5 Steps to Dramatically Improve Client Consistency in the Gym

If you want your clients to get results, and keep coming to you for training, you need to help them overcome the biggest challenge in fitness: consistency.

Consistency in the gym

You know a lot about training, but all the information in the world can’t make your clients keep working out. As Derek Sivers once said, “If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

perfect abs

(AKA, this guy)

But there are ways for you to help your clients stick to fitness. This is a five-step process, based on psychology, to do just that.

Step 1: Goal Setting

You’ve probably heard of the importance of goal setting, but setting the right goals is an enormous step towards consistency.

Clients often come up with goals like “I want to lose 30 pounds,” or “I want to bench 225,” and those are fine places to start. Use the principles of good goals to build on those statements and make them better.

The three most important factors of goal setting are:

  • Specificity
  • Achievability
  • Timing

A good goal is specific. It has details suggesting a course of action. “Lose 30 pounds,” is better than “lose weight,” and “bench 225,” is better than “bench press more.” Whenever a client says something vague (like the famous “get toned”), help them be more specific.

Of course, clients often show up with numbers they’ve pulled out of thin air. Is losing 30 pounds or benching 225 realistic for that client? They probably don’t know, so your expertise will be indispensable in guiding them.

Sometimes it's easy to get too ambitious. What's a realistic goal for your client?

Unrealistic goals are common, and usually caused by either a lack of knowledge or excessive optimism (more on this in step three). Help keep your client grounded.

Finally, to decide whether a goal is realistic, you need to know its timeline. Setting a deadline keeps clients motivated and driven.

If you’re a fan of SMART goals, these ideas probably feel familiar. But SMART goals miss one incredibly important factor: personal relevance.

If a goal has personal importance, there’s more incentive to complete it. Help your clients apply abstract numbers to their own lives. What would losing 30 pounds or benching 225 mean to them? How would it change their life? Why did they pick that particular goal?

Asking these kinds of questions will remind clients of why their goal is important. As an added bonus, it will show you care about them as an individual, and they’ll probably think more of you as a trainer.

Step 2: Setting Checkpoints

Clients come to you because they aren’t sure how to work out, but also because working with a trainer is a great way to stick to goals long-term. Checkpoints are a way to boost the effectiveness of goal setting and increase consistency.

Checkpoints occur at designated intervals before the main goal deadline. They are times to take stock of your clients’ progress.

What’s working? What isn’t? How close is your client to their ultimate goal? If they are on track, everything is great! You can keep things the same or slightly ramp up intensity.

But if things aren’t going well, checkpoints are the time to make changes. Reaching a deadline and realizing that you’re nowhere near achieving your goal can feel crushing. Ideally, you’d prefer that your clients don’t feel crushed.

Crushed clients are not likely to stick around with you as their trainer!

Failing at a checkpoint is less crushing because you still have a chance to change. For that reason, an important part of checkpoints is defining success and failure in advance.

You'll never need to question how well the goal is going, because you know where the client should be at a given checkpoint.

If the client doesn't reach their goal by the final deadline, frequent checkpoints help show what went wrong and what went well. The client isn’t left dejectedly wondering “What happened?” Instead, they are more likely to use these lessons with a new goal and deadline.

Step 3: Defining Challenges

This is the key step. Most people leave it out, and yet it can have the biggest impact on your clients.

As I mentioned earlier, people have an optimism bias. As you’ve no doubt experienced, clients want to go fast and hard early. They want fast results and they think a lot of action will get them there.

In truth, going too big too fast is a recipe for failure. This is true because when clients (or anyone for that matter) make big plans, they fail to take into account the everyday annoyances that inevitably pop up.

If you’ve ever heard someone say “Life gets in the way,” this is what’s happening. Life always gets in the way—there are always unforeseen events (even as simple as feeling tired after a long day) that cause problems.

Even the most well-intended client will fail if they set goals that are too ambitious because ​life really does get in the way. Help your clients plan for this!

If you understand that there will always be something that comes up, you can plan for that something.

Sit with your client and brainstorm the key challenges they’ll face. By fighting the optimism bias and creating realistic expectations, your client will be more able to deal with problems as they come up.

Step 4: Finding Solutions

You now have a list of potential challenges. What are some ways you and your client can overcome those challenges?

Having a plan in advance removes the fickleness of moment-to-moment decision making. If your client feels tired after work, are they in the right state of mind to be deciding whether or not to work out? Probably not.

But if they had a plan, and anticipated that they would be tired, they can pack their gym clothes before going to work. They can have a 2pm cup of coffee for an energy boost. They can have the right foods on-hand to prevent a mid-afternoon energy crash. Your client can put this plan into action before the problem actually presents itself. And then they can work out as scheduled.

You’ll never be able to anticipate all of the challenges that come up. That’s what checkpoints are for. But this level of strategizing creates realistic expectations, builds confidence, and beats the most common and obvious challenges to consistency.

As a trainer, you’re in an excellent position to help with this. Because you see a variety of clients, you have an up-close view of the factors that make people quit. The more clients you help with this exercise, the better that help will be.

Step 5: Putting it All Together

Once you’ve helped your client with the previous four steps, step five is easy. Distill all of this work into a single page: the master road map to consistency.

When everything comes together, amazing things happen

It includes:

  • A specific, realistic goal with a deadline
  • 3 reasons that goal is personally important
  • 3 or more checkpoints (number depends on the overall goal deadline), and criteria for success and failure at each point
  • At least 3 challenges your client is likely to face along the way
  • At least one solution (if possible, more) to each challenge

With this exercise completed, the actual exercise becomes much easier. Your clients can become more consistent, a benefit both for them and your business.

What's the biggest challenge your clients face? Let us know in the comments below.​

About the author

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Benyamin Elias

Benyamin Elias is the founder of Routine Excellence. He uses his background in psychology to help busy professionals develop a healthy, consistent approach to exercise and stop skipping workouts. He is constantly striving to learn about what motivates people to take action.