Elizabeth Andrews by Elizabeth Andrews

It’s the New Year and crowds are flocking to the gyms, which means as a fitness professional, your calendar is filling up quickly with more and more clients. This is great for the business of training but, unfortunately, this enthusiasm usually only lasts about two to three months when the crowds dwindle, clients begin to cancel or drop off the schedule or they get bored. So, how can we keep them excited and engaged, when it comes to long-term training routines? By getting creative. 

One of my mentors told me that we, as trainers, are artists. We need to be careful of falling into the trap of being dogmatic and, instead, think of program design as an opportunity to not only create safe, effective workouts, but to have a little fun with them. It will keep our clients alert and add a little spice to the familiar. 

Here are some fun, creative ideas to add to your clients’ workouts that will keep them mentally and physically stimulated, while having some fun and keeping boredom at bay. 

Plate Toss 

The plate toss is a great speed/agility drill and feels like a game. Grab about 10 paper plates and stand a few feet in front of your client, making sure there is plenty of space in all directions. Throw a plate and have your client race to pick it up. As they are racing back, throw another plate in a different direction. Again, the client races to pick up the plate. Continue until all the plates are gone or your client is wiped out. You can do this for several sets or for time. 

Medicine Ball Hand Off 

Medicine ball hand off

Have your client stand across from you, two arms’ lengths apart. Both you and the client begin in a squat-ready position, with you holding a moderate-to-heavy medicine ball at chest level. As both of you squat, press the ball toward the client, who will take it and bring it toward his or her chest. Once the client has the ball, you both stand and repeat the movement, alternating the hand-off in a fluid motion. This drill works great for time. 

Switch Up Tempo or Reps


A simple way to keep your training fresh is to play with the tempo of your reps, which can be an effective way to challenge your clients. For example, when performing a lunge, count slowly on the descent, hover at the bottom, then slowly rise to start. Or try working eccentrically at a normal pace, holding at the bottom of the movement, and then slowly challenging the concentric phase of work. 

Change Movement Patterns 



Add some play to your movement patterns. Try forward rolls, back rolls and handstands, and perform the exercises with your clients. The fun and laughter will enhance your connection with your client and give you a sense of “lightness,” even though you are working. 

Crossover High Step-up 

Crossover High Step-up

With the crossover high step-up, you can work in multiple planes of motion as well as provide your clients with a new movement pattern. This exercise also challenges mobility, balance, strength and stability. Stand next to a box and cross the outside leg over the body; step up on the box to complete extension. At the top, bring your inside leg up to bent knee and hold for a balance pose. That will become the moving leg as you move back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. 

Play Tug of War 

Tug of war

Instead of designing the same old pulling exercises, how about playing tug of war? Use battling ropes and become the resistance for your client. Make it a game and watch your client’s competitive spirit emerge, even as he or she challenges upper-body, hip and core strength.