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Best Business Tips for Fitness Trainers

Fiteeza has compiled the best tips from their top trainers. With decades of experience, they’ve seen it all. Learn their favorite exercises, what they wish they knew when they started out and how to get and keep more clients.

What do you wish you had known when you started out?

  • The basics work!
    Squatting, deadlifting, pressing and pulling should form the bulk of your strength training, running and sprinting should be the bulk of your cardio and conditioning. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS TONING. It doesn't have to be complicated, it really is that simple. As a side note body composition goals are nearly 100% nutrition related.
  • There’s always more to learn!
    I wish I had known how little I did know and to be a little more humble and try to learn more from other more experienced trainers. I used to try to work clients really hard when I first started working with them, now I am much smarter with progressing a client.  Also, it keeps them coming back for more because they get results and they feel great!  
  • How much difference there is in training real life vs. on paper
    Designing a workout for a client with exercises that may seem appropriate on paper, could be completely inappropriate based on a client's personality and other health issues. You could prescribe exercise based on the diabetes or heart conditions chapters in a book, but what do you do when the client also has osteoporosis and arthritis? Your exercise prescription may be perfect but if you don't have the right people and observation skills then you will never keep your clients.
  • How to find and keep good clients 
    It's a perpetual cycle, but the best key to finding them, other good client referrals.  The key to keeping them is to progress them in their workout plans enough so they see results and discover they CAN do things they never thought they could.  They'll always want more!
  • The importance of warming up
    I used ask clients to warm up prior to our session, but I never particularly paid attention to how or what they did. Now, I am prescriptive about that part of the workout and incorporate it into the session. This emphasizes to clients about the importance of a good warm up.

What's been your best way of getting new clients?

  • Word of mouth
    Once you find people who believe in you and your training style, make sure you let those clients know you are looking for new clients.  Good clients make great referrals.

    If your client love you as a Fitness Pro, they will be your greatest selling point to their family and friends. I always consider my current clients a walking billboard for my services. If your clients look and feel great then your services advertise themselves.

    Clients will often tell other people about me, especially if they are seeing great results! Sometimes, clients will post something about our sessions on Facebook or other social media...that is a valuable chain of communication!

What did/do you struggle with most with your fitness business?

  • Facility and equipment issues.
    Not having enough space.  If started holding boot camp style classes in public spaces with no equipment.
  • Class retention
    People say they enjoy my classes and want to come back but dealing with everyone's hectic schedules and finding optimal days/ times with my own schedule to teach a class that has an optimal number of participants has been challenging.  I figured out that if I scheduled the class when it worked best for me, I had better energy to teach it and others figured out how to get there.  
  • How to run the business
    From what to charge to taking payments and how to market my business.  Once I signed up for Fiteeza, there were some great tips on promoting and maintaining my business.  Check it out!  
  • Keeping clients accountable
    I believe most trainers have difficulty with clients showing up, being on time, and ready to work. It is always hard to determine when it is time to let a client go and when they are no longer a profitable endeavor. I suggest setting up cancellation policy with no show fees to protect yourself. Make sure your clients know ahead of time before signing a contract with you.  Here are some more tips! 
  • Fitting in my own workouts
    Surprisingly, if I am busy training clients, finding time to workout myself is tough. I struggle with good time management because I let clients sessions become social, which eats into my time.  One thing that I do, is schedule my own workouts for the whole week.  So, when clients ask for dates and times to get together, my workouts are already blocked off.  

How do you keep clients coming back to you?

  • Empathize with them.
    Show them you care. Explain to them exactly what you're doing and why it’s important and how it will get them to their goals.
  • Develop a personal connection
    Making them feel you are confident in what you are doing and no matter how chaotic their days are, you are there to take care of them and to enhance their health and well being.  Time with you, is their ME-time.
  • Find a niche population
    Meet their very specific needs. Having a specialty will set you apart from the wide array of Fitness Pros in your area and help you tap into a market that might not otherwise be served.
  • Praise their progress
    I always try to make my clients feel good about their progress, no matter how small. People may not remember what you told them, but they will remember how you made them feel.

How do you deal with difficult or challenging clients?

  • Fake it until you make it.
    Find the thing that makes them tick. Frequently if you can find some kind of common connection they will be easier to deal with or more personable.  Also, set and keep boundaries, whether it's charging for perpetually late or no show clients or reminding clients that you must be paid.  Here are some apps that you may want to try to help you
  • Communication
    Keep “checking-in” with your client. Try to provide them opportunities to give you feedback.  You can do this quickly by email or text or even by snail mail.  I send postcards to my class participants when I go on vacation.  I put a quick Yoga Program or other, no equipment workouts together and they arrive in their mailbox.  My clients love 'em! 
  • Understand where they are coming from
    Everyone ultimately wants to be happy, so I try to figure out what it takes to make a challenging client happy and try not to take the difficulties personally.  Deal with difficult clients by trying to figure out what exactly makes them difficult. A difficult client can have insecurities, psychological issues, or even very little self love. Sometimes the Fitness Pro becomes more of a mentor and therapist than an actual trainer. If you can uncover what is making them difficult, then you can tackle their difficult behaviors head on. If all else fails, learn when to say no and drop them as a client. You do need to consider your bottom line and your sanity.
  • Setting and enforcing limits
    Repeated cancellations is one of the biggest indicators of who is going to be wasting your time, so one way to minimize that is to charge for the appointment after the second or third cancellation.

How do you stay up on the latest info about fitness and nutrition?

  • Always keep learning!
    Read scientific journals, websites with credible contributors and listen to podcasts.  Look for reliable sources whether it is your certifying entity or a newspaper, like the New York Times, be sure your not wasting your time learning about a fad or non-scientific eating and exercising trends.
  • Keep up with certifications and CEUs
    I rely on the various certification websites, like ACE or AFAA. I have certifications from both and find their articles to be reliable, accurate and scientifically based. I tend to stay away from the fitness magazine websites.
  • Attend conferences and seminars
    Check your certifying organizations (AFFA, ACE, ACSM) for local, online or other types of continuing education opportunities in your area. Some are free! Also check free lecture listings and posting from your local medical, nursing or physical therapy schools. Some educational institutions offer free mini-Lectures that your certifying organization may accept as qualifying CEUs.
  • Read health and professional blogs and follow other trainers on social media.
  • Take another Pros class or read her blog about nutrition.

What is your favorite tool or piece of equipment you could not train/teach without?

  • Barbell
    The barbell is a highly versatile piece of equipment that can be used to enhance most exercises.
  • Dumbell
    I've used all kinds of equipment and bodyweight only and love variety so it's hard to pick just one. I guess I would have to say the dumbbell. I love working with the trx, kettlebells, ropes, and bosu, but ultimately I like the diversity of adding the extra weight of a dumbbell to numerous exercises.
  • Training peaks online software
  • Floor mat
    Body weight exercises are some of the most efficient and challenging exercises you can give a client. Plus you can take the mat anywhere the client goes.
  • Stability ball
    It can function as a bench or an actual workout tool for the entire body. It travels easily, in the back of my car and people tend to like using it whether it supporting them for a bench press or helping them stretch. A word of caution, just be sure it is able to support your client's body weight AND the weight they may be lifting.

What's your best advice for new Fitness Pros?

  • Never stop learning!
    Keep reading. Train for a race or other event and do it in the way you would train a client. Take notes on things that work, and things that don't. Learn from others. Learn from your client. Be authentic to your training style.
  • Build relationships.
  • Develop a niche offering.
  • Stay humble.
  • Make glute strengthening exercises a foundation of training.
    We all sit too much!
  • Do your research.
    Try going to a commercial and specialty gyms in your area and see what they are charging for classes and training. This will help you determine your training rates as well as keep you competitive in your market. Also researching the competition will help you figure out your niche so you can stand out from the crowd.
  • It's ok to say, "I don't know."
    If you don't know, admit that and research the answer. Clients can see through BS and are asking because they rely on you to be accurate. Finding the answer serves two purposes, you learn it and the client appreciates the added effort. It is also a good trust builder.

Want more, just click around on the Fiteeza Blog or search for a specific topic.  Don't see any info on what you're looking for, let us know!  On the Blog, just scroll down, click "contact us" and give us a shout out...we're here for you, the Pro!

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