Top 4 Secrets of Highly Successful Fitness Professionals from AFS

Chuck Leve | Stay Updated with NASM!

Imagine, for a moment, the first day of your first job. Were you nervous? Anxious to get out there and prove yourself? Did you wonder which fellow co-workers were going to become your friends? Were you afraid to make a mistake?

In all the AFS research we’ve compiled, one thing remains constant – nothing great is built overnight. It takes perseverance, time, attention to detail, and the ability to adapt and pivot your strategic thinking when necessary.

The following four secrets have been pulled by AFS after diligently speaking to thousands of the most successful fitness professionals, studio and gym owners. We trust the information will be incredibly valuable to you now and in the future.



In the chart below, from AFS’ industry leading Marketing Best Practices Research Report,(1) it was found that the most successful marketing strategies are built around referral programs.

And what better way to gain referrals than by providing an experience that breeds the feeling that together we can accomplish anything!

Developing community begins on day one. Make sure you know every single person that trains with you. Your clients are a representation of your skill set. What do they do for fun? What motivates them to be the best? As they say, “begin as you wish to proceed.” Begin building community from the minute you being your training session or teaching a class.

Develop Your Community with Regularity

In order to set the expectation that community is important, consider scheduling team-building events with regularity. For example, let those you train or teach know that every week at a designated time you will workout together! This time will provide you an opportunity to share ideas and for friendly competition.

While you may find that those you train workout together anyway, you should still schedule regular, weekly group workouts to show that you believe in the power of community.

Be Present and Pay Attention

A quick compliment goes a long way, and keeps people engaged. Designate a few key classes to do meet and greets before and after class. This is a great way to get new clients as well and to get to know the instructor. You can take it a step further and take the class and have the instructor introduce you to everyone there!

“The best way to grow a business is by developing a fanatical culture filled with raving fans,” says Todd Durkin, Owner of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego. And the way you do that is by focusing on extraordinary results, a phenomenal experience, and a culture that breeds family, fun, and positivity.”   Todd Durkin, Owner, Fitness Quest 10



What makes you a great trainer? Odds are it’s not about you – it’s about how you make your clients feel about themselves.

Personalization Means Personal

Clients will often let you into their lives in a special way. This is a trust component, something never to be taken lightly. As clients share personal information, stories, and anecdotes about spouses, children, their workplace, etc., take notes, stay in touch, show you care. Birthdays, get well notes, graduation congratulations – all show you care.

Results Are the End Game

Nothing is more personal than that compliment your client receives from family or friends about how he or she “looks better,” or “seems to have more energy.” So for all the building of community, personalization, and other strategies for interaction, the bottom line is – make sure your client is making progress toward their goals.

It’s Always About The Client

You may be the expert, but without clients you have no business. Keeping clients means keeping clients happy and feeling good about their experience with you. This means, no phone, no wandering eyes, no divided attention. This period of time is all about the client – nobody else

“I deliberately focus on listening and understanding where my clients are coming from. From there I can develop a thorough understanding about the way my clients’ think about their health, fitness and realizing positive change in their lives.” Cris Dobrosieski, President and Head Coach, Monumental Results



One of the industry’s most successful fitness professionals has a theater background. When asked if he missed his acting days, he said, “You kidding? Every time I train somebody, I’m on stage!” And so it is – that special uniform, t-shirt, or jersey that labels you “Instructor,” “Trainer,” or “Coach” puts you on stage at all times. How then, do you ensure you are perceived to be “professional?”

You Are On Stage

As mentioned above, when you’re training, you’re on stage. Always. You’re actually auditioning in front of dozens of “directors” who might be looking for a fitness professional. Like it or not, they’re judging you. “Would I want her to train me?” is being asked countless times every day.

Full Attention

Full attention means always. No phone calls, texting, no “I’ll be right back,” no interruptions. This is the client’s time. He or she has purchased your time. Focus on the client and ensure that you are delivering what you’ve promised – your best efforts to deliver the experience they expect.


Respect means many things and the professional fitness professional has them all. Start with punctuality – always, always be on time. Your overall demeanor/body language is key – be happy, lively, excited about working with this client. Your language is appropriate, your manner is supportive and inspiring, your voice volume doesn’t intrude on others you’re not training.



Misguided expectations can wreak havoc on your business, so be sure to implement these


Know Your Clients

Fun, fun, fun would be the central mantra for most trainers, but be careful. While most people prefer fun to punishment, the fitness industry is home to plenty of people who equate punishing their bodies to fun. But not most. If you misread the objectives of your client and play the drill sergeant role to somebody looking for a lighter touch – you’ve just thrown retention out the window.

Keep your Relationships Strong

It will take a while to create and there’s plenty of nourishing necessary, but the bottom line is that you have to become a strong, important person in your client’s life. By being supportive, inspiring, and stimulating, you will create a bond that will enhance the relationship and put “leaving you” out of your client’s mind.

Get your Clients to Buy In

You’re special and you make your clients feel special. Or do you? That, of course, is the question. The most effective strategy to secure client buy-in, is to communicate before, during, and after workouts. Make sure your clients understand the program, and why you’re having them do certain things.

Whether you're a trainer or instructor in a health club, YMCA, JCC, fitness studio or elsewhere - how you carry yourself, how you train, and even what you wear are all elements that make up your personal brand. You're already running your own business, just within the four walls of

your current facility! These four secrets are all sound principles - that if mastered - will help make your passion your career.


  1. AFS 2016 Marketing Best Practices Research Report. https://member.afsfitness.com/content/2016-marketing-best-practices-research-report

The Author

Chuck Leve


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