Let’s get to the point here: you’re not just training bodies as a personal trainer, you’re also training people’s minds. To succeed as a masterful mind motivator, you’ve got to understand personalities. If you can do this, you will get more out of your clients, and avoid the frustrations that comes with dealing with all types of people in a day. Let’s look at some common personality types so you can be as prepared as possible for the mental, as well as the physical, rigours of training your clients.


Always punctual, the overachiever will always show, even when caught up in last-minute business meetings, harpsichord tuition or Mandarin lessons. Plus, once she is with you she wants to do the same, if not more (reps, weight, distance) than everyone around her. The overachiever will keep striving, even if she’s fighting off a bad case of gastro.

The best news is that the overachiever is easy to train as they have no shortage of get up and go!

Pro tip: Put some rules in place to prevent her from working out too hard, and emphasise that everyone is different and needs to work at their own pace. Try complementing her on her achievements. If she knows she’s doing great, she may relax a bit.


Complainers are clever. They manage to be a bit of hard work and a bit of a bore – often at the same time. ‘The complainer’ doesn’t want a solution to the problem, he wants emotional validation and empathy. He may also be looking for attention, and can even think he is funny or cute by telling you how hard everything is.

“You want me to do ten of those? You’ve got to be kidding. Ughhhh…”

These joke gets old very quickly. In order to ensure you run to schedule and your clients achieve what you want them to achieve, you have to learn to tune out his complaints.

Pro tip: Steer him on the right track by reminding him what he has to do to make progress, and ensure that there is little time for talk. If he insists on talking about problems outside his exercise regime, empathise with him, and then get on with the show.

“Wow, that must be difficult. Ok, let’s warm up…”


“Can you pick up my weights for me? They’re just out of my reach”.

The slothful client Personal Training from Sage FitnessSound familiar? Sloths are everywhere and come from all backgrounds. They may be the cashed up type and think that everything can be bought, including lifestyles, social status and good health. Quite possibly they’re also the ones who drive two blocks to their personal training session – on a sunny day. Alternatively, some sloths have a lot less cash but still manage to have an excess of entitlement.

It’s confronting for the sloth to learn to take responsibility. But, they must learn that doing things for themselves is part of getting fit.

Pro tip: Act with tact when dealing with the sloth, because Mr or Ms Sloth can be quite sensitive. The positive side is that if you teach the sloth the joys of working hard and reaping the rewards, you may have opened up a completely new world for them.


Genius client - Sage Institute of MassageThe genius knows way more than you – or anyone else. They have the answers for everything, with fitness and anatomy holding no exception. They will tell you how to do an exercise, inform others how to improve their routines and never grow tired of torturing any lucky listener with their advice.

Sometimes this additional input is inappropriate and can be very unhelpful in your professional environment, so you do need to watch and if necessary, curb this person’s behaviour.

Pro tip: There are a couple of great suggestions for this one:
A: Challenge the genius more than you would the average client (without hurting him).
B: Mentally stimulate him, allowing little time for rest.
C: Pander to his ego a bit by telling him how well he is doing.


This number cruncher is never happy unless he completes a full set, even if his body is on fire. For his own protection, he needs to be taught to ‘tune in’ and listen to his body more. Help him to understand that he is human, not a machine.

Pro tip: Box tickers work things through to the end, so best approach is to let him do this, where possible. As long as he is working within his ability, you can give him sets of exercise and let him count. Audibly. Counting out loud will motivate him marvellously and make your job a lot easier.


“But enough about me. What do you think about me?”

The narcissist is an insecure character who has a grandiose sense of self-importance. She is preoccupied with her appearance, capabilities and achievements, with little or no empathy for others.

Narcissistic personalities can be quite troublesome to teach. They may fail to understand that others are entitled to your time as well. Make sure you divide your time fairly amongst your clients and clarify the rules with the narcissist.

Pro tip: Let the narcissist look good, and let her win (as long as it doesn’t compromise the needs of others). Praise her when she is doing well – that’s motivating, because fundamentally, narcissists are insecure.


the competitor client - Sage Institute of FitnessThe competitor needs to come first. Bowling over the granny in the car park as he strides his way up the street to get to class first is standard fare for this competi-dude. He might also yell “finished” at the end of every set, asks others for their score and be keen to relate the stories of his successes to anyone who looks like they might listen. Although frustrating, the competitor is like the overachiever, and has plenty of energy and enthusiasm.

Pro tip: Make the most of his uber competitive spirit by teaming him up with other like-minded exercisers. Use numbers and goals to motivate him, and then back off and watch him go. Just make sure he doesn’t work beyond his ability and do damage to himself – or those who try to keep up with him.

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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