Reading Time: 8 minutes
In a perfect world, every client would become a forever client. But this isn’t a reality. Instead, it’s more common to only work with a client for a certain period of time.
Understanding the average time that clients stay with personal trainers can help you see how you compare with other fitness professionals. It also helps you recognize if you might need to make changes to improve your ability to retain personal training clients longer.
It’s often recommended that clients work with a personal trainer for at least three to six months. This provides a good foundation for their fitness journey. However, if you talk to personal trainers in the field, you’ll find that it’s uncommon for most clients to stick around longer than a few months. Some stop coming after one session.
The way that clients quit working with a personal trainer can vary. In some cases, they simply don’t renew their personal training package. Others fail to show up to a pre-scheduled session, either with or without notice.
No matter how they choose to end the client-personal trainer relationship, figuring out why clients leave is the first step to also considering how to make them want to stay.
There are several reasons why a person may choose to no longer work with a personal trainer. Some to consider include:
the exercise is too easy or hard for their fitness level
they don’t feel motivated by the trainer
they’ve been training for a while but still haven’t hit their fitness goal
they get injured during a training session
they don’t enjoy the workout routine
the fitness plan doesn’t align with their lifestyle
they aren’t getting the personalized attention they want
the trainer doesn’t act like a fitness professional
their personality clashes with that of the personal trainer
they can no longer afford personal training
other life events or situations have gotten in the way
Because these reasons are so varied, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to resolving personal training client retention problems. There are, however, consequences to not addressing this issue at all.
When you are unable to keep clients for a decent length of time, the likelihood of them reaching their fitness goals decreases. And if you become known as a trainer who doesn’t get clients results, you’re not likely to be in high demand. This reduces your client list, driving your income down with it.
Some people will take your poor client retention as a sign that you’re not a good personal trainer—even if this isn’t the case. They’ll question your ability to get them the results they want. If they believe that you can’t help them reach their goals, they’ll work with someone else.
Additionally, when clients only work with you for one or two sessions and don’t come back, it can reduce your morale. You may begin to wonder why you put so much effort into designing a training program only to have them quit. This can quickly lead to feelings of burnout and low job satisfaction. It may even make you want to stop personal training altogether.
That’s why it is so important to do what you can to make your clients want to continue the training relationship. Fortunately, many strategies can help provide this effect.
If a client is absolutely intent on no longer working with a personal trainer, there is nothing you can do. But there are several actions you can take to help keep them from getting to that point, increasing their desire to work with you for as long as they can. Here are some to consider.
Be professional, always. It’s easy to think of a client as a friend if you spend a lot of time training them. However, it’s important to remember that you are a fitness professional. Keep your professional hat on always so you don’t risk inadvertently offending or turning off a client by saying something to them that you’d ordinarily say to a friend, but they may take the wrong way.
Be clear about the type of fitness training you provide. This tells your client what to expect when working with you, also reducing the risk that they’ll quit because they didn’t understand what each session will entail. Tell them if you offer strength training, cardio, or both and the methods you use. You may even offer for them to sit in on a session with another client to see what your training is like.
Don’t promise results you can’t deliver. Clients come to you because they have certain goals. While you may want to play up your abilities, you never want to promise results that you can’t provide. This sets clients up for disappointment, potentially making them want to quit training.
Reinforce the value of working with a trainer. Some people stop working with a trainer because they don’t understand the true value that a trainer provides. Help them understand that you can help them get to their goals faster and more efficiently. Explain how you’re both a coach and cheerleader and there to provide support every step of their fitness journey.
Encourage clients to come to you if they’re not happy. Tell them you want to know if they’re dissatisfied with any aspect of their workout plan or personal training session. This shows that you care about them and that you’re also willing to listen if you’re doing something that isn’t sitting right with them or doesn’t feel good in any way.
Work with clients who are a good fit. Not every client and personal trainer are meant to work together. For increased client longevity, it’s helpful to find clients who are a good fit for your training programs and style. During your intake sessions, let clients know that being a good fit is just as important for them. It can go a long way if you’re also willing to refer them to another trainer who may align with their personality and goals better.
Devise individualized training programs. To provide better results, be ready to modify your ready-made training programs for individual clients based on their specific fitness levels and goals. Individualized training also involves making enough time for every client. If you have too many clients, you can’t tend to each the way you’d like—or the way that they deserve.
Connect the training to their goals. A good personal trainer knows that the best way to motivate clients is to connect what they do during each session to getting them one step closer to their goals. This requires learning their goals upfront, then reinforcing how each exercise you ask them to do helps them take a step toward it.
Ask clients about the physical activities they like and dislike. You can have the best program in the world, but if it involves a physical activity your clients don’t like doing, they’re not likely to stick with you for long. Take the time upfront to ask if there are any activities they enjoy and any that they’d rather avoid. This helps you create a program that makes them want to keep coming back for more.
Inquire how much time clients can dedicate to exercise. Even if you know that your client should work out with you three times a week, asking them to do so when they don’t have much free time may make them want to quit before they start. Work with the time parameters they set, then encourage them to exercise between sessions if they want to reach their goals faster.
Find out when clients like to work out. Does your client like to work out in the morning, midday, or at night? If they are a nighttime exerciser and you’re scheduling morning workouts, it’s just a matter of time before they’ll quit showing up.
Perform a fitness assessment on every client. An assessment helps establish a baseline for their fitness levels. It also gives you a measure you can use to show them that they’re making progress. Fitness assessments also help reduce injury risk by enabling you to assign exercises consistent with their current level.
Stress the importance of using proper form. One survey found that the most common injuries in training sessions are low back injuries, rotator cuff tears, shin splints, ankle sprains, and neck muscle strain. (1) Protect clients as much as possible from these injuries by stressing proper form.
Check in with clients regularly. Some clients will come to you when there’s an issue. Others will just walk away. To keep the latter from happening, check in with them often. Ask if the exercise program is too easy or hard. Use their feedback to make any changes needed so they enjoy their workouts more.
Talk about why regular training sessions are necessary. You can’t work out once or twice a week and expect to lose weight or gain muscle. Make sure clients understand this. Help them see that the more they show up in the gym, the better their results.
Track client results and adjust their training accordingly. Use fitness assessments and other tools, such as fat calipers or a measuring tape, to measure client results. If they’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like, modify their training plan. This helps them overcome training plateaus, improving your ability to retain that client long-term.
Give greater price discounts for longer training packages. If you want clients to stick with you longer, offer them an extended training package for a lower price. This might involve a discount if they sign up for six months instead of three, for instance. The length of your package should be consistent with how long it will take them to get their desired results.
Offer online personal training. Online training offers clients maximum convenience. This means fewer excuses as to why they can’t exercise. If you’re not already offering services as an online personal trainer, consider doing so. Online coaching also offers benefits for you, such as being able to train from the comfort of your home.
Be flexible with your training hours. If you only offer training Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., clients who work during the day are automatically shut out. Certainly, this flexibility is easier if you are an independent trainer than if you’re employed by a fitness center that gives you set hours. However, if you can offer training on different days and times, your clients may be more willing to stick with you due to working better for their schedule.
Provide different payment options. If you’re losing clients because of their financial situation, offering various payment options may help. Instead of charging $200 per month, for example, let them pay $50 per week. Or you might give them a discount if they pay upfront. The more options they have, the easier it becomes to fit your training services into their budget.
Ask clients to commit to their fitness routine in writing. There’s something about putting our commitments in writing that makes us stick with them longer. Before even working together, ask clients to sign a form committing to working toward their goals. Encourage them to look at that commitment whenever they feel like giving up to remind them of how strong their desire is to make positive changes in their lives.
Another way to improve client retention is to earn your certification. When you are certified, it tells clients that you know how to devise an effective fitness program. This can increase their trust in you, potentially even improving their adherence to your training plan. It also puts you one step ahead of a fitness trainer who lacks this designation. You become the trainer they want to secure—and to keep.
You can become a Certified Personal Trainer through ISSA. This training course is offered online and includes unlimited support, even beyond the certification exam. Upon its completion, you also receive a free professional website. This enables you to be found more easily by individuals searching for your fitness services long-term.
Start your dream career completely online! Take the course, pass the certification final exam, and be guaranteed a job - or your money back!
Waryasz, G. R., Daniels, A. H., Gil, J. A., Suric, V., & Eberson, C. P. (2016). Personal Trainer Demographics, Current Practice Trends and Common Trainee Injuries. Orthopedic Reviews, 8(3), 6600. https://doi.org/10.4081/or.2016.6600