The negative image of "Friend" is where many trainers fall into, and it's a trap that's hard to avoid. We all do eventually become very comfortable around our clients, and at that point, the tendency to dress casually around them creeps in. But when you start wearing jeans or denim shorts to your training sessions, you have a problem. As a high-earning professional trainer, you should never look like you're going to get the morning paper or play a pick-up game of basketball when you're about to conduct a high-priced training session. However, this is an easy trap to fall into. When you're seeing the same client three times a week for months or even years, you'll develop a very close and friendly relationship with them. There's nothing wrong with that; in fact, it's quite positive.
The problem comes when you begin to take your client for granted; that's when your sessions and image start to lose their edge. No matter how close you get to a client, you should never fully fall into the role of friend. While some might think this is a good thing, it's actually a step down in the mind of the client. As the trainer, you're in the role of leader and mentor to the client; they look up to you and respect you. Becoming their friend takes away some of this aura and hurts your credibility. And if you start to view them as a friend, you may even begin complaining to them about your personal life. This is the road to disaster, but one you'll notice many training relationships travel down. You've probably noticed this when you see a trainer and their client on the workout floor during a training session spending most of their time socializing.
When other people see you and your training style during one of these "social sessions," they'll get a negative impression about your services. You may also find yourself spending less time learning new information and slacking on your progress tracking, punctuality and scheduling. Don't allow this to happen; holding it all together begins with keeping control of your success image. You've got to be a pro and realize you need to keep your priorities straight. If you live a balanced life, you'll make plenty of friends outside of work and not have to go looking for this type of relationship with the people that pay you.
If your credibility takes a hit in your clients' minds, that could be the beginning of the end of your training relationship. If they're ever looking for a place in their life to cut some corners on their expenses, you'll be one of the first to go. This is different from the true professional trainer, whose services are indispensable. When it comes to your business, you don't want there to be a gray area. You can be a friend to your clients, but your role as an advisor and consultant entails much more responsibility than just that.
Unfortunately, the image and clothing of most personal trainers fall into this category. In their attempt to wear a sporty outfit, one they're comfortable with and keeping with gym attire, they end up wearing their own workout clothes and looking like a trainee themselves. This is categorized by wearing clothes that are old, don't fit properly, don't match or are just plain cheap or ugly-looking. In terms of their behavior, they may try to multi-task by working out with their clients (big mistake) or start a training session immediately after their own workout, without as much as changing their clothes or even wiping their sweat away.
To combat this, just spend a little more money and time in picking your clothes — no plain white tees or your beat-up shoes! Remember to look like the best, and your training will follow. In terms of behavior, separate your own workout time far away from your clients. I recommend that you don't even work out yourself in the same gym so you're perceived exclusively as a trainer.
These were a few major scenarios on which to base a success image, and some examples of the ones to avoid. It's one of the most interesting things about consulting how management of image can so remarkably affect results. Call it the "law of attraction" or whatever you want, but the consequences are undeniable. Trainers generally look to attract new business by attaining more training information or technique, but the truth is: You're only as good as how you're perceived.
Kaiser Serajuddin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the owner and head trainer of GoHard Fitness Inc. in New York City (www.gohardfitness.com). He holds a degree in biology from Long Island University and is certified by the AFAA, IFPA and Spinning. Kaiser also writes and maintains Super-Trainer.com, a blog delivering some of the most insightful news, training tactics and profiles of other top trainers in the country.