Articles - 11th October 2019

Dealing with difficult clients as a PT

Words by Juju Sheikh
Illustration by Jon McCormack

As a Personal Trainer, a lot of your job requires socialising and making friends. Most are lovely, but there’s always the odd ones who really do test your patience. I’ve noticed a few recurring characters in my career, and I’m sure if you’re a PT you have too. Here is a list of some difficult clients to watch out for and how to deal with them.


The time-waster

The time-waster makes empty promises. They message you telling you all their details, what their goals are, say they want to train X amount of times a week, book in a slot. Then it comes to training day and they seem to have dropped off the face of the earth. The quick replies turn to radio silence. You never hear from them again. They don’t realise you’ve spent your valuable time preparing for their session, writing out plans, turning up at the time and place for their session. The time waster seems to have disappeared into a black hole. This person often does not respect the trainers time and shouldn’t be entertained. 


The cheater

This is the one who sells you dreams. You give them diet advice and workouts to follow, which they say they have been following but you just know that they haven’t. They soon will realise they are only cheating themselves, and lying to their trainer won’t help them! 


The unrealistic goal setter 

The ‘I want to lose 2 stone in a month’ type. They probably don’t have a concept of weight loss or exercise, so don’t fully understand the commitment, time and effort it takes to make a real change. This person needs to be clearly informed about what a realistic goal is. If not, they often end up getting very disappointed that they haven’t shredded fat in the blink of an eye, and end up giving up on the whole thing. 


The emotional talker 

Ah, the one who uses their PT session as a therapy session. Personal Trainers really should double as therapists because the amount of issues we coach clients through is endless! But there are a certain few – the real complainers – who use their session to talk about all their issues, about the pain of the workout, the pain of the world, the pain of their work. Personally, I don’t mind chatting with clients about all this stuff, but I know it drives some insane.


The know it all 

You know, the one who’s had a PT before and thinks they know everything there is to know about fitness. If you try to say they aren’t squatting right, they will simply refuse your advice because they’ve been ‘taught before’ that this is the right way. Or just seen on Instagram and assumed it’s correct. To these ones – get a good PT and trust them. There’s a lot of nonsense out there! 


The self rewarder 

This person works super hard and starts to make real progress. It comes to check-in day and they’ve smashed their goals! So what do they do? Reward themselves with some unhealthy food because they ‘deserve it’. 4 weeks later we’re back to square 1. It’s a vicious cycle. 


The flaker

This one does train with you, but it’s always very hit and miss. You’ll be checking your phone the evening before for a message starting with ‘oh no I’m so sorry..’. You should charge them, but you love them, so you let them get away with it. When they do train with you, they work hard, it’s just a matter of getting them there!


The silent one

This one doesn’t like a chat when they work out. They are there to get the job done and leave, no messing around. There is no point in trying to fill the awkward silences, your small talk will be received by one-word answers to get you to shut up. Pretty soon you’ll get the message. It’s not personal, they’re just in the zone, and for some, it’s a very quiet zone. 


The talker

Quite the opposite to the one above, some will chat the session away. This is usually great fun until you realise you are totally distracted, and their plan to distract you so they don’t have to do as much hard work has totally taken effect. This is where multi-tasking comes into play. Yes, make sure you are chatting back because after all as long as they’re enjoying it that’s all that matters, but keep the focus at the same time. Make sure they chat as they workout so it’s a win-win.


To be totally honest, everyone probably falls into one of these categories. It doesn’t make you a terrible person by any means. But as a Personal Trainer, you learn to deal with each of these characters in the best way you can to get them to their fitness goal at the end of it all. (Unless you’re the time waster. You stay where you are.)


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