40 Personal Trainers Reveal How To Manage Clients’ Expectations

As a client, you decide to hire a personal trainer because you have some goals that you want to achieve. Those could not always be entirely realistic or they may require much more time than you expect even with the help of a professional.

You can’t expect to grow your muscles like Superman’s, nor get the body of a Victoria’s Secret angel in a month. And that’s ok. Progress takes time and dedication. It’s also up to the personal trainer to manage clients’ expectations to achievable, healthy standards.

To find out more about what is the best way to deal with new eager clients, we reached out to 40 personal trainers and asked them the following question:

What are the best ways to manage a new client’s expectations of personal training?

We asked:

Keep reading below to find out the advice and the experiences that these fitness trainers shared with us.

Esther Avant

I think upfront communication is crucial. Most of us want much more immediate and drastic results than is realistic and it’s important that we manage those expectations right from the get-go.

I don’t like to get too deep into the science unless I know the client will actually be interested in it but I think it’s important to explain both of our roles in the relationship.

My job is to provide a safe and effective program that will help them progress gradually over time without risking injury or burnout.

Their job is to show up to our sessions, put in the work to the best of their ability, and be consistent with the other exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle habits we decide together will help them reach their goals.

Stephanie Thomas Fitness

Setting realistic expectations with new clients is so important to me!

I believe in training in a healthy and sustainable way, so I often share on social media that I don’t believe in any quick fixes, and results are only seen with dedication and consistent training.

I am honest and upfront with potential clients when they request to work with me. Results take time and that’s just the simple truth.

I remind them that fitness is a lifelong process and it will take some time to reverse years of previous bad habits. You can’t expect to see a huge change in 4 weeks if you haven’t been exercising and eating well for years.

To help my clients stay consistent, I love getting to know their goals and what they enjoy doing for physical activity.

I include their favorite active hobbies in their program design because it will help with results and consistency.

It’s not always easy to share with clients that results may take longer than expected, but being honest with my clients is the most important to me.

When we start training together, I ask my clients to take measurements including body measurements with a measuring tape, “before” photos from a few different angles, and weighing themselves on a scale.

It’s important to help them understand that tracking their weight on a scale is not always the best way to measure progress, so having the photos and measurements can really help them see how far they’ve come since starting a program.

Christopher Walker – Fit Pro Income

Clients new to personal training should discuss and agree on clear, realistic goals before training begins. They need to be made aware of the level of commitment and intensity required of them to make their goals achievable.

It also needs to be made clear that when not working with their trainer, they should be focussing on their training outside of sessions and paying close attention to their diets, not only relying on the sessions they take with a trainer watching them.

Many people’s experiences of working with a trainer end in disappointment, not usually because of the trainer, but because the client relied on their scheduled PT sessions too heavily, whilst ignoring their diet, training, and lifestyle choices.

It’s important to establish realistic time frames, as it’s common for people to think that results come quickly as long as they hire a trainer. They make training more efficient and safer, but they can’t do the work for you.

Melissa Nagai – B.Pilates

I started my career in fitness as a fitness class and spin instructor, eventually becoming a Personal Trainer and Pilates teacher with my own Pilates & Fitness studio.

I love when someone comes to me and wants to start personal training. I ask the new client a lot of questions.

What are they currently doing for fitness and exercise? What do they like about those things? Why do they want to do something different? Will this be in addition to what they already are doing? What are their goals?

What I have noticed over the years is that those who have realistic goals and have decided by themselves for themselves to take this step to work with a trainer are the ones who are most committed.

Someone who comes to me and is doing almost no exercise, but says that they are going to workout with me 5 days a week, plus change their eating, and going to start running, become completely overwhelmed and super disappointed in themselves when they “mess up” or miss a workout or two.

I discuss this with them and help them to start with something that is less commitment to start out with.

As they get into a routine with the workouts, then we look at adding more.

Trainers are there to coach you, be positive, check your form and provide you with a program and push you to challenge yourself but it is the job of the client to be committed and consistent.

I’m not the trainer who yells at my clients. I will clap, cheer, say “good job”, way to go, excellent, and might even crank up the music.

Sure my voice goes up but I want the new clients to know that they are safe and seen and encouraged but that they need to find it within themselves to do the work!

Safe movement, rest, hydration, a balanced diet, and consistency are key!

Darlene Bellarmino – RISE Training & Nutrition

Managing client expectations takes time to develop. I start with scheduling a discovery call before they even book my services.

In this call, we discuss their goals, their medical history (specifically, any injuries or heart conditions), how many days per week, and the length of sessions they are looking to do.

It’s in the discovery call that I can have a discussion, being upfront with them in terms of their expectations, but also mine as their potential trainer.

It is important that the client also knows the trainer’s expectations to know if it fits in with their goals and lifestyle.

Once a client begins their training journey, I have follow-up calls with them because expectations and goals can change.

This gives them the opportunity to tell me what they enjoy, and what they don’t as well as what makes them feel good and what doesn’t.

There are times when they do not like a specific exercise. That is when it is extremely important to have a discussion about it because it may just be that it is difficult for them rather than it hurts them.

It helps the client realize that it may be something to work on.

Saara Haapanen – Performance Is Haapanen

Open communication and discussion are key.

What are their goals? Are they realistic? How hard are they willing to work? Are they willing to make changes?

Do they know why they want to change? This one is key, if someone has a superficial reason for wanting to start with a trainer like, “to fit into a pair of jeans” their motivation probably won’t last, and I wrote a Ph.D. and Master’s thesis on motivation.

They’ll need to find a much deeper “why” to be able to truly change their life. Something like “so I can play on the floor with my grandkids, or not die of cardiovascular disease like my dad”

I think being open and honest about what is truly attainable and how much work it actually takes is key to managing expectations. I personally work with my clients on life changes and not trendy nonsense or fitness fads.

I help them reach their goals and give them a realistic timeline of what that would look like. I also try to explain to them that they didn’t gain weight overnight, and it’s not going to come off overnight either.

It’s what you do consistently day in and day out that will get you results over time, and an hour in the gym even daily isn’t going to do it.

There are 24 hours in a day and what you do in the gym is just a tiny portion of actually changing your life.

I really work with my humans on mindset and truly figuring out the “why”. That way when things are challenging it’s easier to make the smarter choice.

Everyone these days wants a magic pill and a quick fix but that’s not really how it works.

Phil Catudal – Trained By Phil

When setting a new client’s expectations, it is incredibly important to set goals together and have specific conversations about what will be required. I always ask my prospective clients what their goals are first, before anything.

Then I tell them based on my expertise what it would take to achieve that goal: I’m talking about exactly how many weekly strength workouts, how much cardio and how long, and what type of nutrition, hydration, and sleep level!

Once I lay out what it will take to get to their goal and really make it granular, I then asked him the question again: so, what is your goal?

Usually, they laugh if it was a little too outlandish at first and then together we set a goal that’s realistic based on their level of commitment and time.

If they agree to the tough goal I hold them to it and we make a plan accordingly. At the end of the day, it is completely up to the trainer to manage your clients’ expectations.

The more specific you are when you meet with a client before your first training session in your questions and goal-setting session, the higher the chance you hit your goals and avoid any fallout or problems.

Kathryn Alexander

The single best thing you can do to help clients manage expectations is to help them understand that the best way to reach their goals is to make lifestyle shifts, not short-term changes.

For example, if a client wants to lose 25 pounds and feel better in a bathing suit, they will absolutely be better off in 3 months, 2 years, and even 15 years if they adopt and maintain the healthy habits that get them there.

This is because exercise is rate limited, meaning that you can’t make up for years of lifestyle creep in a week like you can cram study, or listen to a podcast on double speed. The body needs time to process healthy foods in the right amount, and respond to the physical training.

Sure, people can make a hard push for a few weeks or months, and that is not always a bad thing.

But it will help your clients in every way if you can help them understand that the larger picture of the accumulated habits over months and years is what will lead them to the health status, physique, and physical abilities that they are seeking.

Remind them that it will be hard work, but that it will be worth it!

Karen Shopoff Rooff – Well Balanced Women

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations is to remind them that most people overestimate what they can do in the short term but underestimate what they can do in the long term.

Introducing the concept of both short-term and long-term goals helps the client develop reasonable expectations and keeps them motivated and engaged for the long term.

By regularly meeting short-term goals– even ones that initially may seem “too small to count”– the client can see how consistency pays off.

Establishing consistency and adherence to the program is key to success. And soon enough, those small goals help them reach– and often exceed– the big goal they had in mind when they started.

Simon Byrne – Bodies By Byrne

1. Have a demonstrable process

Whether it be an initial on-boarding document or a pre-screening document, having a written outline or document of what your process looks like is something that can be invaluable in managing client’s expectations.

Having a resource that you can send to a client explaining exactly what to expect with your service and what a typical timeline could be based on their goals is a great way to cover common questions and set expectations without having to verbally repeat your process to every new client.

These documents can be a framework that you customize slightly for each new client and could include some of the following:

– Your working hours
– How to best contact you
– What the end goal is (lose 10lbs, run a marathon in X time)
– How long you expect this to take to achieve

Results that other clients have had when following your process – this is an important one to visually show what the client could achieve based on previous results you’ve had.

While this could take a few hours to create initially, it will then save you countless hours and repeated conversations will all future clients going forward.

2. Use similar client’s as an example

Once a personal trainer has a large enough client base, you’ll eventually start to attract clients with similar goals, body types, and requirements.

If for example you help “40 year old, busy male professionals get to 12% body fat”, you’ll soon get a reputation for this and attract leads or referrals for this type of individual.

Therefore, having transformation pictures and client testimonials can quickly show any new or potential clients what they can expect from you before they even enquire about your services.

If you have a social media feed or website page showing similar body transformations highlighting the weight loss numbers and a timeframe, new clients can quickly compare that to their own starting point and will automatically have a more realistic expectation of what they can achieve with you as their personal trainer.

While transformations and client testimonials can be great for social proof, they can also set client expectations and help you to attract the type of client you want to work with and can help the most.

Craig Emmerich – Maria Mind Body Health

The first and most important thing is that the client has the right goals. Many people focus too much on the scale. The scale can lie about body composition changes.

You can gain muscle while losing body fat and the scale won’t move. But you will feel better, be healthier and your clothes will fit better.

So we have clients focus more on how they feel, how their clothes fit, taking before and after photos to see the changes and take measurements to see progress better than a scale will show them.

Ashley Reid – Active Mom Fitness

Clients often seek the help of a personal trainer because they’re ready to make some major changes and they’re looking for big results.

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations is to work together with them to outline their fitness journey. I’ve found success in breaking down this journey into manageable phases.

Begin with a consultation session to discuss exercise history, past success and anticipated barriers. Speak to the client about their goals and their realistic ability to work toward them.

Perform a movement assessment to identify weaknesses and priorities. Then, together agree on benchmarks for phase one. When those goals are met then you can lay out the benchmarks for phase two.

This process will allow the client to have a better understanding and take ownership of what is achievable. This helps manage their expectations, keeps them motivated, and holds them accountable.

As a trainer, you will now have very specific targets to refer to when designing their customized program.

Bonnie Frankel

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations of personal training is to have two key components. They include trust and respect.

Both client and personal trainer need to have open communication with the ingredient of complete honesty. This way the relationship will kick off to a win-win start.

By accomplishing this, you are getting off on the right foot which makes for a great beginning that leads to successful results.

It is important to have a signed contract with both parties and this includes the game plan so that there is no misunderstanding in the goals that are to be achieved. Keep them real!

The fitness trainer will know precisely what the client’s expectations are and they share the method of how they can be attained. Both parties need to be on the same page if the goals are to be reached.

Remember it is also probable to allow a little wiggle room if there needs to be an adjustment. Getting to know one another on a personal level plays a major role in managing a new client’s expectations in their personal training.

Getting to know the client is getting to know all about the client.

The personal trainer’s priority is to help the client find the right exercise/exercises for them and build the right program around the choice so it triggers them to keep their mind and body in a joyous healthy state.

It is paramount to establish a program that ensures variety so that they can not only attain their goals but stay healthy and uninjured.

The fitness trainer must understand the client’s values, goals, struggles, temperament, and the amount of time they have to commit, It is also imperative that there needs to be adjustments to their program.

I also recommend that both the personal trainer and client keep a daily journal about their experience with the workouts and be open to sharing to discuss what is working or not working.

Being a personal fitness trainer, I prefer hands-on training with new clients as opposed to virtual. However, virtual can be used if necessary. It is essential for the client and the personal trainer to like one another.

It is the fitness trainer’s responsibility to make sure the new client is achieving their goals, be supportive when they are struggling, and remind them to have fun.

Avi Silverberg – Feast Good

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations of personal training is first to establish what their goals are, what they expect from the ongoing process, what they expect the outcome to be and how much they really can commit.

As a trainer, you then need to be explicit with what you are able to offer in terms of service and be honest with what you cannot offer if it clashes with their expectations of the ongoing process. Do not overpromise and under-deliver.

In the end, you need to be honest with what results may or may not occur in the worst-case scenario, given what they can commit to with regard to exercise, lifestyle, and nutrition.

It is worth reflecting on how the new client feels with what a worst-case scenario may look like.

You should also be clear about what guidelines and expectations you have on their part, and ensure that they can commit to your conditions too.

An example may be if a client wants to lose 20lb of body weight in 2 months, but realistically, a more sensible guideline may be to lose 7 to 8 lb so as to make the weight loss sustainable.

Beverly K. Johnson

When people think about working with a personal trainer, everyone envisions the scenes from various movies where they encounter the super-buff, tall, intense guy with bulging veins.

Most people also assume they’ll be thrown into a tortuous session that will leave them sweaty and defeated. When dealing with those ideas, many people are skeptical about using a personal trainer.

It’s important that there’s a good relationship and you don’t dread your sessions. You are our customers, and your well-being is important. Below are three ways to manage your clients’ expectations

Be honest about your expectations and efforts. Your goals are important to us. Share with us what you want to accomplish and your availability. We want to create a program that will allow you to achieve them.

Communication is key. We expect feedback and want you to tell us what you’re experiencing.

Trust the process. Don’t become discouraged if you don’t see results in the first two weeks. Your program will be tailored to your fitness level and designed for you to build strength and improve.

Don’t fear working with a trainer. We’re here to help you achieve your goals.

Jake Maulin – CycleBar Naples

As a CPT and the co-owner and instructor at CycleBar (indoor spinning studio) in Naples, Florida, we see many clients come to us to lose weight, get stronger, or overall, just feel better.

While these are all admirable goals, we try to manage clients’ expectations that not every day will be a weight loss or improvement day.

Fitness is a journey and while you may succumb to that bag of chips or not always get to the gym, that’s not an excuse to sabotage your routine. You can still put in the work — take a walk — even if it’s just around your home.

In addition, we try to create an atmosphere where clients feel they belong.

Many of the clients we see are concerned that they will look stupid — that they won’t know how to use a specific machine or won’t be able to clip into the bike properly the first time they try indoor cycling.

We also see people who have aesthetic concerns about not “looking fit.”

This is where working with a professional is key —small group coaches and fitness classes can be just as helpful in starting your journey and teaching you fundamentals and good form so you don’t get hurt.

A fitness “community” vs. a gym can be incredibly supportive where you feel valued even if there are others who are further along on their own fitness journey.

Matt Claes – Weight Loss Made Practical

Managing client expectations is definitely challenging, partly because the effects of the same habits are not always the same.

That being said, you do want to get clients excited about what is possible. This can be done based on first principles (a pound of fat is about 3500 calories) or showing what is possible through testimonials from other clients.

At the same time, you definitely want to highlight that even for these successful clients, and likely for the specific person you are talking to, there were setbacks or hurdles, even when they followed the plan perfectly.

Giving a bit more explanation about random reasons why this could happen (bad sleep, eating more salt than usual, body adaptation, room for improvement, etc.), makes it less stressful to encounter these things for the client.

By knowing what is possible, it becomes easier for the client to take action. By making sure the client knows setbacks will happen, these hit less hard since they are part of “the successful plan”.

James de Lacey – Sweet Science Of Fighting

Many clients expect instant results from what they see on social media. This can lead to clients becoming unhappy with their progress within the first month.

To manage new clients’ expectations, it’s important to sit down with them and help them understand the rate of change they should expect.

For example, clients looking to lose weight and keep it off will expect to lose 1-2 lbs per week.

If they are not happy with this and they decide to go with another personal trainer, you’ve avoided training a difficult client making your job much easier.

Pete McCall – EōS Fitness

Communicate your goals for hiring a trainer. Is it because you don’t like exercise and want someone there to help? Or do you love working out and want a trainer to push you to the next level?

Trainers can help you work towards any end goal, but it’s critical you both know what that end goal is in order to get there most efficiently.

Exercise is stress on the body and, if done incorrectly, could injure you. Be honest with your trainer about injuries and experience with exercise. The more you provide about yourself, the better a trainer can design a program for you.

If a trainer knows you’ve had an injury, they’ll watch how it might impact your ability to move and identify stretches to adjust for any compensations.

Establish expectations upfront. At EōS Fitness, our trainers sign the Client-Trainer agreement, which documents the top three expectations the trainer and client have of one another.

When you’re investing in training, you’re paying for a service that can’t be exchanged.

Communicating your expectations can ensure you’re hiring the right person. You only have one body, and it needs to last you a lifetime. Hiring the right trainer is essential.

Steve Burden – The Fitness Tribe

The best ways to manage a client’s expectations of personal training are, to be honest, and upfront with them.

Don’t tell a client that you can help them to lose an unrealistic amount of weight just to get them on board, as they will inevitably become disheartened when the results don’t come as quickly as you said.

This will likely not only make them stop paying you but could also cause them to give up altogether.

Instead, be honest and explain that it’s going to take a lot of time and effort but that the results will be worth it.

Set them a target of somewhere around 1 to 2 pounds a week. That way, they’ll be happy when they hit the goal and want to carry on and will be ecstatic on those weeks that they lose even more.

You also don’t want to lull them into a false sense of security about how difficult the task ahead is going to be. Don’t let them believe that personal trainers have a magic wand that can make all of their problems disappear.

Be absolutely clear with them that if they don’t work hard in their sessions and stick to the diet and exercise routines you design for them, they aren’t going to lose weight just because they are paying a personal trainer.

Megan Johnson McCullough – Every BODY’s Fit Oceanside

As a personal trainer, clients can vary, not only in exercise and ability levels but also in their experiences having worked with a personal trainer before.

The traditional stereotype would be a drill sergeant telling the person to drop and do pushups, but the true experience of working with a personal trainer entails building a trusting relationship in an exercise environment focused upon a certain goal(s).

Much like a student-teacher relationship, there needs to be respect for each other’s needs, personal boundaries, and what type of coaching approach works best for both personalities.

This takes time and trust, but the commitment from both sides needs to be intact and the personal trainer needs to address their guidelines for communication, services offered, and what their approach to success looks like.

In doing so, the client then knows what to expect and a working, goal-oriented, team with a purpose and plan is set in place so that both parties can successfully “train” together.

Oleksiy Torokhtiy

1. Communication is a key

Сommunication is key, but a balance is needed. I start off by asking about an athlete’s day before diving into anything training-related – this helps me get acclimated faster and know how the client is feeling so we can work together seamlessly from there!

During training, we only discuss the exercises and how to put them into practice. Once the training has ended it becomes more of just a conversation.

2. Build trust

Show that you prepared and selected exercises individually for your client. Tell him why this is important, as it will grow the trust between you and the client over time

3. Be organized

When it comes to training, you should always feel like the boss. The first reminders of your workout routine should come from YOU until that becomes a habit for all clients! Never be late – arrive early and prepare yourself and the workout area.

Joanie Johnson – Strong Mom Society

When it comes to managing a new client’s personal training expectations, the single most important thing to recognize is your client’s goals.

As a trainer, of course, we all want our clients to live healthy lifestyles. But it’s important to recognize that our vision of a healthy lifestyle may not be the same as theirs.

I’m a corrective exercise specialist and I want to make sure my clients live a life that’s pain-free and with proper core and muscle activation.

If I do an assessment and the client tells me they just want to lose weight, I shift my language and program to make sure I am meeting their wants and desires.

As an expert, I’m still going to create a program that accomplishes balance and strength within their body but the language I use is going to be different. It’s going to fulfill their needs instead of what I think their needs should be.

When you meet the client where they are and remind them how their program is helping them reach their goals, you don’t have to do much when it comes to managing expectations. You’ll hit the goal every time!

Alex Randall – Revel Sports

There are a few best practices for managing new clients’ expectations of personal training.

First, it is important to be clear about what services will be provided and what is not included in the training program, so be sure to set clear boundaries at the outset of the relationship.

This means discussing what the client can realistically hope to achieve in terms of results, and what frequency and duration of training are necessary to achieve those goals.

It is helpful to set realistic goals for the client and provide periodic updates on their progress.

Trainers should be prepared to answer any questions or concerns that the client may have and keep the lines of communication open. This will allow you to be responsive to the client’s needs and be flexible with the program as needed.

It is also important to be transparent about fees and payment arrangements, as well as any potential risks or complications associated with personal training.

Also try to be clear with regards to what the client is responsible for (e.g., coming to sessions prepared, following the trainer’s instructions, etc.)

Last, but not least, it is important to maintain a positive attitude as this can make the experience more enjoyable for all parties concerned and lead to better outcomes for clients.

Mikhaila Brouwer

The best way of managing a new client’s expectations of personal training is key to developing a coach and client relationship.

You need to fully understand what their goals and limitations are to develop a plan that will work, not just for their body but also for their lifestyle.

Initially, there should be a conversation that outlines what the client’s expectations are and what their timeframe would be.

I find often it’s easy for clients to have unrealistic expectations of their goals based on social media or ads that they see. Discussing this is essential.

Secondly, I believe the coach will need to write out a plan, within the time frame of what is realistic for the client to reach their goals.

The coach should explain to the client in detail how they plan to help them reach their goals as well as what may hinder or help achieve the desired end result.

Overall, communication with your client is absolutely essential for not only helping establish expectations but developing a good relationship between the coach and client for long-term success.

Ajitesh Gogoi – Workday Physique

The onboarding process is a key factor to manage new client expectations.

1. Learning about your client’s goals and educating them on realistic results.

Provide examples of previous clients with similar starting points, jobs, life circumstances, and what they were able to achieve during a given time period.

2. Set clear guidelines and boundaries around communication. How is the client supposed to contact the personal trainer during the day? How much communication and accountability are expected?

What level of support will be provided? eg. Will the client’s food diary be evaluated on a daily basis? Will they send daily bodyweight updates?

3. Define the scope of work. Does the training involve only exercise guidance in the gym? Or does it also involve dietary guidance and help with lifestyle modification? Different personal trainers work differently.

Cheaper personal trainers usually offer minimal support. Being clear about this during onboarding prevents confusion later on.

4. Clarify beforehand what’s outside the personal trainer’s scope of practice. Personal trainers aren’t medical professionals.

If the client has medical issues, they should be referred to a doctor. If they have an injury, they should be referred to a physiotherapist.

Pamela Crane – The Yoga Pro Podcast

When you are interviewing a new client, the best way to manage their expectations is to get a full understanding of what they want to get out of working with you, and how much time they really can put in.

If you come up with a plan for them to do the work three times a week for an hour each time but they can’t fit that into their schedule, then the chances of success are pretty slim.

By asking the client how much time each day they can devote to the practice, you can come up with a workout that they are more likely to do consistently; and they feel like they had input into the plan.

If their goals are unrealistic with the time frame they give you, then you can let them know ahead of time what level of success they can expect.

Paul Hooper – Paul’s Body Engineering

In order to manage a new client’s expectations, firstly, facts and truths must be delivered during the initial consultation. As a trainer you never overpromise and you certainly don’t mislead.

Provide facts, studies, research, and examples to support your methodologies and strategies around health and fitness.

If a new client has all the facts, which are supported by real-world examples, they are less likely to have false representations of outcomes or an unrealistic expectation of results.

This is where the initial consultation not only eliminates risk from the scenario and relationship but also can alter the client’s perception regarding the misleading or false claims within the industry and you have the opportunity to really build a solid starting relationship with health and fitness truths.

Constantly reassure them through the process, particularly in the early stages, and again justify all reasoning with examples and research.

The more relatable you make the process, the more understanding they will develop and the more patience they will show.

Keith Miller – Up For It Coaching & Fitness

For me, managing clients’ expectations comes down to truly understanding what they want to achieve upfront.

Many trainers just hear, “I want to lose weight”, and sign a person up for training sessions based on little more information than a medical release form.

As a Wellness Coach and a Fitness Trainer, I feel it’s very important to dig deeper to find out WHY a person has come to see me in the first place.

What if a client’s reason for losing weight is because she wants her husband to desire her again?

Or, what if a male client wants to work out because his father died at the age of 47 and he doesn’t want his kids to go through that same scenario?

Understanding the deeper motivating factors behind the desire to make lifestyle changes can have a major impact on the success or failure of a program.

Based on this information, we can create goals that significantly and timely impact the client’s desire to follow through and stay on track to their desired outcome.

Julien Raby – Boxlife Magazine

To manage clients’ expectations, it is best to set a proper briefing with the client and explain what the fitness program is all about.

You have to identify the client’s goals and personalize the fitness plan according to your client’s lifestyle.

Identify all the possible weak points in order to prepare the client for what is to come, as fitness training is not an easy path.

As the fitness instructor, you must be transparent about how you came up with the personalized plan to fully encourage the client. Most importantly, set SMART goals.

The client’s fitness goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. With that in mind, you can manage your client’s expectations.

Kim Abbage Hart

When I’m working with fitness clients’ expectations around training I like to have an honest and transparent conversation with them.

What I like to discuss is what are their fitness goals, how much time they have to dedicate to training and try to get an overall assessment of their mindset.

I’m honest with them that they will see results if they trust the process and follow both the nutrition and workout plan(s); however, patience and dedication are key!

Reda Elmardi – The Gym Goat

1. Understand your client’s goals

It is important to understand what your client wants from their session before they even step foot into your gym. If you don’t know exactly what they want, then how can you help them?

You need to ask questions about their goals, whether that means weight loss, muscle gain, or just getting back into shape after being away from the gym.

Once you have this information, you can begin to set realistic goals for your client.

2. Set realistic goals

If you are setting unrealistic goals for your client, then you are not going to get anywhere. Your client needs to understand that if he/she isn’t seeing results right away, it may take some time. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

3. Be honest

Be honest with your client about his/her progress. If you aren’t able to meet your client’s goals, let him/her know. This way, your client knows that you are doing everything possible to reach those goals.

4. Be honest about your skills and limitations

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of working with someone new, but it’s important to remember that you are not perfect.

If you have any doubts about your ability to help them achieve their goals, don’t push yourself into something you aren’t ready for.

Instead, let them know what they can expect from you and how much time you’ll need to complete each session.

5. Provide feedback

You should never assume that clients know what they want. They might think they want to lose weight, but really they just want to feel better.

By providing feedback throughout the sessions, you’ll be able to identify where they are at and what they want to focus on. This way, you can tailor your workouts to suit their needs.

Rohan Arora – Gaining Tactics

Here are some of the steps I follow to ensure I manage the client’s expectations well when they start personal training with me:

1. Assessing what stage they are currently in before I explain to the clients how reasonable their expectations are, I first assess or judge what stage they are currently at.

This is done to determine how ready a client would be to adjust their current habits to a different routine, for a different outcome.

For example, some clients may have a strong goal in mind but could be in the contemplation mode, where they are aware of the need but currently have barriers to overcome and address those needs.

Other clients could be in the “action” stage, where they have strong goals, but at the same time want to take the necessary steps to address their behavior and make changes to it.

Understanding what stage the client is at enables me to understand the client’s mindset and how we can work together to manage the client’s expectations.

2. Building Rapport: The second and most important way to manage a client’s expectations is to build a positive rapport.

I try to make a balance between being professional, while at the same time building trust with the clients so that they have a level of comfort. Once a positive rapport is created, it’s easier to encourage the client to become more confident in their journey towards their fitness goals.

3. SMART Goals: For each client, I make a Google Sheet with SMART goals in mind and share it with the clients.

To ensure I manage the client’s expectations while being reasonable with what is possible, the SMART goals sheet enables both of us to be on the same page throughout the time we are together.

This also helps us stay on track and know where we might be going wrong, in order to pivot and reach the goals immediately

What is a SMART Goal?

  • Specific: The goal has specific details on what needs to be achieved, and how it will be achieved, divided into short and long-term goals.
  • Measurable: The goal must be measurable at each step to ensure we’re always on track.
  • Attainable: The goal should be attainable in the given time frame based on the client’s capabilities and motivation stage.
  • Realistic: The goal should be realistic based on the time that the client has for their transformation.
  • Timely: Each goal must have a clearly defined timeline, including a starting and target date.

Kelsey Sanders – Thrive Well

When a new client reaches out about training, I first email/message them back to ask what they’re looking for and to tell me a little about who they are.

I’m a personal trainer and health coach, so I do not only work out with clients, but I also do coaching sessions to help them work on behaviors outside of their workouts.

I want to understand a client’s ‘headspace’ first before I tell them more about who I am, what I do, and what I can offer them.

I email them all of that information and then I ask to schedule a free quick 15-minute phone call to learn more about them, explain how I work, and answer any questions they have.

When I speak with them on the phone, I listen first and ask questions, and then I dive into what I do and how I work.

Sure, I can work out with them, but if they have specific health and weight-loss goals, then I strongly encourage them to schedule health coaching sessions with me as well so we can work on the things they do outside of exercise/movement since that’s really only a small part of their day.

I try to focus on lifestyle and habit change in a realistic sense — which doesn’t happen overnight.

Amy Baumgarten – Home Body

Language is a big part of how I navigate new clients’ expectations. Since everybody has a different set of challenges, I never “guarantee” a result but instead “support” each client toward achieving their desired results.

This shifts the responsibility from the so-called expert and back to the client who seeks the change, which is far more empowering.

I offer each new client a customized road map through my process of integrative strength training that begins with the most basic aspects of movement – our relationship to the ground – and winds its way to balance – what I consider the ultimate goal.

This process is general enough on purpose so that it can be customized to each client’s needs, learning style and goals.

By explaining this process at the very beginning, my clients know where we’re heading and how we’re going to get there.

Brett Turley – Minimalism Fitness

Whether it’s online or in person, setting clear expectations and standards is a must for new personal training clients.

After training thousands of clients I can say that your first conversations should include:

  • Training, communications, and attendance expectations
  • Cancellations, payment, and rescheduling rules
  • What expectations do they have as a client

Ideally, you should have this discussion before your client signs any contract because respect and standards should go both ways to make sure everyone has a great experience. If they don’t like it, you’re going to hate working with each other.

Marie Anagnostis – Wretched

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations is to first of understanding their goals and timeframe.

From there I am very upfront and honest about what they really need to do in order to achieve those goals.

From there the client will either be on board or they’ll realize that they are expecting too much in a given timeframe.

In this instance, I would discuss with them a more realistic timeframe to fit what they are trying to achieve, or if they have a specific timeframe they are working within, discuss what they can achieve in that time – perhaps it’s a case of chunking down their ultimate goal into smaller timeframes.

In this conversation, I would also explain that they would need to commit to sessions outside of personal training as well.

It’s wonderful to have the guidance of a personal trainer one hour per week, but ultimately achieving said goals comes down to the other 167 hours in the week.

We can certainly provide appropriate programs and motivation, but at the end of the day, the client needs to do the work.

Matt Bushell – Kinetics Correct

1. Communication

Gain a thorough understanding of your clients’ goals. You need this information to know exactly where you can help (and just as importantly, where you cannot).

2. Understand your strengths and limitations

Having the self-awareness to recognise your knowledge gaps and out-of-scope practice are strengths that allow you to manage your clients’ expectations of your role in coaching them. It also opens the door to bringing in other professionals from your network improving their results even further.

3. Set realistic mini goals

As a PT you need to show compassion and understanding of the unrealistic expectations that are often created through social media and sensationalist marketing. Quality change in a sustainable way takes time.

4. Educate

As PT’s we can’t beat biology, only work with it. Specific goals require methodical, progressive programming. Your client needs to know the overarching importance of the process, so their hard work means something.

5. Delegate responsibility

You see your clients for as little as 30 minutes in a 168-hour week.

You can design great training plans and give amazing support, but without your client taking personal responsibility for their actions in working towards their goals, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Aaron Guyett – Living.Fit

The best way to manage a new client’s expectations would be through creating trust, clarifying the process, and clear communication.

Creation of trust begins in the initial contact through active listening, note taking, and assessing for a deep understanding of where the client is physically, emotionally, and intellectually with their training and the final results desired.

Most clients have a preconceived notion of how they expect to get from where they are to their final result desired, but often they don’t know what they don’t know.

This is where the personal trainer can shine, as long as they have created the trust. Talking to them through the process verbally, visually, and emotionally, is the perfect next step for managing their expectations.

Allowing them to provide useful feedback, will also continue to build trust. As they endeavor in the process, clear communication is asking them how they feel about where they are each day, and how they are walking out the process.

This is real-time feedback that allows the personal trainer opportunities to help them see the small but continuous steps they are taking toward their final result desired.

Kyle Finneron – Studio Fitness

The best way that you can manage clients’ expectations is to be open and honest with them. We know they want to reach their goals as soon as possible but they may have unreasonable expectations.

Sadly the fitness industry has marketed to people for years that “this pill, or that magic workout, will make you lose 10 pounds of fat in 3 days” but that is simply not the case.

I will tell my new clients “I know that we want to be at our goal weight yesterday, but we have to remember, that we didn’t end up where we are overnight and we won’t get to where we want to be overnight either.

These things take time and to lose the weight and keep it off, it will be a longer process than you may think.”

Often rapid weight loss is achieved by entering an extreme calorie deficit and a drastic increase in cardio/working out.

What many people don’t realize is that these practices are unsustainable and often lead to rapid weight gain afterward.

Dundee Kim – Dundee’s Boxing & Fitness

There are many ways of managing a new client’s expectations of personal training. Some ways we do this is to openly speak to clients about their goals, and then work with them on a realistic yet challenging plan on how they can achieve these goals.

Our first session will also help us understand the client’s fitness levels and strength; at the same time, the client will be able to get a feel for what they’re capable of at this present time, and what their potential could be.

We will make it clear to them what kind of work would be required for the results they want to achieve. We then keep our clients accountable for their results and make it clear that they only get out what they put in.


Thank you so much to all the personal trainers that have contributed to this expert roundup! If you enjoyed reading this post, then please share it with your friends and family on social media.

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