Tricks of the Trade

How do you handle your client load when you go out of town—for instance, to attend a convention?

Although many of our clients do not like to change to another trainer when their own trainer is away, we do encourage it. We believe people can benefit from experiencing a different trainer, and we explain the advantages to our often reluctant clients. Sometimes we offer a discount for the session if they try a new trainer. If clients are attached to a comfortable routine, we promise them we will review their exact programs, needs, likes and dislikes with their substitute trainer, so they can be assured of the continuity and predictability they desire.

To accommodate clients during occasional trainer absences, we require each trainer to keep a file on every one of his or her clients, detailing what has been done in each session. File notes should include any comments the client makes specific to the workout, as well as the trainer’s feedback on the session—basically any information that may be of importance to the client or the trainer. In this way, any trainer can pick up and train any client in the way the client is used to (maybe with a few surprises, depending on the client!). If a client has any issues or conditions—as most of our clients do—the substitute trainer can feel secure in knowing which exercises will be safe and which need to be avoided.

By keeping good records—and good trainers—we ensure that no client needs to miss a session and everyone is happy.

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


When I get the opportunity to go to a convention, I tell my clients ahead of time that I will be out of town for continuing education. They do not seem to mind, except that some “veterans” may groan with anticipation of what “torture” (their word, not mine) I will have for them when I return. I assure them it will be only the most up-to-date and biomechanically correct torture! Some people continue to work out on their own when I am gone, some say they will and then don’t, and some just welcome the excuse not to exercise.

In the past I tried hiring trainers to cover my sessions. Only a couple of clients wanted to continue with someone else, however. I would introduce a trainer to these clients so he or she could see their sessions in action. But the trainers I hired were not satisfactory. They complained about travel without pay and about time of day (what’s wrong with the alarm going off at 4:30 AM?) and had no perseverance when problems happened, such as a client’s security gates not opening. So now no trainers take over my sessions when I am away.

Daria Clarke
   Owner, Daria Clarke
   Personal Fitness Training
Las Vegas, Nevada


As co-owner and head trainer of our studio, I need to plan carefully for time spent away. As our business has been on quite a growth path these last 2 years, I have taken very little vacation—traveling only to go to trainings and conventions.

Clients typically want to continue their sessions while I am out of town and/or at a convention, and I feel it is important for them to follow consistent training schedules. Most of our clients—whether they are privates, duos or groups—have standing appointments.

Clients are very supportive when they know you are going away to further your fitness education and training. I have taken several weekends to go to trainings and conferences in the last year, but I try to minimize time away from the studio and from clients. (I do not train on weekends anyway, so that makes it easier.) However, when I am away, I assign another trainer to work with most of my clients. This strategy can actually be a good thing, as the other trainer will always have his or her own approach, and the clients usually experience their workouts differently. Sometimes the other trainer adds a new dimension to the training. It is a plus for the studio when more than one trainer can work with a client.

I certainly do not worry about losing clients to another trainer. There is more than enough business to go around in the studio. Bottom line: I want the best trainer for every client. If a client enjoys a substitute trainer more than me, great. I am happy that the client is happy!

Patricia Massey Welter
IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer
Manager/Head Trainer, Suncoast
   Pilates & Personal Training Studio
Palm Harbor, Florida


At my business, Action Personal Training, I handle this situation in a variety of ways. I find the way that is most conducive to the clients’ success, considering what their goals are and what they feel most comfortable with.

I usually know at least a couple of months in advance when I will be gone for workshops and conventions. I always treat each client like a boss. I like to give as much notice of my absence as I can. I let clients know that I will be leaving to continue my education for their betterment. I then let them know what their options are:

1. They can train with one of our other expert trainers while I am gone.
2. They can work out on their own.

In either case I prepare the situation for the best outcome. If a client has a goal that cannot wait until I get back, I strongly encourage him to work with another trainer. Then I let the client slowly get to know the trainer I’ve recommended. I also make sure the substitute trainer has all the information needed to make this client’s training experience great.

If a client feels like working out on her own, I write up a program and we go over it together to make sure she understands what the requirements are.

Since most conferences are on the weekends, I try to switch people around so that they get most of their sessions in before I take off. Generally clients are very supportive if you give them fair warning and set them up for success.

Danette Allen
Owner, Action Personal Training
Salt Lake City, Utah

Having recently returned from maternity leave, I know what it’s like to maintain a client load while out for an extended period of time. In addition to taking less than the traditional 6–8 weeks of pregnancy leave, I managed my clients in a variety of ways.

If clients didn’t want to train with another person, I offered to create “homework” for them. I e-mailed their workouts to them weekly, with specific instructions as to reps and sets. They would then e-mail me with a report of what they actually did. This strategy worked nicely with motivated clients who were familiar with training.

If clients wanted personal guidance but didn’t want to wait for my return, I gave them to trainers who were a good match personality-wise and, if necessary, specialty-wise. For instance, a trainer with expertise in prenatal training handled my pregnant clients. It was important to keep clients happy so that they would stick with their personal programs. If I had recommended a boot camp type of trainer for a newly postnatal mother, she might have quit her training altogether. By matching trainers with clients appropriately, I knew I could return from leave to find well-cared-for clients who were maintaining their health goals.

Kerrie Ann Frey
Master Personal Trainer/Pilates
Studio Director, Franco’s
   Athletic Club
Mandeville, Louisiana
Owner/Trainer, Fit Mom USA
New Orleans, Louisiana

That is an excellent and easy question for us to answer!
In our unique business model, we assign two personal trainers to each client.

Since we live in a rather isolated, rural community, it is most always necessary to travel (by car or plane) to attend workshops and conferences—often neces­si­tating at least one overnight stay. Consequently, when one trainer is out of town, our clients can simply schedule additional sessions with their remaining trainer.

This plan allows our clients to continue their training without interruption with a trainer who knows them well, rather than a “sub.” Then clients are excited that the traveling trainer is learning new information to bring back to the “training table”! Additionally, the traveling trainer can leave without worry that another trainer might “steal” his clients while he is away.

This puts Real Life Fitness in a win-win-win situation: clients are being well served, trainers feel secure in continuing their education, and business owners (that’s us!) are encouraging continuing education for our trainers!

Scott and Barbi Jackson
Scott Jackson’s Real Life Fitness
Nevada City, California

For the latest research, statistics, sample classes, and more, "Like" IDEA on Facebook here.

November 2007

© 2007 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

Get the award-winning IDEA Fitness Journal delivered to your door every month!

Get IDEA Fitness Journal

Article Comments

Add Comment

15 + 2 =
Cancel
View all questions