Putting Away Prejudices About Personal Training Clients: Creating a “No-Judgment” Zone


A no-judgment zone establishes an open-minded outlook on the training process right from the start. Chances are we, as personal trainers, have some background info on the new clients going into the first session. While some of the background info is very helpful, we have to learn to stop the information feed once it becomes predictive and we find ourselves forming prejudices about fitness clients before we even train them. No two clients are the same and as fit pros, we can’t compare. If we throw out our preconceived notions and assumptions, we might be surprised at what we find.

Making Assumptions Based on History

Ditch pre-conceived notions. Walking into the first session with a new client, it’s only natural to have an idea of what to expect. That’s one thing. Making assumptions is another. There are many times that we as trainers must catch ourselves before falling into this trap.

Prior exercise experience is in the past. It’s history. A former athlete is just that…former. That doesn’t mean he or she is still in top shape. The former athlete could’ve spent many years as a couch potato with no more exercise than opening a beer can and switching the remote control. While they may still have a propensity for body awareness and quick learning, their degree of fitness will need to be re-assessed.

Another example of possibly jumping to a wrong conclusion is being faced with a potential “trainer hopper”. Trainer hoppers are oftentimes hard to please. These hoppers look for a quick fix usually without much effort. However, someone coming from another trainer isn’t always an unhappy, impossible-to-please client. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right. You and your training style might be the right fit for the client in front of you, so be yourself and do your best to deliver the service the client is asking for.

Age Really is Nothing More Than a Number

A senior client may have a younger biological age than their chronological age. Lifestyle and genetics are common denominators in a “youthful” older client. Don’t expect an over-50 client to be ready for a walker; going too easy on them may be just as discouraging as going too hard.

On the flip side, a younger client who has been inactive for some time may have a higher chronological age. Training could be the answer to moving that number closer to their true biological age or hopefully higher.

Size Does Not Matter

Appearances are nothing more than what someone looks like and are not necessarily an indication of fitness levels. The overweight client (or one with a larger build) may have more stamina than the thin client. And, a lanky client might surprise you with their surprising strength abilities.

Fitness comes in all sizes.

It all comes down to the trainers needing to be open-minded with new clients. Start with a clean slate and let assessments do what they are designed to do. 

Allow For Mistakes

Once clients are in training, there may (most likely) be times when they trip up as they walk their fitness journey. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle take incredible discipline to be successful. While our clients usually have the intention to follow through on what we advise, there is room for error.

You, as the trainer, might find them indulging in an unhealthy meal(s), skipping workouts, not hydrating properly, or heaven forbid–smoking a cigarette. Sometimes you just need to turn your head and slip in a few healthful, non-judgmental reminders in sessions.

Many people, an estimated 80-90%, fail in their health and exercise New Year Resolutions within a short period. This is proof that fitness goals are tough. Rather than seeing a client’s slip-up/mistake as a failure, chalk it up as a hiccup. Encourage clients to get back on track without dwelling on what failed.

Reserving prejudices about clients’ capabilities and tendencies leaves the door open for better, more accurate communication to know when your client needs an extra boost. 






Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.