…that I listen to.” I remember the day a client told me this. I had just ordered up another round of grueling upper-body exercises. He uttered these words through teeth clenched with determination and a stiff upper lip speckled with sweat. This is a client who left no doubt as to his decision-making standards, his place in the world and the value of his time. Because he listened to me, his health had improved immensely, as had the quality of his life.

Do your clients listen to you? We tend to listen to others to the degree that they listen to us. They tend to heed our words with the same weight and seriousness they feel we give to theirs.

Why do they need to listen to what you tell them to do? Their workout sessions with you are only a small part of their overall life, yet can have the largest impact… if and when they follow your other guidelines.
Have you talked to your clients about the importance of proper nutrition, stress reduction and physical activity on their off-workout days? How they live their life when not working out with you has a direct bearing on the success with you.

Will they achieve their workout goals with you while they make poor lifestyle choices the remainder of the week? If they are static in their progress, how long will it be before they are no longer your client? If they don’t heed the recommendations you make for the achievement of their goals, how will you be the hero you would have been if they followed your advice?

When you’ve really listened to their goals, their dreams and their conversation about their life, you can see the bigger picture. When you are effective at helping them see that bigger picture and lay the cards out in front of them with a direction and a plan for success, they are more apt to listen and eagerly comply.

It’s hard enough to get good clients and harder to retain them when they don’t listen to you. Do they have the desire to follow a healthy lifestyle? Do they feel the information you are giving them has value to them, and is it interesting to them? Do they understand how it applies to their life and their workout outcomes?

Can they actually apply it to their lives, or are there cross-purposes at work, preventing effective compliance - such as a spouse sabotaging their efforts, a demanding boss, long hours on the job or an eating disorder? You need to know what you are up against to be able to tackle it.

To get their attention and make a strong impression with a client who doesn’t listen, preface your statements by saying, “This is important to helping you achieve your goals. I need you to....” Tell them straight what it is they need to be doing and why. When you have listened and understand them, you have a very good chance of having a client who lets you tell them what to do… and listens to you.

Greg Justice, MA, CPT, is the founder of AYC Health & Fitness in Kansas City ( He has personally trained more than 40,000 one-on-one sessions and has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than a quarter of a century as a club manager, owner, trainer and corporate wellness supervisor (