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Avoid Most Common Mistakes Any Personal Trainer Can Make

Updated on January 18, 2016
Andy Ely. Workout
Andy Ely. Workout | Source
jerryonife | Source

Have you ever had these thoughts?

“Another client no-showed…again. Money lost! Will I have enough this month to pay the bills? Why do my clients keep missing their sessions with me? Every other trainer’s clients always show up, and they are even on time! Am I a bad trainer? No, I am an awesome trainer! I have all these certifications, tons of experience, and am in great shape myself. It’s gotta be my clients. Yeah it’s their fault…”

Sound familiar? You know how many times those thoughts went through my mind while I was anxiously watching the door, hoping my no-show would appear? Most of the time it didn’t happen, and I struggled just to keep things going.

Blaming it all on my clients did not help. Thankfully, I was able to learn from my mistakes, otherwise you would not be reading this right now. Later in my management career I saw that this happen to so many trainers, from newbies to seasoned veterans. And it’s not that the people I was working with when I witnessed this were not professionals. Most of them were sharp and successful - hardworking pros with steady business and the skill to fix a client’s muscular imbalance just by looking at him ;) …Yet they still battled no-shows and cancellations….

I learned a lot from these trainers, and collectively I noticed that there IS indeed a relationship between how many last-minute cancellations and no-shows a trainer has and the very nature of that personal trainer’s personality and approach to the profession of training.

Let’s take look at it. Why do we become trainers? Surely not because of money! If you are in this business to get rich quick, quit right now because with this motivation, not only are you going to be disappointed, but your clients will too, since you will not be able to truly commit to helping them reach their goals. Truly great trainers begin their fitness careers because they love helping people – they love both the hard work of the journey and the thrill of achieving real results. It’s an amazing feeling!

Maybe you have a great story of your own to share and that’s what brought you in to this business. In any case, you probably are a passionate individual who likes people, socializing and staying active. And this is why you have all the last-minute cancellations and no-shows!

What?! How?! Why?! There are several reasons. First, many of those who become professional trainers are not very organized individuals in the first place. Who has time for that anyway? When your day starts with training a client at 5 am, it isn’t easy keeping everything in order! Of course basic organization is a must in any successful business, but many of most successful trainers’ lockers are tornadoes of gear, trade mugs, and other random chaos. Hopefully yours looks different, but let’s be real: if you’re a busy trainer you probably do not have the time for that sort of thing other professionals have. If you’re serious, you’re literally training clients from dusk (or earlier) to dawn nearly every day of the week! So, in the middle of another crazy day when you notice there is about a one-inch build-up of protein powder on the floor of your locker, what do you do? Slam the door and roll on to your next appointment—will have to get to that some other time ;) This approach is common, even amusing, and understandable to a certain degree. Seriously, very often professionals in fitness business lack the essential skills other professionals have and developing these skills and habits will play a key role in whether you have a successful career or not.

Starting right with a new client

Set clear policy--make sure to tell your new clients that you require a 24-hour cancellation at your initial meeting. Make it official too—have your client sign a form that is kept on file. Also explain that you as a trainer, just like a doctor, lawyer, or any other professional, have a busy schedule and value your time highly. Make your clients aware that you have other clients scheduled right after and that if they are late, their sessions will be shorter since you have to keep on schedule.

Charging for no-show

It is always hard to decide if you should charge for the first no-show. If you are using a software provided to you by your gym, you might have no choice because the system will automatically charge the client. This gives you a clean conscious since your client may not necessarily see you as the bad guy. But if that is not the case, you have to decide what to do. Certainly discuss the situation, making sure your client is reminded of the official 24-hour cancellation policy form that was signed earlier. Regardless of what you decide, clear policy and honest communication will prevent future revenue loss. In most cases, you won’t probably charge for the first missed session since you do not want to scare away a potential new client, but make it clear that this is an exception and the next missed session will be paid for in full. Another recommended technique successful trainers often employ to remove all doubt when they plan to charge for a missed session is to use the actual time you were scheduled to train the client to design a new workout program for him or her. This will show your client that though he or she was not present, you still worked for them in a professional capacity worthy of compensation.

Session confirmation

To prevent no-shows, confirm a session the day before by an email or text. You can do this manually or with an online scheduling system that sends automatic notifications to you and your clients. If you are not using an online system, you should certainly consider starting to do so - it will save you time and money. Besides that your clients will view you as more advanced and professional. In the end you will have less to worry about so you can concentrate on training.

Being on time

Always arrive in timely manner for your sessions! Do not set a bad tone or fail to lead by example! If you aren’t on time you are just asking for trouble in all kinds of ways that you don’t need me to list!

Personal folder organisation

Keep a personal client folder for each of your clients. This will make you look professional, help you train your clients most effectively, and help your clients achieve maximum results. At minimum, the folder should contain:

  • initial fitness assessment
  • medical release
  • signed PAR-Q form
  • signed 24-hour notice cancellation policy acknowledgement
  • full program outline
  • exercise sheets for all workouts designed for your client
  • follow-up measurements

You can also add other things based on a client’s specific needs and/or how your relationship and their program progress--food logs, charts, any other documents and records you might need.

Tracking progress

Do not forget to reevaluate you client every 3-6 weeks. Almost all clients new to training want to see immediate results. Your initial assessment should have set realistic expectations early on, and your periodic evaluations should check in on these expectations. When clients do not see results, they may question you, the program, and/or themselves—this is a key time! Make your clients aware there are many ways to measure progress. For example, a client’s weight might not be changing but her body fat percentage is still decreasing. Also, be ready as a professional to debunk myths and unrealistic expectations set by things your clients see on TV, read in the tabloids, hear from their co-workers. People nowadays are bombarded with insanity when it comes to fitness, diet, weight loss, etc.! Just because TMZ said J-Lo dropped 20 lbs. in one week does not mean that this is how reality works! Simply put, clients come to you to get results so YOU have to develop a program that works and shows it. If you want to keep your clients, prove that your programs actually work by keeping solid records of their results .

Keeping clients for life

These small things make your client feel special: record important dates like birthdays and anniversaries and keep a stack of blank cards on hand to give them to clients on those special dates. Praise them for completing an especially hard workout or reaching a certain goal by giving them a small present like their favorite protein bar or a $5 gift card. These things won’t drain your budget and will make you clients stay loyal to you.


Even if you’re a training guru, you won’t keep your clients if you’re not an organized, punctual professional. Proper preparation improves performance and drives results. Most of the concepts covered here are quite simple, yet many personal trainers do not employ them. Make yourself stand out of the crowd and succeed. You are a professional running a business—and that means planning, staying organized, using forms, files, and online tools, and tracking performance…of your clients and yourself!


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