The fitness industry is constantly evolving. Attitudes toward exercise and health change, the meaning of the word “fitness” evolves, and there always seems to be new fads, research findings, or technologies cropping up, whether it’s in nutrition, training devices, or training techniques. (Sometimes it’s even an entire, brand new social media channel to help grow your business!)
This constant change is exciting and inspiring, and as fitness professionals (naturally driven to push ourselves) we’re always trying to learn and grow so that we can better serve our clients.
But let’s be honest, as busy trainers, it’s not always easy. When you’re juggling multiple clients and working hard to build your online business, it can seem near impossible to find the time you need to reflect on your abilities, do research, teach yourself new skills, acquire new qualifications, or even just network with other fitness professionals.
Staying on top of trends and constantly reflecting on your abilities as a personal training is absolutely necessary to not only to your clients’ success but to your success as a trainer.
So, how do you manage your current responsibilities while making sure your professional development and growth as a personal trainer doesn’t grind to a halt?
With some organization, reprioritization, and good old fashioned elbow grease, you can balance both. Here are my tips to help keep yourself on the path of lifelong learning and better serve your clients along the way.
1. Make Professional Development and Growth a Priority: Schedule it in
This all starts with you sitting down and making a list of all the aspects of your business and training that you feel you could improve or learn more about.
Maybe you aren’t as confident in programming or assessments. Maybe you want to learn more about social media management, blogging, and business networking. Or, maybe you want to add some certifications or qualifications to your trainer resumé. It doesn’t matter what topics you choose, as long as they’re areas that you feel will make you a better trainer.
Once you have your list, it’s time to get out your calendar and set aside a few hours aside in your schedule each week for “self-development.” Don’t just pencil it in as something you might do. Dedicate a chunk of time each and every week to learning and development, and do everything you can to protect that time.
If you don’t make the time and set your professional development as a priority, life will keep moving and pretty soon you’ll find it harder and harder to play catch-up as you fall behind in your knowledge or become complacent in your current abilities. No one wants that to happen.
2. Ask for Client Feedback
The key to success in this industry is to never get comfortable and to continue to learn, network, and grow as a business owner and trainer. And nothing can motivate you to do this quite like the inspirational kick in the pants that is client feedback.
Your clients are the people directly experiencing the services you are offering, giving them the perfect perspective from which to offer constructive criticism, suggestions, and props. Make asking your clients for feedback a regular part of your training. There are a couple different ways you can do it:
Anonymous Customer Surveys
The easiest way to find out how you are doing as a trainer is to create a survey online (I use SurveyMonkey) and send it out to your current and/or past training clients. I always let clients know that their answers will be anonymous and encourage them to be completely honest in their response. This is where you have to have tough skin and take every answer as an opportunity to learn, even if you get some negative feedback.
For online training clients, I would include questions like:
- Do you feel completely supported through your online training program, or do you still feel like you are on your own?
- How did you feel about your assessment process and introduction to your training program?
- Do you feel your trainer has addressed your goals and do you feel you are working towards those goals?
These are just a few examples. You’ll want to create your own questions as they are relevant to your business and clientele. But you can always mix up the question style too and add multiple choice, open answer, or scaled/rated questions to help get a sense of how clients feel about your current approach to training and pinpoint the areas where you could focus on improving.
Straight Up Ask
Another option is to send emails to clients straight-up asking them if they are enjoying their training experience. With current clients, this can be challenging, and you’ll likely want to use this method only if you feel like you already have a fairly strong trainer-client relationship that’s rooted in open communication.
If you’re not sure if your current clients would feel comfortable giving feedback like this, another option is to email past clients who have stopped their training program with you. This takes away some of the pressure on the clients being asked for feedback. No matter who you reach out to, let it be known that you are doing this so you can improve as a trainer and emphasize that there will be no hard feelings if responses are negative. You’ll find that many people are happy to give their opinion when asked.
If you get some negative responses, try not to be hurt or angry. This is good feedback for you and your business. Now you can build on these responses and you will know what kind of things you need to address in your business and training techniques to ensure your future clients don’t have the same concerns.
3. Make Learning Part of Your Everyday Routine
In this industry, it is almost impossible to know everything about everything. It all moves too fast! But one of the best ways to try and stay on top of these changes and breakthroughs is to work a tiny bit of learning into your everyday routine. This doesn’t replace the scheduled time for self-development that we talked about earlier, it adds to it.
This doesn’t replace the scheduled time for self-development that we talked about earlier, it adds to it, and most of this learning can happen while you’re doing other tasks. Here are 4 easy ways to add learning to your daily routine:
- Listen to a health or fitness podcast while you’re showering, packing your lunches, or commuting to work in the morning.
- Subscribe to email newsletters to your favorite health and fitness publications and browse the articles while on public transit, or as you wait in line for your morning coffee or smoothie.
- Join online groups and forums for personal trainers and nutritionists for some quick learning from your industry peers.
- Set aside one article or study to read (screen-free) each night before bed.
Of course, you need to strike a balance between your work and personal life, and should always give yourself at least a bit of down time each day where you disconnect entirely and give yourself a mental break. But adding even one of these little knowledge-hacks to your life each day will help feed your need for professional development and make you a better trainer along the way.
As a final thought, if you ever feel yourself slipping into a rut or falling behind in your professional development, remember: the more you know, the more clients you can help; the more happy clients you have, the more people will talk about the amazing results you got them; the more raving reviews, the more $$ into your business!
It’s simple cause and effect. So what are you waiting for!? Start making your list today and get started down your path to lifelong learning.
I hope this helps you continue to learn and grow as a personal trainer or fitness business owner.