How to Motivate Any Client – Personal Training

What Motivates People

I was speaking with on of my new trainers today and he said “I would really like to know what motivates people. Especially when I’m working with new clients.” A great and valid question. It really comes down to two things: Fear of Loss and Desire for Gain. Done. Another way of putting it is Moving Toward Pleasure or Away from Pain. Toward or Away. Thought it was a new pair of jeans or a swimsuit? Guess again. That may be a temporary motivation based on their current needs, but it still falls into the Fear of Loss or Desire for Gain categories. What happens after they fit? Do they stop? How do you motivate them?

Here’s the test…think about any decision you have made…EVER! and determine if it was moving Toward Pleasure or Away from Pain. Weird right? Well not to a marketer or salesman. This is one of the first lessons they learn in sales and marketing training. Why? Because FEAR OF LOSS IS MUCH GREATER THAN DESIRE FOR GAIN!

Keep this in mind Fear of Loss (Away From) motivation is a much stronger initial motivator than Desire for Gain, however Desire for Gain is a much strong long term motivator. So we do need both. For most people the discomfort with their current situation causes them to take action. People do even irrational things when their emotional discomfort runs high. Fear of loss (Moving away from pain) is the instant motivator. Machiavelli said it great when he said “Men are governed by their present needs.” We make decisions on how we feel based on the logic we interpret at that moment.

Okay! I get it! When we are hungry we eat. When we are tired we sleep. That makes sense, but what about motivating people now?! How do we influence their decisions now?!

Motivating Clients

1) Know your client.

I don’t mean know their name, I mean know about them. What do they like about exercise?, what do they dislike about exercising?, why are they there?

2) What is their goal?

What is it that got them started training in the first place? Have you ever noticed that sometimes you bring it up that goal and they are fired up and other times you just can’t seem to get them going?

3) What are they trying to achieve or avoid?

You must take the emotional aspect of their goal and use that to motivate them. Here’s what I mean:

“I need to lose weight.”

“I appreciate you meeting with me and taking the first step. How much would you like to lose?”


“Is there a particular reason you would like to lose 25lbs?”

“I had a baby 2 years ago and I just can’t seem to get rid of this last 25lbs.”

“What are you doing now?”

“I have been walking with friends and I come into the gym about twice a week to do weights and stuff.”

“That’s great! Have the weights been helping?”

“I think so. I’m not sure. I feel stronger.”

“Have you noticed any other results?”

“No not really.”

“Well you made a great choice by doing both light aerobic exercise and resistance training. The walking will help you drop the weight, and resistance training will help boost your metabolism so once you lose the weight you can keep it off.”

“So let me ask you this…what will be different when you lose this last 25lbs?”

“I’ll feel good again.”

“So losing the last 25lbs will make you feel good again. What does feeling good mean to you?”

“It means that I can fit into my old clothes and feel sexy again. Especially this one dress! We are going on vacation and I really want to be able to wear it again.”

“What else?”

“Well I just don’t feel like I look as good as did before. I’ve never had a problem losing weight until the baby and I feel like I need to lose this weight to get back to that feeling.”

“Were you active before?”

“Not really.”

“Do you want the good news or bad news?”

“Bad news.”

(Moving Away commitment to change)

“If you keep doing what you have been doing you will keep getting the results you’ve been getting and if you keep this up, do you think you’ll fit into that dress by your vacation?”


“Are you ready to make a change?” (Moving towards)


“Great. When do you want to started?”

Healthy long term success comes from a moving towards motivation from a compelling vision of the future. What do I mean by this? Think about your ideal life. What would it look like, feel like, and sound like? In this example losing weight was her “Goal”, however her motivation was looking good, her dress and her vacation.

Keys to remember:

1) Fear of Loss is Stronger than the Desire for Gain

2) Fear of Loss is better for short term action but unsteady

3) Desire for Gain is better for more consistent results

4) Understand the difference between Goals and Motivation

5) Motivation motivates your clients. Make sure you know how to do it!

This is just a brief example. The important thing to remember was Fear of Loss and Desire for Gain. Ask yourself, based on the information given, what is her most powerful short term motivation? What would be her most powerful long term motivation?

Questions?  Comments? Get involved below.