Having people skills is an important attribute that every fitness instructor needs. As simple as it sounds, not all fitness instructors possess this quality. In fact sometimes instructors can even intimidate and put off potential and existing clients through lack of compassion and empathy. Instructor demeanour and client perception relies on three key elements: appearance, attitude, and accountability!
In a public facing industry, first impressions are of the utmost importance. Therefore the way in which the instructor dresses will play a huge part in the client’s perception of them.
Much like an A-list celebrity, fitness instructors are never truly off duty and can be quickly judged at any given time. In the past I have been approached by clients in all manner of places, including; supermarkets, restaurants, events, conventions, gym floor, and even when out running! Therefore the chosen attire of a fitness instructor will need to convey a professional, mature, and approachable message.
Just how do the clients perceive our attire?
Below are two personal trainers in the gym doing there own workout session and example pre-conceptions clients have towards them.
‘Look at him posing! How arrogant’ vs ‘She always looks happy to be here’
‘Could he get a smaller vest?!’ vs ‘She’s a lovely person and always has a laugh’
‘Doesn’t he love himself’ vs ‘You can tell she enjoys her job’
‘He’s only interested in the women’ vs ‘She has time for everyone’
Fitness instructors are role models to their clients whether they like it or not, and their physique will play a crucial role in the overall client perception of them. Many fitness instructors are under the impression that they need to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in order to work in the industry, when the truth is that that presents a very unrealistic and intimidating example to novice clients.
Balance as always is the key factor in our industry, and fitness instructors need to convey a healthy, achievable, and strong image to their clients.
“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” – John C. Maxwell
Unfortunately there is no denying that some fitness instructors are simply arrogant and full of their own self importance. Being young and pretty doesn’t give anyone the right to prance around and look down on others who don’t meet their deluded standards. Gaining respect in this industry relies on your compassion, empathy, and ability to laugh at yourself. Therefore having a laugh, and being inclusively friendly towards all clients will go a long way.
Another way in which instructors can inadvertently intimidate their clients is in the way they speak to them. Sometimes due to their passionate nature, instructors want to share their knowledge and excitement for their trade with their clients. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share your passion, however you must be careful not to overwhelm clients with a wealth of information that they can’t possibly retain at once.
The way in which an instructor encourages their clients can also often be misconstrued as arrogance or deliberate intimidation. It is very easy to turn into coach Carter without even realising it!! Some clients enjoy having a drill sergeant, whereas others need constant reassurance and praise. Remember also that you are always on stage, this may not only put off current clients but may also act as a deterrent to future potential clients observing the session.
Client inclusivity is something that all fitness instructors should take accountability for. In the past I have witnessed trainers be standoffish and even shun clients that didn’t fit into their desired ‘ideal client’ category. That is why it is imperative that you remember that anyone can be your customer and affect your reputation via word of mouth, therefore you must treat them all with equal respect!
Another part of accountability within the fitness industry is to express an interest in the client beyond your own financial gain. If you are simply viewing the clients as your pay cheque then you will present a cold demeanour towards them. You may not have signed up to be their therapist, however fitness is a state of mind and clients will need emotional support on their personal journeys.
‘Overall intimidating clients will not lead to client retention. Just something to think about!’