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Why Some of Your Members Have Yet to Sign Up for Personal Training

I signed on for 10 personal training sessions about a month ago, something I had been considering doing for almost two years. Why it took me, a regular exerciser and gym-goer, so long to decide to finally do personal training may offer you some insights into what is holding back some of your members from doing the same.

My hesitancy had to do with more than the expense of personal training (although expense was a concern). My facility is set up so that the cardio equipment overlooks the strength equipment and the personal training area, which means I can watch the trainers work with their clients—and I do watch. Even though the personal trainers at my facility (there are 15 of them) generally look fit, competent and engaged with their clients, most of them rarely look around the club to engage others whether it is when they are working out with a client or between clients, which makes them seem unapproachable.

I did not realize how much this focused behavior had affected my feelings toward the trainers at my club and my willingness to approach them about personal training until I read Blair McHaney's column in this month's issue. In the column, McHaney writes about social propioception and how important it is to your personal training department. He defines “social propioception” as “the ability to sense the emotional effect a person has on anyone able to observe his or her actions.”

My personal experience attests to the importance of social propioception. I kept watching those personal trainers working with their clients. I knew my workout routine had become, well, routine, and I envied the results I saw their clients getting. So I continued to watch the trainers, trying to determine which one seemed the most approachable.

My savior was Elizabeth, who I saw standing with another trainer and his client one Saturday morning. I deduced that she was a new trainer shadowing a more experienced trainer. Then, Elizabeth actually turned and smiled at me. I smiled back. I thought I'd watch to see if she continued to smile at other people in the club that morning. She did.

Lo and behold, as I worked out on the leg press machine later that morning, Elizabeth approached me, clipboard in hand, and she engaged me in light conversation. I knew her conversation would lead to a personal training pitch. And I was ready—not with a “no” but with a “yes.” I was so elated about being pitched to and so ready to say yes that I almost grabbed the clipboard out of her hand to sign up before she finished the pitch.

As I think about that morning a month later, I realize that social priopioception works in many ways. Elizabeth looked around and smiled at many people that day. I bet you that she engaged in conversation only with those members who smiled back at her. Why? Because offering a sales pitch of any sort is intimidating. Most people will only do so with people who seem approachable.

I don't know if Elizabeth continues to smile at other people in the club as she works out her other clients—and I have been so focused on my own training sessions that I have not watched for this during my sessions, but I'm going to start watching. And maybe I'll even start offering a few smiles to those around me during my sessions. It can't hurt for a client to have a little more social proprioception, right? I want my club and my trainer to be successful, so anything I can do to help, I'll try.

What about you and your club? Watch your personal trainers. Are they so focused on their clients that they do not look around and briefly engage with other members during their sessions or between sessions? If not, perhaps it is time you show them McHaney's column and train them in how to improve their social propioception skills.

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