Personal trainers need interpersonal skills to establish rapport and create a personal training program that works successfully for the clients.
Whether you’re starting a career in personal fitness training or are already a skilled professional, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’re going to explore everything you need to know about the communication skills that personal trainers should have.
Personal training takes a one-on-one approach to fitness training. This means that as a personal trainer, you don’t need to carry on multiple conversations at once during sessions.
Unlike group fitness instructors, personal trainers focus on their client’s individual health and fitness goals.
Trainers design training programs that include exercises for a client’s specific goals. In each session, they focus on one client and motivate them to push through that one last rep.
Active listening is when you listen not just to respond, but to understand what your client is saying. This communication skill is a key element to establishing a successful conversation with another person because it makes them feel heard and valued.
Active listening includes the following techniques:
Active listening requires you to concentrate on what the other person is saying by being present in the conversation. To concentrate, you need to use your senses, including sound and sight.
Moreover, you can focus your attention on the conversation by keeping away distractions, such as cell phones. You should also avoid zoning out and thinking about what you’re going to do later. If you lose track of what they are saying, just ask them to repeat it.
The purpose of talking is to understand each other. Make every effort to understand your client.
Words and sounds are important parts of communication. However, your facial expressions and body language are just as important.
In fact, non-verbal cues can tell you a lot about what a person is feeling.
In addition to picking up on your client’s nonverbal cues, you should also express desirable non-verbal cues to let the other person know that you’re truly tuned in to the conversation. Nod at key junctures, lean in, and smile as you listen (obviously when appropriate).
When engaging in active listening, maintain eye contact. This way, you’re letting them know that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying. It also indicates that you’re focused on the conversation.
In a busy gym, there are a thousand potential distractions going on. If you’re a well-known personal trainer, everyone in the place is going to want to say hi and bye to you. Don’t let random people take away from the attention you give to your client.
Another technique for active listening is avoiding questions that often keep the conversation from flowing. Close-Ended questions are answerable by yes or no, which is why they can only produce non-descriptive answers from other persons.
On the other hand, opting for open-ended questions signifies that you’re engaged with the conversation and willing to know more. Plus, it moves the conversation forward.
Sometimes you’ve got a client who is just quiet and you’re trying to get them to talk some more so that you can get more information about their past exercise history, how they feel about the current workouts, etc. That’s where this technique comes into play.
Patience is when you let the other person speak without interrupting. It gives them time to think and speak about what they’re truly feeling. Don’t finish their sentences for them as this indicates impatience or boredom. Sometimes it can show that you’re listening, but it’s rarely a good idea to cut someone off.
Wait until the client is done speaking before responding.
Moreover, don’t try to fill the silence by telling your own stories and thoughts. This hour belongs to them, not you. Haven’t you ever noticed how happy people are to talk about themselves? Let them.
Stay non-judgmental during the conversation. Also, giving neutral responses lets the client feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts. Show them that the conversation is a safe zone and that they won’t be criticized or shamed for their opinions.
You’re also bound to keep your mouth shut about your clients. Slip it in the conversation somewhere that you don’t talk about your clients to other people or other clients. And make sure to not talk about other clients to them so that they know you practice what you preach.
Sometimes a client will try to bait you into talking about another client. Be vague or just outright say that you’d rather not talk about them. I have been the subject of dinner table conversation in many houses and thankfully it wasn’t because I was spreading gossip.
You’d be surprised at how far something you say travels.
Reflecting on what you hear is one of the most effective techniques of active listening. Reflective feedback is when you restate the other person’s concerns or feelings. Try to rephrase what you heard and check with them to see that you understand. Ask further questions if you don’t.
Don’t just imitate what the client said. Instead, let them know you understand their concerns by using your own words. This will show them that you are listening. In addition, let the client correct you if you miss the big picture.
This way, there’ll be a minimum of miscommunications.
The Importance of Non-Verbal Communication as a Personal Fitness Trainer
Generally, non-verbal communication is connecting with the client with the use of body language, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. In fact, studies show that non-verbal communication plays a bigger role than verbal communication.
Here are some examples of non-verbal cues and their importance:
As a personal trainer, your body should express attentiveness and confidence. Hence, you should maintain positive body language. Avoid crossing your arms or slouching because it indicates disinterest, fatigue, and boredom.
For example, you are regularly watching your client perform movements. Let’s say that you’re doing a more involved and difficult movement such as a deadlift or an overhead squat. Stand to the side of them, take a knee and look directly at them. What does your body language say at that point? Anyone in the room can tell you that you’re engaged in coaching your client.
Observe yourself throughout the day in the gym and see just what your body language is saying at any given moment. You might be surprised.
When interacting with your clients, try to maintain a relaxed and fluid motion with your hands. Avoid fidgeting or frantic hand gestures because they might find it distracting.
Your facial expressions play an important role when it comes to establishing trust with your client. Always be genuine when you’re showing enjoyment, concern, and thoughtfulness. By doing so, you’re letting them know that you’re sincere.
The tone of voice you use to deliver information to your client is vital when it comes to earning their trust.
Your tone of voice should vary based on what is being talked about. At times, you should be able to sound scholarly and informative. Then at times, you should be able to portray disgust and a little anger, such as when talking about food fads and marketing scams.
And when your client shows you a video of their child, you’ve got to respond with the most maternal (or paternal) tone of voice that you can.
You’re dealing with people all day. Using the appropriate tone of voice to express any given emotion is beyond beneficial. A monotone trainer can make it if he knows his stuff, but people often like to have a trainer that injects energy into the scene.
Keeping good eye contact with your client will let them know that he has your undivided attention. Additionally, maintaining friendly eye contact, indicates that you’re fully present, self-confident, and you care what the client has to say.
As a personal trainer, you need a positive attitude that you can share with your client. Not all of them are going to stay motivated with their fitness goals, so it’s important that you inspire and support them to achieve their goals.
Keep in mind that as their trainer, you also serve as their advisor or coach to help them maintain a positive mindset throughout their training.
Many fitness instructors mess this up by being a fake sort of “enthusiastic” all the time. That’s not the point here. The point is to have fun. It’s not hard to do this with a room full of toys, active people and upbeat music. Just let it happen, don’t force it.
Clients can express upset to their personal trainers. However, know that the personal trainer is rarely the actual source of their concerns. Most of the time, the source of their upset is some major situation going on in their lives.
Bear in mind that an upset client usually already had that attitude before they walked in the door, and it had nothing to do with their personal trainer. I’ve taken a lot of this personally over the years and only after a long time did I realize that they weren’t mad at me – they were just mad.
If you can stand up to their random emotional outbreaks, they will respect you even more. Clients who do this know that they are acting irrational and often apologize. Don’t be the effect of it.
Fast responses to messages and phone calls helps build rapport with a client.
According to Pat Rigsby, the co-owner of Fitness Consulting Group, projecting a professional and enthusiastic tone during a phone conversation makes the client feel like the phone call is important to you.
While personal training is a two-way relationship, the process of working together with a client requires teamwork. Here’s why it’s important in personal training:
Working with your clients gives you the opportunity to get to know them and gain their trust. That way, you can establish a strong bond with them.
As a good personal trainer, maintaining a positive attitude allows your client to go through the session even when they’re not feeling motivated. As a result, they’re making steady progress toward their goals.
As a personal trainer, you offer support and closely monitor clients during sessions. By doing so, you can ensure that they’re using the right technique and eliminate the risk of injuries.
Aside from good communication skills, personal trainers should show their clients that they’re reliable. Here’s what you can do to let your client know you can depend on them:
Punctuality is an important characteristic of a good personal trainer. You shouldn’t keep your clients waiting during training sessions as it gives them the impression that you’re undependable.
Canceling sessions at the last minute shows unprofessionalism. This makes your clients feel that you’re not taking the job seriously.
Better yet, don’t miss the session in the first place.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. By doing so, your clients will see that you’re seeking to understand their experience and respond with respect.
Besides that, empathy creates a sincere and caring environment for your client, which then leads to social engagement and increased enjoyment. On top of that, you’re establishing mutual trust and respect.
Here are some tips on how you can build empathy with your client:
Consider introducing your clients to one another, especially the ones going through similar fitness journeys. Aside from your support, they can also empathize with and encourage one another.
Put yourself in your client’s shoes and understand how they worked hard to achieve their long-term or short-term fitness goal. Then, take note of these accomplishments and congratulate them.
According to IBISWorld, the obesity trends result in an increased demand for fitness trainers. In fact, the Personal Trainers Industry is expected to rise at an annual rate of 1.9 % revenue to $12.3 billion in 2028.
As a personal trainer with good interpersonal skills, you’re more likely to succeed in the industry.