The Future of Personal Training: How to Survive in an Ever-Changing Climate

Personal Training

The Future of Personal Training: How to Survive in an Ever-Changing Climate

The fitness industry is constantly evolving, bringing new challenges and opportunities. Group training programs, fitness and wellness tracking technology, and the expanding number of trainers have made old personal training strategies sometimes seem irrelevant and outdated.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at

About the Speaker

Robert Hale is an Australian fitness professional with experience in fitness and leadership. He currently occupies the role of Head of Fitness at Fitness First Australia, where he is responsible for the overall fitness strategy and direction of fitness products through personal training and group exercise. He is also an international speaker and presenter on fitness. He is a certified personal trainer and holds a Bachelor’s degree in the field of Applied Science with a focus on Exercise and Sports Science.

A “natural selection” is occurring within the fitness industry. Two options exist for the personal trainer: fight or flight. Changing client expectations impact how training programs are conducted. Those who adapt to the current environment will have a greater probability of survival. Those trainers who do not adapt will likely fail.

Personal Training

How Personal Trainers Can Survive

Constantly engage with the fitness community and clients. There are three trends that hinder personal training:

  • A lack of time; clients want more done in less time.
  • A wealth of fitness information available, but people don’t know the best way to train.
  • The need for motivation and human connection.

Trainers should explore and implement the training members want rather than focusing on increasing the number of members who join personal training. An effective personal training model is client-centric, exploring a range of solutions or programs that place the consumer in control of their unique fitness needs.

Some Trainers Are Robots, Others Are Ninjas

Robots are inflexible and do not adapt. Ninjas are agile and willing to adapt. Be competitive and relevant by staying ahead of demand. In personal training and fitness, we need more ninjas and fewer robots.

Club Design and Product Delivery

Train in small groups of two or three, rather than one-on-one. Sufficient training space to expand from one-on-one personal training to group training is important. Generate greater revenue with enhanced member involvement and more successful personal trainers. Clubs are shifting from high-cost / low-volume to low-cost / high-volume.

Technology provides clients with great amounts of fitness information. An on-demand appetite for expertise currently exists. Establish a sustainable method of increasing the accessibility of information and personal trainers in order to take advantage of the growing market.

Survival strategies include:

  • Increase training space to free room for group training and larger personal training groups.
  • Offer free group personal training for current members, led by personal trainers. Engaging members with free group personal training represents an optimum way to expose personal trainers to larger groups while expanding the training program.
  • Implement a product delivery framework in the form of personal trainers educating staff on personal training conducted in larger groups.

The Digital World: Threat or Opportunity?

The virtual world of fitness has impacted both club owners and personal trainers. An online ability to capture leads is essential. Automated CRM strategies, online nutrition programs, blogs, ebooks, videos, and online training programs can increase accessibility, your digital presence, and provide constant engagement with clients.

Try to stay connected with clients inside and outside sessions.

Product or Service?

Historically, personal trainers work toward increased service, rather than product development. Services involving a personal trainer are one-on-one dependent. The revenue generated does not always offset the time invested in services.

Products such as online videos, nutrition programs and books reach high numbers of clients. While these products require development time to create and deliver, they require no other investment to constantly work. Reach more people with products in a day than with face-to-face training service.

The Role of Motivation

How relevant is human connection in the current technological climate?

Clients have access to massive amounts of information. It is the member’s lack of motivation that results in the need for human connection.

Expertise, information and motivation are more impactful with the human connection. This is the cornerstone of a good personal training program. Although it is difficult to motivate an individual, a trainer can support self-motivation and develop the deeper intrinsic motivation required for success. Client progress and results build confidence and trust in the trainer.

Demonstrating the link between the effort in the session and the outcome to the client keeps clients motivated and moving forward.

Develop Rapport, Communication and Trust

The soft skills of personal trainers are extremely important. Educate, lead, challenge and support your clients. Build motivation into your club design and watch it gain traction and build success.

At the end of the day, in order to run a successful personal training program, or to be a successful personal trainer, adopt a beginner’s mind-set; stay open to new ideas in training. Do not allow your personal trainers to become complacent. Focus on the needs of the client rather than the needs of the personal trainer, stay relevant by updating operating systems periodically, maintaining an engaging online presence, and incorporating the needs and wants of your clients into your programs and overall club design.