It’s common for personal trainers and their clients to develop close relationships. A trainer often transitions from a coach and role model to a confidant and friend. In fact, a sign of a healthy trainer-client relationship is the strong bond that forms. That said, it is also possible for romantic relationships with clients to develop unexpectedly.
Here’s what to do and how to maintain your scope of practice should you ever find yourself in this situation.
The Risks of Romantic Relationships with Clients
When an otherwise professional relationship evolves into a more romantic or not-so-platonic connection, challenges and conflict will dramatically increase. Depending on the personal trainer’s professional status (employed vs. independent contractor vs. sole proprietor), the trainer could be violating important policies and regulations according to the entity for which he/she works. Further, when a trainer becomes too personally involved in any respect, the effectiveness of the client-trainer relationship is put at risk.
Keep business business, and all conversations professional when interacting as a client and personal trainer.
How to Handle Romantic Developments
It’s natural to develop a strong connection with a client (and a client to develop a mutual respect for his/her trainer), so if the relationship blossoms into something more, you can do a couple of things.
First, review your certifying agency’s code of ethics and scope of practice documentation. Some organizations may explicitly outline the risks and consequences as they relate to this topic. Others may only gloss over it. Either way, dating a client you currently train is unethical unless certain steps are made to allow the relationship to develop outside of the already established professional one.
Second, it’s most productive to address feelings with each other in a face-to-face conversation. If the feelings each of you are experiencing are worth exploring, end the professional relationship immediately and help your client find another trainer at your establishment or suggest they seek a trainer outside of your place of business. If you are an independent personal trainer and aren’t bound by the confines of establishment policy, it’s still best (and the most professional move) to end that business relationship with your client.
Always bear in mind the reputation you, as a professional, want to build and maintain. Developing a reputation of dating clients may open you up to a host of issues should a relationship turn sour or end abruptly.
Consider also that a client may develop feelings for you that are not reciprocated (or vice versa) and may attempt to cross a line that you thought was clearly established. Be sure boundaries are clear when your intent is to maintain a strictly professional relationship.
A Healthy Trainer-Client Relationship
A successful, healthy, and professional trainer-client relationship is built on mutual trust, understanding, and communication. Should any romantic relationships with clients develop, shift the tone in such a way that romance becomes the top priority, the professional relationship can be compromised or even damaged. Should this happen, be sure to navigate this slippery slope with caution and intelligence so that you can remain within your scope of practice and cultivate a professional reputation.