Client Engagement: 5 Ways to Boost Your Clients’ Commitment to Fitness

Training a client at a distance offers a different set of challenges than working with a client regularly in one-on-one sessions. New clients often come into an online personal training program with the best of intentions, only to discover that when push comes to shove, they find it very difficult to engage with the personal training software on their own.

Boost client engagement

Boosting client engagement is your job. Motivating them to work out when there’s nobody there directly pushing them in-person can prove to be the first and most important challenge for virtual personal trainers. Trust me, as a personal trainer whose clients are mostly training from a distance, I know this challenge all too well.

Add to this the well-known tendency of those new to structured fitness training to come in with a gung-ho attitude for the first few sessions, days, or weeks, only to fizzle out quickly at the first sign of soreness, setback, or a skipped session.

It's a personal trainer's job to help clients set realistic goals and to help them avoid mental burnout.

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It makes for tremendous potential of even those who appear to be the most motivated of clients, to give up and check out of the distance training program within the first month or two.

While some client turnover is inevitable and unavoidable, as a personal trainer devoted to helping others improve their fitness levels and/or sports performance, you obviously want to do your best to keep your clients motivated, excited, and engaged in the training programs you create for them.

5 Tips for Boosting Client Engagement and Motivation

Here are 5 strategies you can use to achieve superior client engagement with those you train remotely or in-person.

1. Avoid An "All or Nothing" Mindset

Stress from the start that training is not an all-or-nothing prospect. I encourage my clients to take the, “something is better than nothing” approach to each training session on the calendar.

Nobody is perfect. Reinforce this with your clients - every step they take is valuable and worthwhile.

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If they don’t have the time or energy to do all of the exercises listed, have them do half or just do one. Tell clients struggling to engage with the program to just do something instead of nothing, and to consider this a success, a stepping stone on the path to improved personal fitness.

2. Find Tiny Successes

That “something” in the first tip often can turn into a full, or at least more, complete workout.

Sometimes a client will feel tired, unmotivated, and will look for any excuse to avoid a workout. In this situation, tell the client that setting a timer for five minutes and doing whatever is on the schedule for five minutes “counts.”

Doing an activity for five minutes, or getting warmed up, often leads the client to continue on with more, or even the entire workout. It’s getting over the initial inertia that is, quite commonly, the biggest barrier to complying with a workout schedule.

3. Encourage Ongoing Dialogue

Don’t insist that the client continue to do an exercise or workout that he or she hates or never does. Work to find an acceptable substitute that is more enjoyable.

At the end of each training period, ask for feedback about what they feel is or isn’t working on their calendar, and work to make adjustments accordingly. The exception to this is a sport-specific exercise or workout that cannot be replaced by a better exercise/workout; in this situation, be clear about the benefits of the workout and the drawbacks of avoiding it – but still leave the ultimate decision up to the client.

If he or she will never do the workout or exercise in question, it doesn’t matter if it’s the best!

4. Praise Regularly

Praise whatever your client does well or accomplishes. At the same time, don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback, but make sure that you are not negative or discouraging.

Just be honest and open about what will, and will not be likely to happen if your client consistently skips a key workout or component of his or her program. Your job as a trainer includes educating clients about sound fitness practices or sport-specific training methods.

5. Encourage Uniqueness

Encourage your clients to work with their own training schedules from the start, and to explore new physical activities and fitness practices. Teach them to keep an open mind about incorporating these into their workout plans, and that what works for them will be unique - they don't need to mimic what works for others.

When people take an active interest in planning and exploring their fitness calendars, I’ve found that they tend to be much more compliant and engaged with the program.

Be honest, too – if you think a workout or exercise is inappropriate or ineffective for a given client, share why you feel that way with your client. This type of ongoing dialog builds trust and openness, which can foster a successful long-term training relationship.

About the author

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Alli Rainey

Rock Climber. Writer. Aspiring Yogi. Climbing Coach/Trainer. Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200). ACTION Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Avid Lifelong Learner. Harvard University Graduate (BA, 1996).