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Engagement Versus Entertainment: Maximizing Personal Training Client Connection

Personal Training Client Connection

Strategies to help fitness professionals maximize personal training client connection and avoid confusing entertainment with engagement in service delivery.

I grew up watching fitness professionals like Billy Blanks, Denise Austin and Richard Simmons inspire the masses to get moving and make fitness a priority in their lives.

What captivated me most about these early fitness personalities was their ability to motive me to push beyond my limits, even from behind a TV screen.

These trainers did far more than entertain me with their catchy music and carefully synchronized routines. They truly engaged and captivated me as an exerciser due to their ability to inspire and connect with me throughout the workout.

As I transitioned to become a fitness professional and department leader, maintaining that level of client focus, engagement and interest during personal training sessions remains of the utmost importance.

In a profession where we’re required to maintain the delicate balance between giving clients what they want versus what they need, we must be mindful to ensure we are truly engaging with our clients and not simply seeking to entertain them.

Here are some simple, yet effective strategies to help fitness professionals maximize client connection and avoid the common pitfall of confusing entertainment with engagement in personal training service delivery.

Build Trust

Trust is an important foundation for any quality relationship; personal training included. As a novice trainer, I thought the best way to establish trust with my clients was to make sure they liked me, personally.

With greater experience, I learned that gaining a client’s trust extends beyond the client simply liking your personality. The client needs to trust your professional expertise and be confident you have their best interest in mind.

A simple, yet impactful way to build trust with a client is to frequently explain how every movement conducted during the training session contributes to the client’s unique goal.

For example, if a client’s goal is to hike a mountain without being winded, the trainer would explain to the client that exercises such as incline treadmill walking and dumbbell step ups are included in the program because they mimic the types of movements that occur when hiking.

By taking this small step, the client will begin to trust every portion of your training sessions is intricately planned for their benefit.

Stay Focused

While an important part of creating a comfortable training atmosphere is allowing clients to discuss whatever is on their minds, we must not allow ourselves to lose focus on the main reason why your client is with you.

You are not there to be a therapist, a best friend or a life coach. You are there to be a personal trainer. Thus, training is where you must focus most of your time and attention during a session.

One strategy I recommend to maintain client focus during sessions is to relate everything discussed during a session back to the training at hand.

For example, if a client comes in looking downtrodden and begins to discuss a personal issue, simply respond, “I’m sorry to hear that’s happening to you. I think today’s workout will really lift your spirits.”

Or, if a client is highly talkative and often stops exercising just to talk, gently remind the client, “You can finish telling me your story as soon as we finish these reps.”

Over time, your clients will begin to understand and value the fact that their training sessions are a time for them to disconnect from the outside world and focus inwardly.

Incorporate Education

Learning more about body awareness, functional movement and proper recovery in each session serves as an added value for clients. This keeps them eagerly coming back to gain greater understanding.

For many clients, session engagement increases as trainers begin to further educate on the importance of the mind-muscle connection.

For example, it’s one thing to tell a client, “Tighten your core.” But it provides a greater level of understanding when a trainer breaks down that prompt with a visual cue of, “Imagine that you’re knitting your ribs together and bracing your stomach like you’re about to cough.”

Then follow with a tactile cue by gently palpating the client’s abdomen while explaining the tightness felt indicates the core is fully braced. Seemingly small coaching adjustments such as these make a significant impact on your client’s overall understanding and engagement.

As you can see, by taking these simple steps during sessions, trainers are able to move beyond simply entertaining their clients and into truly connecting with them. By prioritizing client success and understanding, your client’s focus will shift from coming because they enjoy your company, to truly being engaged and energized about personal training.

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Brittany Baldwin

Brittany Baldwin is the owner and founder of Fluorescent Fitness, where she works in a consultant capacity to provide customized fitness and wellness trainings and solutions for organizations in need. She also works full time as the assistant director of Fitness at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Brittany has over 10 years of experience in the fitness and wellness industry extending into multiple sectors such as University Fitness and Wellness, Corporate Fitness and Wellness, Worksite Fitness and Wellness, and medically-based Fitness and Wellness. Over the last few years, Brittany has presented at numerous national conferences on a diverse array of topics related to fitness and wellness program management. She is a published author of research studies as well as fitness editorial content, and currently works as an adjunct professor for Florida International University’s Recreation and Sports Management department.

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