Communication is an integral part of a client-trainer relationship. Successful fitness trainers not only help their clients achieve health and fitness goals, they are also supposed to possess great communication skills to be the person of trust and support most clients usually look for. There are a lot of fitness professionals who excel in exercise science and implementing training principles but lack skills that are essential in building great communication relationships with their clients. Although knowledge is power for all fitness trainers, establishing positive and productive relationships with the help of communication is crucial.
The success of any personal trainer starts from learning the four stages of the client-trainer relationship: rapport, investigation, planning and action (ACE, 2010). Each of the stages requires different communication skills on the part of the trainer, which may seem challenging first, but acquiring these skills and being able to use them in face-to-face daily interactions will help the trainer demonstrate excellent communication techniques throughout the stages.
The rapport stage is the foundation for the entire relationship between the trainer and the client. The word rapport is derived from the French verb “rapporter”, which means “to carry something back”. It conveys a sharing of values, ideas and beliefs, and results in a strong and influential relationship (Prince, 2012). Rapport is also defined as a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. “Building rapport is a critical component of successful client-trainer relationships, as this process promotes open communication, develops trust, and fosters the client’s desire to participate in an exercise program” (Link, 2012).
It’s very important that personal trainers present themselves in a professional and approachable manner, as the rapport stage begins with the first impressions that personal trainers create on their clients, establishing the foundation for possible long-term personal-training relationship.
Every trainer should also remember that communication is a dual process. It consists of both an expressive, message-sending and a receiving, message-receiving part, and failure in communicating effectively can be in either of these parts. Possessing verbal and non-verbal communication skills is the foundation for the both parts. According to Clifford Lazarus, effective expressive communication starts with the trainer being very attentive to the client, maintaining eye contact, sending clear messages and asking for feedback to make sure the messages are understood properly. The tone and volume of the trainer’s voice should agree with the message sent: if the trainer is satisfied with the client, he/she should look and sound happy, if something is wrong, the tone of the voice should be appropriate, but of course it should stay within limits (Lazarus, 2011).
Client-trainer relationship quickly enters the investigation stage, where clients’ health,...