How to Motivate Clients as a Personal Trainer

Lisa R., December 27, 2021

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As we are approaching the end of the year, more and more people are setting their New Year’s resolutions. By now, we’re familiar with the fact that a very common of these is to lose weight, get fit, and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Yet, it seems that staying determined throughout the year is a real challenge for many, and no one encounters this on a daily basis more than personal trainers. 

Let’s be honest – most people don’t like working out, despite the numerous advantages of staying physically active and having a healthy diet. Some of the people that resort to personal trainers may think they’re more motivated than they actually are, while others have little to no motivation, to begin with.

If you’re wondering how to motivate clients as a personal trainer, you may be in search of new or different methods for getting your clients motivated and having them stay that way. The first important step is to know the types of clients that you have or will come across, learn their needs and adapt accordingly.

Motivated Clients are Retained Clients

Highly Motivated: These individuals usually set their fitness goals before even meeting you. They are willing to push themselves to accomplish those goals, will have a consistent presence in your classes, and are willing to listen to your advice. However, these types of clients will usually consist of 20% of a personal trainer’s overall clientele. Individuals who are generally highly motivated to go through with their goals may not seek personal trainers, since they are less likely to need coaching to make positive changes in their lives.

Moderately Motivated: As a personal trainer, you may have met this type the most, as it usually consists of 50% of a trainer’s overall clients. Though not as resilient and determined as the highly motivated students, these clients may start off strong, but lose interest shortly after. In other words, they may set those New Year’s resolutions early on, but don’t have the motivation to go through with them. These students need the extra coaching and accountability from you. Without this, they are at risk of giving up fairly soon after starting.

Unmotivated: For trainers, this category is the hardest to deal with. They may have sought out a personal trainer because the doctor told them that not getting healthy may involve significant risks to their lives. Or they may have been asked to start working out by a spouse concerned for their health. Regardless of the reasons for coming to your classes, these individuals lack the motivation to go far with their training. They tend to cancel classes regularly, refuse to listen to your advice, or quit coming to classes not too long after starting. 

Whatever the type of client you’re dealing with at the moment, it’s important to have generalized training for all of your students, as well as personalized training based on the goals and needs of each individual. Always remember, happy clients, stay longer. It’s the number one answer to the question – how to keep clients as a personal trainer. Once you gain a better understanding of your clients, what their needs and goals are, you can begin to look at various…

Ways to motivate your clients 

Remember to stay positive and patient 

Getting healthy and fit is no easy feat, and some of your students may struggle with staying determined, while others may feel like achieving healthy fitness goals is impossible. This is where you come in. As their personal trainer, they will look to you for encouragement and patience. 

Approaching them with a warm smile might make a great difference in their state of mind. By displaying a constant positive presence, you can gain their trust and get them to dislike some of those extenuating workouts a bit less. 

Set realistic goals

 Most people pay a personal trainer because they don’t understand their fitness needs. They may have never had a workout routine and would like to learn skills from an expert. Or they may have tried methods that brought no real results over a given period of time. Whatever the reason, they need the guidance of someone who understands the ins and outs of fitness. As a trainer, you know how to determine a client’s needs and properly apply them and if you don’t – we’ve written an entire article about questions personal trainers should ask clients. But remember to keep your goals realistic. A working dad may not have the same time or energy to work out as a college student still living with her parents. It’s important to understand this in order to be able to create a routine that’s realistic and personalized. Once you’re able to acknowledge their needs, you can approach them on their level. 

Challenge your Clients

Start them off easy, with short-time goals. For example, if they are wanting to lose weight, make a workout plan together, and challenge them to lose 4 lb within the next four weeks. By doing this, you can break down the big goal, which might be to lose 50 lb in a year, into smaller, achievable goals. These goals need to be clearly defined, and time-driven. Though it may be harder for some of your clients to remain motivated in the beginning, once they notice positive changes in their bodies within the time frame that you created together, their overall motivation will improve significantly.

Challenging your clients with realistic goals within a clearly defined time span is important. By failing to do this, you risk losing some of your students, who may start off with big and unrealistic goals, fail to reach them in a relatively short period of time, get discouraged, and quit. They need to feel like the fitness goals they set with you can actually be attained. 

Offer the occasional incentive

While your highly motivated clients may not need incentives, make sure you have something prepared for those that may be harder to motivate. Talk to your gym and see if they offer the occasional treat for some clients. This can mean a lot of things. A free protein bar. A free massage. Or a free class. By rewarding their efforts every once in a while, your clients may get some extra enjoyment from their workouts, and get the encouragement they may need to keep trying.

If you have your own business and have managed to create a network with other business owners, make an incentive plan with them. For example, you could refer your clients to their businesses and, in return, they could offer a discount for them. You can do this with owners of many types of businesses, but your best bet would be to focus on the ones whose services pair well with yours. Massage parlors, spas, or even restaurants serving mainly healthy foods are good options. Networking is very important in business and if you haven’t managed to make any connections yet, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet new people.

Make use of Social Media

Trainers in search of new ways to motivate their clients should always focus their attention on social media. Since most people generally spend several hours per day on at least one social media platform, it’s no surprise that many personal trainers have resorted to this tool to get their message of encouragement across.

You can engage with your clients and motivate them through social media in various ways:

  • Post encouraging messages: You can write a brief story about one of the challenges you have come across when you first started working out regularly, and how you managed to overcome it. You can also post an encouraging quote or a one-sentence motivational short message. Some days, your clients may just need a little confidence boost, and these can be great tools to provide them with just that.
  • Write testimonials: Ask some of your loyal clients if you can make a post with their stories. How it felt when they first started training, how motivated they were in the beginning, what kept them going, and how they overcame some of their fitness challenges. Make sure to underline the fact that a number of your clients have started out with little to no motivation, but that, as they say in AA, “it works if you work it.” 
  • Become a virtual personal trainer: Social media groups are a great way to not only connect with people but also motivate them. You can use this tool to encourage your clients to post their accomplishments, along with advice for overcoming some of their fitness struggles. No one likes feeling like they are the only ones dealing with a certain problem. By creating a community, you can help your clients see that their struggles are normal and that they can overcome them if they choose to stick with the routine.

Use the right personal training software

You can incorporate technology in your methods to encourage your clients in more ways than social media posts. Personal training apps can be a great tool for both you and them. For example, you can add your client as a friend on the MyFitness Pal app, and keep track of their nutrition and workouts. By doing this, you can gain a better understanding of what their day-to-day fitness routine looks like and how you can adapt your training to fit their needs and work around their weaknesses (e.g. having a sweet tooth). 

You can also use apps to communicate directly with your clients and send a bit more motivation their way on the days you may feel like they need it. We’ve written an entire article on the best personal trainer apps 2022 – check it out!

Give them homework

One way to keep your clients motivated during those times when they’re not in your class is by giving them homework. This doesn’t have to be anything too hard, time-consuming, or physically straining. It can be something as simple as walking for 40 minutes a day on those days when they’re not in class with you.

This way, you can ensure the extra motivation that your moderately motivated or unmotivated clients need. And be straightforward with them. While your clients need you to have a positive and encouraging attitude, they also need honesty from you. For example, if the goal you set together is to lose 4 lb in a month, make it known that the best way to reach that goal in a relatively short time span is by putting in the work in their free time. Having a regular workout routine is vital for one’s health, and the best way to see positive change is by constantly putting in the work.

Have them keep a food journal

A different type of homework they can do is to keep a food journal. Have them write down what they eat and drink in a day and how much water they consume. This can make a big difference. Seeing some of their unhealthy nutritional choices written down on paper can help your clients gain a better understanding of where they need to change some things in order to attain those goals that you have set together. Furthermore, it can help you understand how to adapt your coaching methods, and the advice you give them. You can monitor their daily water, protein, and caloric intake, and see what they need to cut out or add into their diet. 

Most people are unaware of exactly how unhealthy some of the foods or drinks they buy in the store can be. They may also be unaware of what they should be doing in order to develop a healthy, personalized diet. Or they may not have the time to cook healthy meals. Explain to them what a healthy diet should look like, what their strengths and weaknesses are as far as their dietary choice go, and where they need to change some things. But keep in mind that some may simply not have the time or money to eat healthy on a regular basis. Tell them about resources like cheap and healthy recipes, or affordable meal prep plans.

Check up on your clients

One important thing you can do to keep them motivated is to check up on clients outside of the class. If they’ve been missing a few classes, ask them if they are doing alright. They may be going through a difficult time and fitness may have been the last thing on their minds. Or their presence in your class be impeccable, but it’s apparent that they are struggling. Send them an encouraging message, or see if they would like to go out for coffee one time. Going the extra mile for your clients speaks volumes, and they may simply need that motivational boost. Similarly, if they’ve been coming to class regularly and excelling, let them know. A quick message from you can make them feel appreciated and successful in fulfilling their fitness goals.

Last but not least

When searching for ways to motivate your clients, there are numerous approaches you can take and tools you can use. But there is one more tool you can turn to for help. Persona is a helpful app that can guide you through your needs as a trainer. It offers organizational tools that can help you stay on track with your client schedule, advice for motivating your clients. Persona is fully free and available to trainers like you, in search of dealing with lack of motivation in their clients. Furthermore, it can provide you with innovative ideas to promote your business and get new clients as a personal trainer.

Persona is the #1 management platform for independent business owners. it's 100% free, download it now.


Persona is the #1 management platform for independent business owners. Download it now, it's 100% free.

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