The Ideal Client, A Trainers Wish List

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When seeking a personal trainer, clients will generally seek out various attributes in someone they want to work with.  A super high energy person vs low energy person, weight loss history vs athletic history, males vs female, young vs old, harsh personality vs easy going, maybe it simply comes down to location and price.  Most of you are looking for something.

Trainers are no different and often seek out suitable candidates that will fit their training style. As I’ve gained more experience over the years I now require a new client application to be filled out before I will book a consultation. This is a requirement and ultimately a screening tool, its short but tells me a lot about who I may be choosing to spend 3-4 sessions per week with. If all my questions are answered with one word, it’s a pretty clear sign of laziness and that client probably isn’t ready to dive into the” lifestyle change”. If I receive well thought out responses where it’s apparent the individual took their time, reflected on my questions and provided in depth answers, that’s someone I’m excited to work with. Not only are they showing value in my time but their own as well. If someone won’t take time to fill out a 5 minute questionnaire about their fitness goals then how can I expect them to log their food, exercise on their own, read articles I send out, set aside meal prep time, grocery shop, etc. In my history, they will not which means they ultimately won’t reach whatever they’re setting out to accomplish.

If you want to reach any goal in life, you need to allot new time towards it. If you don’t have the time in the day, you need to make it or you simply won’t succeed.  Sometimes reassessing the goals to better suit your lifestyle may be in order.  When new clients come to me, the short and long term goals are often unrealistic when considering the amount of time and effort they may be willing to dedicate. Not always, but more times than not.

Below are some of the attributes I seek in new clients, a few may be desirable traits while others are expectations.  I’ll let the reader decide which is which.


I’m not a fan of the tardy.  Once in a blue moon maybe traffic will get you or a stomach bug hits you but 9 times out of 10 these two items are controllable. A huge factor in progressions over time for working out is training volume. The more time you have, the more training you can do.  In the six years I’ve had this studio I have been late zero times.  If you’re not early…you’re late. In my experience it’s typically the individuals with the more lofty goals who happen to be consistently behind.  The more attention to the tiny details, the closer you are to success.


Logging your food and tracking your bodyweight are two of the easiest least time consuming things you can possibly due on your fitness journey. Step on the scale in the morning; write it down (5 seconds). Utilize MyFitnessPal for counting calories and over the course of a day you may spend all of 3 minutes inserting this data. Overtime you have a wealth of information that can be used to make adjustments in your weight, strength, and your overall feeling. This is such a small amount of time required to dedicate towards your goal that it’s a MUST! If you’re not doing this you’re simply not trying.  When I ask on a scale of 1 to 10 “how likely are you to log your food” and the answer is 1, then why on earth are you contacting a personal trainer? You’re not ready. If any goal of yours happens to be aesthetic you have to put in the work to get what you’re looking for. If you’re overall goal is to add a little exercise, feel slightly better, gain some strength towards daily tasks, etc… If that is your plan and you want to eat whatever you want, then go for it. That works. The goals reflect the dietary effort and that is 100% okay. If you’re unlikely to ever track your diet and you want abs, you want bigger muscles, you want to deadlift 500lbs…it’s not going to happen.


In most scenarios, if you’re a newcomer to training you’re primed to make quicker and more substantial progress than more experienced lifters (“newbie gains”).  If you’re not progressing there is generally one person to blame and you must logically look at your life choices and accept that you’re looking in the mirror at them.  It’s not a “I Suck” but should be looked at as self accountability and being responsible for your own actions.

Instead of training in the morning like you set out to do, did you go back to bed? Did you have to work late, so opted for fast food afterwards because it was easier? Did your kids ask for McDonalds so you were forced to cave to their requests? Do you have family coming to town that requested cupcakes that you were required to eat? Does your significant other eat poorly, so you have to? These are just a few of infinite examples I’ve heard where blame is pushed onto something or someone other than the individual who ultimately made the choices that was detrimental towards their goals.

The only way you can ever make a change is to be self critical and accept responsibility for everything.

Maybe your kid gets sick unexpectedly and you can’t go to the grocery store, or make a normal dinner? Learn from that and if you’re dieting then have alternative options always on hand and available. People get sick, you ultimately weren’t prepared are opted to dedicate your time towards another task which is fine. But accept that and don’t make the excuse of blaming the sick child. Ask yourself how you can be better prepared next time? Life events of all kinds will always pop up but there’s no reason they have to squash progress.


If you’re reading this then you’re considering paying for a professional to help you reach your goals with diet and exercise. Do your research, read reviews and find a trainer you trust. I can’t tell you how many people will buy into whatever the latest blog post said.

There is conflicting information, find someone with experience and buy into their word and program. If you Google why protein is bad, carbs are bad, fats are bad, sugars are bad, fiber is bad, etc. There will be articles confirming this and speaking the opposite.  Trust the person you’re paying to help you.

 As a small business owner that relies heavily on client retention, I literally have no incentive other than to have my clients do well and surpass goals. If they fail, my business fails and I have no customers. There is logically no reason on earth why I would give clients any information that I felt would be detrimental to their success because in doing so it would be shooting myself in the foot.


I’m not a big fan of this word when people are often seeking motivation. Whether you want to lose weight, get stronger, build muscle, performance, etc. There is a healthy list of objectives you must do to reach these improvements whether you want to do them or not. 

I’ve never been “motivated” to get up in the morning, a single day in my life. I’m motivated to roll back over and go to bed…but I don’t. I have a responsibility to be at work, in the event I only have the time allotted to do my training in the early AM and I must wake up early to do it…it gets done.

You are required to pay your bills or your power goes out, you’re required to feed your children or they get taken, you’re required to show up for work or you get fired…If you want to improve your personal level of fitness there are a lot of requirements that go along with that as well. Motivation may be a tool to help but if it’s unavailable, you still have an obligation to yourself (nobody else) to get things done.


Patience is so important. Weight loss and muscle gain can be frustrating but if you follow the basic principles regarding calorie control (with food) and progressive overloading (with weights) you’ll be fine.

Nobody loses or gains 5lbs of tissue over a few days; they may hold and retain food/water but not tissue.

Your squat max may plateau and the best course of action may be to retreat and tone down the load to build the poundage back up.

Most goals are of the “wait and see” variety. It’s advised to diet in 2 or 3 month increments then intentionally maintain were you are for another 2 to 3 months.  It really helps to have a long term mindset and very long term goals.

You want to be more muscular and have ab definition? Depending on your starting point you will likely need to mass and diet down a few cycles. You may have to put on some fat in the short term to build lean muscle tissue in the long term.  

Even with fantastic genetics nobody wins the fitness lotto overnight. No one ever will!


About the Author:

Taylor Carpenter is a nationally Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Taylor was featured as a fitness expert in the first publication of NASM's "The Fitness Edge".
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