Redirecting Non-compliant Clients

Featured Image Non Compliant

To a large extent, our daily lineup of clients often dictates our frame of mind. While we strive to uphold professionalism and treat each person as an individual with unique needs and goals, all trainers work with “that person”: the individual who just never seems focused upon his training session. Here’s how trainers can redirect non-compliant clients.

Fitness Training Frustration: Types of Non-compliant Clients

Such non-compliant clients come in many varieties:

~ The man whose career dominates his life, his agenda, and all of his mental capacity. Such a client arrives at his session with good intentions, but cannot seem to absorb anything you show him. Instead, he wastes his training by simply executing the exercises you show him. Clearly, his focus remains on work and not on anything you say or do.

~ The client more invested in forging a friendship than making any progress in the gym.

~ The oh-so-social woman who refuses to terminate her phone conversation, even while working out with you and “pretending” to pay attention.

~ The client who only trains with you because his doctor urged it as part of a healthier lifestyle. This individual expends more energy complaining than actually training, yet professes to feel too physically exhausted to even make a real effort on each exercise.

Across-the-Board Acceptance

In the name of equanimity and tolerance, we accept these clients and approach their training sessions with our usual enthusiasm, even while acknowledging the disrespect they clearly display towards us. How might we address these issues without upsetting or alienating the client? We must plan ahead and treat each scenario differently.

Mr. Career

When working with the career-consumed client, perhaps the trainer might begin each session with a warm-up walk around the track, during which time he poses questions to the client about anything other than work: his current energy level, his goals for the day’s workout, his nutrition during the past week, any recreational activities in which he participated over the weekend…anything to bring his focus away from his job and into the gym. Even if the trainer receives brief, one -or -two-word responses, by the fourth question the client will begin to make the necessary shift. It may require a few sessions to easily adapt to this pattern, but the outcome justifies the effort to refocus this non-compliant client.

The Friend Seeker

Throughout the duration of my practice, I have had my share of clients who shift into close friends outside of the gym, out of a mutual decision. However, we also know those clients who pay to work with a trainer simply to fill an otherwise empty social calendar. While we may perceive this early in the working relationship, it still remains our job to conduct a professional and successful workout.

If this individual and her trainer seem destined to forge a friendship, suggest meeting for coffee on another day. Exchanging phone numbers, if one feels comfortable doing so, paves the way to say, “Great, thank you! I will call you soon. Now, how about your third set of bicep curls, and we can move on to triceps!”

The Cell Phone Addict

Any personal training session requires concentration, especially if one wishes to make significant progress towards one’s goals. An ongoing phone conversation not only distracts the client from what the trainer asks her to do; it indicates a blatant disregard for the trainer’s time and expertise. This sort of multitasking ought not continue, especially not for the entirety of the training hour.

Perhaps prior to beginning the workout, a trainer might give the client a minute or two to conclude her conversation. If this does not seem forthcoming, stop walking around the gym with her and gently give her the visual cues to “please wrap it up”. As the professional whose time she claims to value, you have every right to glance at the clock and cease training; after all, a client not fully engaged places herself at great risk of injury.

By suspending the training, you convey a clear message. Once the phone call ends, the trainer may either resume the workout session, politely ask the client not to repeat the behavior, or inform her that the next client already arrived. If she fusses, gently and quietly remind her that you asked her to terminate her call but she chose not to do so, adding something akin to “I must abide by the safety rules of this gym, set in place for your best interests. Please keep this in mind for next week’s session”. While the trainer clearly places no direct blame on the client, neither does he assume any culpability whatsoever, aside from adhering to the rules of the gym.


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Grumpy Meets Reluctant

Trainers certainly understand that not every client will love fitness the way they do! However, a huge disparity exists between not fully enjoying a workout and truly despising every one of his 55-minute session.

Must the trainer adopt the persona of an entertainer, going over the top just to get the client to comply? Absolutely not. Instead, the trainer might focus on everything the client currently engages in to build a healthier lifestyle. Consider the following statements:

~ “Thanks for sharing that you chose yogurt and fruit for breakfast over your usual donuts! Well done! You CAN do this!”

~ “Last week you lifted the 20-pound barbell, and today you managed the 25-pounder! Already we can see progress!”

~ “I notice you fatigue easily during our session. What do you think about carrying a bottle of juice or Gatorade with you and sipping between sets? It can make a profound difference in your energy level…and I know how much you and your physician value what we do here.”

Reinforcing any positive action on the client’s part leaves him with two choices: he can either disregard/brush off what you say, or he can accept the compliments and suggestions. A smile paired with a compliment goes a long way with reluctant clients…whether they acknowledge that or not!

Stick to High Standards

When faced with challenging client scenarios, always take the high road. This enables trainers to politely and professionally turn any situation to their advantage while continuing to treat their clients with respect.

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Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]. She welcomes your feedback and your comments!