5 Ways to Keep Your Personal Training Clients Motivated in the New Year

When the calendar flips from December to January, it’s tough to resist the feeling of a fresh start. That’s why so many people make New Year’s resolutions and have high hopes of keeping them until the following year.

But, according to one research report, only 8 percent of those people will reach that goal. Ouch.

Not keeping that motivation going can actually set people back, because they’ll feel discouraged, and may fall into former bad habits. But as a personal trainer, you have the ability to prevent that trainwreck, with a few savvy tactics designed to keep them on track:

1. Turn Big Goals Into Manageable Steps

There’s definitely an allure to large goals, like losing a significant amount of weight or training for a major competition. But without very specific smaller goals related to that bigger aim, it could cause motivation to sputter out. For example, with weight loss, instead of focusing on the end-result number, set a realistic weekly goal. Most sustainable weight loss is between one to two pounds per week. For many people, that feels much more manageable than saying, “I’m going to lose 50 pounds.”

2. Talk About Progress So Far

Looking ahead toward goals is valuable, but it can be equally crucial to revisit a client’s early days of training. Even if your client has done only a few sessions, it’s likely that he or she has made some progress that you can articulate. Many times, clients aren’t aware of their improvements in the same way that an objective observer might be. For example, you can point out that your client is now lifting double the weight as when she started, or that he could once do only three minutes on the treadmill and now does 30. That can make a client think: What else can I do?

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3. Change It Up

Most likely, you’ll know when motivation starts to lag. That’s when sessions get cancelled at the last minute, or a client doesn’t seem to be giving 100 percent like before. In that case, you’ll probably need to shake things up. Add a new routine to the mix that’s unlike anything the client has done before—maybe some MMA moves like Parkour. You can encourage clients to take group fitness classes to draw on the energy of others. Incorporate some functional fitness techniques. Do what it takes to keep your sessions surprising and invigorating, since that can restart motivation.

4. Talk It Out

Whether your client’s motivation is sputtering or not, take the time to chat about what’s going on in a client’s life that might affect fitness goals now and into the future. Maybe a job is becoming more stressful than it used to be, or your client is struggling with injury recovery. Chat about sleep, eating habits, relationships—within the boundaries of respect for your client’s privacy, of course. An easy way to start would be with a general question like, “What’s going on with you outside of the gym that might be affecting your motivation in the gym?”

5. Be a Role Model

Are you feeling motivated? If not, that will come through in your interactions with clients. When they see that you’re crushing it and reaching for new goals, they’ll likely feel inspired to do the same. It’s tough to draw motivation from a trainer who seems bored or is just checking off the boxes at a workout. Be passionate, and your clients will be too.

Staying motivated is challenging for anyone. But fortunately, as a personal trainer, you have the education and experience to keep clients engaged and challenged—not just for New Year’s resolutions, but for life.

To learn more about AFPA certifications, including personal training courses, visit the AFPA website.

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