When it comes to anything, “perception is reality”. Even though exercise and fitness have been shown to have numerous benefits, good intentions to promote fitness have certainly been shown to backfire and result in negative press. For example, in the months leading up to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games people could get a free ride if they completed 30 body-weight squats for city officials. The goal of the initiative was to get people into the Olympic spirit, but it ended up potentially making more people fearful and exercise and physical activity than excited to get moving! Although it may have been done with the best of intentions, it ended up creating a negative buzz as the world got wind of it. The last thing we need, as fitness professionals, is more negative press about fitness and exercise! We work so hard each day to make fitness “fun”, not have people running away in fear!
Knowing that the majority of people out there don’t like doing exercise (or even fear it), this strategy wasn’t one that was destined to succeed. Understandably, this was born of good intentions but it’s like the iconic image of the militaristic gym teacher, with whistle in hand, using a stern voice to coax a weaker student up the climbing rope. If we haven’t experienced it, we’ve certainly seen it in popular movies (most likely because this is how the writer remembers it). The gym teacher is trying to help this person achieve a goal … meanwhile, others watching dread their turn in the “spotlight”, afraid they will fail and be forever judged by others. This is done with the best of intentions but ends up creating a negative perception of fitness and exercise.
Just like the gym teacher, personal trainers also have the best of intentions. Unfortunately, you are constantly on display when training clients (at the gym, by others in the studio) … and the people viewing may not like what they see. Personal trainers and fitness professionals rely on being seen to market their services and get clients. But, because “perception is reality”, it’s important to think carefully about how your actions (or what you are doing with your clients) may be perceived negatively by others.
Your Actions + the Perception of Others = Your Marketing Campaign
Personal trainers not only have to create effective programs to help their clients get results, they also need to make sure others maintain a positive perception of them as a fitness professional to market themselves effectively as an exceptional and “sought after” trainer. For example, club owners and operators look for personal trainers who display certain characteristics in an effort to best market their business. They look for personal trainers who:
- Are fully “engaged” in the session (i.e., pay complete attention to their client, are involved in the delivery of the training and instruction of each exercise, and do everything necessary to ensure their client is safe and gets the most out of each exercise and activity)
- Display good communication skills and positive talk (i.e., speak clearly and concisely with their client, ask the “right” questions and listen to them, and motivate using positive reinforcement and words of encouragement rather than reprimand)
- Display good body language (i.e., are fully engaged and in close proximity to their client, look them directly in the eye, are positive, energetic, enthusiastic, and smiling)
- Have their clients smiling … most of the time (i.e., when your clients are smiling and enjoying/appreciating what they get out of the session, that shows you and others that they are getting exactly what they are paying for … and will keep on coming back for more!)
- Get their clients excited to work (i.e., are effectively motivating their clients to give their very best with each exercise and activity … leading to more effective results in a faster time!)
As you can imagine, a club full of trainers with these characteristics represent the club well and get people excited to open their wallets to buy personal training. The same should apply to personal trainers who work on their own and are building their own independent business!
As a personal trainer, whether you are working for someone else or building your own fitness business, you have to remember that you are ALWAYS under the scrutiny of those who see what you are doing with your clients (or even when you are exercising on your own). Be conscious of this and use the checklist above to keep yourself focused on providing the best service possible for your clients and marketing yourself in an effective way. Juggling the two will ensure you differentiate yourself from the pack and get more clients for the long term!