T Nation

Client Complaints


I own a personal training studio and I just got a phone call from one of my clients complaining of big time soreness in his arms. We went through a great back workout yesterday so I know why his arms are sore. He has more soreness in his brachioradialis than anywhere else from close grip Pull downs and learning the deadlift.

My question is, how do I know if this guy is just pussing out or if he is in legit enough pain to call me and cancel his next session? I know that my arms have been so sore I couldn't wipe my ass, but I also know that's part of the game. People confuse me!


What is your policy for cancellations? Is he prepaid (as he should be), and are you obligated by contract to make up the session?

You may never be able to stop cancellations, but you can better mitigate against it affecting your bottom line.


my cancel policy is you give me 12 hrs or you lose that session, basically the day before so I can fill that vacated spot. All sessions are prepaid.


Sounds like a very good policy.

Are you concerned you may lose this client? If he is going to puss out every time you push hard, you may want to consider changing his program to better suit his "needs".


I'd give him the benefit of the doubt this time and then if it turns out to be an on-going problem address it later.

[long story]
After a very long period of not doing anything physically demanding - I started working w/ a trainer around this time last year. She has a policy that you have to commit to 3xweek for the first 3 weeks and then you take it from there as to how/whether to continue. In the second week we did a really hard workout - my arms were so fried I needed both hands to pick up my water bottle.

Then I was sick over the weekend - flu or something, but I didn't want to cancel the monday workout, so I mentioned I'd been sick but was feeling fine and wanted to continue. We did a not terribly taxing workout on that Monday. On Tuesday my arms were quite swollen, but, hey, I thought "I'm Pumped!" [feel free to laugh]. Wednesday the swelling was worse and was starting to spread to my hands. I went to the infirmary at the University where I worked. The doctor said it was probably just really bad weekend warrior syndrome, but he couldn't rule out the possibility of deep vein thrombosis.

So, I spent most of the evening at the local emergency room. Not at all a fun experience, esp. since they couldn't get a good stick in either of my arms or my foot (I'm a long time blood donor and it's never been a problem), so I ended up having a groin stick so they could get a blood sample. The one funny part was when the technician was ultrasounding my arm said "wow, there's a lot of swelling here!" I felt like, "yeah, that's why I'm here."

Anyway, it turned out to be just overuse, my doctor lectured me on the importance of building up more gradually and I'm now learning the olympic lifts w/ the same trainer. But, the point of the story is you don't want to get a call "hey, I'm on my way to the hospital, so I'm afraid I won't be able to make my session tonight."



Begin Rant

I don't agree with suiting a clients program to what they think they need. If they knew what they needed that wouldn't be paying a trainer in the first place.

A trainer's job is to GET RESULTS. If your client is not ready to put forth what is required then you might want to sit him down and restructure his goals. It isn't really fair to give him a half assed program and have him believe that he's still going major results.

Rant Concluded

Regardless, I think that because his arms are sore there is no reason he can't train something else. In the past I've had clients call at odd times to get the machine and cancel because they are sore. When I get the message I call them right back and tell them to get their ass to the gym. I inform them that there are other muscles to train and that real results take real sacrafices.

They usually don't like me then...but they love me later when they're 20lbs leaner.


My thoughts exactly! I get paid to tell people what they don't know. I am not worried about losing this guys business. I have spoken to him about this and let him know that there are other body parts to be worked.

I have problems with being too blunt with my people, sometimes to the point it becomes insulting to them. I just needed a little advice on the matter. Thanks for the response so far, keep it coming.


If that style works for you with every client you train, that is cool. Some people respond to that very well, others don't. Results are what is important.

I also agree that writing effective programs will most likely cause a new client discomfort, and should not be written with the primary purpose of trying to avoid this. I don't think it wise however, to ignore feedback in this area.

I thought this statement summed it up well - "If your client is not ready to put forth what is required then you might want to sit him down and restructure his goals."

This may include restructuring his program in an attempt to avoid whatever is causing him not to want to exercise. You can't get results if the guy won't come to the gym.


As mentioned in the story above, it is quite easy for fairly sendentary people to be temporarily overwhelmed while starting out.

It's also possible to hit a previously ignored muscle group and trash it pretty thoroughly.

I'd give them the benefit of the doubt earlier on, but expect them to grow a pair of nads after a few weeks.


Another good point! This guy hasn't been active in "real lifting" in quite some time. It's tough sometimes to identify with the mindset of a non lifting person, don't yall agree.


I own a personal training studio in Kansas. I had this happen to me last week. I feel that if it is not a joint problem than it isn't a problem. You can change the parameters of the following workout to accomodate the soreness so you don't lose the session. This is part of the game. Let me ask you this; How long has he trained at your facility? When was the last time he trained on a consistent basis if he hasn't been a client of yours for awhile?



this guy has not been on a program in the last 6 months at least. this is kinda why I brought it up. I have never dealt with this from an owners viewpoint (being the new owner that I am) I totally understand progression, but I also convey to any client that they are going to be sore, sometimes very sore.

This guy is brand new, like his 2nd workout. I will not lose him over this but i don't want him to have a bad attitude about training with that certain trainer, I only have 2. I think my course of action will be to have a short talk after his next session and bring things into the open and listen to any of his concerns and monitor the trainers program very closely.


I'm not ignoring feedback in this area. I'm also giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. Nobody ever said they didn't believe his arms were sore. All I'm saying is that he shouldn't be blowing off a workout because of this.

I do understand that new lifters do experience more pain because they aren't used to it. Initially I start them off pretty easy as well.

However, some people think that you can get something for nothing. Once you let them get away with missing workouts they expect you to take it easy on them when they do show up. At the same time they expect the results they've paid for and (for some insane reason) can't understand why they aren't getting them.

Restructuring the program to keep them coming to the gym is one thing. Letting them get away with slacking is another.


Pushing people that hard that early is a good way to push them right out of the gym. You loose the client, the client relates working out with pain and bad experiences, and you both loose out. Gradually introducing or re-introducing a non lifter will get the same gains in the end that torturing them right from the beginning will and maybe even better ones. I don't see what breaking them down like many love to do at the very beginning is going to accomplish.

This is not basic training or some kind of competition to get someone in shape in 30 days is it? I don't even see how you can know someone's personality and physical capabilities in that short of a time to make a judgement on what's best for them. A cookie cutter menu type program may work for high school footbal players or new recruits in the military, but to make money getting people in shape, I'd make it much more personal and attainable for that client.

Just my .02, no offense intended.


I don't think anyone is saying to kill the guy and tell him to suck it up. As important as it is to minimize the pain, it is also important to stress consistency.


I completely agree with you on all these points.

Your "rant" was directed at one of my previous posts; I tried to explain myself more clearly. I don't think there is a hair breadths of difference on how either of us would approach the situation.