“How do you handle the situation when a client comes in sick or with an obvious medical condition such as open sores?”
I ask the client to obtain a medical clearance from a doctor before we can train. I explain that this is precautionary for his or her own health. Why do I ask for medical clearance? When clients are ill, exercise is most likely not going to benefit them. When a client seeks medical clearance, the doctor usually reinforces my original concerns.
Owner, Bill Ross Fit and Holistic Life Forever
I talk clients into going home and taking care of themselves. I personally don’t want to get sick, nor do I want to expose my other clients to anything that may be contagious. I tell clients who are sick how crucial rest is and that it is one of the most important components of wellness and health. I may suggest Epsom salt baths and plenty of fluids. I show them I care.
I do not charge for the missed session. Sick days happen, and I try to show compassion.
Owner, Lean and Serene Personal Training
Keene, New Hampshire
Luckily, clients rarely arrive sick. However, if they do, I talk to them, train them lightly and focus on relaxation. I may wrap warm towels around their neck with some essential oils. Typically, all my clients get at least 5–7 minutes of deep relaxation and visualization at the end of the session. If they’re sick, I’ll do this for 15–20 minutes. Usually, what these clients need is rest; however, sometimes with high-intensity professionals, you have to give them what they want so you can give them what they need at the end.
Wellness Coordinator and Lead Trainer, Ritz Carlton Resort
Addressing what to do when clients are sick on a training day is part of the housekeeping I do when they start training. We also address late cancellations, weather-related problems and school closings. When my clients are sick, they call or email and ask if it would be safe to come. They know that they will not be charged for their [missed] session if they are sick. If they have an ongoing health condition, I ask them to stay away until a doctor clears them.
However, my longtime clients do realize that I am losing money when they cancel because of illness. They appreciate that they are not being charged, but we have adopted a system where we share the cancellation fee. I don’t charge for the first sick cancellation, and they pay me for the next missed appointment. This works within reason, of course, and I have not had any unhappy clients.
HEYlifetraining Fitness & Wellness
Silver Spring, Maryland
I say don’t train sick clients. Ask them to go to their doctor. If you feel your client is too sick to work out and may be contagious, say, “I know working out is important to you, but remember that you can’t get better if you are stressing your body with exercise at the same time.”
Another suggestion is to say, “Do you think you are contagious? I would hate to catch something and pass it along to all the other people I work with.” When you put it that way to clients, most will be altruistic enough to call it quits for the day.
To avoid this situation altogether, have a policy in place that you go over with clients at your first meeting. For example, this could be your sick policy: “While exercise is important, if you are sick I appreciate it if you cancel your appointment for the day. That way, you get the rest you need and you reduce the chances of spreading your cold or flu to others.” Addressing this issue ahead of time can cut down on the sometimes awkward conversations with clients when they are sick.
Joe Cannon, MS, CSCS
Delaware County, Pennsylvania
This is a very important topic to discuss with all clients. Do it prior to the first session you have with them to avoid confusion or confrontation in the future. I explain that exercising while sick defeats the purpose of working out, since when we exercise the body utilizes much of the energy needed to heal itself. I also tell them that they risk contaminating other clients and their trainers by exercising near them. Needless to say, it is a bad situation for both sides. When my clients miss a workout because of illness, I offer them a make-up session so they don’t feel they lost something.
Rehabilitation Personal Fitness Training Ltd.
I start with thanking the clients for their commitment to exercise and for keeping their appointment. I tell them I can’t afford to get sick, and I ask them to please reschedule their appointment and go home and rest.
I have found that many clients don’t want to pay for a late cancellation so they come in sick. I tell them if they are that sick to please call, and I will not charge them for a late cancellation.
Owner, Bodymoves Training
As protocol when clients come in sick, we try to determine whether they are contagious by asking them for their symptoms and the type of in-home care they have had so far. If we deem that the clients are “toughing it out” by coming in for training or that they are contagious, we intervene and request that they go home, rest and get better.
We usually tell clients that in our gym we have older members and young children in childcare, and therefore we want to make sure the sickness does not spread. As an incentive to comply, we give sick clients some perks such as a free additional session or some sort of care package to take home with them.
Account Manager, BodyFoundry Fitness
I explain that if clients are ill they should use their energy for healing rather than for exercising. I appreciate their dedication, but their health should be their priority. For open sores, such as poison ivy, I require clients to wear bandages to protect the rash and prevent it from spreading.
Pat Fletcher Hagen
Owner, Bodies in Motion Personal Training
Ultimately, the most important step in addressing this issue is to have a policy in place. Our clients read and sign off on our sickness policy when they start training with us. It says we reserve the right to stop services at any time and may require a physician’s approval to continue. That determination is made at our sole discretion. We tell our clients, “Remember, health first. Your health and everyone else’s health, including the staff’s, is number one.”
We also point out that we serve populations that cannot afford the risk of getting sick (seniors, cancer survivors, chronic pain sufferers, etc.).
When you’ve established standard policy up front, it’s much easier to address and refer back to it—especially if the clients signed off on it in the beginning. Our clients understand that we care about them—all of them. This has worked extremely well for us.
Owner, Fit For You
It’s important that we acknowledge and explain that we deliver primary, secondary and tertiary prevention pertaining to health and chronic illness, using structured exercise as a modality. Primary prevention is limiting the spread of illness to previously unaffected individuals or populations. Secondary prevention is limiting the impact or the recurrence of illness in individuals already afflicted by it. Tertiary prevention involves prevention of further deterioration of physical and mental function in conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or cancer. This is, of course, dependent upon one’s scope of practice.
At a minimum, we are all involved in the primary prevention of disease. Hence, early in the personal training relationship, I explain to clients that because I deliver fitness solutions that address primary, secondary and tertiary prevention, we will cancel and reschedule if they are sick or if I am sick.
The fact that clients and I share space with paying members requires that I reduce the risk of illness to the population that uses the space. By being proactive, such as getting a flu shot and washing our hands frequently, fitness pros demonstrate that we are invested not only in our health but in the health of our clients. Exercise is medicine—lifestyle medicine.
Joanne Duncan-Carnesciali, MS
Adjunct Associate Professor, Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education
I have a clear policy that I will not charge clients for a late cancellation if they are sick. I have not had anyone take unfair advantage of this. I explain that since we are touching equipment and surfaces, their illness could potentially be spread throughout the facility. I have a few clients who are managing chronic diseases, and a flu or cold virus potentially could be deadly for them. Most clients are respectful of this policy.
Owner, Susan Thomson Wellness