My goal as a fitness professional has always been to educate. When I first started personal training I had bosses who told me, “Don’t teach your clients anything—keep them dependent on you for ideas and they will keep coming back!” I believed the opposite to be true, and it was not long before I started my own business.

Educate your clients—if you don’t, someone else will. Fitness information is available on thousands of websites; hospitals, senior centers and other nonprofits offer an array of fitness and wellness programs at minimal cost. By offering educational programs for clients, you impress them with your knowledge and empower them to feel informed. They will know that you have their best interests at heart.

From a pure business standpoint, because word of mouth is your best marketing tool, you want your clients to be telling their friends about the interesting things they learned from you. That certainly is preferable to them hearing about a new technique or study from another trainer! Discover ways to add depth, width and texture to an everyday training practice with a wellness education component.

Wellness Defined

The term wellness seems to be everywhere these days, and a Google search will reveal the many ways it is used. My personal definition of wellness is the pursuit of excellence in the important areas of your life. While the traditional focus of wellness has been on physical well-being, it also incorporates spiritual and mental dimensions. Thus, wellness education can be about any number of topics, from improving physical fitness to recovering from disease to learning more about various massage options. The concept creates an opportunity for you to fashion programs across a variety of areas geared to your particular clients.

Wellness for Your Business

Why would you want to add more wellness offerings to your business? They provide time and space for further client education. Have you had clients who right at the end of a session started asking you questions that then took you well after the allotted time to answer? For me that was almost always the case. The questions could range from “Do you believe in eating dairy products?” to “Which type of crunch is right for me?” to “What is it like getting an MRI?” If you are like me, you’ve found that it’s very hard to charge for that extra time. By adding a wellness education component to your center, you will have a way to defer those questions to one of your educational sessions. In addition, wellness programs attract would-be clients into your business while also helping retain current clients.

Ideas for Any Size Business

While I now have a full-service wellness center, for many years I was a personal trainer with a small studio. Because I did not have the space for full-blown classes, I incorporated education in other ways. For instance, I started a newsletter that I still publish; I organized breakfast meetings where clients could come for roundtable discussions; and I created a community walking club.

In terms of numbers, the walking club has been the most successful. We meet at various venues throughout the county, from parks to walking trails. Before each walk, I provide a short educational program. Sometimes it is as simple as talking about what type of shoes to buy for walking or how to stretch your hamstrings properly. At other times I bring in a guest speaker to talk on a more advanced topic. On occasion I have had as many as 50 people walking with me. One of the added bonuses of the club has been attracting the attention of other people who happen to be at the park or trail that day. Once I noticed the attention we were getting, I had a banner made that included my business name and number. I started the walking club in 1990 and it continues to this day.

Full-Scale Wellness

When I opened my wellness center 3 years ago, my goal was to offer a full array of both physical and educational programs under one roof. While other area businesses have some of the programs we do, I do not know of any place that does them all. We provide individualized personal training, fitness evaluations, group fitness classes, private wellness consultations and massages, all of which we charge for. Plus, we hold free educational programs. These programs attract potential clients to our center, and if they like what they see and hear, they often become paying clients.

The speakers I bring in are experienced, qualified professionals in their fields (including myself). On occasion I have asked a nonprofessional who has had a unique experience (such as successfully fighting cancer) to speak about his or her experience. I never permit a speaker to promote or sell products—the clients are coming to learn, not to buy. I think the best way to lose potential clients is to invite them to a “free” class and then try to sell them something!

My website,, gives a complete list of the programs we offer, but here are a few of the most successful ones:

  • A professor from the local university who is an expert on psychology and aging spoke on preventing dementia. We advertised his talk, “Memory Over Time,” in the local paper and passed out fliers at local senior groups. We supplied a free box lunch, which always helps increase attendance. So many people signed up that he had to do two back-to-back sessions to deal with the overflow.
  • A doctor who had been forced to retire after he suffered a heart attack and stroke talked on “Living Life After a Heart Attack and Stroke.” The talk brought in many people (and their caregivers) who had themselves suffered a stroke or heart attack and were looking for guidance on recovering. One attendee is now being trained by a trainer at our business.
  • Wellness Wednesday was a weekly open house held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm each Wednesday. It was an opportunity for the community to meet the staff on an informal basis. We served refreshments, answered questions and gave discount gift certificates (such as 20% off a consultation). The program brought in a number of people. To make it more available, I recently replaced it with “Make Up Your Mind Mondays,” which is the same program but held on Mondays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.

While the possibilities for such programs are endless, what they all have in common is a way to bring your business to the attention of potential clients who otherwise may never step foot in the door for a fitness evaluation or group session. But once they’ve been to your place, they may become comfortable enough to become paying clients.

Distinction in a Tough Market

These economic times are hard. Discretionary spending is just not happening. The fitness industry (in our area at least) is hurting. Local gyms are offering incredibly low prices—one national chain in this vicinity is advertising memberships for $10 a month. How do you compete with that?

One way is to set yourself apart from your competitors. By establishing a wellness education component in your practice, you give clients something they are not likely to get at the $10-a-month gym. You also enhance your reputation as a qualified professional so that when the economy turns around (and it always does), those who need your services will think of you because they know where to find knowledge.