Our world is still all topsy-turvy, even with gyms re-opening and many states attempting to resume life-as-usual, despite the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Personal trainers have most certainly taken a hit during this period, but some have pivoted and have found the silver-lining of the Corona-cloud: virtual training options. While training your clients from afar is most certainly a viable option, don’t forget that there are now new opportunities emerging from this crisis for which your skillset as a certified trainer is even more necessary and also viable, such as accountability coaching.

What is Accountability Coaching?

Quite simply, an accountability coach serves as a source of motivation, monitoring, and health coaching advice for a segment of the fitness clientele that knows what to do, but maybe has some trouble actually doing it. What’s great about this kind of guidance is that it comes with a lower price tag than one-on-one training , but also requires a lot less involvement than it, too.

Many folks struggle making the right choices when it comes to meal planning, and perhaps have a difficult time getting motivated to move more. With depression and anxiety having sky-rocketed during these strange times, it’s more important than ever to help our fellow humans to prioritize these positive health behaviors.

Approaches to Accountability Coaching

The sky is the limit when it comes to ways to help clients stay accountable as well as the degree to which you might need to serve them in this department. Start with goal-setting and determine how involved you need to be to assist your client to achieve those goals. You might start with greater involvement on a daily basis and slowly wean into a weekly check-in if the client is achieving what he or she set out to. Probably a shared calendar or fitness software that allows you to schedule or program workouts would be helpful.

Help your client formulate a schedule that will help them achieve their goals incorporating activities they like and will look forward to doing, and a balanced, reasonable nutrition plan. (Remember, it is not within a personal trainer’s scope of practice to actually plan meals, but you are well within your skillset to calculate RMR and TDEE.) Try to utilize motivational interviewing with your interactions with your clients. Rather than telling them what they have to do, try to help them come up with what they need to do using their own thoughts and voice.

Here are some tools and approaches to implement:

Fitness and Nutrition Trackers

For some, using an app or technology such as MyFitnessPal or Samsung Health is already a habit. If not, you can introduce a potential client to this fantastic option for meal and activity tracking. A lot of the work has to be done upfront for a few weeks while entering new data, but then your client can save “meals” and favorite workouts to log instantly later. Your role would be to monitor their entries, compare them against the pre-determined caloric intake and expenditure you calculated, and make comments and suggestions. Take a close look at the workouts and cardio your client logs and let them know what changes can be made by applying the FITT principle.

Text Motivation

Send your clients daily texts to check-in and motivate them! Texts tend to elicit better responses than emails for pretty obvious reasons. So cultivate a relationship with your accountability client by shooting a text in the morning with a motivational quote and a kick-in-the-pants, “Today’s a scheduled cardio day! The sun is shining and the humidity is low! What time are you going out for a bike ride?”

If you have several clients for which you need to send these kinds of texts, consider downloading a special app to schedule or automate your business texts.

In-Person or Zoom Meetings

You could schedule meetings once weekly or even monthly to really delve into the data that you have been reviewing briefly. Identify trends, tactfully highlight any lapses, and most certainly congratulate your client for successes and adherence to their assigned activities and nutrition feats!

What to Charge

This is always tricky when offering a new service, but it is wise to you your current rates as a guide. If you are accustomed to charging $75 an hour for a session, calculate how much time it will involve for you to interact with your client to the degree necessary to achieve his/her goals. For instance, you might need an initial session for a brand new client to get to know him/her and also identify needs and goals. So go ahead and charge them your normal hourly rate, and then figure on about 10-15 minutes a day to review their logs and send texts/emails. If you perform those actions daily, then it is reasonable to ask $100-$150 a week for that service.

If you decide that weekly log reviews are enough and that takes you 30 minutes to both review and chat with your client about it, then maybe $40 a week is acceptable.

You might consider offering this service for free to a few clients you know well to really gauge how long it really takes for you to perform the given tasks. You certainly don’t want to overcharge your loyal clients any more than you want to undercut your value.

Can you think of any other ways to incorporate accountability coaching into your personal training business?

Michele Rogers

NFPT Publisher Michele G Rogers, MA, NFPT-CPT and EBFA Barefoot Training Specialist manages and coordinates educational blogs and social media content for NFPT, as well as NFPT exam development. She’s been a personal trainer and health coach for over 20 years fueled by a lifetime passion for all things health and fitness. Her mission is to raise kinesthetic awareness and nurture a mind-body connection, helping people achieve a higher state of health and wellness. After battling and conquering chronic back pain and becoming a parent, Michele aims her training approach to emphasize fluidity of movement, corrective exercise, and pain resolution. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Health Psychology from Northern Arizona University. Follow Michele on Instagram.