What does appropriate attire look like for someone in the fitness field? Believe it or not – there’s a dress code.

Sometimes there’s a strict dress code depending on where you work – a big box gym, a small fitness center in a rural city, or a therapy clinic. Regardless of location, what a trainer chooses to wear will have an impact on both his or her professional image and his or her clients’ comfort level.

By default, professional trainers are expected to be “fit” and “fit” a certain image – this is both a natural and inflated expectation. Fit pros should be fit, but what does or what should that look like? And, as a fit pro, how much should we reveal or flaunt?

The answer is simple – being a trainer is about helping clients find and maintain their optimal level of well-being. It is not about showboating or showing off a fit physique.

Reasonable Attire

First and foremost, a professional trainer’s attire should allow for comfortable and complete movement in all planes of motion, be free of safety hazards (such as rivets you find on jeans or other features that could easily be caught in a machine), and should provide coverage. In other words, you’re selling workout sessions, not bedroom attire.

Examples of Appropriate Clothing

• Full length shirts, tank tops, short-sleeve shirts
• Reasonable length shorts (no speedos or “booty” shorts)
• Leggings, sweats (not excessively baggy or loose) or another sport-type pant or capri
• Workout pullovers/light weight sweater (helpful if outdoors)
• Gym shoes (no flip flops or sandals – this is a safety issue).

It might seem like common sense practice, but truthfully common sense is not always common and it is necessary to remind ourselves of what our clients need – not just in terms of our expertise, but our ability to relate to them and help them build self-confidence and recognize their own self-worth.

Think about the Message

What message do you want your clients to receive? Think about it…

For example, Sally comes to the fitness center for her first training session with Joe. Joe greets her in spandex shorts and no shirt. Is this appropriate? No. Not even close. This creates a distracting and potentially unsanitary (no shirt) setting for the client.

Another example, Jessica meets her trainer, Michele, for an outdoor run. Michele shows up for the session wearing unnecessarily short shorts and a sports bra. Again, not even close to appropriate. This type of scenario can create negative self-talk in the mind of the client – “why don’t I look like this?” or “I’m not good enough…”.


Just as in an office setting or other professional setting, what a person wears sends a message and we want to send the right (and healthy) messages to all clients – our success and bottom line depend on it.

It is safe to assume that a large number of clients seek trainers’ services because they aren’t completely satisfied with their physical appearance. If a trainer is scantily clad or flaunts his or her own physical attributes, the conditions become ripe for disaster.

Instead of helping a client build a better self-image by focusing on ALL components of a healthy life (mental, emotional, intellectual, etc.), we distill the message as “you have to look this way to be considered fit”. This is both short-sighted and completely false.

Sure, you’re free to dress as you please, it is your prerogative. But note that the real potential consequence is losing clients to ‘looking hot’. If you choose to dress in a way that shows the world your goods, then don’t be surprised that the self-conscious, reserved client will very likely not retain your services; making your decision to dress in a way that flaunts your stuff a decision that will come with a price.

Sure, the old adage should hold true…’don’t judge a book by it’s cover,’ but, when your cover sends a strong message, then potential clients may decide not to look past it to the knowledge you have on the inside. If your cover is intimidating, then you’ll just be a good looking book that goes unread.

A professional look says ‘professional trainer’. Reap the benefit of a professional look instead of paying the price for a self-serving look. And remember to wear a smile!

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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at belivestaywell.com