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Getting your Personal Trainer business up and running

How often do you carry out research into what potential clients would want from a fitness industry professional like yourself? Knowing what clients want………..and equally what they don’t……………is essential in being a successful personal trainer and maintaining a healthy client base. The purpose of this article is to provide you with an insight into a piece of research that I carried out to find out what it is people want from the fitness industry.

The specific market that I decided to target was people who take part in running events. Why did I look at runners in particular? There are lots of them and they love to exercise!

The running market is huge. Running events are some of the largest mass participation events in the world and here in the UK we host some of the biggest and most iconic of these. Tens of thousands of runners step up to the start line of the London Marathon and Great North Run each year, and thousands more take part in events up and down country throughout the year.

The great thing for you about these running enthusiasts gathering in their thousands is in fact their enthusiasm. They have already committed to achieving a personal goal and also perhaps raising a certain amount of money for a charity that is close to their heart. You only need to watch one of these events to see the level of emotion and passion in the individuals taking part, regardless of their ability.  Their drive and determination to get to the start line and complete their event is already there, making them the perfect, dedicated client for you.

What does the runner want?

Runners love to run and then run some more, so if you can approach them with a service that will enable them to do more of what they love, then you’ve got yourself a client! In this particular piece of research I gathered data from nearly one hundred people and out of these around 60% were already members of a running club or an organised running group. They were asked to select from a range of services which they would be willing to pay for and which they would not. The services included:

  • postural and gait analysis
  • dietary analysis and advice
  • sports massage
  • mental strength training
  • weight management
  • strength and conditioning
  • supervised running sessions

Firstly let’s look at what they don’t want to pay for? This is important as you don’t want to waste any time or money trying to sell something that people just don’t want. The results showed that one of the main things they weren’t interested in paying for was supervised running sessions, with 77% saying they would not pay for group or one-to-one sessions. This might come as a surprise to you as surely the one service runners would want is running; but there is actually little point in approaching runners with this service as it is all too readily available at a minimal cost. Most running clubs will offer coached running sessions for a nominal fee, as little as 50p; and with initiatives such as Run England, that are free and have been set up by England Athletics to encourage people to get out and get running, there just isn’t the demand for paid running sessions.

What else weren’t they interested in paying for? Weight management; with 87% stating that they would not pay for this service. Again this might surprise you as don’t most people exercise to lose weight? Isn’t that what the majority of personal trainers advertise they will do?  Of course the weight-loss market is huge, but if you’re being specific to the needs of the client’s taking part in this particular piece of research then weight loss isn’t for them. Remember not everyone wants the same thing from you. Most runners run so they can just maintain their weight and many of them see it as a good excuse to indulge in treats guilt free and more frequently than their non-runner friends. Nearly 80% of the participants in this survey have been running regularly for over 3 years with their main motivation being to train for an event or to improve their health and fitness. Not even 5% said that they ran to lose weight.    

So what do they want? The services that they were most interested in were the ones that would reduce their risk of getting injured. Here are the top four services they would pay for:

  • 87% sports massage
  • 60% postural, gait and biomechanical analysis
  • 51% group strength and conditioning training sessions
  • 50% one-to-one strength and conditioning training sessions

The participants in this survey were also asked if they have had incurred an injury within the last 12 months that caused them to change or stop training altogether. An overwhelming 67% answered yes! This is a significant amount and clearly shows that despite there being lots of running groups available there is perhaps a lack of advice and support on injury prevention. So this is where the skills of a personal trainer can come to the fore. Using your understanding of how the body moves and applying this to the specific demands of endurance running you can design strength and conditioning training that is tailored with runners in mind. By getting them moving better and more efficiently, not only will you reduce their risk of injury but you will also improve their performance. So when you are considering where to progress your career or how to build up your CPD then consider adding sports massage, biomechanical and gait analysis or sports specific training to your skill-set.

Now that you know what this group wants, where can you find them? There are hundreds of running clubs and organised groups all over the country; use the following websites to search groups that are near to you:

There are lots of ways to get yourself in front of this group and advertise your services; for example run some seminars on the benefits of strength of conditioning, offer pre and post-race massage at events, or even take running groups out free of charge for circuit classes or boot camps specific to running. Don’t underestimate the value of holding free seminars and taster sessions for any potential client group. This is a great way of developing rapport and trust with clients and building your reputation as a respected fitness professional. 

If you want to carry out your own research into a particular sport or activity that you are passionate about then there are numerous online survey creation sites available; I used Survey Monkey which is easy to use and has a free facility that enabled me to collect around 100 responses. Another reason why I decided to target runners is because I’m a keen club runner myself and it’s always easier to work with people who you share a similar passion with. Carrying out research needn’t be too arduous either with the growing popularity and use of social media. Sites like Facebook make great platforms for approaching groups and potential clients. There are a huge number of sports people and clubs out there that could benefit from the services of fitness professionals; with sports like triathlon and cycling in particular becoming ever increasingly popular in this country. So go out there and find out what they want and get your business up and running!!!

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