Your principal role as a Fitness Professional for any client is to understand what they want. Which is actually a lot harder than it seems.

“People don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.”

– David Ogilvy

With this in mind. Would it surprise you that sometimes, clients just want to hang out? I’m not talking about the out of session stuff like going for a coffee. It’s a different scope which deserves a full piece itself. Particularly when addressing what’s appropriate and not so appropriate.

Your principle role as a Fitness Professional for any client is to understand what they want. Which is actually a lot harder than it seems.

I’m talking about clients who are quite happy to come in and bust their balls with you week in and week out, even though the elephant in the room is getting louder by the day.

“They’re not making progress, they’re not actioning my advice outside of the gym sessions.”

Whatever it is, they’re lagging on their fat loss goals. Or they’re not sticking to the nutritional advice, or workout volume, or rest. Even though you both had a much-needed pillow talk a month ago and things are still the same in terms of progress, or lack thereof.

If you’re like me, and virtually every other Fit-Pro who wants their clients to succeed – It starts to really get under your skin when clients aren’t making progress. You start to question yourself and your abilities.
Maybe my advice is crap?
Maybe I lack the systems?
Maybe I’m not putting on enough pressure?
Maybe I’m saying it wrong?
There’s this gnawing feeling that any day now, they’re going to announce they’re throwing in the towel. The Mayan Apocalypse kicks in. Everyone discovers you’re an imposter. The whole world comes crashing down.

Relax. It’s fine.

For the most part, we know it’s going to be something simple that’ll fix it. A slightly improved accountability system perhaps. Or even create a competitive challenge to make the process more fun and engaging. It could even be the ‘tough love’ talk which will do the trick. It’s amazing what personal turmoil clients can be going through which you’d never know unless you asked.

That said, there’s still a healthy portion of clients some Fit-Pros may stand to lose because they took themselves way too seriously.

Have you ever stopped to consider that while a client may say they want to lose the tire, fit into that red dress or even beat the Hulk in a wrestling match? Is it what they’re really thinking though? Have you considered there are clients out there that would quite happily keep training with you even though they’re acutely aware of the lack of progress?

There’s usually two reasons with people. The real one, and the one that sounds good.”

– J.P. Morgan

It’s worth entertaining the thought. Because whilst it is inconceivable to us mighty Fit-Pros to train without any progress. Some people are having a lovely time. The last thing they want you to do is to ramp up the pressure.

Incubation Period

Starting training in a brand new gym with a brand new trainer has a scare factor. Which sits on a continuum. Some people find it nerve-racking for the first few sessions and they’re golden. Some people may take a long time to recharge before taking another step.

Think about the process for them.

Start —> Learn the habit & training changes —> Action the habit & training changes —> Results —> Next Level?

There’s plenty of people out there who can’t take on life changes which scare them, consecutively. They may feel the best route for them is to keep everything as low pressure as possible. Just starting was big enough, leave me alone for a bit, let me have some fun.

I’m calling it the incubation period – Why not? – Of which you ought to be receptive to. Because it highlights it isn’t a case of if you ramp up the pressure, it’s when and how.

If you’re stuck in a binary mindset which says if my client isn’t making measurable progress right now, then I’ve got to apply the pressure no matter what – You stand to miss this little number. I’ll give you a perfect example.

I’ve got a client who has been training with me for 3 years now. Hell, I have 5 who have been training with me for that long. However. This one, in particular, hasn’t made that textbook, marketable progress we all hope our clients will get for a while now. About 18 months.

That’s cool. So how the hell have I kept them this long? I know what they said their goals were. I know that they want to achieve them someday. I know that I need to address why progress isn’t being made. And I do.

Gently though. And even then there’s a skill that takes utmost precedence in this context.

Listening. Not just to the words, but read into the backbone of the words chosen. What’s the architecture behind their gentle pushbacks and evasiveness? It was this time last year I and my golden client had a little tough love talk about nutritional adjustments, tracking the daily habits, sending me the info weekly, and chatting about progress.

I could tell that it was a tricky one for them. She was politely receptive to my advice and reasoning. Though, her answers were short. Like, “Yep” short.

She’s agreeing with everything I’m saying. She’s acknowledging that X, Y, and Z need to change. There’s no disagreement. But something isn’t right. So I said.

“Do you feel that the best thing for you right now is to lift the weight off your shoulders and just. Forget about the foodstuff for the moment? Just enjoy training and the usual banter?”


Huh. Would you look at that? It was important to convey to my client that, your journey is your journey, it’ll take as long as it takes. It’s not my call, how fast or slow you want to or can achieve your goals.

Fast forward to today, we have a session booked for next Monday. We’re still going, still slowly chipping away at the goals. She’s a really great character. The turnout is certainly better than being ghosted out of nowhere.

Moral? Chill out, listen deeply. Not everything needs to be up to general expectations.


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James Dilley

James Dilley

I train Martial Artists Online & in House. 24 years of experience in competitive sport & over 16 years of martial arts experience.
James Dilley

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