Personal training is a very personal business indeed, and it’s all about connecting with your clients. When the winter holidays roll around, gift giving can be tricky. Some clients give their trainers gifts, but you never know who is going to give a gift and who is not. What if people start dropping off presents and you have nothing to give in return? And, if you do want to give your clients gifts, what should you give?

Don’t get embarrassed this holiday season. Showing gratitude to your clients is the right thing to do, from a personal standpoint and a business standpoint. Giving gifts to clients is a great way to increase rapport and enhance retention. Thoughtfully considering gifts now will set you up for success later. We’ll explore why it’s important, plus we’ll suggest a strategy for selecting gifts.

Why Show Gratitude?

Gratitude is a wonderful quality to have as a fitness professional. Your clients are the reason you have a job. When you express gratitude for this, they feel appreciated and they’re more likely to keep coming back to you. It’s worth the effort.

As explained in

Psychology Today Online

(2015), “Studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness—and especially expression of it to others—is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.”

As this statement makes clear, the benefits you gain from feeling and showing gratitude align perfectly with the fitness profession. Many times we’re busy thinking about what we want, instead of what we have. When you show appreciation, it’s contagious; your clients will spread the good feeling to those around them as well.

Every Gift Receiver Is Different

While you could give the same present to all your clients, you may want to consider giving different ones. Understanding your clients individually is part of your job. Take this knowledge one step further and recognize how to appreciate different types of clients. Not everyone expresses gratitude or receives appreciation the same way, according to Gary Chapman’s

The 5 Love Languages

(Northfield Publishing 2015). If


doesn’t seem like the right word for you to use as a fitness pro, replace it with

care, gratitude



Everyone has a different style of giving and receiving. Generally, people give the way they like to receive. If the receiver has a different love language than you do, your gift may not come across as an expression of gratitude.

Five Love Languages

Here is how I interpret each of Chapman’s five love languages for the fitness industry. After each one, I’ve offered suggestions for how you can apply that language when choosing gifts.

Love Language #1: Physical Touch

Some clients, especially older ones, might enjoy a hand guiding them through an exercise—or a high-five or a pat on the back as acknowledgement of success. Take note of your clients’ reactions when you make physical contact with them. Some people are noticeably more comfortable with touch than others. It’s also important to ask your clients’ permission before you touch them to take measurements or to guide them through proper form the first time.

If clients don’t like to be touched, then their love language is different from Physical Touch, or perhaps they are uncomfortable being touched in a professional setting.

Ideas for appropriate gifts.

Trade sessions with massage therapists. They can give you free massage sessions for your clients, and you can give them free fitness consults or workout sessions for theirs. This exchange will help grow both your businesses, and it will simply cost you time.

Love Language #2: Acts of Service

Many people choose to work with you because you “serve” them. Clients who like having their weights handed to them, the treadmill set up for them or their needs researched will respond to this language. If Acts of Service is not their love language, they may feel uncomfortable when you do things for them that they can do for themselves.

Ideas for appropriate gifts.

You’re already doing your job by providing a service. For these clients, a round of fitness assessments before and after the holidays would be a nice bonus. Do the assessments outside their normal session, so they know it’s a bonus service. Test their body composition, balance, strength or cardio based on what their goals are.

More ideas: Offer a free holiday workshop where you share at-home workout ideas and healthy eating tips, or you review a couple of the latest health books on the market (there are always new ones coming out before the holidays). The workshop might bring you new business, while also showing your appreciation for the clients you already have.

Love Language #3: Quality Time

Certain people hire a personal trainer because of the individual attention they get. Having a companion to exercise with and talk to is important to them. Talking with these clients about how they can stay healthy during the upcoming holidays will make them feel valued. Asking questions and showing interest will make them feel appreciated and cared for.

If Quality Time isn’t the love language of these clients, they want to work out without conversation or distraction. This is why they give you a short answer when you ask them questions or attempt to carry on a conversation.

Ideas for appropriate gifts.

Offer your Quality Time clients a bonus goal-setting session before the holidays. Sit with them for 15 minutes and listen to any concerns they have. Ask questions about their plans to stay on track during the holidays, and help them troubleshoot upcoming parties or vacations. This one-on-one time will surely be appreciated!

Love Language #4: Verbal Affirmations

When clients flourish under your exclamation of “Good job,” “Keep it up” or “I’m proud of you,” Verbal Affirmations is their love language. They light up when you praise them.

If Verbal Affirmations is not their love language, they don’t want verbal acknowledgement and they may feel awkward receiving praise. Being more subtle about recognizing success is a good way to stay positive without overdoing it.

Ideas for appropriate gifts.

You can give these clients a holiday card or a physical gift, but what you say will mean the most. When you hand them the card or gift, make sure you also tell them about their progress during the year and how much you appreciate them.

You may want to say something like this: “Alice, it’s been a great 6 months working with you. Thank you for the opportunity. You’ve increased your arm strength and built up good cardiovascular endurance. You’re an inspiration and a good example for the people in your life. Thanks for being a great client and allowing me to do what I love for a career. I hope you have a wonderful holiday. You earned it!”

Love Language #5: Receiving Gifts

These clients will appreciate a tangible gift. It can be as simple as a card, a travel ankle band or a box of tea.

If Receiving Gifts is not their love language, clients don’t get excited when they receive gifts, because deep down they’re craving something else.

Ideas for appropriate gifts.

For this group, there are many options, from the simple to the complex. See the list in the “Proven Gift Ideas” section below.

Proven Gift Ideas

If you teach fitness classes, stick with something small and simple for each student, such as the baked goods or newsletter described below.

For your personal training clients, giving them something that correlates to their love language is ideal. If you think you can guess their language, offer every client something appropriate. If you’re not sure, the gifts described below are a good backup. Pay attention to how each person responds, and you’ll start to see the individual differences.

Holiday card or newsletter.

Micro-soft Word and Pages are computer programs with templates you can use to make a newsletter. If you aren’t computer savvy, pick up a pack of greeting cards and write a personal message in each one. Sending the cards via U.S. mail gets you bonus points, because it adds an element of surprise.

Don’t have time to produce your own newletter? The IDEA Client Newsletter feature on IDEA FitnessConnect could solve this challenge. IDEA’s award-winning editorial team provides educational content that you can private-label with your brand and drop automatically to your members. Click the “Create Client Newsletter” link on your profile page to begin. Learn more at

Baked goods.

Bake banana bread or pumpkin muffins or make meal replacement bars to give to clients.

Professional trade.

Find a massage therapist, nutrition professional or other healthcare colleague to trade 30-minute sessions with for the holidays.

Gift bags.

Buy a few boxes of tea, a bag of dark chocolates and some other small items to mix and match for clients. Place two different tea bags, some chocolates and other items like lip balm, mints, gum or essential oils in each bag.


Give each client a health-related book. Go to and search for best-sellers in fitness, nutrition and sports. Cookbooks also make nice gifts. If you know your clients like to read on a Kindle or an iPad, get them a book through Amazon Kindle or a gift card. You can also gift them through if they like audio books or have a long commute.

More gift ideas: a meditation CD, a subscription to magazines such as

Cooking Light


Women’s Health

and a list of healthy Podcast stations to listen to.

Gratitude Is Good

If you don’t have enough cash to buy presents, be assured that many of the ideas above cost next to nothing. For the next holiday season, set aside money throughout the year so you can afford to give gifts. A gift of $5–$10 per client is all it takes to make an impact. If you have 20 clients, that’s $100–$200 per year. (The gifts are a tax write-off, so be sure to save the receipts.)

So, go ahead and make a list of your clients and guess which way they receive love (or care) the best. When people feel cared for in their own love language, they’ll keep coming back for more. This is a win-win. Your clients stay healthy and happy, and your business does too!



Do give your clients something, even if it’s just a a card.

Do say thank you if clients give you a gift at the holidays.

Do be mindful of religious beliefs and customs. If your clients possess many different religious beliefs, avoid giving presents at Christmas and Hanukkah. Give gifts at Thanksgivng or on New Year’s Day instead.


Don’t give favorite clients extravagant gifts. If you give one person a physio ball, give all your clients one. word gets around, and you don’t want negative publicity.

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford to give more than cards.

Don’t give cards with just your name signed. It looks lazy. Write a personal note!


Chapman, G. 2015. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago: Northfield.

Psychology Today Online. 2015. The benefits of gratitude. Psychology Today Online.

Beverly Hosford, MA

I love anatomy! I have a skeleton named Andy who comes to all of my presentations and workshops with me. He has his own facebook page and you tube channel. "Ask Andy" I work with clients on injury prevention one to one and also small groups. I also do business coaching for fitness professionals to help them find better balance in their business and greater success.

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