Counselling & Communication Skills for Trainers: Best Practices to Connect with your Clients  

Counselling & Communication Skills For Trainers: Best Practices To Connect With Your Clients Counselling & Communication Skills For Trainers: Best Practices To Connect With Your Clients
By Jodi Robinson, BSc, RD, MEd (Candidate)

By Jodi Robinson, BSc, RD, MEd (Candidate)

Soft Skills. They are the buzzwords in businesses worldwide; the fitness industry is no exception. Soft skills, also known as people skills or interpersonal skills, are a set of personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. These skills are not typically taught in a formal setting, but are crucial for success in any profession. In the fitness industry, examples of soft skills include communication, empathy, active listening, and motivational techniques. Considering this definition, it is unsurprising that communication is among the most in-demand soft skills for any profession.


Fitness professionals provide various services, including personal training, group workshops, webinars, and online courses, yet education and training programs may focus very little on counselling and communication skills. As a result, trainers may miss connecting with their clients in a way that best helps them create sustainable lifestyle changes and keep them engaged in their services or the training facility. 


Why do counselling skills matter?

Research, including a study published in The Diabetes Educator, shows that simply providing advice and education to clients about the benefits of change is often not enough to promote lasting change. As a result, fitness professionals and their clients may feel stuck and frustrated when health-related behaviours, and thereby outcomes, stay the same. Health behaviour experts, such as those cited in a study by Vallis, recommend that trainers practice behaviour change counselling skills to lessen this potential disconnect between them and their clients, understand the client’s perspective, and create a change-based relationship.


Using evidence-based counselling strategies such as motivational interviewing is more likely to lead to clients who see positive changes to their health (e.g. weight loss and a reduction in chronic disease risk factors) while also feeling happier with their healthcare experience. For example, understanding why clients “become resistant” and reframing this so they feel heard can help them move forward.


Does the readability of written materials matter?

Communicating in a way that is easy for clients to understand is a powerful tool in the fitness professional’s arsenal. Research consistently shows that using plain language and straightforward design when creating written materials (e.g. blogs, resources, presentations, email newsletters) significantly improves readability. Readability, in turn, leads to better health outcomes. By using simple, jargon-free, and conversational wording, trainers can build trust and likeability, ensuring their clients can better connect and understand the key messages.

Jodi Robinson is a registered dietitian and former fitness professional who works for Loblaw Inc. and runs a private practice, Craving Health Dietitian & Wellness Services in northern Ontario. She specializes in helping busy people find simple and realistic healthy lifestyle solutions with a focus on nutrition for weight management using a non-dieting approach, physical activity, disordered eating, and diabetes. In addition, Jodi teaches nutrition at Humber College and consults with media and the food industry about the latest food and nutrition trends. For more information, please visit

Don’t miss the opportunity to enhance your counseling and communication skills at the 2024 CPTN conference on June 8, 2024. The presentation, ‘Counseling & Communication Skills for Trainers: Best Practices to Connect with Your Clients,’ will provide a wealth of information and tools to help you better engage with your clients. This is a chance to deepen your understanding and refine your approach, ensuring you can provide the best possible service to your clients.

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