Ask any personal trainer why they decided to get into the fitness industry and 99% of us will tell you it’s because we genuinely want to make a difference in peoples’ lives. At some point in our own lives, many of us have experienced a powerful shift thanks to adopting a healthy lifestyle. It’s only natural to want to share these gifts by facilitating similar shifts for others!
In our quest to change the world one healthy habit at a time, we commit to doing everything we can to support our clients. We let them know we’re always just a text message away, providing a friendly kick in the pants or an answer to a question whenever our phone beeps, regardless of the time of day.
We open up our training schedules to clients who want to work out in the early hours of the day before work, and we make ourselves available to those who prefer to train just before bed. Last-minute schedule change? No problem! “When would be the most convenient time for you to come instead?”
Choose your priorities
In the early days of a personal training career, training clients from 6am to 8pm, responding to clients’ messages and emails and soon as the notification pops up, and still finding time to fit in your own workouts can make you feel like a superhero. But as time goes on, burnout starts to creep in. Combining long working hours, a lack of boundaries with your clients, and your own athletic pursuits leaves little time to recharge. What feels like burnout can lead to physical and mental exhaustion.
What started as a genuine desire to be as supportive as possible ultimately ends up being a disservice to both the trainer and the client. The client becomes dependant upon the trainer. The trainer experiences exhaustion as a result of constantly being “on.” This exhaustion has a number of negative implications for our personal and professional lives. An imbalance in one area leads to an imbalance in all the other areas.
So what do we do? Great coaches and trainers know their client interaction isn’t limited only to the gym. But they also know how important it is to set boundaries from the beginning. This way, everyone is clear on your availability and response times.
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Establish communication guidelines
Let your clients know you’re there for them in-between sessions, but to expect up to a 24-hour response time. This doesn’t mean you have to wait 24 hours to get back to them, but they’ll understand if you do. This boundary has a few main benefits. First, your clients will learn to problem-solve for themselves. If they encounter an obstacle in the gym and know it may be a day until you get back to them, they’ll be more likely to find a solution on their own rather than just text you and ask “what should I do?”
Second, they’ll be understanding when there’s a delay in your response time. Answering quickly sets the expectation that you’ll always respond right away. As your clients get used to these quick response times, they may become frustrated if they have to wait a few hours for you to get back to them.
Communicate your training hours to your clients. At some point or another, a client is going to need to reschedule a session. Breaking your self-imposed rules “just this one time” might not seem like such a big deal, but if you do it once, what’s to stop you from doing it again in the future?
Let your clients know when you’re available early in your working relationship. Let them know you’re happy to reschedule sessions (with ample notice) on certain days or within certain hours.
Set aside time during the day to check your messages and emails and get back to clients. Being glued to your inbox has consequences. Your productivity will suffer, your relationships will be negatively impacted, and you’ll find it increasingly more challenging to disconnect from your work if you continue to operate in a reactive way.
Consider creating boundaries with regards to the use of your phone and social media. While this is not directly related to your work with clients, it’s an important boundary to maintain. After all, it’s easy to lose an hour on Instagram and simply call it marketing, isn’t it?
Would you benefit from having a cut-off time in the evening? Say, 7pm, after which point you don’t check your email or social media? Would you like to avoid using your phone until a certain time of the morning or day? Within my own business, I’ve adopted a no-phone time from 9pm-10am. I don’t hit it every single day, but I feel much less overwhelmed by our connected society as a result.
While communicating boundaries can feel uncomfortable, it’s an essential part of running a business. Ultimately, you have your clients’ best interests in mind. By communicating your boundaries with your clients as soon as your working relationship begins, you’ll alleviate the need for awkward conversations two, three, or even six months in. You may also want to ask your clients about their own boundaries. Keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and your client will lead to a much more positive long-term relationship.