As a Certified Personal Trainer people will often say to you that they don’t have enough will power to reach their fitness goal.  Their belief is that some people have a natural ability to deny themselves pleasure and tolerate pain. The truth is that self discipline is a learned skill that requires practice. The only thing that drives a person to exercise self discipline is that one’s desire to seek pleasure in leisure and gluttony is outweighed by the desire for self improvement.

Will power is not a natural born thing and if your client feels that they lack it, than they need to work on developing that skill.  When you are working with a client, take time to impress upon them that they should keep close tabs on what they do each day. Every day they should do a personal accountability assessment and reward themselves for the good choices they make while also taking personal responsibility for the bad choices.  Assure them that after awhile they will come to find that working toward their goal gives them more satisfaction than the bad habits that impede their progress.

Is Will Power a Myth?

Utilitarian philosophers like John Stuart Mills, Jeremy Bentham, William Godwin and the like would argue that no one will ever willingly seek to find displeasure in any aspect of life. Nor will a person actively seek to avoid gratification should opportunity present its self. What you are in fact doing by exercising will power is replacing the instant gratification of undisciplined behaviors with the gratification of reaping the rewards that self discipline brings in the long run. In other words you are shifting the balance of utility from a short term focus to a long term focus in order to reach a greater goal.

People are conditioned to think in the short term and they are drawn to whatever will best suit their needs right now. Our job as Personal Trainers is to teach our clients that fitness requires a long term commitment. When a client seems to be lacking discipline the best thing that you can tell them is that a sacrifice in the short run will pay them big dividends in the fullness of time. Explain that good physical condition is the aggregate effect of all of the small choices they make every day.  Each cupcake they refuse, every workout that they do, all of the small steps that seem so diminutive at the time all add up in the long run.


Nobody is Completely Self Disciplined

Within us all is a whiny child that wants what it wants right now. It is important that clients come to view themselves like a loving parent to themselves and learn to say “no not now”. Let them know that nobody is perfect and that they may slip up. It takes time to develop new habits. Remind them that when they do slip up they should try to figure out why.

  • Are they under eating so much that hunger got the better of them?
  • Did some emotional event lead them to seek comfort in food?
  • Did they lose focus and give up on their goal?
  • Let them know that it is very unproductive to dwell on their mistakes.


Explain that rather than beating themselves up they should try to find the cause and correct the problem. Like any area of fitness will power takes time and effort to develop. By helping your clients to improve their self discipline or will power you will help them improve not only in the area of physical fitness but in all aspects of personal improvement.


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John Rutnik

John Rutnik is a NFPT Certified Personal Trainer. He holds an AAS in Electrical Technology and has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. John has been involved in physical fitness and weight training since the late 70’s and is an avid outdoors man. He became a personal trainer after rehabilitating himself from a spinal injury he sustained in a car accident and losing 70 pounds. John later obtained ISSA Certifications as both a Fitness Trainer and Specialist in Sports Nutrition and became Lead Fitness Trainer at Anytime Fitness in Schenectady NY. His training philosophy is “no man left behind,” everyone deserves a chance to succeed.