Guest Blog from REPs Member Fiona Snailham – Putting the personal back into personal training


REPs Member Fiona Snailham

I recently signed up to a coaching course run by UK Athletics, the intention being to incorporate my love of running into my work as a personal trainer.  The (expertly delivered) course commenced with a group discussion about the need for a coach to be ‘athlete centred’; setting aside his or her own goals to focus on the needs and desires of the athlete being trained.  I left the first morning of the course considering the cross over between the central role granted to these hypothetical athletes and the way in which we, as personal trainers, position our own clients.

I have to be honest with you – had I been asked about client centred practise when I first qualified, I would have made a comment about writing an individualised programme and left things at that.  Today, however, I’d like to think I have a slightly better insight into what it really means. Although bespoke programmes are an essential part of the work we do, client centredness is not just about being able to write periodised session plans that have been tailored to your client’s goals. 

An equally important part of our work, I believe, comes from a softer skillset – the trainer’s ability (and desire) to consider the motivating factors behind the goal that the client set him/herself before coming to their very first session.  It is this understanding that enables us to couch any discussion about the client’s training in appealing language that will encourage them to persist even when times get tough. 

Take, as an extreme example, the obese client who approaches the PT wanting to lose 2 stone within a fortnight.  Clearly, the time scale that they have set is not realistic.  As PTs, we have three options; (a) we could agree that the client needs to lose weight, write a fat loss plan, take their cash and then watch them fail to achieve their goal then give up on personal training; (b) we could tell them that they are being unrealistic and wave goodbye as they head off to find another PT who will take option (a); or (c) we could put them at the centre of the experience – talk to them about their past weight loss experiences, discuss their current goal and ask them why they want to achieve it in such a short period of time. 

Opening up such a discussion usually gives the PT an insight into the way in which the client is thinking and often offers a pathway towards resolving the imbalance between reality and expectation.  In the case in question, it turned out that the client had read about a celebrity’s rapid (and arguably unattainable) weight loss in a gossip magazine and wanted to achieve the same before a family event.  Talking about the reason for the timescale and the underlying motivating factor (having her family see her lead a healthier life) we were able to open up a discussion about the pros/cons of crash diets.  The client went on to achieve her weight loss goal at a slower rate.  The knowledge that she was doing so in the healthiest way possible gave her the confidence to attend the family event (at which she explained what she was doing and even referred a relative to me….).

To me, personal training is very similar to athlete-centred coaching – the client always has to be positioned in the middle of the programme.  Whilst the goals that clients relay to their trainer may be external ones (like losing two stone or building up their pecs), their motivating factors tend to sit much deeper.  It is through investigating the inner motives that we can put the personal back into personal training and become better trainers.

Guest Blog from REPs Member Fiona Snailham

Fiona is a level 3 personal trainer who lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two children. Currently working with clients on a one-to-one basis, she will start to focus on how to motivate individuals in a group setting as she launches Five Star Boot Camps in Watford this summer. Read further Five Star blogs at



6 responses to “Guest Blog from REPs Member Fiona Snailham – Putting the personal back into personal training

  1. Laura

    Wow – what an first post… can’t wait for the next one! Keep them coming Fiona. xx

  2. Laura

    **an inspiring first post 😉

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