She shows up.

As always.

She’s on time, dressed in her sweatpants and oversized baggy shirt.  White Keds.  Vera Bradley purse.

She’s the prettiest thing I’ve seen.

Years of putting others first have taken their toll on her body. Not anymore.  She just wants to DO something before she turns 66.  Find herself.  Find her strong. 

For three months, she’s shown up.  Worked hard.  Learned about her body and her boundaries.  She doesn’t quit. 


But on this particular day, something is off.

I ask for a pushup.  She gives me a squat.  The balance drills that she’s usually so good at make her legs look like those of a wobbly baby deer.

Tears start to form in her weathered eyes.

Today her body is here to train, but her mind and heart are somewhere far off.

I could ask her to push through it, to focus.  That’s not it.

It’s the listening she needs. 

Not me teaching, correcting, talking for an hour.

She needs an ear.

She needs a friend.

So I scrap my plan with the crunches and sprints and instead, we head outside and take a stroll. 

She talks….and cries.

I listen….and nod.

I don’t charge my friend for that hour. 

….But she pays me anyway.


I think as trainers (and really just as people) we often forget how important it is to strengthen the EMOTIONAL state of our clients, in addition to their physical state.  In fact, being a confidant and friend is quite possibly the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of our job.  Knowing WHEN TO PUSH and WHEN TO PULL BACK is a rare art.  One worth perfecting.

Clients pay us to help them. Period. 

Part of that helping comes from nurturing their spirit.  I could not get this lady to jump for me.  But I got her to talk.  And I nurtured her by allowing that release of emotion to come

Our next session, she THANKED me for being a shoulder for her.  Then she gave me the best workout I believe she’s ever given. 

I’ve “taken walks” with four clients now.  I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.


This concept relates to EVERYONE, not only trainers and certainly not just pertaining to a job.  I can tell when my children need me to be quiet and listen.  They CRAVE a listening ear.  Travis too.  We ALL do!

I believe we so often try to dish out advice and speak before we should, when all we are really called to do is LISTEN. To act with compassion.  To be a SHOULDER.

To meet a need by simply shutting up.

QUESTION:  I am the WORST at listening.  It’s a real problem that I’m working on.  Are you good at listening?  Any tips for putting others first?


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  1. Pingback: Bean Bytes #11
  2. Beautiful post! I personally think you are a great listener…if typing counts?? Haha It’s definitely an area I am trying to improve upon.

  3. I’m so glad you wrote this, I think it’s absolutely important and I feel it’s so in-line with everything that trainers are trained to do. Honestly. If we’re looking to really know our clients, their lifestyles and habits and general health so we can be sure to make the best program possible for them, then shouldn’t that also include their EMOTIONAL state? Shouldn’t we be willing to have a change of plans in an effort to meet their needs? Isn’t that why we come up with INDIVIDUALIZED programs?

    (Is it weird that my reaction is the moment I really feel myself becoming a trainer…more so than when I have my head in the NASM book?)

  4. When Meeker was training, there were days he would have to come unload all his thoughts when he got home because of people just like this! He was burdened by(privileged to be confided in?) so many secrets his clients told him. It’s crazy how therapeutic that hour can be!

    Also, I like listening more than I like talking. :-)

  5. Love that! I think I need a trainer for that! It’s so hard to listen without jumping in… Although I can see this happening with some of my adult piano students when they come for their lesson after a hard day!

  6. what an awesome post!! you are always so heartfelt, I don’t believe you have trouble listening, but I might as well put my ridiculous communications degree to some sort of use for 2 seconds and pipe in about active listening. Active listening is engaged listening. And it takes effort and practice. How does one actively listen? By engaging the speaker in the following ways instead of thinking about what to say next. When the speaker pauses:
    1) Paraphrase what they said to seek clarification. example: “So, your brother forgot your birthday, and you feel like he doesn’t care enough?”
    2) Ask a fact finding question for more information. example: “How does that make you feel? Why did you…?” etc.
    3) Encourage the speaker to give more specifics. Example “What happened next? What do you think you should do?” etc.

    This helps keep you engaged in what the speaker is saying and keeps your mind from wandering, or reminding you of something that happened to yourself. :)

  7. Kudos to you for realizing that sometimes people have barriers other than working out in the gym to overcome their fitness goals. I know that when I was seeing a trainer I would have really appreciated a gesture like this because there is always more to learn than what’s on the surface. I will take cue myself to start becoming a better listener.

  8. I always joke that I’m part trainer, part therapist. But it’s not really a joke – many clients just OPEN up to their trainers (or at least I’ve noticed.) And while I don’t give them advice (unless it’s to see another professional) I think it really does help to just have an outside source listen to them.

  9. What a beautiful post! It made me tear up a bit when you were telling the story… (thanks a lot pregnancy hormones!) I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying here. I could always work on listening better. I think sometimes I am too quick to want to jump in and give advice.

  10. Awesome post, and spot on! I’m not a great listener, I have a tendency to want to jump in with what I already know, but I’m aware of it, working on it, and getting better.

    I’ve seen that every time I shut my mouth and listen, it works out beautifully.

    Thanks for the reminder, I need to have this discipline brought to my attention every chance I get.

  11. Wow, what an inspiring post Lindsay, it’s so true that some people do just need someone to LISTEN. Working out is like therapy to me & having someone to listen when I need it in my trainer only makes it better. The only tip I have for putting others first is to just think HOW very much it means to them when you put THEM first. Simple acts of kindness can have massive rewards :)

  12. Beautiful post Linds. This is inspiring me to think more about becoming a trainer myself (a thought I’ve been having more and more lately). I’m a pretty good listener, but yes sometimes I speak too much or too loudly. What a wonderful thing you did for this women that day, and she felt empowered to come back and give her all the next time. Your warm heart shows through in all you do and for what it’s worth, I think you are a great listener.

  13. I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to lend a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for your clients. I’m sure they look at you much more than a personal trainer helping their bodies get strong. Working out and changing your life is such a personal journey.

  14. This is a great post Lindsay. It’s so easy to forget that sometimes people just need someone to listen when we’re so focused on go-go-go. I really love that you have taken walks with your clients. I know a lot of people who would not be comfortable doing that or would pretend that they don’t notice that something is off. It’s a testament to the kind heart and person that you are.

  15. This is such a beautiful post. It can be applied to all walks of life, not just trainers. I feel like so much of the world is always talking incessantly that no one really stops to listen to anyone. Thank you for the reminder this morning :)

  16. This is so good, so true Linds – definitely feel the same about my clients but it does translate to life/friends/people outside the gym too! One of my favorite quotes is “A loving silence is often more meaningful than the most well-intentioned words. Just listen.” (Naomi Rachel Remen) Thanks for sharing this today. I try to make others feel loved and cared for by listening, but it’s something I do work on. I can tell when I’m “off” and my focus is on myself – I don’t listen nearly as well. Thanks for that reminder as I begin my day!

  17. This is such a great post and one of the reasons I’ve always thought about becoming a trainer. I love the support system that gets built by working with clients and you are right, sometimes we just need someone to listen to us!

  18. Listening can definitely be a challenge–I completely understand. I’ve been learning more and more about how to listen better (as I’m studying to become a health coach), and it’s been quite eye opening. It is a quality that I truly admire when I witness other people who are good at it. So that is what I strive to do . . . and that’s the best thing . . . to be mindful of it, and keep working at it. And when you experience moments like you described in this post, you realize that you’re improving and making a difference. And that’s pretty awesome.

  19. I had a recent experience with this same sort of thing (although via online rather than in person). It’s so important to remember clients as PEOPLE and to help them in all aspects. Sometimes that means being there as a support rather than a trainer. Lovely, well-put post, my friend.

  20. Listening and just being there for someone is what I like best about my ED mentoring and friendships alike, and it’s why I’m studying to be a health coach. I don’t know all the answers, and I don’t pretend to. But I think that being there for someone when they need you, being there for them so they can lighten the burden, if even just a little, is the least I can do. It’s one of the simplest yet most important things we can do for another human. I never used to be a good listener — I used to just wait for my turn to talk — but over the years, I’ve come to realize just how much I can help and just how much I can learn by listening. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given, and one of the qualities in myself I now hold most dear.

  21. Aw, I love this so much. It’s true… when I began nutritional assessments as part of my practicum, I was expecting to counsel people about the importance of eating salads & how to navigate the grocery store. What I (very quickly) learned was that people want to know WHY they have made bad choices in the past & want to learn how to build up their spirit & stop self-sabotaging themselves. At times I have a hard time *JUST* listening, because I want to jump in there & fix everything or offer advice. It’s something I’m working on too! :D

  22. I think it is great that you balance your training career.. with just being there for your clients. Some trainers just don’t care.. if you are off… the get angry and think you aren’t focused and don’t have your head in the game. Well…yeah… unfocused and head not in the game are correct.. but YOU are concerned with why. That is rare..and it quite awesome.