Nick Mitchell is a leading body composition expert and the founder of the Ultimate Performance global personal training gym. He is based in Los Angeles.
1 Know your role
One of the key reasons we at UP achieve the results we do is because we have changed the trainer-client dynamic. Our trainers have a special relationship with each of their clients. What does this mean? One thing it doesn’t mean is that they are not trying to be someone’s mate. A personal trainer should never be a rent-a-friend who tells the client what they want to hear. Their job is to become trusted advisors, coaches, confidantes, motivators and even shrinks to get the client moving in the direction they need to go in.
I get why a lot of trainers do try to be their client’s new best friend. It’s tough on the floors of commercial gyms because you have to have a certain number of clients to make rent before you can even think about turning a profit each month.
It can be relentless and there is huge pressure to win – and then keep – clients. All too often this leads to a trainer taking the easy option and not pushing the client forwards, instead sticking them on the treadmill for 45 minutes at a pace so comfortable that you can maintain a conversation about last night’s match.
That’s not what being a PT is about. The role is always to get a client to perform at a level that they simply could not manage by themselves. That’s why they come to you – to force them out of their comfort zone so they can make significant changes to the way they look and feel. If a client leaves the gym after their session and think that they could have done that workout without you there, then you have failed. It’s as simple as that.
2 Focus on results
Results can come in all shapes and sizes and ultimately it is all about what the clients wants to achieve. Your job is to find out what that is, ensuring it is a realistic goal in the given timeframe, then make it happen. As a body composition coach, clients come to me because they want to add muscle and get abs. But there are many brilliant personal trainers out there who have never got a client a six-pack because that’s not what the client wanted. They may have just wanted to look and feel a little bit healthier and fitter. Whatever their goal you have to do what it takes to get them there.
3 Education is essential
I never used to believe in giving clients meal plans. Everyone is different and you can never provide a one-size-fits-all diet. But over the years I have learned that a significant number of people need a meal plan because they don’t have the time or energy to plan out their own one. The best way of providing this is to start by giving them a seven-day plan – designed for them specifically based on what you know about them and their existing habits – and see how they get on with it and make the necessary adjustments.
You should get them to follow your diet, which I hear happens all too often. And don’t project your nutritional beliefs on an uneducated client. Flexible dieting or IIFYM might work perfectly well for you, but they tend never to be the best approach when you need to maximise results, especially fat loss.
Your goal here is to gradually educate them about food and what they need to eat and when so that, over time, they begin to take more control over the way they eat. Give them the knowledge to eat better and they will perform better and achieve even greater results. .
4 Know your worth
If a client cancels last minute you must always charge them for a full session. You need to value your time and if you don’t charge them, they will questions whether they really need you. On the other hand, don’t ever be afraid to send a client home if they are unwell. Don’t train them and don’t charge them. They will respect you more for having their best interest at heart and it will strengthen your relationship.
5 Take it personally
If you take one thing away from this article then it is this. You need to take your clients’ results personally. Having this approach will instantly elevate you into the higher echelons of the personal training industry.
If a client isn’t getting the results you think they should be, then you need to take it personally and find out the problem so you can fix it. If you don’t care, you don’t communicate. Ask them about work, sleep, diet, anything that could be negatively impacting their progress. If they swear that everything outside the gym is fine, then you need to realise that your programme isn’t effective enough, so you need to change it.
I have a young trainer at my Mayfair gym called Sean Murphy. He’s the perfect example of this attitude. His personality is nothing like mine. He is understated, occasionally taciturn, and non-confrontational. He’s the opposite to me, but he gets phenomenal results. Why? Because when one of his clients doesn’t get the results he wants, he gets pissed off. Never with the client, but with himself. He questions everything he is doing and tries to find areas where he can make tweaks or changes to get the client back on track. He never settles for anything other than the best approach, even if it takes him a little bit of experimentation or trial and error to get there. That’s the mindset you want.
6 Put on a performance
I don’t care how bad you feel or how tired or hungry you are. When you step on the gym floor with a client you are putting on a performance. I think it’s an absolute scandal when I see a trainer going through the motions with a client. You need to perform because they need your energy and positivity to inspire them. If you can’t do this every time you train someone, then you’re in the wrong business.