One of my biggest pet peeves in the personal training industry…

One of my biggest pet peeves in the personal training industry is picking up a Client File and not being able to determine what a trainer has been doing with their client.  If a trainer does not make any notes in their clients’ files, how can they record and comment on progress (ie John, last week you did 10 reps and today you were able to do 12 reps at the same weight), how can they assure systematic periodization, how can they implement planned variety, how can they record any subjective and objective notes critical to make program updates and modifications…

In an ideal world, a personal trainer would have an assistant follow them around to record notes but that’s not realistic.  So how to do other professionals do it?  Physical therapists use SOAP notes for their sessions with clients. At the end of each appointment, they quickly record the following:

S = Subjective notes about how the client is feeling/doing; health history etc

O = Objective notes about what they did at the appointment – tests, treatment, exercises, stretches…

A = Assessment notes of therapists’ summary of client condition

P = Planning notes regarding course of treatment. What did they instruct the client to do? What will they try at next session?

So as Personal Trainers, if we want to be treated as true health professionals, we need to act in a similar fashion. Here is my insight to the issue…

Problem:  Lack of client file note-taking: Trainers want to be present for their clients and focused on their technique and providing solid motivation.  As a result, trainers have a difficult time finding the time to record workouts and other client file notes.  The outcome is client files can be sloppy, incomplete and unprofessional.  Incomplete client workout files is a liability and makes it difficult when sharing clients.  It also makes clients lose trust in us when communication isn’t strong between trainers who are training the same client or when we forget things they’ve told us or we said we were going to do.

The Solution: As a professional fitness and training organization, we absolutely need to take the time to take notes during our workouts with our clients.  Every other health professional is required to make session notes. As professionals, we need to follow a similar system for ensuring we keep adequate notes in our files.

Action Plan: All trainers agree this is an important initiative.  The question is how to efficiently and effectively adhere to this:

  1. End of Sessions:  Be sure you are consistent at finishing sessions on time (which means early).  You’ll have 3-5 minutes to make the notes you need to.  A quick note to write how the client felt during the workout and any issues that surfaced, what you worked on and what your plan is at next session.  If you get into the bad habit of taking sessions right to the last minute, you’ll never have the time to complete these important notes.
  2. During Sessions:  It’s important to record what you’ve done during workouts.  Here’s the best way to accomplish this:
    1. For each exercise, start the client off so they are doing the exercise correctly and understand the intent.
    2. In the middle of the set, quickly make a note regarding the exercise you are doing, resistance level etc.  It should only take you a few seconds.  Also be thinking about what the next exercise is once this set is complete – get the equipment prepared if applicable so you can keep the pace of the workout going strong.
    3. Then return to push the client through the last few reps of the set.
    4. When you return to record notes during the next exercise, record the clients’ final reps.
    5. This process definitely keeps a trainer on their toes but will ensure a very effective and professional approach to client files and session tracking.

Win:Win: Clients will get better results and will feel like they are better serviced because trainers will remember what clients have mentioned and/or experienced and what the trainers said they were going to do.  Clients will gain confidence in their trainers when they are working with multiple trainers because these trainers will track workouts more effectively and communicate concerns, workouts completed and action plans.  Trainers will feel a lot more professional because they won’t just be relying on memory when working with clients.  Plus clients will continue training with them because they will trust they know what they’re doing.

I fully understand that’s it’s a juggling act between focusing on your client and taking notes but with the right approach, you can do both and feel really good about your professionalism.

Yours in health, fitness and business,

Sherri McMillan

Posted in Business, business of personal training, business success, client retention, customer service, fitness career, fitness industry, fitness instructor, fitness professional, leadership, management, Marketing, Operations, personal trainer, personal training, Practical Skills, Sales, Sherri McMillan, Uncategorized by Sherri | 13 Comments

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