3 Lessons Learned from Personal Trainers Who Get It

When I first broke into personal training, I thought my technical expertise would speak for itself and people would sign up in droves.

Not so.

All the technical expertise in the world will not make a difference if you can’t relate to your clients.

What I failed to realize out of the gates is personal training is a segment of the service industry.

You are in business to serve, and people will only work with those they like, know and trust, no matter what credentials  you’re purported to have.

Here are three key lessons I’ve learned from personal trainers who get it – lessons that have made a world of difference in my off-line and online training success.

1) Care.

Seriously. It’s that simple. If you don’t have your clients best interests at heart, they’ll see through the facade and you won’t get buy in from them.

Ryan Lee says building any relationship starts with a simple phrase: “How can I support you?” 

If the first thing you do with a potential client is try to sell them on some package or product YOU’RE offering, they’ll immediately get their guard up.

As Ryan wrote here, when you lead with your sales pitch you come across as someone only interested in a one-way relationship – and it’s clearly all about you. People don’t build lasting relationships with “takers.”

Be a giver.

Ask them what their goals are and truly listen. Don’t tell them what you think they want or recommend a package until you know it’s the best fit for their goals.

2) Get Results

Seems simple enough, but here’s the key: get the results they want.

As Jon Goodman wrote on thePTDC.com:

“Generally a client will initially state a goal based on what they think that they should say. It’s your job to ask “why?” as many times as satisfied. Dig deeper. Figure out what the emotional reason is for the goal.

Emotion drives action. Logic jusitifies it. Functional core exercise is logical, but not emotional. The client might want to become better at sports to keep up with his son. This is an emotional goal. Once you dig that out, use the logic element to talk about functional core exercise.

Dig deeper than the surface goals to find out what they’re truly after, then suggest logical training steps to accomplish said goal.

Once you figure out their emotional goals for coming to you for help – and can get them progressing towards accomplishing it – you’ve got a client who believes in you and will stick around.

3) Be Yourself

There’s no shortage of personal trainers specializing in general fitness out there (hell, your local big box gym has dozens of them), but there’s only one YOU.

People do business with those they like, can relate to, and truly sense are genuine and raw.

Instead of being a jack of all trades and a master of none, be yourself and discover your niche.

The internet opens up a lot of possibilities. Why not work with those you’re best suited (and most passionate) about helping?

I was the 240 lb. prep cook sneaking chicken fingers from the fryer during my late shifts for low pay some 13 years ago.

Looking back at that time in my life, I saw little way out. Depressed, mad at the world and nearly content to live out my days in that predicament.

It was not until I discovered my love of fitness – the spark that ignited the desire to change more than stay the same – that led to the life I’m living now.

Now I’m paying that forward, helping those who are struggling with their weight, down and depressed, who see little way out. That’s my story. If you want to get jacked in the process, all the better! These are the people I most enjoy helping because I can relate to them, and vice versa.

Now look at some of the more influential online trainers and ask yourself what sets them apart. They are a brand to themselves.

There’s countless guys I could single out here, but to mention one, look no further than Jason Ferruggia.

He gets it. He’s raw and real.

You get a sense for who he truly is in every blog post and podcast he puts out.

He’s not afraid to be vulnerable, and yet he’s anything but politically correct.

When he believes in something, he’ll come out and say it.


If all you do is read strength training textbooks, PubMed studies and books about fitness, you’re doing yourself a disservice. 

Personal training is a service-based industry.

You need to understand the psychology of your clients – what brought them to you in the first place – and truly understand what their goals and desires are. Most of the population doesn’t care about sagittal planes, unilateral vs. lateral strength, where your tibialis anterior is in relation to your gastrocnemius and so on and so forth.

Most just want to lose a few pounds to wrestle with their kids.

Focus on their goals, not your credentials or complicated terminology, and success (and client referrals) will follow.

Any Lessons to Add? Comment Below

What lessons have you learned from others that you’ve successfully applied in your business life, whether as a PT or any other professional? Let me know below!

Photos courtesy Olympiagym.co.uk and farient.com


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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.