“The day got away from me.”

“I forgot my gym clothes at home.”

“I was up late.”

“I’m just not motivated.”

As trainers, I’m sure all of us are familiar with these – or similar – statements made by clients. Let’s be honest, it can be challenging to keep the motivation high, clients engaged and consistently attending training sessions. This shouldn’t be surprising considering even the pros struggle with motivation every once in a while. The point is, clients and trainers are all human and are, therefore, subject to the occasional and momentary derailment. The trick is to get back on track and continue moving forward in a positive direction. So, what does this mean for you and your personal training occupation?

For many clients, getting to the training session is far harder than making it through the session. If you are trying to connect with a struggling client or looking for ways to assist a new, somewhat apprehensive client to build motivation and make a commitment to healthy living, try some of these “getting to the gym” hacks to refresh the commitment and generate enthusiasm among your clients.

Be SMART. The first rule of any new endeavor is to identify the desired outcome. While it is common practice among fitness professionals to assist their clients in establishing a SMART goal, we cannot neglect to revisit the originally established goal and make modifications as a client progresses. Personally, I like to approach goal setting with my clients and students by identifying both long and short-term goals in each of these areas: Physical, Nutritional, Behavioral and General Lifestyle. Achieving an optimal level of wellness for anyone is not and should not be limited to the physical domain. It is the job of the trainer to help the client establish life balance; an effective way to accomplish this is through a comprehensive goal-setting process that considers multiple aspects of an individuals’ life and behavior.


Reward, Reward, Reward. Rewards are part of SMART goal setting; however, it is often helpful to reward your clients in other ways to demonstrate your appreciation for their hard work and effort. Select a reward that matches the client’s personality and preferences. Perhaps a reward is a “gold star” note mailed to the client’s home with a small gift certificate. Or, a reward may be a more public recognition at your studio or via your business social media fan page. You can create a reward inventory checklist for your clients to complete after a few sessions. This will help you identify which clients prefer private recognition and which ones prefer more fanfare. 

Social Support Groups. Human behavior research already tells us that the presence of social support is a predictor of success and continuous commitment. Try organizing a social support network at your studio or gym. For those clients who prefer asynchronous support, you can use online platforms (for free) to build a “class” and create discussion posts. This is a great way to share articles or ideas in a paperless environment that is accessible to all who join the group. Checkout CourseSites by Blackboard.

“Fitspirations” Vision Board. This is my favorite approach to take with students and clients, plus it’s a great way to add a creative flare to the training space. Find a large bulletin board to post inspirational messages, congratulatory remarks about clients (with their permission), positive quotes and images, etc. Even better – ask your clients for their input and contributions. Once completed, place the board in a high profile area of your studio.

Affirmations. Rocky had his fight song; help your clients establish their own daily affirmation or motivational phrase.

E-Motivate. Go beyond simple reminders of appointments via text messages, email, Facebook, etc. Personalize the connection by saying something like “I’m looking forward to our session today; I have something fun planned.” Yes, this takes time and effort, but it is worth every second because you are investing in your most important asset – your relationship with clients.

girl texting on the phone at campus

Keep it Fun and Fresh. This goes without saying, but I am highlighting it anyway. While personal training is based on science and behavioral psychology, we can’t overlook the artistic side of our work. Workouts and individual exercises can become far too routine and if you have a full client list, it is easy to become unintentionally complacent in the creative aspects of the job. Plan your time effectively and set aside enough to create one new exercise a week or new technique or tool to introduce to clients. 

Whatever approach or tactic you decide to try, execute it with energy, passion, competence and a commitment to your role in helping clients achieve a healthier lifestyle.

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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