“How do you create professional boundaries with your clients?”

By IDEA Authors
Dec 10, 2014

One of the ways that I establish professional boundaries is by keeping the training sessions about the clients. When they ask, “And how are you?” I answer with a genuine “Great!” and leave the conversation at that.

Connecting to the physical body for clients often brings up issues from the “emotional body,” so I do my best to create a safe space where my clients can release both sweat and stress. They know that whatever they tell me is in the strictest confidence, but that our main goal is to stay focused on fitness. During our allotted time, they are able to share anything that comes up for them—as long as they keep moving! If I have a particularly chatty client, I allow her to talk only during our breaks, when she is catching her breath.

Occasionally, I will have a session with a client who is unable to commit to the task at hand because external stressors are stressing and distracting him. In that case, I use a technique in which I make him do cardio intervals on the rowing machine or treadmill, and I say, “For the next 10 minutes, you can vent freely. And then we move on.” The endorphins kick in, and it works like a charm!

Another way I create professional boundaries with my clients is by not spending social time with them outside of our sessions. The exception would be friends who later become clients. This transition happens often, as I lead fitness retreats in Mexico and teach a lot of classes that are attended by friends and students alike. Once friends enter into my client roster, I am careful to keep our sessions on track by saying things like “I really want to hear about your weekend, but only after our session is over. Right now I need 15 burpees, please.”

Last, I make it clear to my clients that I respond to texts and calls only during certain hours of the day. This policy discourages my clients from reaching out to me late at night or early in the morning.

Heather Craig
Creator, Booty Luv® Fitness LLC
Portland, Oregon

I’ve been able to establish boundaries while building trusting relationships with clients through empathetic listening and coaching. I don’t share specifics about my life much because the session is about the client, not me. This practice helps establish boundaries. By being a great listener, relating to clients’ struggles and keeping my clients focused on what they want to achieve, I help them find long-term success, and we develop a supportive relationship.

Shaun Golden
Health Coach
Eat to Thrive Health Coaching

Carlsbad, California

How do I create professional boundaries? I make sure I talk about myself only when I want to share something that might encourage or motivate my clients. I focus on them. They don’t pay me to talk about me. I think many personal trainers are guilty of that.

Gina Stanton Verbrugge
Certified Personal Trainer
Owner, Fit to be You LLC

Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Establishing good professional boundaries with new clients right at the beginning is important. It helps not only with building rapport but also with being
respected as a fitness professional. In order to break the ice and give each session a personal touch, I allow 5 minutes of “personal chatting” during the warm-up. Once the training moves into the actual workout phase, I explain exercises, educate clients about what exercises do and how they should feel, and answer fitness-related questions about topics such as nutrition, life/workout balance or stress reduction. Allowing too much chitchat can easily distract from
the workout and fitness goals. If a client gets carried away with personal conversation, I quickly redirect the spotlight on the workout with a fun and dynamic partner exercise. I believe that a focused trainer produces clients who are focused and successful.

Andrea Brooks, MS
Alexandria, Virginia

I don’t think personal conversations with clients are wrong. If clients share their personal lives with you, it means they trust you, like you and consider you a friend. If clients trust you and like you, it means they will be more loyal to you. It doesn’t mean you can’t stay focused on their fitness goals and give clients the results they want. Knowing what’s going on in clients’ personal lives also helps you overcome the obstacles to those fitness goals. Sometimes clients can’t lose weight because of stress or lack of sleep,
for example. I know everything about my clients, and my retention rate is over 90%. I talk about myself only if clients ask, but I don’t mind sharing some personal information, because it helps them connect to me on a more human level.

Izabela Milanov
The Fit Apple
New York, New York

For a professional relationship, I show my clients I care, reach out to them and ask how they feel after workouts. I inspire and motivate them to be better. I explain the exercises they are doing and why, and I get feedback from them. I focus on building an honest professional relationship with open communication.

David Rubin
Muscle Activation Techniques Specialist
Owner, Winners Fitness

Orlando, Florida

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