Today’s post is a guest post by Aaron Callaghan, PTA Global Faculty Member and director of Peak 40. Peak 40 is a company specialising in lifestyle transformation for males aged 40 and over, teaching proven techniques to understand the relationship between mindset, recovery, nutrition and movement. Their goal is to help you thrive, not just survive, as well as enhancing how you look, feel and perform.


OK all you coaches out there, here’s the situation. You’ve just started working with a new client who is super keen and is highly motivated.

Awesome! Every trainer’s dream!

You take the time to map out the next couple of months in terms of training, a nutrition plan, you look at some stress management strategies, you discuss the need for positive routines and habits.

It’s game ON!

Naturally, as a coach you want to make sure your client knows how much time you’ve put in and of course how smart you are. So you take the time to run he/she through a quick lecture on periodisation and bio chemistry to justify your training program and nutrition plan.

First three weeks have been perfect. You’re on fire!

And then…all of a sudden…your client disappears, never to be seen again.


Daniel Pink’s excellent book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” may give us some insight on what we can do as trainers to minimise the risk of this happening again.

Pink dives deep into the research on what we have traditionally used to keep people motivated and comes up with some surprising conclusions.

A lot of the research is based on how to keep people motivated/ productive at work. Does it cross over into the realm of Personal Training?

You bet it does!

As a Coach, you are there to facilitate positive change. If you’re lucky, you might see a client for three hours a week. That leaves a lot of time free to potentially undo all that good work in the gym.

Unless, of course, your client is motivated.

In the workplace, external drivers have traditionally been used. Increased wages, bonuses and job promotions are dangled like carrots to keep everyone happy and productive.

Pink’s research actually shows that these strategies can have a negative effect on productivity and motivation.

Interesting. If external drivers don’t work. What does?

They’ve narrowed it down to three key internal drivers. PURPOSE,  AUTONOMY and MASTERY.

How can we use this information to become better coaches? Let’s go through them one at a time.

PURPOSE: As a coach, taking the time to understand your client’s purpose is a game changer. Normally your client will come to you with a goal: weight loss, toning, increased fitness, muscle building etc.

After listening with empathy you should then take the time to understand their WHY behind the goal.

How will their life be different when they achieve their goal?

As coaches there is real power in the language we use. When you understand your client’s purpose, it helps you use the language that will reinforce those deep internal drivers that are necessary for change.

“I know this last set of intervals is going to be hard, but imagine how good you’ll feel on your wedding day when you’re in the best shape of your life!

AUTONOMY: As a coach, giving over control can be a tough thing to do. You’re the one that’s done the study, you’re the expert, right??

Well – if you would like motivated clients, then maybe not.

Dr Sugarman said it best “as coaches we are the guide by the side not the sage on the stage.

If invited by the client we can offer suggestions on how their fitness journey can be structured, but allowing the client a certain amount of autonomy to drive their own journey is an absolute must.

Take your ego out of it and listen. Check in regularly. You should always be encouraging them to give you feedback. Feedback is an opportunity to get better.

MASTERY: As we know fitness and wellness is a journey. Consistent effort over time is a must.

Unfortunately the progress we see is never as quick as what we want. Often when we are progressing we don’t even realise it, because the sessions are getting progressively harder!”

“Man I’ve been training for two months and the sessions still feel as tough as when I started!

Bring awareness to a client about how they are moving along the continuum towards Mastery. Use numbers, videos, ask questions about how that lunge feels compared to a month ago, whatever you need to!

Nothing is more motivating than the realisation that all your hard work is paying off.

My challenge to you as a fitness professional is to take the time to think about your clients. Do you think you understand their purpose? Do you allow any autonomy? Are you walking with them along the path to mastery?