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Tricks of the Trade

Yes. I enjoy working with women who are fearful or intimidated about starting an exercise program. Working with these clients can be challenging, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. I love seeing the look on a client’s face when she exceeds her own expectations. Women who are overweight or lack confidence in their physical abilities have so much to gain from becoming more active. To reach this population, you need to use a nurturing, compassionate approach. Because resistant exercisers are less likely to come looking for you, you have to seek them out in creative ways.

One strategy that has worked for me is advertising my services in apartment or condo communities that have their own exercise equipment. First, I establish a relationship with the property management. This is invaluable in creating a presence in the community. Then I market my services by posting fliers in public areas, establishing word-of-mouth referrals from existing clients within the community and offering on-site beginner classes and discounted trial packages.

I am as accommodating as possible when scheduling all my clients, but especially when I’m trying to engage resistant exercisers. Once they have expressed an interest in working with me, I fit them in as quickly as possible. Occasionally, I offer an incentive, such as a free stretching session when they have completed a predetermined number of sessions without canceling or rescheduling any of them.

By making use of available equipment and bringing my services to these clients, I can overcome personal obstacles, such as lack of space or equipment, not wanting to exercise in public or not wanting to commit to a gym membership. Some people are motivated to use facilities that they are paying for indirectly through their rent or condo fees. Other clients are intrigued but uncomfortable with the idea of using on-site facilities. In these instances, we start out training in the clients’ homes with equipment that I provide. Later the goal is to incorporate equipment that is available on the property. In every session my focus is on helping my clients feel relaxed, safe and successful.

Dana Schlossberg Weatherspoon, MS, MPH
Owner, Custom Health Concepts
Arlington, Virginia

Yes. Our area is saturated with seniors, so when we started our personal training business, these were the clients with the motivation and money for personal training. Many had never exercised.

Our current clients include seniors, people who have medical conditions or who use mobility devices, people with pre- or post-rehab needs, and nonexercisers. We also serve caregivers, people who lack physical confidence and those who have survived a medical “life event,” such as a stroke or a heart attack.

Many of our clients have painful memories about exercise. Maybe they were the last one picked for the team, or maybe they were teased in gym class for being overweight. Whatever their history is, most are looking for a haven. This is where we step in!

Language is one way we target this group. We use terms like safe, personalized, private, impeccably maintained, caring, special and warm (during our dark, cold winter months). We use this language to describe our facility, our staff, our services and the overall Real Life Fitness experience. This direction informs our brochures and fliers, our print and radio ads, our website text and even our phone conversations, free tours and consultations.

We started as a mobile training business in 1994 and didn’t open a brick-and-mortar studio until 2003, so even the design of our facility was chosen to make nonexercisers feel comfortable. It was a bit of a “build it and they will come” philosophy.

You’ll see our warm attitude reflected in our private restrooms (rather than locker rooms), soothing color palette, fresh flowers and plants, thoughtfully placed speakers and muted music, water dispensers and complimentary towels. Even our equipment was chosen with nonexercisers in mind.

The beauty of this plan is that there are few who would find this environment off-putting, so while we are the only local facility targeting this underserved population, we are a great fit for many others as well!

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

Yes. The clients we target include people who need weight management. For us, it starts with having the right personnel—people who can serve the needs of this clientele and who have a passion for working with this subgroup. We promote our programs and professionals directly to physicians and through portals such as social media and ads in local magazines.

We are lucky to have registered dietitians and a physical therapist on staff, which truly allows us to program for weight loss and therapeutic exercise. Our registered dietitians market a few different weight loss programs. When a large percentage of your potential clients come to you seeking weight loss, it only makes sense to have a program that targets their goals. We wrap weight loss into fitness programs (including treadmill programs or specific strength programs), but clients are purchasing a weight loss program. Once a few clients see results, the word spreads quickly, because so many people want to lose weight. Word of mouth is by far the best tool for us. Results speak for themselves!

Dale Huff, CSCS
Co-owner, NutriFormance and
Athletic Republic
Frontenac, Missouri

Yes. I work in a corporate fitness facility and am the oldest of the three staff members. I tend to draw the women who are over 50, as they feel comfortable working with me. Many of them ask what I personally do to stay in shape, so I share what has worked for me. I explain that women’s bodies change as we age, especially with our changing hormones. I know that it can be hard to grow older and that the older we become, the more difficult it becomes to stay fit. I mention that the single most important thing a person can do to slow down or even reverse aging is to exercise.

I try not to alarm my clients, and I stress that they can still stay healthy and fit—but I do say it will take more work than it did when they were younger. I assist them in finding something—anything—that takes the monotony out of working out. The idea is to find the element of fun in exercising, so that what has been a “chore” can take on a new meaning. For some women, I might suggest a Zumba® or kickboxing group exercise class. For others, it might be a new training tool, such as the TRX® Suspension Trainer™.

To encourage these clients, I always smile, try to be humorous and am nonjudgmental.
Debbie Russell
Health and Fitness Specialist,
Health Net’s Wellness Center
Shelton, Connecticut


If you have a question, send it to IDEA Fitness Journal via regular mail (see “Your Membership” page); e-mail ([email protected]); or fax (858-535-8234). Include name, company, city, state/province and phone number.

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