetic chain assessment will enable you to determine how to best satisfy the needs of each individual in the achievement of their goals. You are only effective in acquiring or maintaining a client when the value you offer exceeds the investment they are making in your services. Your value is increased when you can identify what someone wants and needs and then effectively assist them in achieving greater results in less time, with a higher degree of safety, etc.

After you have developed rapport, identified why the client’s goal is important to them and then assessed their goals and needs, you must be able to develop a systematic approach to helping them succeed. In other words, you must be able to design and modify an effective exercise program. This is your strategy to be able to get someone from where they are now to where they want or need to go. The program must be tied into the goals and need that motivate the person the most, or they may not comply with it (or buy into it at all), no matter how scientifically sound the rationale.


Finally, work consistently on your integrity. Integrity is being completely honest with yourself. It is accepting the fact that is impossible to be paid more or accomplish more without first disciplining yourself to become more. Jim Rohn says that there is one of two pains you will have to endure in your life. One is the pain of discipline; the other is the pain of massive regret. You don’t have to experience both, but you must experience one. Which pain you experience is within your power to decide. It is simple to consistently prospect for clients and follow through. However, it is also easy not to follow through.

Meet five people per day in your facility and develop a first name basis relationship with them. Offer them guidance and information. Create an outstanding experience for them. Do this whether they purchase training or not. Develop a professional relationship with as many people as possible. Get to know the names of their children, the holidays they celebrate, their careers, etc. Get into the habit of sending thank you cards following every appointment, whether it’s a training session or an orientation. Send birthday cards (for them and their children) and holiday cards. Send them articles from this site on a subject they mentioned was important to them. Do whatever you can to be a positive influence in their life. Develop the reputation for being a constant resource of information and assistance to the members of your facility. Only those with a distinct reputation for something are sought after.

Too many fitness professionals focus on just the scientific knowledge aspect of this business or how to overcome objections and close a sale. Don’t get me wrong, these things are important! However, if you do not build relationships, learn how to perform individualized assessments and develop programs that provide customized benefits, you may generate some business, but it does not mean you will keep it. Any service company that is exceptionally successful is customer driven. They have a reputation for providing extraordinary value for their customers. You are a service company! It doesn’t matter whether you have your own business or work for a company that employs 2000 trainers, your reputation is either an enabling or inhibiting factor in your success. Develop a reputation for being truly outstanding in creating magical customer experiences in addition to remarkable results. We used to live in a world where the bigger and stronger ate the smaller and the weaker (survival of the fittest). Now we live in a world where the fast devour the slow (professionally speaking). If you are not developing your skills and knowledge faster than other professionals in your field, you will be rendered obsolete. If you are not creating a standard for customer service excellence that is uncompromising, you will be viewed as ordinary. This type of positioning offers little to no success. Consequentially, if you take the time to develop the skills, knowledge and relationships that position you as a valuable resource, the rewards (economic and personal) will be disproportionately outstanding compared to average fitness professionals.