There is more to warming-up than just preparing the physical body to exercise. The mind benefits greatly from the way you choose to transition your client into exercise.

What was your client doing before they came to your session?

The answer to this question factors into what you do first with that person. If a client just rolled out of bed, that is very different than if they came from a long workday or a frazzled morning of readying children for school.

Does your client need to go UP or DOWN?

A client might need up-regulation and an energy boost to transition into exercise OR need down-regulation to bring him out of stress mode and into a place where he can be present with you and his body. Considering the nervous system when programming exercise helps ensure the brain is ready for a workout.

Up and down-regulating is a concept I learned about in Self-Reg by Dr. Stuart Shanker. It basically means bringing the brain and body back to homeostasis, back to neutral and is crucial for behavior change.

Choosing the Best Warm-Up For a Client

Your positive attitude and smile might be just what a client needs to shift into workout mode. But, you can go above and beyond. You can personalize the warm-up to align a clients mind and body.

We often think of warm-up as a movement or series of movements that ready the body for exercise. But, what about the mind? Where is it when your client starts moving? Where could it be?

Presence and mindfulness is a hot topic in the fitness industry these days and for good reason. With our busy, distracted lives – presence seems to be a key to finding joy and success in life.

Before you start your next session with a client, ask her some questions and gauge what might best suit her before you launch into your exercises of the day.


1. Play a game. Brett Klika, owner of Spider Fit Kids and personal trainer is a leader in this arena. He uses games with both the adults and youth he coaches and trains. Sign up for his newsletter to get regular ideas.

Two favorite warm-up activities I learned from Brett at IDEA World 2018 are doing back-to-back squats with a partner while telling a story about a scar you have until the whistle sounds and kicking soccer balls into goals.

One game I like playing with clients is keeping a balloon in the air together. Simple, goofy, effective.

2. Have a conversation. Some people are talkers and it helps them transition into a new activity from what they were previously doing. Maybe a client needs to talk about what she did so far today to process or let it go.

Maybe she needs to talk about a concern they have with their health and fitness. Maybe she needs to share what she wants to work on in the session today. Talking is a bottomless pit of options.

Keep it in your toolbox, don’t underestimate it, but also realize – even though it seems natural, it’s not always the best course of action. Be mindful of how it helps or doesn’t help your client.

Does talking actually ready the client for exercise or distract them?

3. Quickie journaling. An alternative to talking is journaling. You could have your client journal for 1-minute before you start the workout, or have him write down what he wants to let go of from the first part of his day or the day before.

Have him crumple up the paper and toss it into a bin that’s placed a few feet away to get his mind and body connected. You can also write down some things to let go of and participate.

4. Guided Visualization. Spend 3-5 minutes with your client’s eyes closed and talk him through feeling each body part to check in. You could also guide him through breathing in and out completely. Have him place his hands on his ribcage to feel the air moving. Body awareness is a great way to ready the body for movement. Breathing deeply connects the body and the mind.

5. Dance. Get your client moving freestyle by putting on her favorite music and dancing with her. Laugh and be silly. Use a mirror. Don’t use a mirror. Bring scarves to toss around. Bring sunglasses, it seems to help people feel more comfortable when others can’t see their eyes.

Whether you dance or not, never underestimate the power of music. Setting the right atmosphere makes a big difference for most people. Upbeat and loud isn’t always the answer either. Sometimes calm music helps people focus and bring the appropriate level of intensity to exercise. Especially if their day was already very exciting and overstimulating.

Warm-ups are an important component of fitness programs, but they can become stale and routine. Being thoughtful and creative about the way you start your workouts with clients not only helps them prepare for fitness, but it’s fun and effective.

How do you make your warm-ups with clients creative, safe, effective and/or fun?


Beverly Hosford

Beverly Hosford, MA teaches anatomy and body awareness using a skeleton named Andy, balloons, play-doh, ribbons, guided visualizations, and corrective exercises. She is an instructor, author, and a business coach for fitness professionals. Learn how to help your clients sleep better with in Bev’s NFPT Sleep Coach Program and dive deeper into anatomy in her NFPT Fundamentals of Anatomy Course.