I’m sure you’ve heard of Love Languages. I personally believe every person in a relationship (or not) should read this book. The idea behind Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts is that every person has a primary and secondary way they express love and receive love. There’s even a children’s edition as well (got that one too!) all about how to recognize our kid’s love language and love them effectively. If you don’t know your love language you can take the free quiz here.

The Five Love Languages are:

  1. Physical Touch
  2. Words of Affirmation
  3. Quality Time
  4. Receiving Gifts
  5. Acts of Service

After reading this book many years ago, it got me thinking about how I can bring this theory into my gym and with my personal training clients.

The best personal trainers know that in order to be an effective and inspiring trainer, we have to know our clients. Know their injury history, their movement patterns, and perhaps most importantly, their preferred coaching style, which I have discovered does fall into one of these five categories of expression. Here’s how a personal trainer could use the Five Love Languages in the gym:

Physical Touch

From a personal trainer this can look like a fist bump after a set or a supportive pat on the back. If you are a client who values touch, something as simple as a high-five at the end of a session can be incredibly meaningful to you.

If a vocal cue such as “keep your knees behind your toes” isn’t registering while you’re doing back squats and I know your language is more physical touch, I may grab a foam roller and place it in front of your knees. If your knees hit the roller, the tactile feedback provided by the roller signals to your brain that we gotta get those hips down and your knees in line with your toes.

 

Words of Affirmation

For clients who respond well to words of encouragement and praise, a personal trainer can offer consistent positive feedback. You’ll often hear me exclaiming things like: “Hell yeah!” and “You got this!” or “Great job today stud!” Even if a client needs to make some adjustments, if I know that they are motivated by my cheers, I will provide, what I like to call, a compliment sandwich: compliment, correction, compliment. “Awesome job driving out of your backfoot in that deadlift—but keep your toes down. Strong feet will provide a stable foundation for that big weight.”

I have also found that clients who value words of affirmation are most likely the ones who appreciate it when you mention their achievement on your social media or follow up with a text after an accomplishment.

Quality Time

Personal training is quality time. It’s being prepared, being present and offering meaningful eye-contact that indirectly communicates to clients that I am on their team.

As a one-on-one personal trainer, I like to think that this is one of my specialties (probably because quality time is my love language, along with physical touch). No, this does not mean we will be hanging out over coffee or lunch after every session, but it does mean you will be getting my undivided attention, that I will be actively listening to your goals, concerns and questions and provide you with a thoughtful and effective individualized training program.

 

Receiving Gifts

Little gifts or tokens of appreciation can go a long way. For my clients who value gifts, something as simple as a Chris Keith Personal Training “619” t-shirt or having coffee brewed for them for their 5 a.m. session and offering both cold and room-temp water can be meaningful. Sharing my library of health and nutrition books, along with my nuggets of valuable information I’ve acquired with almost 30 years in the industry has been well received by clients who value gifts too.

When I find a healthy snack I may grab a few extras for my gift-loving clients. I’ve also been known to gift some dope gym shoes as an appreciation to clients who refer business to me. In turn, I always appreciate when these clients go out of their way to bake me healthy muffins or make homemade hummus…or even bring in the not-so-healthy cupcakes for my birthday or the chocolate covered pecans at Christmas (you all know who you are!).

 Acts of Service

Along with quality time, this also goes hand-in-hand in what a personal trainer should innately be offering to all clients. A personal trainer can assist with tasks such as setting up or wiping down equipment, racking the correct weight for you.

For clients who appreciate help with practical matters, a personal trainer can simply follow up on corrections or known trouble areas with videos, articles, referrals for specialists, or giving specific homework to help correct movement patterns or build strength. A lot of clients don’t think to ask for this type of service — but as a personal trainer, I love to give it! It shows me that you have interest in learning, growing and becoming a better athlete, and that just makes my coaching heart flutter with excitement!

In conclusion, it’s important to have open communication with your trainer or coach and tell them what language you prefer. After reading Love Languages many years ago, I determined that by incorporating these techniques, I was able to better create a more personalized and meaningful experience for my clients and build stronger relationships with them that ultimately bring more success in achieving their health and fitness goals.

Since my secondary love language is physical touch, I’m closing out with a big hug and a fist bump as we head into the weekend before Valentine’s Day!