20 Feb 2018

How To Manage Difficult Clients As a Personal Trainer

Career AdvicePersonal training

As a personal trainer, you’ll get it all. You’ll have clients who want to criticise everything you do and clients who can’t compliment you enough.

This article is about the bad ones.

Clients you Can’t Connect With

They’re right there, a few feet in front of you, but they may as well be in the broom cupboard.

“This is a ridiculous exercise,” they say falling forward.

“Keep your head above your knees,” you say resisting an eye roll.

“Young man, I can’t even see my knees. That’s why I employed you!”

And you will get people like this, you can count on it. They’re paying you and paying you pretty handsomely to reacquaint them with their knees and they feel entitled to treat you like a servant.

You can either be affronted or confront the real problem: you. Or more specifically, your adaptabilities as a personal training communicator.

Fitness is a language. Some of your clients are going to be fluent in it; others will barely know a word. Our man in the above scenario doesn’t know a squat from a, well, something similar, and your job is to connect on his level, not yours.

Be empathetic, be flexible and be ready to teach the same exercise in 10 different ways. Hold that man’s hand if you have to. Once he’s been down and up a few times without losing his dignity, he’ll start to get it and that all important bond will be underway.

Clients who Want Everything at Once

They want to lose weight in the legs and their posterior region, yet gain muscle mass in the arms; they want a six pack but a smaller chest; they want smaller feet, but longer fingers; they want to win Mr Universe in a fortnight and run a marathon in a month.

There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm, but don’t cash in on it. If you know your client has unrealistic goals, it’s your job to fess up from the beginning and create some priorities.

Clients who Don’t Turn up

Or don’t answer the doorbell when you ring. Whether they’re supposed to come to you or you’re supposed to go to them, no shows can be a client killer; if you let them.

But do remember this: it’s far easier to get an existing client to buy into the importance of keeping appointments than it is to find a new one willing to buy into you as a personal trainer. Work with what you’ve got as much as you can.

Clients who Blame you for Their own Lack of Progress

You can tell when a client isn’t sticking to a diet plan. Equally, you can tell when they’re not doing their homework - the exercises they’re supposed to do when you’re not there.

Most will just be sheepish and, if you’re lucky, a bit apologetic. A nasty few will have no such abilities to absorb blame. They’ll squeeze every last ounce of their own lack of accountability out on you, your lousy program and rubbish training techniques.

That’s called fortified defensiveness. It’s also called arrogance and lack of respect. Such people have the financial ability to pay you to get them fit but lack the emotional ability to pay themselves back with interest.

For a lot of people with the money to hire a personal trainer, fitness hasn’t gotten past being a nice concept. Actually doing it can be a rude awakening. Your job is to understand this and not be rude back.

And this article is far from an in-depth answer to all the issues facing you as a personal trainer. Hopefully, it’s helped you look at a few common client issues differently, but don’t stop there.

Read our articles on retaining clients, how to use motivational psychology, running a personal training business,  as well as what's costing your business clients and keep reading; the moment you stop being open to new thoughts and methods is the moment you let others overtake you in the race for clients.

Passionate about putting your interest and knowledge towards a rewarding career? Call us today on 1300 616 180 and find out about our fitness courses!

Get in touch with AIPT today.

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Male trainer with arms crossed inside a gym