Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-My Views on the Personal Training Profession Pt. 1: The Client Connection-


Back in April, I gave a presentation to the local chapter of Women in Media at their monthly networking lunch. Here I am showing the group how to do chair dips! My presentation wasn't just a humdrum lecture on working out. I loved the interaction, questions, and making 'em laugh! AND...everyone wanted to know where I got my shoes! Good times!

Happy Monday everyone!

I decided to kick off the week tackling a subject so broad, I will need to devote several posts to it.

I have been training clients since May of 1995. I feel this gives me plenty of room to share my opinions, experience, and lessons learned with the general public. In addition, I feel I have become a credible resource for newly-certified fitness professionals and am ALWAYS willing to share and provide feedback when asked! Those who know me through Twitter and Facebook will agree! One of my goals at this point in my career is to serve as a sounding board for those new to the profession. Why? Back in my “green” days as a young trainer, I didn’t have nearly as many resources available to me as there are now. Yes, I had every book and magazine, attended workshops, and was constantly picking the brains of older trainers…BUT…there was no social networking and there weren’t nearly as many fitness industry-related websites, blogs, information products, and conferences as there are today.

We fitness professionals are living in a time of virtually-unlimited answers. Every day, there seem to be more and more “solutions” to a client’s postural issues. There seem to be endless “fixes” and blog posts covering client assessment, corrective exercise, mobility drills, flexibility, metabolic training, boot camp workouts, sport-specific conditioning, fat loss, muscle gain, etc etc etc…YOU NAME IT. If there’s a topic, you can bet it’s covered out here in cyberspace, and chances are almost everyone who covers it is claiming they are an “expert.” Back in December 2008, I wrote a short little post titled “I’m Glad I’m Not An ‘Expert!'” If you don’t know my stance on this, you will shortly once you read this post! Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to be proficient at something, and in my line of work it can be overwhelming to try and “wear too many hats.” I definitely believe in doing a few things really well, while leaving the rest to other people. I don’t believe, however, in labeling myself as an “expert” at anything because that would mean I have nothing to learn. Those who think they have nothing more to learn have a LOT to learn!

With all of this information out there…all of these solutions…all of these experts…it can be a bit overwhelming. I can’t even imagine being a person on the “outside ” (aka not a fitness professional) who is simply looking for an effective way to lose weight. It’s information overload! It’s borderline ridiculous at times!

Know what I think is REALLY ridiculous? The fact thats what seems to become lost in the shuffle is what I feel to be THE most important factor in our role as fitness professionals.

The client connection.

I can plunk down $499 for a one-day certification workshop in Hoboken, NJ and become an “expert” at designing programs that produce amazing results in glute hypertrophy.  Heck, I can hop on a plane right now and fly over to Walla Walla, WA and learn all the “secrets” of fat loss from “Mr. I Know Everything and You Never Will” in his amazing warehouse gym. All I have to do is pay a ridiculously-high fee, then pay monthly fees to be an “elite” member of his secret society. Yes, if I do things such as these, I too will become one of the cream of the crop! All it takes is money, people! Who cares if you have clients who NEED you?! Arm yourself with any and every certification under the sun, and you won’t have to worry about working with clients anymore…because you are now above that!

LOL.

Okay, so I got a bit carried away there…back to being serious. Let me repeat myself:

The fact thats what seems to become lost in the shuffle is what I feel to be THE most important factor in our role as fitness professionals: THE CLIENT CONNECTION.

Want to know one of the reasons I think most trainers drop out of the industry (besides realizing those visions of dollar signs are not as easy to make reality)? They simply cannot connect with their clients. It’s not rocket science, and it doesn’t require a certification (or “proof” that you can do it). You can have all the skills and knowledge out there…but if you cannot get down to the nitty gritty and figure out just what makes your clients “tick,” you’re not going to be able to get through to them. Unless your clients have something that’s forcing them to stay consistent with their training sessions, over time they are going to get bored because they cannot relate to you and/or you simply don’t inspire them.

Bottom line: it takes a certain someone to be able to be REAL with their clients. This doesn’t work for everyone. It’s something that’s determined by one’s personality, intuition, and ability to be empathetic and GENUINE. I’m not talking about small talk and gossip. We all know that it’s not good practice to sit around gossiping with our clients. I’m talking about getting to know your clients as people. In my opinion, that old rule that went something like “trainers should maintain a professional relationship with their clients” is hogwash. 9 times out of 10, I have become friends with my clients. It’s my personality. I am a kid at heart, and love to laugh. I love making other people smile, and there is simply nothing better than sharing one of those “breakthrough” moments with a client. It’s those times where a client realizes they CAN do something that never get old to me. It’s growth. It’s a bond that grows stronger with each step a client makes.  This is one of the reasons why I continue to receive emails or calls out of the blue from clients I haven’t trained in years. If you make a positive impact on a person’s life, they will never forget you. This is the greatest compliment a fitness professional can receive – to know that they stand apart from the masses, and simply by doing an excellent job of fostering change!

If you’re the type of fitness professional who thinks that we must train our clients and be super-serious because we are trying to create this ridiculous image of “professionalism,” well…you and I most likely won’t  get along. 🙂

Life is short. Laugh. Love. Live it! Why should working out be humdrum and serious? I’m happy that I am able to infuse my personality into each and every hour of my work. I can’t imagine anything worse than trying to be someone i’m not…and i’m happy to say that I am a fitness professional who walks the talk, yet doesn’t take myself (or life) too serious. Let your hair down, trainers. Connect.

Yours in Health,

Sarah

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10 responses

  1. Great article! I have been in the corporate world for so long, it’ll be nice to let my hair down and connect with people. I can’t wait!!! I guess you will click with some people and some you won’t but the ones you do click with will be your best clients.

    July 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    • Thank you, Darren!
      It is a GREAT thing, and I cannot wait for you to get goin’ in this industry either! 🙂
      It will be fun talking with you soon!
      Yours in Health,
      Sarah

      July 20, 2010 at 9:49 am

  2. Hey Sarah

    Awesome post and I agree wholeheartedly!

    Caroline

    July 19, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    • Hi Caroline!
      Thank you so much! Let’s keep training with our hearts…not just our minds! Refuse to settle!
      Yours in Health,
      Sarah 🙂

      July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

  3. Love it Sarah! Great post 🙂 I’ve got the “client connection” in my music teaching. Now working on it with my training clients. I think it takes a while to get into your “groove” but once you’re there you’re successful. Looking forward to getting there.

    July 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    • Thank you, Anna!
      We need to talk soon! I want an update on how things are going for you! 🙂

      July 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

      • Slowly struggling to find my feet…. but the conditions in the gyms suck and wouldn’t pay the mortgage, so it’s after hours private clients only for now. I have many ideas, putting together a plan, but the fear of not paying the bills is a bit great at the mo.

        July 20, 2010 at 6:16 pm

        • You gotta make ends meet, and you WILL come out on top! I have no doubt, Anna! 🙂 Just the fact that you’re getting experience working with clients is awesome. Think about different niches you could fill. I have managed to find that my niche is a needed one – lots of people do not want to work out at a typical gym! Many of my boot campers enjoy being outside and my in-home clients appreciate the convenience of me coming to them. Think “outside the box” and make a list of all the different facets of your personality that can be fused into your business!

          August 2, 2010 at 7:15 am

  4. You ROCK, Sarah! The best trainer in all of Batonnnnnn Rooouge, I guarunn-Tee!

    Great piece!

    Thank you!
    Fred

    July 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    • Thank you, Fred!
      You rock too, my friend!
      Hope all is goin’ well in your world!
      Let’s catch up soon!
      Sarah 😀

      July 20, 2010 at 9:53 am

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