Monday, October 11, 2010

5 Clients that Drive You Crazy

I think if you have been a trainer for a while in the industry, you'll get the jist of this post:

I want to tell you about the experience I have training my client Lyle (not his real name).

He doesn't speak much...he doesn't listen much. He tends to agree with me and say "yeah, yeah" while I am in still in the middle of my sentence. Every correction I make to his form, he commits again. He comes late to every session and he doesn't communicate with me at all--even when I try to talk about things outside of training. Lyle is a banker and always seems to have a ton of things on his mind while we train. However, he did express how he really wants to train and "needs" someone there to make sure he gets his workouts in. This is the crap that irritates me.

One day, I had a conversation with Lyle and asked him to start taking the workouts more seriously and try to "clear your mind" when it is time for us to workout. He understood that the time we spend together is important and valuable. He understood that the accountability I provide is a pertinent asset to his goal of "staying in shape". I thought we hit a stride with that conversation. For those of you who don't know, most of my week is spent training at an upscale golf club and most of these members don't appreciate a "talking to" from little 'ol me. But it was for his benefit and I think he realized how serious I take 'his' workout and 'his' progress.

Next day, Lyle arrived 15 minutes late.

The is no doubt in the world of training general population you will run into clients that really don't represent you in the light you desire. In the last 5 years, I have only recently begun to understand that a client represents a trainer. And the more compliant a client becomes, the better chances that they will reach success. Sure, most of it has to do with the degree of influence a trainer can make, but sometimes, when you train others that are so different from you, there is too much "distance" to overcome. There are so many factors that make up a person, and a trainer can only do so much to influence someone in 1 hour. You are really up against an army when you train the general population. The mindset is different. The effort for behavior change is much, much greater. They are more established in their ways. But you have to keep moving forward. Help who you can and enjoy your workout sessions.

Here is a rundown of some of the most annoying clients you will most likely or may have already run into:

1.) The Whiner - this client complains about every aspect of the session. From the actual performing of the exercise,  the load selected, and the time of the day, the discomfort, and the entire day's agenda. This type of client robs positive energy from you and allows their negativity to be the "structure" of the session. I banish these clients from my list. These clients never get close to their goals. Solution: develop 'deaf' ears or remove from client list.

2.) The Narcissist - this client is almost always male. I have trained a few CEOs over the last few years and these are the guys (or gals) that cannot stop watching themselves in the mirror as they exercise or "posing" every 2 minutes. 

Let me clarify...I am not talking about watching the exercise form in the mirror; but the purposeful intent to turn the neck and watch an entire set of bench presses in the side mirror. Solution: Remove all mirrors.

3.) The Excuser - this client is as creative as they come. There is an excuse for everything: energy levels, missed workouts, missed meals, difficulty levels, session payments, and everything in between. These clients are short-lived on my roster. Solution: A good discussion on making choices between 'mandatory and optional. See video below from Martin Rooney:

4.) The ADD Client - this client pays no attention to what you just instructed and you spend 50% of the session repeating yourself. Maybe a little patience and tolerance needed here....nah, forget that. This client has too many thoughts going on and is possibly concentrating on what to do AFTER the session rather than keeping the mind in the workout. Solution: Talk slower or come up with a better time to meet.

5.) The Delinquent Client - I am not talking about your client with a past criminal record; I am actually speaking about the client that repeatedly cancels sessions or arrives late. They sound like misdemeanors, but time is money and sessions missed means steps taken back reaching a goal. I have had more success with clients that meet with me diligently; than those that arrive late or cancel frequently. The delinquent client also misses workouts that are assigned to them outside of planned sessions. Again, I have had more success with clients that I work with one on one 3 days a week versus those that I meet only once per week. Solution: Constructive discussion or refer to another trainer.


  1. You are so right, John. The client does represent the trainer. If the existing client is not doing well, other potential clents could form an opinion about our abilities as fitness pros no matter that the existing client belongs to one of the categories you've mentioned. Thanks for covering this subject.

    Rick Kaselj

  2. haha john I love you man, I swear you have at one time or another hit the nail on the head DEAD ON. I enjoyed your EFS article "how to fire a client" and this is another gem. WHile I personally can deal with the delinquents by removing them from the schedule, the whiners and the excusers seem to make daily visits. Its ironic because between reading your posts about these difficult clients, and then contrasting that with Zach-Esh's "dont waste your time with people you dont enjoy, and dont sellout, etc" it certainly compells one to think long and hard about the business side of things....

    Thanks for an other great post brother.


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