In order to be the most successful personal trainer possible, you always need to be in learning mode.
Devouring all information that’s available to you, signing up for continuing education, and being a voracious reader are surefire qualities of an ambitious businessperson.
This article is devoted to the voracious reader in you.
Now, I know you’ve got your standard-issue personal training textbook and your anatomy books on your shelf. You’ve likely got myriads of workout books and cookbooks lining your office shelves. But there’s so much more to owning a successful personal training business than the workouts and diet.
So, we’ve chosen 6 books that we think every personal trainer should read. These books will help you round out your skills as a personal trainer, beyond the weights and cardio machines.
These books range from business building to motivation to selling, to bring you well-rounded knowledge of everything you need to start a personal training business.
1. Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, by Neel Doshi & Lindsay McGregor
So, you see the title and immediately you have a question. Why would we be recommending a book about culture and motivation for your personal training business?
Well, you have a certain “culture” in your gym, don’t you? There’s a recognizable atmosphere and a core group of people that frequent the gym. So, you have a culture. Your clients, coworkers and the other people who frequent your business make up your gym culture.
And motivation? You already know that’s one of the biggest hurdles you face when training your clients. A client’s adherence to a training program is strongly linked to their motivation.
So, now you can see how learning to motivate your culture will be invaluable for your business, don’t you?
Primed to Perform is all about company culture and the science of motivation. The authors use weight loss as an example to make their point throughout the book, making it even easier to apply the concepts in your own business.
In this book, you’re going to learn all the best approaches to get your clients results, and therefore build your own success.
The book explores several key factors for motivation and several detractors:
Key Factors for Motivation
- Play: The #1 strongest motive for success is play! Work becomes a whole lot easier when you actually enjoy doing it. That makes total sense, doesn’t it? So, in your own business, you’ll want to help your clients explore the activities they enjoy the most to keep them motivated to work out.
- Purpose: Your clients are likely to be more motivated if they do an activity because they value the outcome of the activity. Reminding people of their deep-seated goals and values helps get them to the gym and working hard.
- Potential: Your clients will most often do the work if it will eventually lead to something important. Your clients will be motivated to eat healthier if it will lead to lower cholesterol levels and a longer lifespan.
The book breaks these three motivation factors down in detail so you can see exactly how they influence behavior and be helpful for personal training. These factors will come into play for everything you do with your clients. Building play into their workouts, purpose into their sessions, and potential into their goals will make them most likely to succeed.
“When researchers examined physical and emotional exhaustion among elite athletes from fifty-one different sports, the ones who experienced the least amount of burnout weren’t necessarily the best athletes. They were the ones who were the most motivated by play, purpose, and potential. On the other hand, those with indirect motives were more likely to feel exhausted.”
These concepts from this book apply to your co-workers and your family as well. You can get your kids to do their homework more easily if you incorporate play into it!
Detractors of Motivation
- Emotional pressure: Doing work to avoid being seen as a loser or to avoid guilt or shame will not work long-term. The last thing you want to do is help someone lose weight so they don’t look ridiculous at their high school reunion.
- Economic pressure: Doing work for a reward or to avoid punishment doesn’t work either. Compensation actually cancels out motivation because it removes the intrinsic reward for an external one. Rewards will seem pointless to your clients in comparison to purpose or potential.
- Inertia: This concept is related to living life on autopilot. This is when your clients simply do the work because they did it yesterday and they don’t have any other reason for being there. This won’t last either and will likely lead to client plateaus and turnover.
Countless studies to support these factors are referenced throughout the book. So, if you’re a skeptic or if you just enjoy learning the science behind different processes, you’ll appreciate all the evidence packed into this book.
Key reason to read: Learn how to light fires in your clients–and even yourself!
2. No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar, Ph.D.
Here we have another book about motivation, but this one is directly related to weight loss and strength goals.
The concepts in this book will help change your approach to everything you do for your personal training business, from how you message and provide online content to the way you sell to how you motivate clients during training sessions.
In the introduction, Segar says in a nutshell:
“The old maps you’ve tried to follow to fitness and health are very likely the ones you’ve been sold by the diet and exercise industry, and they likely haven’t led you to physical activity that you enjoy or stay motivated to do. The MAPS I have developed will help you learn how to enjoy the benefits of daily physical movement every day, for life. MAPS is a flexible, safe, science-based approach to exercise and self-care that you can tailor to your own changing needs across a day, a week, and a lifetime.”
So, what are these MAPS she speaks of? They are the facets of motivation explored in each section of the book:
Part 1: M is for Meaning.
Everything from the food your clients put in their mouths to the movement they make has meaning to them. This section in this book helps you find the meaning that motivates your clients to move. Before jumping into the doing part of getting in shape, it’s important to sit down and figure out what it means to your clients to exercise and eat healthy. It’s important to exercise for the right reasons, not because it’s a chore, a duty, or expected of a person.
You’ve likely heard about having a strong Why for exercising. This book helps you find the “right” why for your clients and your personal training. Going out for a bike ride “for fun” will have much better results that going for a bike ride simply “to exercise” out of obligation.
Part 2: A is for Awareness.
Paying attention to what moves your clients and what doesn’t will help you build a routine that maximizes their performance. This section will help you be attuned to what actually makes them feel good versus what is going to help them shed fat and what deep underlying views of exercise they have.
Awareness is also about leaning in toward things that make us feel good. Humans naturally want to avoid things that make them feel bad, like exercising on a cold early morning, even if it will help them lose weight in the long run. This section is all about reframing healthy living from being a chore to a gift. If you can unearth why clients think of exercise as a punishment, you can help them reframe it into a gift.
Part 3: P is for Permission.
You’ve heard the old saying that you can’t help anybody if you can’t help yourself, right? Helping your clients become more motivated and driven starts with self-care. In this section, you’ll teach your clients how to give themselves permission to focus on self-care.
There are so many things competing for our attention on a daily basis. In the same way that you can tell when you haven’t been working out because you just feel “icky,” you can tell when you haven’t taken care of yourself when you start to feel exhausted and anxious. On the other hand, self-care reduces stress, bolsters your creativity, makes you easier to be around, sparks your inspiration, and so on. This part of the book helps you coach your clients toward that same mindset.
As one section points out: “You are the energy center of your life!”
Part 4: S is for Strategy.
This section helps you build a sustainable action plan with your clients for your personal training. You’ll work through their barriers and hesitations about movement that might stand in their way so they can build a fitness routine, for life!
Whatever you come up with for your client’s plan, it must be sustainable for a lifetime. Working out 90 minutes a day, 6 days a week will likely lead to burnout. Your clients need to beable improvise as they navigate through the unpredictable patterns of life.
This book is even sprinkled with games you can do with your clients to help motivate them while personal training with you. There are action points built into the book so you can stop reading and implement what you’re learning immediately.
You’re going to hear yourself and your clients talking in the conversations that happen between Segar and her clients, and it lets you be a fly on the wall.
There are some neat overlapping concepts with the previous book, such as the “play” factor and the self-determination theory, so it really reinforces some of these key factors of motivation. But it does so in a totally different way.
Key reason to read: to establish a healthy eating and activity plan for your clients that last a lifetime (i.e. your job security).
3. Breakthrough Branding: How Smart Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs Transform a Small Idea into a Big Brand by Catherine Kaputa
Branding is essential for transforming your personal training business into something noteworthy. There is a sea of personal trainers out there all doing the same thing inside the same-looking gym. In order to create success and become visible in your field, you need to create a strong brand picture for your business.
Breakthrough Branding walks you through everything to do with branding and then some! It starts by helping you nail down your business idea, takes you through all different aspects of branding to consider, and ends with ways to scale your business. It looks at branding from several different perspectives: personal branding, business branding, and company culture branding. But the book covers much more than just branding. It looks at all different angles of business.
Some topics that are explored in this book:
- How to brand your business in 140 characters or less
- The anatomy of an effective logo
- Cyber-branding for your internet presence
- Effective naming for your business
- How to incorporate storytelling into your marketing
- How to click with your audience
- And so much more!
What I love about this book is that it makes branding part of something much bigger: following your heart!
“To be a successful entrepreneur, your goal has to be more than just making money. Entrepreneurship and finding your business idea are about finding your purpose. Your goal must be tied to your deeper story, your sense of destiny for yourself and your business. It must feel authentic and right for you. It’s discovering your personal vision that reveals your essence, your passion, and your values. That vision comes from your heart, not your head.”
Good stuff, eh?
If you follow the concepts in the book, you can make your personal training business memorable!
Key reason to read: to create a brand strategy that turns your business into a standout leader!
4. Perfect Selling by Linda Richardson
I probably don’t have to tell you that as a personal trainer, you need to be adept at selling.
Selling your gym, selling your personal training packages, and selling yourself are all vital to your success as a personal trainer.
So, that’s why we’ve included this trusty little handbook on our list.
What’s great is that the book is small and a quick read. There’s no fluff, but there’s enough explanation and examples to make you feel equipped to take on sales.
The book also has printable planners to help guide you right through the entire sale.
The book walks you through all the steps of the selling process:
- Connect: greet your customer, connect with them on a personal level, and build rapport.
- Explore: figure out what your customers’ needs are and what they’re thinking.
- Leverage: figure out how you can meet your customer’s’ needs with your product or service.
- Resolve: resolve any objections or hesitations your client has.
- Act: ask for their business or schedule a follow-up.
There are, of course, sub-steps within each of these steps and a certain way of going through the steps that are explored in depth in this book. The author also provides many examples so you really feel like you know what you’re doing after you’ve read it.
These five steps are the GPS of the entire process.
“Understanding the 5 Steps is like having a navigation device in your head during the sales call that is continuously pointing you in the right direction.”
Although this book focuses on selling over the phone, the practice can be used for selling online or face-to-face as well.
I particularly enjoy how the author emphasizes the importance of cultivating human relationships over making money. Because the last thing you want to do is become a sleazy salesperson on the gym floor.
In the Resolve section of the book, the author even states: “Using empathy to acknowledge objections that are personal, serious, or sensitive is not soft. It is human. And it is appreciated by most customers.”
Customer service today works much more effectively when you can make connections, be human, and really give your customers your undivided attention. If you can learn how to sell the right way, you’ll be leagues ahead of the other trainers in your gym.
Key reason to read: You need to learn effective selling strategies to be a successful personal trainer.
5. Selling You, by Napoleon Hill
“The ability to influence people without irritating them is the most profitable skill you can learn.”
No list of books about personal or career development would be complete without Napoleon Hill. The godfather of personal development and self-actualization, his work is the basis for much of the work that is done to this day.
This particular book is about selling yourself.
There really is something to be said about selling yourself before anything else. As Hill says at the beginning of the book, we’re always selling. Services aside, we’re always selling ourselves to other people, making them believe what we have to say, helping them trust us, giving them reasons to respect us, and creating a desire in our clients to do what we recommend.
Every action you take is either selling or undermining your gym, your business, and yourself. So, it’s critical to learn how to do it right.
Hill lays out the 28 qualities of master salespeople and how they impact people’s perception of us. You could print out that list and work on a different quality every day. Then, there are also chapters devoted to specific traits of successful salespeople such as self-confidence, persistence, and imagination.
Reading Napoleon Hill’s work always leaves you feeling empowered. And even though his books were written decades ago, the content is very fresh and relevant in today’s market, and that’s why it still ranks high in popularity.
Key reason to read: the foundation for all relationships and business is being able to sell people on you.
6. How to Start a Home-Based Personal Trainer Business by Laura Augenti
Hey look, a personal training book!
This book touches on all different aspects of starting a personal training business, from getting your personal training certification to putting together the business plan all the way to scaling your business.
Almost any question you could possibly ask about starting a personal training business is answered in this book. If you feel like you’re missing something when it comes to starting your business, this book will probably reveal it to you. If not, you probably already know more than you think!
The book starts with personal training as a whole and explores the different types of businesses you could pursue including a home-based studio or a corporate gym. From there, it helps you to envision your business and take into consideration everything from layout designs to keeping up with fitness trends.
The next chapter explores all the possible equipment, office supplies and furniture you’ll actually need to open your doors. Then, you’ll write a business plan, make all the legal preparations to start a business, and examine every aspect of finances. Finally, you’ll look at sales and marketing plans and obtaining your professional credentials.
Throughout the book, you’ll find printable client questionnaires and contracts that you can use immediately for your business. There’s an entire section devoted to financial planning, a hot topic that is not everyone’s strong suit.
I must mention, the format of the book really helps with its readability too. It makes everything easily digestible and actionable. If you’re a visual person, then the call-out boxes, graphs, illustrations and chunked copy are perfect for you.
The serious business is interspersed with real-life stories to help bring the concepts to life.
Key reason to read: this book covers everything you could possibly think of to start a personal training business.
This collection of books should give you a well-rounded knowledge base for your personal training business. You’ve likely already got the workout part down, but maybe the marketing and selling parts aren’t your strongest talents. These books will give you the foundation you need to nail your business objectives from all angles.