Part 1: Why You Should Be Taking Time to Write Fitness Programs

Trainers are always too busy for their own good. In fact, even given a tool to help trainers save time, I have found that most of our first users are too busy to adopt a tool to get less busy. At least, that seems to be how they feel given the realities of being a personal trainer: selling time in one hour blocks and not getting paid for all of the unbilled time managing your business before, after and in between clients. But the reality is that it is this unpaid time that crowds the schedule with trainers balancing the common activities to manage your business, with maintaining your own fitness and ongoing education.

In our quest to make fitness professionals more affordable and accessible through technology, we have heard the same challenges from our users as I used to see when I both worked as and managed trainers. In this four-part series, we are going to examine the common activities all trainers must do, and how taking the time to adopt a new solution or technology more focused on long term results will help save exponentially more time than it takes to set it up in the first place. This should sound familiar to most of you who spend your lives convincing potential and current clients to take a more long term approach to their fitness goals rather than a quick fix that is not sustainable. In some ways, many of the trainers we have spoken with take the latter approach: scramble to get just enough of these business maintenance activities done to keep going, but never really finding a sustainable long term plan. Most of you would probably rather spend all of your energy focusing on your clients and getting results, than selling and managing your training business.

We hope that taking a more in-depth look at each of these activities will give trainers some new ideas on how to keep the focus on long term client results and less on sales. Although this may not seem intuitive at first, this piece of advice makes a lot of sense: the more focus you have on long-term client results, the better your bottom line becomes. Let’s think about that for a moment. By getting your clients to understand the long-term plan and how you’re going to help them get there, you can focus on your current clients instead of constantly looking for new ones. In this case, rather than aggressively closing new clients, you can focus aggressively on following up and caring about people. Further, by putting some simple processes and habits in place to keep yourself and your clients organized in the long-run, you can take on more clients without having to perform many more unbilled activities. This will not only allow you to work more effectively in order to better manage your schedule and get less busy, but this should also lead to more revenue in the long term. The main takeaway here is that if you focus on long-term results by adopting good business practices, the bottom line will take care of itself.

The activities we will focus on in this series include:

  1. Writing programs
  2. Assessments
  3. Time in between clients
  4. Client retention

Writing Programs

The fitness program is the actual language of the trainer-client relationship, which is why I will start off this blog series by discussing the importance of how you write programs. As much as motivation and accountability are big roles for you to play as a trainer, the main value of your service is applying your knowledge and experience in order to design and modify a program for your client according to their goals. Ideally, you are taking the time to write out personalized programs for every client, planned by phase, up until the client’s goal, even if your client has only purchased short-term support. The reality is that most trainers scramble to write something down in the minutes leading up to sessions. This is not necessarily a sign of a bad trainer, but more a result of the way the industry runs today. Fitness programming requires unbilled time for trainers, so there is little short-term incentive to spend much time on it. You are likely also more concerned about your clients renewing after the first package than taking the time to build up a library of programs.

However, the difference between a handwritten workout card and a printed out spreadsheet in the eyes of your clients is dramatic. The print out not only communicates that you took the time to plan the session and supplemental homework, but reinforces how this workout is part of a bigger routine and long term plan. Even if all you did was take a template from another client and change the name and date, your clients feel like this workout was prescribed just for their goals at this moment in their long term plan. And that is where you really save time in the long run; building up libraries of program templates over time, in which you can simply modify the weights and reps accordingly for different clients.

Even those who do take the time to type programs out for their clients tend to struggle to track results, especially on workouts clients do for ‘homework’. However, some basic performance calculations built in to the workout card will add value to both the client and trainer to take the time to enter results. It is relatively easy to sum up the weight lifted, sets completed and workout time in order to calculate performance metrics like volume, estimated one rep max, or comparing past results. Combining that with a few basic calculations for body composition (fat/lean mass, BMR) gives your clients a much more complete picture of their progress outside of just the scale. This also helps reinforce the long term plan/goal and helps manage your clients expectations in the early stages of their training, so they are more likely to renew and stay with you for the whole plan. The beauty is that once you have set up this spreadsheet and just take the few minutes for each client to write it out and save in a folder library, it ends up taking just as much time to write out a program as the scribbled down one in the minutes leading up to the session. The same is true of entering the results after the workout where the values are already there and only the deviations from the assigned reps/weight need to be changed. I have saved you the time of creating a basic program spreadsheet that you can download here, which includes some calculations. Below is an example of what it would look like when filled in.

A spreadsheet will never replace what you can do as a trainer in helping your clients, but it can reinforce your value to their long term goals. Adding exercise examples from picture or video media is an even better way of supporting your clients when you are not with them; however it is time consuming. Obviously, this is one of the issues we are trying to solve with Trainer+ in taking this spreadsheet and turning it into an interactive app that lets you close the program feedback loop between you and your clients. Whether through the app or the more basic spreadsheet, taking the time to prepare the workout, enter the results and calculating progress helps reinforce the long term plan and keep clients engaged. It is this focus on results through the workout plan that helps retain clients and saves time in having to find new ones. It is also this approach which opens up opportunities to offer services (with new revenue streams) outside the typical one-hour weekly clients, such as monthly programming and distance training, that we will discuss in a future post.

In the next post, we will talk about assessments and how taking a long term approach to it can actually help increase sales and at the same time, decrease the pressure you need to put on people to make them.  

standing exercise ball squat

About the Author: Nick Corneil is the founder of Trainer+, a company that builds software that makes it easy for fitness professionals to create, share, track and analyze fitness programs for their clients. For more information, sign up here or check out our homepage.

Mobile Analytics