Beverly Hosford by Beverly Hosford

Life is like an elevator. Sometimes you let people off; sometimes you let them on. The same holds true for client-trainer relationships. Sometimes clients mysteriously disappear from your schedule without an explanation. If you’ve ever felt like a client was subtly saying “It’s not you, it’s me,” you’re not alone. 

It’s easier to keep a client than to find a new one. Prevent client loss and increase retention rates by enhancing your awareness of what’s happening behind the scenes. I talked to a fitness manager, personal trainer and a client who fired their trainer to get a balanced perspective of why client-trainer relationships sometimes fizzle out.

1. The workout was too easy

The workout was too easy

Why don’t clients just tell you to push them harder? Some people don't want to insult you. Others assume you have one training style and don’t know how to adapt it.

How to avoid it
Check in on the difficulty level every 15 minutes. Ask the client to rate how they’re feeling on a scale of 1-10. 

2. The workout was too hard

Some people might be embarrassed to admit they’re crawling around for days after the workout.

How to avoid it
Even if you got the client to rate their effort and they said it was easy to moderate, they might be experiencing more soreness than expected. Call to follow up the next day so they don’t disappear from your schedule without giving you a second chance. 

3. You’re not making the client a priority

According to Matt Hirschberg, COO of Body Renew Fitness and author, personal trainers sometimes take their client’s schedule for granted. “If the trainer has a gap in their schedule or only two people scheduled on a given day, they’ll ask their clients to change time slots.”

How to avoid it
Be mindful of which clients are OK switching times at the last minute and which clients keep a tight schedule. Put the client’s needs first.  Personal training is a flexible career, but don’t take it for granted.

4. Burnout


This happens to every personal trainer at some point. Are you struggling to get to work? Do you notice yourself talking about your personal life during your sessions? You might be on your way to burnout or already there.

How to avoid it
Continuing education courses provide you with fresh ideas. Aligning yourself with the niche that best suits your skills, interests and personality keeps you on the right track. Hiring a business or life coach can help you refine and revitalize your career path.

5. Personality mismatch

This one is a hard pill to swallow, and there isn’t always a clear explanation. Some people just don’t mesh. And this is a two-way street!

How to avoid it
Doing a phone consultation or complimentary intake interview before the first training session can help you determine if you’re a good fit for each other. Don’t be afraid to refer someone to a colleague of yours if you feel like they’d be a better match. Try not to take it personally.

6. It’s not like what they saw on TV

“I once had a client quit because they thought personal training would be like television. They expected it to be easier than it was and more glamorous,” says Jim Holt, a certified personal trainer from Colorado.

How to avoid it
Find out what motivated the client to start exercising in the first place. If it’s a TV show, set realistic expectations. Television-level excitement is something that you may not be able to duplicate every day. Communicate the effort and hard work involved without intimidating the client. 

7. It’s complicated

“I started using a trainer last year to help motivate me and push me more. Unfortunately he was really shy and most importantly, he lacked creativity. He never wrote anything down, so I felt that our sessions were done completely on the fly without giving my workouts any thought,” says an anonymous personal training client.

How to avoid it
Clients often wonder if trainers have a plan. If you have a plan but you don’t have it written down that’s OK. Review your strategy with them before each session to let them know you’re prepared. It’s smart to review the goals accomplished at the end of a session, too.

In the end, communication is key. Follow up with clients and ask questions about what they like or dislike. Avoid assumptions. If they stray and never come back, let them go. There are plenty of fish in the sea. 

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