This article is brought to you by ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)
Being an online coach in the fitness world offers many advantages. One is the ability to grow your business by removing the geography restrictions faced by in-person fitness professionals. This enables you to increase your client count by providing in-home personal training to anyone with a digital device and internet connection.
Another benefit of coaching online is that you can teach clients how to improve their fitness without them having to go to the gym. Not that the gym is bad, but some people struggle with finding time to go or don't feel comfortable working out around others. For them, the gym is an obstacle to their fitness goals, and it can be overcome by having access to an online exercise program.
Despite these benefits, there is one major challenge that online personal training presents. Because you're not physically in front of your clients, it may be more difficult to keep them excited about the exercise program you've created. What are some ways you can keep your clients motivated as an online personal trainer?
#1: Understand the Different Motivational Styles
This is a key ingredient to ensuring your clients get results from your online personal training program. After all, it's tough to motivate your clients if you have no idea what techniques they respond to best.
As Penn State University points out, there are many different motivational styles. For instance, some people will be more motivated to lose weight when you're direct and assertive. Others will respond better to an indirect, subtle approach.
To know what will work best for your clients, conduct motivational interviewing when bringing them on board. Motivational interviewing is a technique often used by counseling professionals when helping patients who struggle with substance abuse, but can also help those who struggle with food or exercise.
To be an effective interviewer requires adhering to the five principles of motivational interviewing:
  1. Being empathetic through reflective listening practices
  2. Separating the client's goals and values from their behaviors
  3. Not arguing or directly confronting the client
  4. Adjusting to their level of resistance
  5. Supporting their confidence and positivity
#2: Remind Them of Their ‘Why'
To help clients achieve the highest degree of success possible with the fitness workout you've created for them, consistently remind them why they want to get in better shape.
Maybe they're taking medications and they want to get healthy enough to get off them. Or perhaps they want to increase the odds that they'll be around long enough to see their grandchildren grow up.
Reminding them of their ‘why' encourages them to continue to engage in their online fitness sessions, even on days when they don't feel like it. It helps them remember that they're taking these steps to create the life they want most.
#3: Publish Motivational Posts on Social Media
Another way to increase your online clients' motivation levels is to publish social media posts that inspire them to want to keep going. This works in part because social media can enhance self-motivation.
In other words, when you post photos and status updates to show your online personal training clients that you are doing the same exercises, the same type of workout that you are asking them to do, it inspires them to keep going and work harder.
Posting on social media also puts your motivational posts directly in your client's feeds, enabling you to reach them when they're not actively thinking about their fitness goals.
A few ways to motivate clients on social media include:
  • Post an exercise directed at an area they struggle with (stomach, upper arms, etc.)
  • Post an exercise they can do when they only have a few minutes to work out, enabling them to feel as if they're doing something, even if they can't do a complete workout
  • Post a reminder that a lapse doesn't have to turn into a relapse
#4: Create a Members-Only Facebook Group
Having a members-only Facebook group helps your clients see that they're not alone in their struggles to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve their health. It also allows them to make connections with others who are just like them.
To keep motivation stoked in a members-only group, encourage them to interact. Ask open-ended questions to get them communicating. Also, adjust the security settings so they're able to post when they are struggling. This allows them access to encouragement when they need it most.
A members-only Facebook group is also a great place to post about what to expect at your first personal training sessions. This can help your newer clients better understand how the process works, reducing any anxiety they may have about your online program.
#5: Offer Group Training Sessions
Group training sessions enhance motivation in much the same way as members-only Facebook groups. How do you hold these types of sessions when your training is completely online?
One way to help your clients know that they're part of a group is to do live exercise classes and mention people by name when they appear online. This tells them that, even though they can't see the rest of the group, they are there.
Another option is to schedule group sessions in which you can talk about nutrition, stress, sleep, or any other factor that may be keeping them from meeting their goals. Use a platform with a side chat so participants can easily communicate with you and each other.
Alternatively, if you have a large number of online clients, break them into smaller groups and do training sessions that enable everyone to appear via video. Sometimes it helps them to actually see the others' faces, strengthening the connection—and their desire to do better—even more.
#6: Send Story-Based Emails
Emails meant to cheer clients on are great, but if you really want to draw them in, tell a story. In fact, this is a highly recommended marketing tool because it is so effective. Plus, if it works to get people to buy products or services, it can also work to motivate them to stick with their fitness program.
Think about some of the clients you've worked with in the past. Does anyone stand out as having a story that is motivational by nature? Is there someone who defied the odds and improved their fitness despite the many challenges they faced? Share their story to inspire others to keep going as well.
Some people are natural storytellers. For the rest of us, it's helpful to know that a powerful marketing story needs five things:
  • A hero. Even though it may seem like you, as a personal trainer, will be the hero, that approach can get you ignored. Instead, make the hero the client whose story you're sharing. This creates a more compelling message.
  • A goal. What type of transformation did your client seek? What changes did they want to make to hit their desired goals?
  • An obstacle. What stood between the client and a more fit body? To make the story more relatable, share some of their self-imposed obstacles. We all tend to stand in our own way from time to time. Let your email recipients know they're not alone.
  • A mentor. This is where you come in. What did you do as a personal trainer to help coach the client to fitness success?
  • A moral. What is it that you want your email list to get from the story? Be clear and actually list it out so there is no misunderstanding.
Don't forget to end your story-based email with a clear call to action. If you tell them exactly what you want them to do, they're more likely to do it.
#7: Follow Up Regularly
The only way to know your online fitness clients are struggling with low motivation is to ask. A good question to start with is whether they're keeping up with their workout routines.
If not, go one step further to learn whether they're letting all portions of their exercise program slide, or if it's just certain parts. For instance, are they keeping up with their strength and conditioning, yet not doing their cardio?
Maybe they didn't like a particular exercise, and that was zapping their motivation to continue. In cases such as this, their motivation can potentially increase simply by making small tweaks to their program.
Following up regularly also allows you to remind them of the progress they've made this far. One of the most common mistakes personal trainers make is skipping fitness assessments. Yet, by performing this basic task, you'll have rock-hard evidence that what they're doing is working, even if they don't feel like they're going to achieve their goals at this time.


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