How do you prepare for and handle the busy month of January?

Dec 18, 2008

Tricks of the Trade

question & answers

January always brings in a few new prospects who are taking the first step on their New Year’s resolution. If you are prepared, you have the perfect opportunity to increase your membership, attract more personal training clients and take a second look at your business to make the most of these new clients.

For Studios or Facilities With Personal Training Departments. Be prepared to step up your sales force. Every personal training studio and gym is in the hunt for new clients at this time. Make sure your team understands the philosophy of your business and is able to cross-sell to your trainers. Also, be prepared with your marketing materials. January is a great time to differentiate your place from everyone else’s by handing out a Training Tips newsletter from your training team. In addition, why not station a trainer at an “Ask the Trainer” table at the front door a few days a week to help prospects see the difference in your facility versus others?

For Personal Trainers. Be prepared to schedule more assessments. People love the opportunity to meet with a trainer and discover the steps they need to take to get healthier. Charging an assessment fee for this time is imperative to optimizing your ability to increase clients and get paid. I suggest you charge half or more of your personal training rate for the assessment. If the would-be client signs up for a package of training sessions, you may offer to put the assessment fee toward his package.

Also, think about “grouping” your clients now. With more people wanting to save money in this financial recession, January is a great time to get your clients into groups. This strategy allows more people to train at the prime-time hours, (6:00 am, 9:00 am and 10:00 am in my gym), and makes training more affordable. Always look at a potential client who does not “fit” into your schedule and see if you could match her up with one of your current clients. You might be able to get your current client to book an extra training session each week with the cost savings he’ll get from doing a partner session. Plus, you will receive a higher pay rate each time you train. This strategy will also help if the new client drops out after a few weeks or months. That way you aren’t scrambling to find new clients to fill the space that would be empty if she were training solo.

Andrea Metcalf
Owner, mbc Fitness Essentials Inc.
Westmont, Illinois

Self-care is an important component in your ability to help clients achieve their goals, because taking care of your needs first is a key factor in being able to motivate others. When you incorporate behaviors that help you maintain personal balance, replenish motivation and grow as a person, you will avoid burnout, a stress syndrome that is prevalent among people working in the health and helping professions. Burnout happens when energy is depleted from trying to reach unrealistic goals. While personal trainers love the income generated by the influx of returning and new clients in January, it is important to put some burnout-prevention strategies in place.

Setting Realistic Goals. Decide now how many clients are manageable for January. Create a “map” of what your life will look like with 20 new clients: pleasantly busy or quite overwhelming? Plan when and where you will conduct your training. Factor in your commute time, break time, meal time, office time (updating files, returning phone calls) and, of course, your training time.

Meeting with new clients requires more time than sessions with regular clients. You have fitness assessments to conduct, goal setting to do, lifestyle inventories to evaluate and educational sessions to present—before you even have your first workout with your client! The entire month of January could consist of these activities—which help the client to solidify where he is on the stages of change. For you, as the trainer, it means deciding in advance what information to present to your client. For a client who presents with diabetes, it could be a diabetes education campaign; for a client with CHD risk factors, it might be teaching her about dyslipidemia and how to manage that.

Set a realistic goal about how you want to spend your time in January and decide on a client number that will allow you to be “pleasantly busy” so that you can still pursue self-care activities.

Self-Care Activities. By setting realistic goals, you will have a psychological resistance to burnout because the locus of control will be yours. From a psychological perspective, having an internal locus of control helps to prevent stress, depression and burnout. You can bolster this psychological hardiness with the following self-care activities:

1. Maintain a good support system. Have friends—both trainers and nontrainers—with whom you can share your frustrations and successes on a weekly basis.

2. Maintain a calendar that works for your lifestyle. If watching House on Tuesday nights is a highlight of your week, don’t schedule clients at 8:00 pm on Tuesdays!

3. Set and maintain your boundaries. Setting strong personal boundaries is essential for personal health. For trainers, a boundary might be that clients must call 24 hours in advance for cancellation or they must prepay for all sessions.

4. Follow your wellness program. When crazy-busy January occurs, adhere to your workout and stress management program.

5. Schedule time away from your training site. While office workers are able to leave their office at 5:00 pm, trainers don’t have the same ability and often end up training 12 or more hours a day. We meet a client at 6:00 am, train until noon, return at 4:00 pm and train until 9:00 pm. Experiment with making some days your early training days with evenings off, and other days your late training days with mornings off. If you fear losing income, take the time you have away from training to do presentations in the community or to write articles, as a way of marketing your business and expanding your professional offerings.

Brenda Salas
Wellness Coordinator
and Adjunct Faculty,
Montgomery College
Rockville, Maryland

Our studio is unique in that many of our clients leave for warmer weather starting as early as November and then return in March.

Anticipating their absence, we offer holiday specials; gift certificates for private sessions and group classes; and reduced rates for three private sessions as an introduction to Pilates. This strategy helps to bring in new clients that we hope to retain. Since clients are leaving seasonally, we do have schedule openings; and accommodating these new clients is not a problem.

Many people start a new year with the best intentions; [therefore,] we want to draw as many of them through our doors as possible. We offer more class times and a new type of group class, such as belly dancing, so that we can attract people who may have different preferences. We offer these classes at a more affordable rate than equipment training or private sessions. Now more than ever before, we want people to be able to value the difference we make in their lives and make it comfortable for them to continue coming to us.

One way we are able to take on more people with the same number of trainers is to promote partner training and training in small groups on the equipment. This type of training costs less per client; the trainer earns more; and the camaraderie the clients share helps to keep up their attendance. Everybody benefits!

Dale Weber, MS, and
Lorraine DeLuca, MS
Co-Owners and Master Trainers,
Bedford Pilates & Fitness LLC
Bedford Village, New York

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