As a personal trainer, do you find that when you meet people for the first time, maybe at events or through friends, that as soon as they find out what you do you get a barrage of questions? "So what's the best exercise for your arms?", "how do you get a six-pack?", "does strawberry ice cream count as fruit?" (I was actually asked this once, and joking aside, it's a great example of how people cling to anything they can to make them feel better about their less than ideal habits).
One of the questions that crops up frequently from potential clients is the amount of personal training you 'need'. "How many sessions is best?", "is twice per week enough?", "can you just do half hours to make it cheaper?"
Often PTs make the mistake of trying too hard to give the client what they want (after all, the customer is always right, right?). 'You can only do one half hour session a week? No problem, we can work to that'. Now, we can make sure those clients have great sessions, but for their goals they’re clearly not always appropriate and it's no wonder some struggle to make progress.
(Note: That’s not to say half-hour sessions are a bad thing of course, it's all about quality not quantity. However there's only so much you can do in 30 minutes and it may not be enough to fit in everything necessary for every client. Equally, an hour may be too long for some people).
Once we realise the underlying motivation for those original questions we can see how to get around this problem - people are usually more driven by cost and time benefits than the actual gains they could potentially make through effective training, at least initially. This is closely related to the issue of what value potential clients place on your services and is as much of a marketing discussion as a motivational one - how can you present yourself and what you do to make it irresistible?
So how about changing approach to match the client's needs? Rather than thinking in terms of sessions and hours, focus on what they’re actually trying to achieve. How long will it realistically take to reach their goals? What do they need to be doing on a monthly, weekly and daily basis to achieve them? How much support do they need? What type of exercise is going to be most appropriate for them? What will a typical session consist of? Then you have the information you need to decide how often you need to see your client and for how long. Anything less is a compromise and it's then the client's decision what quality of results they want. Tip: this might mean different lengths of session on different days and you might need to be flexible if, for example, your client has had a stressful day and what you had planned would mean too much overload. Making someone work out for a full hour just because they’ve paid for it might be counter-productive. It’s a mindset shift from clients paying you for training, to paying you for results and the most effective way to achieve them.
As tempting as it is when you're starting out to gain as many clients as possible by working with them on their terms, fundamentally it's not a sustainable approach because client results are the bottom line. The question of 'what is the best training plan?' has to be a balance between wants and needs which achieves the best outcome for your client.
Yes some potential clients may choose not to work with you if they can’t do things they way they want to, but what kind of business are you building? One with lots of clients who have their own way but drop out after a few weeks because they don't see progress? Or one with fewer clients who are more committed to a programme that’s tailored to their needs and so get results?
Paul Swainson is Head of the School of PT at Future Fit Training, a role to which he brings over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Having run his own personal training business and worked as a PT manager and tutor for some of the UK’s leading brands, his aim with the School of PT is to provide the next generation of fitness professionals with all the support and resources they need for a successful career. Visit www.futurefit.co.uk for more information.