It’s one of the major problems of our generation: lack of time. Almost 50% of Americans say they generally do not find enough space in their schedule to do all the things they want to do. Coordinating work, social life, and a healthy lifestyle is a concern for nine-to-fivers as much as it is for freelancers.
As a trainer, this can directly affect your business. To increase member retention, it’s not only about keeping clients fit anymore: it’s also about fitting training into your client’s busy days. Trainers have new responsibilities: they need to make people understand that work, social life, and a healthy lifestyle can and need to be balanced. To succeed at this task, trainers have to understand that their job description also includes being a secretary, teacher, and mentor.
Table of Contents
- The Issue: Lack of Time
- How to Cope With Busy Clients
- 1. Education
- 2. Planning
- 3. Motivation
- Key Points to Remember
The Issue: Lack of Time
We live in fast times. Times of constant changes, developments and an information overload. Time is one of the most valuable goods of our generation. Most people invest their time first and overall into the obvious necessities of surviving: working, making money, putting food on the table. After work, there is little free time left. Social life, entertainment, education, recovery, health, it’s all squeezed in those little after-work time slots. The Economist gets to the heart of it:
“Everybody, everywhere seems to be busy. In the corporate world, a ‘perennial time-scarcity problem’ afflicts executives all over the globe, and the matter has only grown more acute in recent years.”
For almost everyone, the status of health and fitness falls short compared to the importance of Scrabble nights with the family or Netflix & chill. As a consequence, busy clients skip lessons or cancel memberships. Some people even decide to totally avoid the gym because they prefer to spend their precious time on other activities. You could almost say their social life is killing your member retention, right?
How to Cope With Busy Clients
A healthy, happy life is all about the balance of work, social life, and health activities. Plato already said that exercise would cure a guilty conscience. Yet, many of your (potential) clients might not understand this logic right away. This is why it’s up to you to explain to your busy clients how important this balance is – and how it can be achieved. To increase member retention, trainers need to follow three steps: planning, teaching, motivating.
Fitness and health are your passion. But clients don’t have the same insights as you. So if you want them to understand your view on the importance of regular training and healthy lifestyle, you need to teach them. Principles, methods, strategies. Teach, don’t preach. As a trainer, you’re nothing less than an educator. Pass on your knowledge to your students.
1.1 Explain the Harms of Being Too Busy
We’re all faced with mounting pressure, deadlines, and eleventh-hour panic. But, what many don’t realize is that being busy does not equal being successful. It’s quite the opposite. A lifestyle that is too busy can turn into a nightmare in the blink of an eye. Burnouts or other stress-related illnesses are kept a taboo topic until they hit you full force.
Need hard facts to convince your busy clients?
- Just losing one hour of sleep per night for a week will cause a level of cognitive degradation equivalent to a 0.10 alcohol level
- Too much stress can lead to irritability and anger, fatigue, lack of interest/motivation, headaches, upset stomachs, appetite and sex drive
- The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions
Especially your workaholic clients will prick up their ears if you tell them being busy does not mean being productive. In fact, every hour you work over 40 hours a week makes you less effective. Yet, many professionals ignore this truth. You may teach them that to be productive, one also needs to get some distance from work. For a balanced life, overtime and extra shifts should be avoided if the job allows.
1.2 Teach the Power of Fitness as a Stress-Reliever
Whether it’s a conference call with Tokyo or the next fundraiser pitch, sometimes your busy clients just can’t help but get worn out. Tensed, unnerved, stressed. Once you have taught your students about the detriments of chronic stress, you may brighten up their world again: exercising is one of the most efficient strategies to release stress. In fact, exercise is the most recommended stress-relief technique by health professionals.
Here’s some science to help you get your point across. According to Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, Ph.D. at the Yale Stress Center, exercises combats stress in two ways. The first way is by raising the heart rate. It can reverse damage to the brain caused by stress. Another anti-stress boost is by the production of neurohormones. These little helpers elevate the mood, enhance cognitive functioning and improve learning. The good news is that the biggest benefits of exercising as a stress reliever are as brilliant as they are easy to communicate to your clients:
- Joy: exercising pumps up the endorphin production and stimulates the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters
- Peace of Mind: It’s meditation in motion and makes you forget irritations and sorrows
- Personal Development: It’s mood improving and relaxing, boosts self-confidence, and can lower symptoms associated with depression and anxiety
1.3 Demonstrate Smart Training
By now, your clients should’ve created the basis for a healthy mindset. Smart as they are (after all, they chose you as a trainer!), they are now aware of the fact that the secret to a successful busy lifestyle contains workouts – with you. To put this into practice there are a few simple tricks that will help you.
- Teach clients how to train efficiently: do not beat around the bush. If time is scarce, make it count. As their fitness tutor, you know the exercises that fit the schedule of your busy clients. Create efficient training plans they can follow under time constraints. If they only have little time, do bite-sized bits of training – but train!
- Include exercise in the working life of your clients: if possible, always be geographically close to your busy clients. Create small office workouts for their daily routines. Show them how to turn everyday activities from tooth-brushing to binge-watching into brief exercises. Especially commuting offers plenty of ways to try some charming workouts.
- Use technology: The name of the game is tracking. You can only train smart if you evaluate your progress. Pen and paper might be an option for your clients, but do you really want to tell this to people who use BuzzFeed as their newspaper? Frankly, fitness software offers clearer insights for both you and your clients. Mobile training apps and digital progress tracking fit modern consumers better than tattered notepads with handwritten notes.
- Help with time management: Time scarcity is not only created by being busy. One of the main hobbies of our generation is procrastination. Help your busy clients utilize their time while keeping Parkinson’s law in mind: ‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’. In other words: don’t give your clients too much time to complete a task but make them train efficiently by setting constraints.
When your job as your busy clients’ sensei is done, you need to get your typewriter ready to prove your secretary skills. Planning should be of the uttermost concern. It might be nerve-wracking at the start but proper planning eventually pays off. Ben Franklin once said: ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. It’ll save you and your busy clients from sleepless nights if you succeed to plan.
2.1 Setting Goals
Before you can score, you must first have a goal. Everyone is driven by goals – and so are your clients. Finding that one significant other that is just as nuts, getting that job with a window view or even something as modest as changing the world. Goals are the essence of every plan. And you just need to help clients set up goals for a very simple cause: getting balance in life through proper workouts. So, once you’ve taught your rookies the science, set up the goals. But not just any random goals, you need to set SMART goals.
What are SMART goals?
George T. Doran, who first came up with this acronym, did not (only) want to express in capital letters that the goals have to be really smart. They have to be:
- Specific, by targeting a specific area for improvement
- Measurable, by giving an indicator of progress
- Achievable, by stating a goal that can be met
- Relevant, by stating a goal that actually needs to be addressed
- Time-bound, by specifying a time-window
2.2 Scheduling Together
Once you’ve articulated SMART goals together with your client, the cornerstones for willpower are set. But how does a person that has basically no time reach these goals? First, you need to analyze your busy clients’ weekly schedule. Then, you can create individually fitting game plans for them. What’s essential here is to avoid pushing your usual workout routines into their lifestyle. Instead, you observe their lifestyle and build workouts around it.
You might be a fan of intense and elaborate workouts. But if your clients have enough on their plate already, you should not put more on it, but instead, help them to get stronger at carrying that plate. If they only have short time slots, go nuts with them and make those count. Also, use early morning or after work workouts, depending on when your clients are free.
Consistency is the magic word. Try not to change schedules after creating them. It’ll cost you a lot of time and your clients won’t get into their routine. Once workouts become an everyday routine, people will continue to do them. When your busy clients want to skip and move around stuff, underline that there’s no room for weaseling out. To enforce this in a positive way, you may want to reward them. How about a free session every 12 sessions without cancellation or postponement?
To create those schedules, you can go old school and just use pen and paper. Yet, as mentioned, tackling 21st-century challenges, you might want to use 21st-century solutions. Fitness software for scheduling is easier to use and more efficient. You can edit training plans, create templates, track progress and access those insights from all your devices.
With education and planning, you already created a big asset when it comes to member retention. Well done! Yet, you can plan and educate as much as you want, sometimes we humans are just a bunch of lazy bums. Lack of motivation remains the main reason for people not to exercise enough. So, step up your game one last time: become your clients’ mentor.
3.1 Help to Create a Fit and Healthy Mindset
The key to motivation lays in our highly sophisticated brains. As their mentor, you subtly need to help your mentees create a mindset that assures a 24/7 motivation and understanding of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. An awareness that is maintained under the fluffy covers as much as on holidays under the Caribbean sun.
To turn your clients’ mentality from couch potatoes into sporting aces, you already gave them the most important motivation by teaching and planning with them. With motivational interviewing, you will furthermore be able to give your busy clients a psychological motivational push.
What also helps to keep motivation high are reminders. Help clients to set up mental alarm clocks to awaken their inner fitness beast. This could be done by posting daily motivations in Facebook groups or WhatsApp chats with all your clients. Another way is asking them to keep equipment in front of their eyes. Dumbbells at home should be visible and trigger that guilty conscience. With their goals visible, your mentees will stay reminded and you can improve your branding as a positive side effect.
3.2 Let Them Tailor and Vary Trainings
It’s simple maths: the more people like what they do, the more likely they are to do it. We all have workouts we consider our nemesis and those that evoke grand excitement. Show you care and make clients feel like they create their workout plans themselves by giving them options. As long as you make sure all muscle groups are targeted properly, you can leave the choice of specific workout to them. You know how self-made food always tastes better? So do self-made workouts.
Another key to keeping motivation up is variation. We humans are constantly on the search for the new and exciting and when even Candy Crush updates weekly, why shouldn’t their workouts? If you keep the same exercise routine for months on end, your clients might think they could as well just train by themselves. You could motivate them with the bench press 2.0 or squats+. Or you may stimulate them with new workouts if they manage to complete current workout routines as expected.
3.3 Use Competitions and Comparisons
We live in competitive societies, where nothing comes for free. We are driven by success. So, make sure you constantly track the progress of your clientele and give them frequent updates on how they are performing. If they are successful, it keeps their motivation going. If they are not, you can trigger that ‘now more than ever’-spirit.
And if you use fitness software, it gives your busy clients the opportunity to benchmark themselves against their friends or other clients. Competition is always motivating. Darwin’s law also somewhat applies in the gym: survival of the fittest. Be also sure to reward clients if they meet their expected goals. Of course, better health and weight reduction is a great reward, but people’s habits are best changed with tangible rewards. Charles Duhigg explains this with a ‘neurological habit loop’. If your brain connects an action to a reward, it can make the link that the behavior is worthwhile. Just a banana smoothie might trigger your client’s motivational sweet spot and increases the odds that the routine becomes a habit.
Rewards and recognition keep motivation up and also help create feel-good hormones. The rewards should be about the gesture, not about their material value. You may consider giving clients something tangible like a medal that serves as a reminder. Or the aforementioned branded posters. And if they don’t like bananas, reward them with a strawberry smoothie (but really, who doesn’t like bananas?). Other options range from healthy food supplies to fitness trackers.
Motivation is all about having the right mindset. As their mentor, you’re the one passing on that mindset to your busy clients. If you offer them preferred workouts and incentivize with competitions and rewards, motivation can be kept up. Once you’ve trained your clients’ brains to recognize that the workout itself is the reward, they don’t even want the treat anymore. You now have loyal, happy clients with a healthy mindset.
Key Points to Remember
The contemporary challenges of fitness professionals go beyond training itself. If you want to improve member retention, you need to understand that you are more than just a trainer. You are also a teacher, a secretary, and a mentor. If you know how to tackle these tasks, you will be able to create a satisfied and balanced customer base. No matter how busy they are.
- Share your knowledge as a teacher, make it understandable
- Explain the downsides of being too busy
- Explain the effects of workout as a stress reliever
- Teach how to train smarter
- Set SMART goals and emphasize consistency
- Create schedules considering your client’s lifestyle
- Enforce implementation of the schedules
- Help create a healthy mindset by offering support and reminders
- Keep motivation up by including preferences and variations
- Change habits with competitions and rewards