Personal trainers bring a wealth of knowledge to every client interaction, from conveying proper form to emphasizing injury prevention to relaying the latest fitness techniques. One of the best skills they offer, though, is the ability to help clients set meaningful, realistic goals that help them see progress during every step of a fitness journey.
When goals are properly developed, they fuel motivation. That keeps personal training clients coming back and striving for more—and when that happens, referrals aren’t far behind. Do your clients and your training business a favor by focusing on more effective goal-setting techniques.Consider these five strategies on setting personal trainer goals for clients:
1. Start with a conversation
Sometimes, clients are reluctant to share a goal because they might think it’s too ambitious, or they’re a little embarrassed about it. For example, a former high school track star might want to run a marathon, but he’s put on an extra 50 pounds since the old days, so he thinks he’ll never be in running shape again. Or a client may want to rock a bikini but feels sheepish about telling her personal trainer about that goal. To get to these insights, build conversational time into the first appointment. Pick up on little conversational cues that might clue you into what they really want.
2. Talk about the “why”
Once you discover a client’s larger goal, talk about what that would bring. Why does a client want to reach that particular milestone? As a personal trainer, you already know that some types of motivation work much better than others. Usually, “looking good” isn’t enough, although that often happens as a by-product of more meaningful goals like reducing stress, lowering health risks, having more energy, and overcoming chronic illness.
3. Work backward
From a larger goal, you need to create smaller, achievable goals that create a sense of progress. For instance, if a client really wants to do a triathlon, but that’s likely a year away, work backward from there. Where does your client have to be in terms of swimming, running, and biking endurance a week before the race? How about a month before? Six months before? Spend time creating the plan and map it out on paper so that you both have a visual reminder of targets to hit.
4. Be creative
If your client doesn’t have a goal in mind, you’ll have to throw out some possibilities. Ask about what he or she wishes he or she could do now. For some clients, achieving a single pull-up seems like a momentous goal, while others might want to knock out 50. Maybe they want to get in shape enough to do a 5K or go indoor rock climbing with their kids and don’t know how to start.
5. Switch up the plan
Sometimes, goals change. That can be a tricky moment, but as a personal trainer, you need to recognize when momentum is sputtering. If goals are too lofty or seem too far in the future, you may risk clients deciding that they’re not worth all the work. Unfortunately, sometimes injury can sabotage a plan. That’s where flexibility and resilience come in. When it comes to each client, you need to have a Plan B with secondary goals that could substitute for the first. Let clients know that it’s okay to walk away from a big goal right now and focus on another one that might be equally worthy in the long run.