5 Rules To Being A Professional Personal Trainer


When someone thinks of a gym, they usually conjure up images of rows of sweaty bodies on cardio equipment - gym shorts and tank tops revealing sweaty armpits and glistening foreheads with messy hair. This is where you might work. Does that mean you should show up post-workout, unshowered, and out of breath? Absolutely not! There are so many components that make a good trainer. Let’s start by assuming that you already know how to do your job well. You’re a great personal trainer, and your clients have excellent results. You really know your shit. Excellent! That aside, let’s talk about being professional.

Before I even had my first client, I put real thought into what I wanted to represent. I thought about what would set me apart. Being an excellent trainer is one thing, holding yourself to the highest standards of professionalism is another. It does matter. Someone is more likely to refer their friends and family to you if they have no reason to worry you’ll embarrass them.

  1. BE EARLY. If you’re bouncing from gym to gym training clients or if you’re just coming from home, it makes no difference. Show up at the gym before your client gets there. If you’re always cutting it close or showing up late, move the session time permanently. Maybe you need time to put your stuff away, get your head in the game, run to the bathroom, shove an Rx Bar in your mouth. Clients don’t want to feel like they’re putting you out for having to train them. Their session shouldn’t start with an apology from you.

  2. CLEAN THE EQUIPMENT. Good gym etiquette starts with taking care of the space you’re using. The equipment needs to be wiped down and put away after it’s used. This has multiple benefits. First, it shows that you care for the health of every member. Second, it teaches clients good gym etiquette for when they’re training on their own. I promise, they won’t mind if you take an extra second or two to wipe down after them. Third, it demonstrates respect for the gym. If you’re coaching multiple people at a time, encourage them to wipe down and put away what they use themselves. This sets an amazing example for other trainers as well. Put yourself at the top of the game.

  3. LIMIT YOUR OWN THERAPY. This can be a tough one. We all know that as personal trainers we learn intimate details about our clients and we’re often having deep conversations about very personal things. Keep your personal issues to a minimum. This doesn’t mean that you have to toss up a giant wall and never talk about yourself, but your client is paying YOU to workout. They’re not there to hear a rolling monologue. For one, it’s easy to forget which clients you’ve told the same story too over and over again. If they’re too busy huffin’ and puffin’ from burpees they might not get a chance to say “Hey, you’ve already told me that.” When you do find yourself getting a bit too chatty, turn the conversation back on them. Make each session about them, every time. If this is a tough one for you, think of the healthy habits your client is perusing and reinforce them.

  4. ATTIRE. I think that this is one of the foundations to being as professional as possible. Studies show that when people “dress above” their pay grade, they take themselves more seriously. As a result, so do the people around them. There are very simple and cost effective ways to do this. Paying attention to what you wear has interesting side effects. If you work in a gym where there is a uniform, or a branded T-shirt this isn’t an issue. A lot of gyms however, don’t have a dress code. So if there’s no dress code, what should you do?

    • Keep it simple, keep the logos under and inch or two and NEVER wear clothing with a competitor’s logo. In fact, wear the logo of the gym you train at or your own logo whenever possible. Even if you and your client are the only people in the gym, YOU should look like the trainer.

    • Find a color palette and stick to it. Treat the clothing you work in as your defined uniform. I personally wear black and grey because it’s easy to find, easy to match in the morning and super inexpensive. If you’re brand colors are blue and white, go for it. Be consistent and keep it simple.

    • What people should see is your outstanding professionalism and amazing coaching skills. Your clothing and is absolutely a part of the message you send. What do you think tells your clients that you take your job seriously? It shouldn’t look like you’re digging through the bottom of your drawer at the last minute to get dressed… even if you actually are.

    • Now if you’re known for crazy socks or funky leggings and that’s a part of your schtick, GO FOR IT! But then brand yourself as a trainer in another way. Bear in mind that you’re a professional and you want to be taken seriously. It starts with how you present yourself.

  5. TAKE CREDIT CARDS. No, don’t take credit cards and put them in your pocket. I mean offer multiple payment options for your clients. Taking only cash or checks indicates that you likely don’t take your own business very seriously, that you probably don’t report your earnings and that you’re hard up for cash. Some clients will offer to pay you cash because they want to help you out by not having to pay taxes. Tell them that you take your business seriously, and it is easier to run it legitimately by being able to take payments via credit card. There are a number of ways you can do this with minimal work for you. Square is a fantastic option for any small business. Square give you a free swiper that connects to your smart phone. They also allow you to email your clients invoices to pay online, or set up recurring payments. Services like this link directly to your bank account for direct deposit. Other services like PayPal also allow users to separate their business from personal transactions. There is always a credit card processing fee with merchant accounts and their any platforms.

Cait Stifter-Hennen, CPT is the owner of SHINE Fitness. She is a member of Strength Collective and proudly shows her brand  SHINE FITNESS

Cait Stifter-Hennen, CPT is the owner of SHINE Fitness. She is a member of Strength Collective and proudly shows her brand SHINE FITNESS

Are there more ways to be professional as a personal trainer? Heck yeah! In fact, I’d love to know what you think makes a personal trainer stand out in the comments below. How you carry yourself and your business can really make a huge difference, not only in the kind of clients that you attract, but also the income you produce. There are so many variables that you have control over, choose to be excellent!