Personal training as an industry continues to grow and evolve beyond the physical benefits as we recognize the mental health components. What we see is the interplay between physical health on our mental health and vice versa. For some, taking care of their physical health through exercising, being active and doing the things they love brings about a myriad of mental health benefits. These improvements improve overall mood, stress management, stress tolerance and more.

These improvements really highlight the effect that Personal Trainers can have on others particularly their clients. As personal trainers, the ability to translate and disseminate information is the role that we play the most outside of training clients. That is, personal trainers are often looked at as experts and are asked to clarify the information from social media, the news, fitness marketing, friends and family.

Information is no longer the limiting factor; it’s figuring out what is actually true or what parts of the things people hear are true. Trust between the client and trainer is a necessary component that we may overlook. The client needs to trust that we are the right person to help them. The client needs to feel we are trustable when it comes to getting the answers. The client needs to trust that we even have the answers. It is a give and take.

Laying the foundation

The foundation to any relationship is going to be likeability, trust, and rapport. If you aren’t likeable, trustable, and be able to build rapport, you won’t be able to develop a relationship. How do we get better at navigating helping our clients? How do we help people make habit changes? How about getting results? Following through with their program? Nutrition plan?


Likeability is an essential aspect of personal training because it helps establish a positive relationship between the trainer and the client. Personal trainers who are likable are more likely to build a connection with their clients, which can lead to greater motivation and commitment on the part of the client.

Likeability can come in many forms, such as a friendly and approachable demeanor, a good sense of humor, or a genuine interest in the client’s goals and interests. By making clients feel comfortable and at ease, likable personal trainers can create a more positive and enjoyable training experience, which can ultimately help clients stay motivated and committed to their fitness goals.


Trust is another critical element of personal training. Clients need to trust that their personal trainers have the knowledge, skills, and expertise to help them reach their fitness goals. This trust is often built through certification, which demonstrates that a personal trainer has the necessary qualifications and training to provide effective guidance and support.

By working with a certified personal trainer, clients can be confident that they are receiving professional guidance that is based on sound principles and best practices. This can help clients feel more confident and empowered in their training, which can ultimately lead to greater success in achieving their goals.

It is also follow through; are you doing what you said you would? Are you late to update programs? Are you dependable? Do you explain the information as opposed to “tell” the information. Is what you’re saying even the truth or generic info you saw from some other source? Does the client feel like you are the right person to help them?


Rapport is another essential factor in personal training. Rapport is the sense of connection and understanding that develops between a personal trainer and their clients. This can be built through open communication, active listening, and a willingness to collaborate and work together to achieve the client’s goals. By building rapport with their clients, personal trainers can create a sense of trust and respect, which can help clients feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and challenges. This can ultimately lead to more effective training sessions that are tailored to the client’s needs and preferences.

Rapport can be built by integrating the above concepts, it is your ability to connect with someone and understand who they are and what they’re asking you to help them with. Rapport building can be as simple as giving members a call prior to their appointment to confirm and to chat with them on what they expect as well as let them know what to expect on their first session. Rapport can be following up with clients on how they felt about the session, how they feel the next day, the outside of session “work” that all trainers should be doing.

Client & Trainer Relationships

Overall, likeability, trust, and rapport are crucial elements of successful personal training. By focusing on building these qualities in their relationships with clients, personal trainers can create a positive and supportive environment that can help clients stay motivated and committed to their fitness goals. Additionally, certification is an essential part of establishing trust, as it demonstrates a personal trainer’s qualifications and expertise.

By working with a certified personal trainer who also possesses strong likeability and rapport-building skills, clients can feel confident and empowered in their training, knowing that they are receiving professional guidance and support that is tailored to their needs and goals.

One of the most helpful things personal trainers can do when educating their clients is to empower them with critical thinking skills to drive behaviors that are beneficial to them. Having a personal training certification is only one part of our job because it’s like the foundation of a house.

It gives us the foundation while the additional courses, learning, experience with clients adds to the walls and structure of the house. Once we have the house, how do we create an inviting home that people want to come to?

At the end of the day, personal trainers work with people and people are unique in how they think and navigate the word as well as how they understand the world which leads us to how we can use motivational interviewing techniques along side the psychology of behavior change through looking at our clients as people.

What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational interviewing can best be summarized as techniques that allow for us to express empathy for the person in front of us through understanding the discrepancy between their ideal self and their actual self. This helps us to better understand what a client’s motivations are and to resist our urge to “correct” them. Motivational interviewing techniques is a method of how we can conceptualize the client’s situation as well as their behaviors to help them adjust their behaviors towards achieving their goals.

A good acronym to think about the motivational interviewing technique is RULE.

Resist the righting reflex

Understand the client’s motivation

Listen with empathy

Empower the client

Another visual way to look at this is, are we trying to wrestle or dance with our clients? Personal trainers can get caught up in trying to explain why information or a current point of view of the client’s is incorrect.

Are we trying to lead our clients to their success or are we trying to convince them? Are we wrestling them into submission and adhering to their program? How do we lead them to make decisions on their own and to be successful?

Here are some tips on how Personal trainers can use motivational interviewing techniques to get better results from their clients

  1. Ask open-ended questions: Instead of asking questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” ask open-ended questions that encourage your client to talk more about their goals, challenges, and reasons for wanting to make a change.
  2. Reflective listening: Reflective listening involves paraphrasing what the client has said to demonstrate that you are paying attention and understanding their perspective. It helps to build rapport and trust with the client and shows that you are interested in their thoughts and feelings.
  3. Use affirmations: Affirmations are statements that acknowledge the client’s strengths, abilities, and efforts. They can help to boost the client’s confidence and self-efficacy, which are essential for maintaining motivation and achieving goals.
  4. Identify discrepancies: Help the client to identify discrepancies between their current behavior and their desired outcome. For example, if a client wants to lose weight but is not willing to change their eating habits, you can help them to recognize that their current behavior is not aligned with their goal.
  5. Provide information and advice: While motivational interviewing is a client-centered approach, it is also important for the personal trainer to provide information and advice when appropriate. Use a collaborative approach to help the client to develop a plan that works for them.
  6. Elicit change talk: Change talk is any statement made by the client that indicates a willingness or desire to change. Encourage the client to talk about their reasons for wanting to make a change and help them to explore the potential benefits of change.
  7. Summarize and reinforce: Summarize the key points of the conversation and reinforce the client’s commitment to change. This can help to solidify the client’s motivation and provide a sense of direction for future sessions.

Let’s Apply This!

“I want to lose weight but I always struggle with the eating part because I love to eat and don’t know if I can change my habits.

As a personal trainer, especially early on when you first get your certification, we focus on the science and the telling of how/what to do.

The initial reaction would be to explain how the process is. It’s all about calories in vs. calories out right? We reduce our calories and just exercise more. We often explain that we need to eat less, move more, and be active. Lack of results is a multifaceted issue. There are factors like motivation, determination, consistency, adherence, emotional/psychological belief in themselves.

When we get stuck explaining the science of the situation, we lose sight of the emotional experience of the person in front of us. Most people aren’t successful due to a lack of information. In fact, there is often too much information and expectation. Perhaps even lack of self-confidence or low self-efficacy. That is, how confident and effective do they believe they are? Do they think they can be successful? Do they think they can do it?

How we can approach this situation differently is checking in with the client and finding out more about their emotional reasoning for wanting that goal as well as showing empathy for what they’re saying and perhaps what they’re not saying.

  • How important is enjoying your life and food to you?
  • How important is it to reach your goal?
  • Why is your goal important to you?
  • How willing are you to make changes to reach this goal?
  • How confident are you that you can achieve this goal?
  • If we don’t make any changes, how will your life be later on?
  • If you were to do nothing and stay the same, how would you feel about your life?

What we’re doing is collaborating with the client to get an understanding of how their behaviors will influence their situation both at this moment and later on based on the behaviors. Our goal is to guide and lead them like we’re dancing rather than wrestling them to our point of view especially regarding the benefits of fitness or physical health adaptations. It’s more than just training physically but mentally.

What Else?

One of the best things we can do as personal trainers is meeting a client where they’re at and how WILLING they are to make changes. It’s not about what they could do, it is much more important to focus on what they want to do. A client may feel like incorporating dietary changes means they can’t have fun or enjoy food anymore so perhaps that’s not something we make major sweeping changes to right away.

Instead, we can focus on behavioral changes, habit changes, increasing physical activity both in the gym and outside of the gym. As we build those behaviors, make changes to our habits, we can discuss making minor changes to their nutritional strategies.

As the client becomes successful at the smaller changes, we can continue to have conversations with them around some of their beliefs may not be exactly as they have believed and to come up with alternatives that make sense for them.

Smaller more manageable changes will still lead to results albeit not as quickly as we would expect. Nevertheless, the client will build behaviors that will help them to reach their results at a pace they are willing to follow through with. Clients don’t want to be unsuccessful, they don’t want to fail and they also don’t want to work harder than necessary. If the amount of effort required to overcome an obstacle or achieve a result is more than they’re WILLING to apply, they aren’t going to follow through. If they do, that may be short lived behaviors.

Focus on making it EASIER for them by identifying the obstacles and developing solutions that they would do, not what you would do.

“I think I can do it”

“Sure, we can try that”

What can we do to ensure that you CAN do it? How do we set you up for success? This collaborative process shows how invested you are in the client beyond just telling them what to do and how to do it. The relationship we develop with them along the way is what leads to a stronger working relationship with the PERSON.

Remember, the best plan is useless in the hands of someone who is unwilling to follow through with it or doesn’t know how to. This process may take a lot longer than just telling someone to do it but it also can create better longevity with behavior change. People will be more likely to make changes and to maintain those changes.

Want to learn more about how psychology integrates into personal training? Want to learn how to become better as a personal trainer in BC? Reach out to us below and we can provide you with more information.

    I plan to enroll in the next 6 months.