Most of the time we have different types of clients who are easy to work with, who try their best. There are many personality traits and different views on exercise, so intentions will vary. Sometimes you might come across a client who’s somewhat of a grouch or “problematic” and you need to handle him or her expertly to sustain a good business relationship.

It happens. You have a client who just doesn’t want to cooperate and isn’t totally committed. Like a classroom teacher who handles challenging students, a doctor with patients, or a salesclerk with customers, personal trainers turn on the people skills to make it work, especially with clients who are difficult. “You need multi-disciplinary knowledge to get under the skin of your client,” Nick Mitchell wrote in an article entitled “11 Ways to Tell That Your Personal Trainer is a Waste of Money” in The Telegraph. “A willingness to put in long hours, and the ability to read how to get the most out of people.”

Refusing to do the exercise
A client who says he or she isn’t doing an exercise can be difficult. You can let it go and move on. Or you can modify the exercise. You can also find out why your client is resisting. This could be due to intimidation, which you can possibly calm by demonstrating the movement. Open the line of communication to see why your client doesn’t want to do the exercise. It could be something simple like a previous experience that went bad, or a lack of confidence in performing something new or difficult. If so, change the routine up a bit. Regress the exercise or simplify it if possible, and perhaps work the client back up to the more challenging version. If you’re flexible, hopefully, your client will be too.

Excuses, excuses
Clients will come in with reasons, or excuses, as to why they can’t give it their “all” in a training session. We’ve all heard excuses like a bad night’s sleep, a rough day at work, or sore muscles. How do you address excuses? The best method is by employing a reflective listening statement, so your client can hear how he or she sounds. “Sounds like your stressful day of work might be affecting your workout.” And gauge the response. You can modify the training session if you think it is justified. Or you can ignore the excuses and power through hoping the client will come around.

Shows up late or cancels last minute
Having a signed agreement can help with this one. Set up your own policy as to how you want to handle clients who are late to sessions or who cancel at the last minute. Discuss the policy at the very first session and get a signature! It might be helpful to send reminder email blasts to all your clients every so often so no one feels singled out, but might help them recognize their problem behavior.

So, a client shows up without shoes. What do you do? Try a barefoot session if the fitness center allows. If the client forgets workout clothing, you might have to reschedule, or take the session time to maybe go for a brisk walk or discuss nutrition or other lifestyle habits. Recommend that your client keep a gym bag packed and ready to go to prevent them forgetting items in the future.

Takes Phone Calls
This another issue that’s best settled at the very beginning. Have a turn-off phone policy established to avoid distractions. Use exceptions for clients who might have a family or work emergency.

Some of the time, you can use your own discretion with valid excuses. If a client disrupts your schedule on a regular basis, it’s something that should be addressed.


Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.