The most successful personal trainers know their clients in and out.
Oh hey, Julie. Are you ready for your session today? Great. I know work has been crazy busy the past few weeks with that special project you’ve been working on lately, but I hope you still had time to squeeze in your workouts. You’re going to need to step up the training intensity if you and your husband are planning on running that marathon in January!
Are you able to speak with your clients in this much detail?
Conversations like these show that you’re familiar with their specific needs. Customer service at its finest!
So how do you get to know your personal training clients better?
I’ve found that one of the best ways of gaining insight into your client’s personal life is through a lifestyle journal.
Gaining Useful Information From Your Clients
A client of mine, Julie, came to me because she couldn’t figure out why she wasn’t able to lose any weight. We got into talking about how she eats salads and works out a “few times a week”, yet none of that seemed to work.
Well, of course once she started training with me I had her fill out a lifestyle journal. Although she had filled out a PAR-Q, there were certain habits that weren’t made apparent.
As it turned out, sitting in front of the computer screen all day at work, Julie was often snacking throughout the day, she just didn’t realize it until she needed to track it all.
A handful mixed nuts here, a cafe latte there, and 500 calories later, it’s no wonder why she wasn’t able to lose any weight despite her best efforts.
What Exactly Is A Lifestyle Journal?
A lifestyle journal is a tool that can supplement the face-to-face conversations you have with a client during training sessions. In it, clients will describe their daily activities and habits, such as:
- What they eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks
- What types of exercises they do (if any!)
- What times they wake up and go to sleep
The client should also track activity levels, energy levels and satiety levels throughout the day.
These metrics help to answer questions such as: “How did they feel after eating that sandwich?”, “Did they eat because they were hungry or bored?”, and “How did they feel before and after their workout?”
Not only is this one of the best ways to keep up with your clients, but your clients will likely learn a thing or two about themselves in the process as well.
Getting Down To Business
You should introduce clients to the lifestyle journal during the initial consultation.
It’s important to mention it early for a couple of reasons. First off, it lets you see what clients’ “before” habits are. And, second, it sets expectations so that clients will know what to prepare for when training with you.
Clients should begin by documenting their daily activities without making any significant changes to their normal routine over the first week. This makes your job easier because it paints a realistic picture of what is holding them back from the goals they came to you for.
I recommend having clients complete one full week so that you can capture both their weekday as well as their weekend routines, since these can be extremely different.
Throughout the program, take time to review all journal entries before each session. Ask the client questions about their day, as well as what they thought went well and what could use some improvement.
This gets them thinking for themselves on how to make healthier life choices.
While conversation doesn’t have to be formal and cover every single line item, be sure to touch on at least a couple of the biggest items. Through frequent communication and updated information you can provide a very high quality service to your client, which keeps them coming back for more.
Many Tiny Improvements Lead To Great Change
Even the slightest change in one’s daily habits can pay off in huge dividends.
From the earlier example, eliminating Julie’s daily latte alone eliminates over a thousand calories from her diet! At an average of 300 calories with the whipped cream on top, it really adds up quickly. Remember, it takes 3,500 calories to gain or lose 1lb of body fat.
In addition to dietary concerns, try suggesting other healthy ideas such as food substitutions, a better sleep schedule, and a more consistent workout routine.
Feeling groggy after 6 hours of sleep? Get a better night’s rest and try to fit in a couple of extra hours when possible.
Feeling energetic at 11:00am, but crashing at 2:00pm due to the post-lunch food coma? Eat lighter meals, or spread meals throughout the day.
Regretting that burger, fries and shake combo? Next time, try swapping it for a turkey breast sandwich on wheat bread. Oh, and hold the mayo, please.
Feeling amazing after the recommend minimum of 20 minutes of exercise each day? Great, then keep it up and go for more!
With the information you receive, you can truly customize your training program for each and every client. Have the client start experimenting, even the slightest change to their daily routine can lead to amazing results.
Accurate Info Or A Misleading Bluff?
One of the biggest challenges will be relying on your clients’ transparency into their daily lives.
Julie, are you sure all you had for lunch today was a salad? I see some cookie crumbs on your shirt there.
Although one would like to expect honesty from everyone, it’s important to keep a questioning mind. If your client is struggling week after week, but the lifestyle journal shows nothing but healthy food and exercise, something surely doesn’t make sense.
Use your judgment, usually you can tell when a client isn’t being fully transparent and honest.
If this situation does occur, simply allow your coaching side to come out and remind them of how this plays such a significant role in allowing you to do your job properly.
Keeping Tabs On Keeping Tabs
The lifestyle journal should be completed for a minimum of one week. However, sometimes you may find yourself recommending that the client complete the lifestyle journal for much longer. For example, if client:
- Doesn’t fill it out in enough detail
- Doesn’t complete it daily
- Enjoys the accountability
- Enjoys seeing consistent progress
Some clients will be very diligent and complete their entries daily without a miss. Others will skip a couple of days and scramble to complete it moments before your session together. And some clients will even complain about the time required to fill the form out in such detail.
There is a bit of a time commitment involved with this and not everyone will always be on board with the idea at first.
Again, just be sure to remind clients that they are paying you a lot of money to keep them accountable It’s important that they understand and participate in this critical step in the process.
Better Client Relationships Means Better Retention
It can be a real challenge to get your clients to build healthy habits. Once these habits are formed, however, clients will begin to see tremendous progress, achieve their goals and become raving fans of their personal trainer. Can you say “referrals” anyone?
This is why the best personal trainers in the business know almost everything about each and every one of their clients. The better you understand your clients, the easier it is to get them thinking about their actions and how they can begin to bring in better choices to help them in their fitness journey.
Again, you are being paid to help them build better habits that will allow them to reach their goals. Most times, if you aren’t helping clients to reach their goals, they will gladly find and pay someone else who will.
All in all, the lifestyle journal will be one of your best tools in learning more about your clients, building long-lasting client relationships and a more profitable personal training business.
Do you use a lifestyle journal with your clients? What are some of the other creative ways you have clients track their progress? Let me know in the comments below!