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How to Plan a Training Session with Your First Time Client — And Keep Them Coming Back for More

The article was originally published on TheTide.co blog

Meeting a new client for the first time is a lot like going to a job interview — no matter if you are a fitness instructor, a personal trainer, a yoga teacher or a professional coach.

You and your client are testing each other to see if your personalities will mesh in the long term. If you’re new to teaching and training, you’re probably trying to figure out the initial steps in planning a personal training program. Here are some tips on how to prepare a personal training plan for your first-time clients that’ll make them want to keep coming back for more.

Importance of Planning A Coaching Session

Prior to an introductory meeting, don’t just walk into your first training session with a client unprepared and assume it’s going to go smoothly. As a fitness professional, it’s your job to find out what your clients need in advance, so you know how to plan a personal training session catered to them. To prepare a training plan tailored to your clients’ needs, think about their expectations:

| Do they want to build muscle?

| Are they trying to lose weight and become more active for health reasons?

| Do they just want to feel better about their bodies?

Whatever their reasons for starting out on the active living journey, it’s important that you know those goals, so you can tailor your approach to their fitness. Take the time to think about how to prepare a personal training program that will meet your client’s experience, requirements and expectations, motivation, and level of condition. Also, don’t just lay out a workout plan for the first class — prepare a long-term personal training program that will cover several months so you can get your client excited about taking more classes with you down the road.

How the personal training plan template should look like? Here are some of the most important factors to keep in mind when designing an effective training program:

| Pick a few primary exercises you will use to gauge your client’s progress over the long-term. These form the skeleton of your fitness session. They should be chosen specifically to answer your client’s desired fitness goals.

| Add on additional, more advanced exercises for the client to learn as they become more experienced.

| Increase the number of sets and reps the client will perform as time goes by.

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Do a Health Check Before the Session

Before you begin training a new client, you’ll want to make sure you know their relevant medical history. Prepare a document consisting of all the most important questions you want to ask before starting a collaboration. Questions you might want to ask your first-time clients include among others:

| Have your clients had any recent surgeries?

| Do they suffer from regular back problems?

| Do their sensitive joints make certain exercises difficult to complete?

By finding out about these health concerns beforehand, you’ll be able to adjust your workout program as needed to suit your clients — otherwise, they might walk away from your class in pain and vow never to attend again. Make it clear up front that you expect them to speak up if they’re in physical pain — which is different from discomfort that comes from pushing yourself — so you can adjust the workout as needed. Yoga instructors and personal trainers can offer joint-friendly alternatives to common moves. By learning of health issues in advance, you’ll know how to prepare a personal training program that will work with your client’s health restrictions.

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Talk Your Clients Through Their Fitness Sessions

Discuss your training style upfront with the client to make sure they feel comfortable and confident with what you’re doing.

| Are you more of a cheerleader?

| Are you the type of coach who pushes people to their limits?

| Do you emphasize a whole-body approach (diet and lifestyle), in addition to exercise?

As you teach new exercise moves, be sure to talk to your client through the different muscles you’re targeting. Share tips and tricks related to the training session they might not be familiar with. Don’t be afraid to wow clients with your fitness knowledge and expertise — you want them to feel like they’re in good hands with you. After all, that’s why they’re paying you.

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Keep Your Relationship with Your Client Professional

Not only do you want to make sure you impress your clients with your health knowledge and fitness skills, but you’ll also want to maintain some professional boundaries between the two of you. This is something that can easily be neglected when you’re thinking about how to plan a personal training program, but it has important ethical and legal implications. Your job is to train your clients, not to become their best friend. That’s why you should keep the following tips in mind:

| Don’t yell at your client, even if they frustrate you.

| Be friendly, but don’t let the conversation become too personal.

| Above all, don’t be rude to your client.

Otherwise, you might make your client feel so uncomfortable he or she will never want to come back for another session. If that happens, all your efforts in planning and organizing personal training sessions will go to waste. So remember, be friendly — but professional.

Make Your Clients Feel Welcome

For some people, going to the gym or conducting any other physical activity might be a terrifying experience, far outside of their comfort zones. Your job as a personal trainer or fitness instructor is to make working out — at the gym or in any other place — seem less scary. Never judge people for their past fitness habits; instead, try to help them learn new skills so they can navigate life in a healthier way. That’s why you shouldn’t underestimate the power of a bright smile and a strong handshake.

In “The Current State of Personal Training”, a 2008 study, personal trainers agreed that external motivation is key to getting clients to stick around long-term.

One of the best ways to motivate your clients? Form friendly bonds with them. Even something as simple as pointing out the location of the nearest water fountains or explaining the gym’s etiquette (such as wiping down machines after use) will go a long way toward making people feel like they belong, meaning they’ll be more likely to come back. Ask questions and ensure your client knows that you welcome their questions in return.

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Teach Your Clients Healthy Habits

Hydration, stretching and warming up before workouts, and cooling down after a hard sweat: these are probably the easiest steps in planning a personal training program. You don’t need to spend half the class on them, but these healthy habits will help your client get physically and mentally ready to work out.

According to “Personal Trainer Demographics, Current Practice Trends and Common Trainee Injuries”, a 2016 study of over 600 different personal trainers, the injuries that appear most often during sessions are muscle strains, tendonitis, shin splints, and ankle sprains.

That’s a warning sign that you shouldn’t push your clients too hard, too soon. They’ll grow frustrated and possibly even hurt themselves. The first personal training session is not the time to teach super advanced exercise moves!

Leave a Paper Trail

Always be prepared for even the worst situations by making sure all clients fill out their complete health histories and sign waivers before a training session. This is the one step you should not neglect when you design a workout session plan template. We hate to think about it, but sometimes things happen that are outside of our control. By keeping a paper trail, you won’t be liable if an injury occurs.

Track and Analyse Your Client’s Progress

Fitness progress doesn’t only have to be measured by the pounds on the scale. Write down how far your client can run without taking a break or how many push-ups he can do during his first training session. Continue to keep track of these measurements on a weekly and monthly basis. This provides a clear-cut example of how far your client has progressed since his first training session with you. When he sees how far he’s come, he’ll feel more motivated to keep training than ever before.

Remember, planning and organizing personal training sessions isn’t something you should do five minutes before the class starts. Take the time to design a workout session plan template that caters to your clients’ needs and you’ll start to see dividends as they keep coming back for more.

See also: How To Become A Personal Trainer: An Ultimate Guide To Personal Training As A Career

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