YOUR NEW PERSONAL TRAINING BUSINESS: Let’s talk about staff – setting guidelines for dress code and professional conduct

When you’re the owner of a personal training business, you soon realise that you are responsible for everything. Put it this way: your responsibilities include far more than paying the rent and organising the timetable! It’s up to you to set the rules for everyone to follow. Some of your staff may be young, and not fully versed in professional presentation and conduct, so it’s important to make the rules clear. Let’s look at how.

Put rules in writing

Clarify any staff rules by putting them in writing. Going through this list with your staff in a meeting is a great way to ensure no-one misses the message. At this meeting, give each staff member a copy of the rules to keep.

It’s also useful to have a checklist located behind the scenes, such as in the tea room. Place a checklist with friendly reminders in a prominent place on the wall so that staff will see it before they hit the floor. Make sure you do not sound condescending or rude, though. A touch of humour finished with a positive attitude may be the best approach. Here’s an example:

Have I:

  • Combed my hair?
  • Tied my hair back (if it is longer)?
  • Brushed my teeth?
  • Washed my hands & cleaned my nails?
  • Forgotten my personal dramas?

Great work! SMILE, and have a great shift!

To avoid excuses, you may even want to have a supply of grooming tools handy, such as sterilised hair combs, hair elastics (for those who forget to bring their own), spray-on antiperspirant, nail scissors – even disposable toothbrushes or breath fresheners can be useful.

Discussing dress code

Here are some big tips for you to consider for your team:

  • Dress code for personal trainers - Sage Institute of FitnessColours: you may decide on a company colour code or uniform. But if you don’t, choose uniformity by requesting your staff to wear all navy blue or black while they are instructing.
  • Style of clothing: clients need to see your body, so baggy jumpers, jackets or pants may not be appropriate. Fitted clothing is best, such as neat sports t-shirts or singlets and zippered jackets. Layers are essential for personal trainers to enable them to adjust body temperature in response to weather variations and the stop and start nature of exercise training.
  • Modesty: it may feel embarrassing to have to make such rules, but low cut tops, midriff tops, or see-through tops or pants should not be allowed. Some clients might find these things off-putting, or distracting.
  • Safety: discourage the wearing of jewellery as it can be dangerous and can look inappropriate in the fitness context. If staff insist on wearing earrings, allow studs only. Dangling earrings and necklaces can get in the way or caught on equipment. Even rings can scratch and tear.
  • Buttons and zippers: garments with too many buttons or zippers should be avoided. Not only can they scratch clients, but they are uncomfortable for instructors to lie on.
  • Stay warm: it’s important to keep your muscles warm to avoid stiffness and injury, so a good sports jacket is a must.
  • Look professional and clean: this means clothes should be washed, pressed (where applicable) and not too old. Clothing with tears, holes, or anything that is out of shape will be bad for the image of the business, so should not be worn.
  • Avoid high fashion: certainly smart, fashionable clothes are terrific, but silly trends or overly loud clothes should be avoided. When in doubt, ask the boss!

Conversational Etiquette

In any business, appropriate conversational etiquette with clients must be adhered to. It is wise to politely spell out what is considered appropriate conversational etiquette in the personal training setting. Here are some guidelines for your staff (and perhaps for you, too):

Do not:

  • Discuss your love life – this is personal information and should stay that way. If a client is prying into your romantic status or sexual orientation, it is none of their business. If you’re comfortable saying that you have a girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, that’s fine, but don’t go into details.
  • Gossip or complain about the boss – this is very poor form, and will no doubt get back to your boss one way or another.
  • Badmouth other studios – confident people and businesses don’t need to put down the competition.


  • Ask the client about themselves – how are they feeling after the last workout? Are they getting fitter? Did they have a nice weekend? Keep it light and positive; personal, yet not prying.
  • Develop a rapport with your clients – communicating well and developing relationships is all part of good business. Developing a rapport with clients means understanding how various personalities tick, finding out about individual clients’ likes and dislikes, and learning how to motivate them and keep them happy.
  • Fear not – if these things don’t come naturally to you! Look at other instructors that seem to get on well with people and see what they say and do, and how they act. These skills can be learned, just like anything else.

Conversational etiwutte in personal training - Sage Institute of FitnessIssues surrounding personal presentation and professional etiquette are important to address. You have every right to ensure that rules pertaining to this are adhered to. But remember, your staff are human too. Be firm, but be understanding and personable when delivering the rules – and if someone breaks them!


Sage Institute of Fitness – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan

Vicki Tuchtan is the Academic Director at Sage Institute of Education. She oversees learning processes, teaching outcomes, resources and course development. A passionate advocate for bettering standards of training in Australia, she is currently writing her PhD thesis on defining quality training in the Australian vocational education sector.
Vicki Tuchtan

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