5 Random Thoughts on Personal Training instalment #1, #2 by Stuart Aitken

A month ago, I went to a farmers market with my wife and son in the hope of purchasing a starting kit for keeping bees (like a lot of people, I’m bored and in need of some day-to-day variation and I’d read a blog post on how enjoyable keeping bees was…).

So, there I was at this farmer’s market, talking to a gentleman who had kept bees all his life. We spoke for 15 minutes.

I say ‘we spoke’, but really, he spoke for 14 minutes and I spoke for one. My only contribution to the conversation was “ah, ok. Well, I’ll walk around the rest of the stalls and maybe come back” (read: I’ve no intention of buying)

I’d have paid £100 on the spot if he’d just told me that was the cost to get going. But instead, he started mentioning the ten different kits I could buy and confused me with beekeeping terminology I’d never heard of nor had any want to know.

I walked away without a beekeeping kit because the salesman put me off. He’d made me realise the learning curve was steep and the options were many.

Why am I telling you this?

Have you ever been asked what you offer as a personal trainer, only to spend 3-5 minutes telling the person about your services and see them lose interest?

The simpler your service options, the easier they are to tell people about it and thus the easier they are to sell to people. Aim to make your service options simple to explain to prospects as you’ll make it less stressful and make a sale more likely.

With my story out of the way, let’s get into five recent thoughts I’ve had about personal training.

The Ambivalent PT Client

You know the client who seems to go between “I want to do this” and “I don’t want to do this or “I have to change” and “I’m scared to change”? This client is one that all personal trainers face at one point.

Firstly, this going between “I want to change” and “I don’t want to change/ won’t do what’s needed to change” is normal. It’s called ambivalence and is something that is well researched in the behaviour change literature. You’ve probably experienced it yourself. Have you ever decided you want to get to bed earlier only to be pulled into another episode of a Netflix series and finding yourself justifying it?

We now know what an ambivalent PT client looks like, but how do we help them?

We want to look out for something called “change talk”. Change talk is where a client says something that sounds like they want to change. For example, they may say “I’d really like to start including more steps into my day as it’ll help me feel better” or “I eat too many calories at night time just now. It’s getting in the way of my sleep and I’d like to eat less”.

Once you hear change talk in an ambivalent client, you want to dive onto it and get them to talk more about that change. Get them to weigh up both sides of changing and not changing by asking things like “what would be the benefit to walking more?” and “what would be the big challenge with trying to get more steps in?”. Doing this will encourage them to gain more awareness around this behaviour change. Once you’ve explored it, you can take the time to ask the client how and if they plan to move forward. A question like “given all of that we’ve discussed, what do you think you’ll do next knowing you’d like to do more steps?”

Just to repeat the main point – ambivalence is 100% normal. If you see it in one of your clients, try to keep yourself from getting frustrated and aim to remain curious.

Learn More: Interested in learning more about behaviour change for PT clients?

Body Image as a PT

It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that how you look is one of the most important things about being successful as a PT, but it’s well worth challenging this perspective.

Consider it from the client’s world; is the thing they are looking for in a trainer all about how they look? Ask any of your current clients and there’s a large chance they’ll tell you no. It’s going to be about how that trainer makes them feel when they are in their presence. At first glance, it may be one element a client considers when selecting a trainer, but it is certainly not the most important.

Is the trainer judgemental? Are they positive? Are they the kind of person who can help the client move towards their goals? Are they the kind of trainer who believes in the power of exercise of healthy eating to help people live longer, happier lives?

Your physique may play a role if you’re in the business of helping people become physique competitors, but it will not be the main reason new clients come to you if you’re a general population personal trainer.

If you’re not in the kind of shape the fitness industry deems as ‘normal’ or ‘desirable’, don’t put yourself down and think less of yourself as a coach because of it. The body-positive movement is a fantastic one that I think needs spoken about more often – every body type is welcome, and it applies to trainers as much as it does clients.


Marketing Opportunity

Now more than ever, people are thinking about their health and fitness. There is an opportunity to become the go-to trainer if people find out about you first and like what they hear or see.

If you’re looking for clients, now is the time to run a bunch of awareness campaigns. Awareness meaning to do the work that will get more people to know of you.

Get posting more regularly on social media, talk to your current clients about referring family and friends to you, do the things that have worked for you in the past, run that competition you’ve been meaning to try, contact some local businesses and see about teaming up in some form, reach out to all your old clients and people who have been leads but lost contact.

Trainers in LTB are reporting an increase in applications since their lockdowns have lifted so if you’re looking for more clients, now is a great time to do some more marketing.


Prioritise Nutrition Coaching Systems (if you coach nutrition)

The way that I started off helping clients with their nutrition was by discussing it in between rest periods or for 5-10 minutes while they completed their warm-up. Although this may work for some (the ones who don’t need too much guidance), for the client who is searching for fat loss and needs nutrition support it’s going to be lacking.

If you coach clients in nutrition as well as training, it would be worth considering creating some simple systems that give it the space and time it needs to be coached successfully.

Here are a few ways you could do that:

  • Create space within your in-person sessions to sit down and have a conversation about nutrition. Perhaps the first 15-30 minutes of a session are spent on nutrition.
  • Utilise check-in forms that encourage the client to reflect on their nutrition, with the option for asking for more help and support. You could send out a once a week check-in form and offer a monthly call to discuss their nutrition in more depth.
  • Build in education on nutrition. An autoresponder that sends out a few emails a week on nutrition could work. You could also start to create some Youtube videos or written guides that talk the client through specific issues relating to nutrition.
  • A Facebook group for your clients – By putting all your clients together and making it a safe space, clients can help each other with their nutrition issues. You could also consider running a weekly/ monthly/ however often you decide to run live videos answering nutrition questions.

Learn More: Interested in learning more coaching nutrition?

The Power of Focus

Focus is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges in time management just now. We typically have a good idea of what we need to do, but the act of sitting down to do it is a real issue we face.

I’ve got two simple suggestions I always come back to when I’m struggling to focus and get going with something:

  1. Remove distractions – Put your phone away and on silent or flight mode. Log off social media. Close down the browser tabs you don’t need. I always find tidying up the space I’m working in helps me feel clearer too.
  2. Set a timer for an amount of time you’re happy to commit to – It does not matter if this is only 10 minutes. 10 minutes of undistracted, focussed work is better than 30 minutes of distracted work.

Let’s take a common challenge personal trainers face in creating content. You’ve got an idea for an Instagram post on hydration but you just haven’t been able to get the idea post-ready. You remove all distractions, set a timer for 20 minutes, spend 5 minutes writing down why you want to write about hydration and why it matters to your audience/ clients then you spend 15 minutes creating a post on it. When that timer goes off, at a minimum you’ll have a better idea of what you want to post.

Starting is often the hardest part so making it easier to get going by removing distractions and setting a timer are useful strategies.

Read More: 7 Tips for Better Time Management



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