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Master Effective Motivation

Imagine the strange looks we'd get from personal trainers, if the newest research to hit the journals stated that motivating clients was potentially detrimental to the income earning potential of fitness professionals.

Observing some trainer responses after reading research like that would resemble a scene from a horror film, much like when the people saw Godzilla strolling through the streets of China for the first time. This type of research would go against everything we think we know about cultivating successful clients. Of course, we'll never see research that states anything like that. However, as an owner or operator of a health club, in order to develop a highly productive and profitable personal training department, it is critical that your training staff understands and masters the key to effective motivation. If you have personal trainers that do not understand the principle of motivation, then you are losing money. On the flip side, with a little training on motivation, your staff can quickly turn into a personal training machine.

Let's start with a simple definition of the word motivation. Dennis Waitley, author and master motivator, defines motivation as an inner force that compels behavior. It's important for your personal trainers to understand that any motivation that the member has or will have comes from within the member, not from within the trainer. This is an important point that it bears repeating. Any motivation that the member will experience will come from the imagination or memory of the member, not from the imagination of the personal trainer. Too many personal trainers attempt to motivate clients by a result or an outcome that would be exciting to them. This is a fatal mistake for trainers, and plays a huge role in why some members do not feel like personal training is right for them. People are innately motivated in some capacity by pain or pleasure. Until trainers are able to identify which one their client is motivated by, they won't be able to effectively excite the client to take action. In other words, some people are motivated to avoid or move away from a feeling or circumstance, while others are motivated to experience or move toward a feeling or circumstance.


You may have two highly motivated members that are interested in losing 30 pounds of fat and reaching their ideal body weights. They may workout three times a week in the morning, and they may even workout on the same days. On the surface it might appear that members would be ideal clients to train in a “buddy” session format, however, that might not be such a good idea. Person A could be motivated to lose 30 pounds because of the pleasure of looking good in a bathing suit and having a “six pack of abs,” while Person B could be motivated to lose 30 pounds and not feel self-conscious any more. Person A is motivated by the opportunity to experience pleasure and is moving toward something. Person B is motivated by the opportunity to avoid pain and is moving away from something. If a personal trainer attempts to motivate these two members with the same verbiage and perspective, the results could be costly and catastrophic. Teach your trainers that when a member has a goal that is driven by moving toward something that they should speak to the member in terms of experiencing that pleasure. When a member has a goal that is driven by moving them away from something, then they should speak in terms of avoiding that pain.

By teaching your trainers to match the perspective and verbiage the members use when describing their goals, you will develop a staff of inspiring professionals that will increase membership retention, drive revenue through the roof, and impact lives.

Todd Brown CCN, CSCS, MES, is the director of personal training and nutrition for the seven New Jersey WOW! Work Out World facilities. Contact him via e-mail at

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