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Q&A: What Do I Do When My Clients Ask for Things They Can Do “On Their Own?”

by Meaghan posted October 24, 2014

I want to thank two exceptionally inquisitive students in our current Theory and Application class for inspiring me to write about this. Jennifer and Juan, thank you!

Thank you because I think this is a common concern for many trainers and isn’t always handled in a manner that serves anyone’s best interest – as we discussed yesterday – and this gives me a chance to offer some advice on the matter.

SO, what does it mean and what do you do when your client says, “Can you give me some things I can do on my own?”



First, relax! This isn’t always a bad sign. Sometimes your clients just want to make sure they’re doing their part to reach the goal you [should have] set together. Or, sometimes they just want to get in the recommended amount of exercise to be healthy!

But the assumption that this question is a sign the client is getting ready to stop their personal training sessions often causes trainers to panic. So, out of fear, they either ignore the client’s request or purposely give him/her things to do that won’t necessarily help that client reach the desired end, just so he/she still feels the “need” for a trainer.

Guess what: People aren’t stupid! Clients see right through this tactic.


Personal trainers, listen up: You are in a service industry. Your job is to help your clients achieve their goals. Period. You need rapport with your clients to make that happen – to get them to buy in to your programs, execute them and achieve results.

The ability to create and maintain rapport with your clients is entirely dependent upon TRUST – just as is the case with any other relationship. Your clients won’t trust you unless they know that you care and that you are as much invested in their goals as they are – and this might mean giving them homework, especially when money and/or time gets tight.

And guess what else: If you accommodate your clients’ requests to make sure they meet their goals, they’ll actually be LESS likely to leave you! And even if they do, they’ll be a lot more likely to come back when their situations improve.

This has happened to me on several occasions over the course of my years as a trainer. In fact, I can think of three clients who I’ve trained for around seven years now who did need to take a break from their training for about a year at some point during that span. They all asked for “things to do” when they stopped training, and I gave them programs to do on their own.

And guess what else again: They ALL came back – and largely because of that good service.

As fitness professionals in an industry with a larger mission to get people healthier, we should also be creating self-efficacy, not hindering it! But many clients also just like pleasing their trainers by showing that they can successfully exercise on their own, which often triggers a healthy, long-term relationship in turn.

Bottom line: Giving bad advice out of fear rather than doing what’s in a client’s best interest is never a good idea. It’s also not right! It’s a sign that trust is lacking and hinders rapport rather than creating it, which hurts any relationship – including the trainer-client relationship.   

Filed under: fitness commentary, psychology and behavior change, tips for trainers, Uncategorized

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One response to “Q&A: What Do I Do When My Clients Ask for Things They Can Do “On Their Own?””

  1. Kirk Warley says:

    Really great tip thank you. Makes perfect sense.

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