If you've been a personal trainer in Ontario for some time now, you probably know all about personal trainer questionnaires and why they're so crucial for the success of your clients—and the success of your business. But if you're starting out, you may be unsure why having your clients fill out a questionnaire from a liability perspective and for several other reasons is essential.
This guide explains why personal training questionnaires matter and lists some types of questions that should be included, along with tips on obtaining and managing the information on the questionnaires from the experienced brokers at Morison Insurance.
When a potential client walks through your door, literally or figuratively, all you know about them is what you can see with your own eyes—and as we all know, appearances can be deceiving. It would help if you had more than surface-level information about their health and lifestyle to properly assess their current fitness condition and develop the right strategy to help them achieve their health and fitness goals.
Most people interested in becoming personal trainers have at least a vague sense of why having their potential clients complete a questionnaire is essential. Still, there may be some reasons and benefits you still need to consider. Here are the key reasons why questionnaires are in your clients' and your best interests.
One of the essential things the questionnaire does for you as a personal trainer is it gives you a tool you can use to assess your client's risk of injury. If you find out they have had knee replacement surgery or suffered a back injury decades ago that still causes them pain, that's obviously going to have a significant impact on the types of exercise you recommend for them. But even less severe or less obvious physical conditions such as high blood pressure, a recent pregnancy, or weak ankles could really affect the types of physical activity that are safe for that particular client.
Suppose you have a clear picture of a client's overall health. In that case, it gives you critical insight into where and how they are most likely to be injured so you can steer clear of those situations and ensure your training improves their health, stress levels and underlying medical conditions rather than exacerbating them.
Along with assessing injury risk exposure, it stands to reason that you need to know what your client is hoping to achieve with their personal training sessions. They may start with a simple statement like "I want to lose weight" or "I want to build muscle," but that's not necessarily the whole story. The questionnaire can go a long way towards helping you understand the deeper reasons behind their decision to hire a personal trainer, along with personal goals or requirements they may not have known how to put into words or may not have thought to tell you about during your initial conversation. When you have that insight into what your personal training clients really want, you can tailor their training sessions and exercise program to address their specific goals head-on rather than wasting time on stuff that's unimportant to them or may even be counter to them and their ultimate fitness goals.
Exercise can potentially exacerbate or cause new injuries. If you, as a personal trainer, encourage your client to perform a specific type of exercise and it results in an injury, they could choose to bring legal action against you to recoup the cost of their medical expenses, along with compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income during their recovery period, and more. While your personal trainer insurance will give you liability coverage for the associated costs up to the limits listed on your policy, it's far better to avoid injury in the first place so you can retain your client and keep them happy with your services.
Personal trainer questionnaires allow you to learn which types of exercise may cause injury to your client. Still, they also give you a way to show that you weren't aware of conditions that could lead to injury and therefore are not liable. If a client claims you recommended an exercise that caused them to aggravate an old injury, but they never mentioned that old injury on their completed questionnaire, it could serve as evidence that they failed to make you aware of the potential problem.
Finally, a comprehensive questionnaire can get you started on creating trust in the client-trainer relationship at the rapport stage, which is obviously very important—especially if you want to build mutually productive, long-term coaching relationships with your clients. It shows the client that you're paying close attention to their needs, goals and requirements, so they can feel safe in your hands and trust you to guide them through a beneficial fitness program that is tailored specifically to them.
You're ready to start creating your questionnaire—but what questions should you ask? The exact questions may vary based on how you run your business and personal training process. Still, generally speaking, the questions should break down into three main categories: medical or PAR-Q, fitness, and lifestyle.
PAR-Q stands for physical activity readiness questionnaire and was designed to be a personal training health screening questionnaire that personal trainers can use to gather more information about their prospective client's current health status, underlying medical conditions and other issues that could affect their ability to exercise safely and effectively. It includes questions such as:
These are just examples—many other questions on a PAR-Q should be included on your personal trainer questionnaire.
Lifestyle questions are intended to help you better understand the aspects of your prospective client's lifestyle contributing to their current physical condition and health status. That may include questions such as:
Finally, fitness questions address their level of physical activity and their goals for what they hope to achieve. They could include questions like:
It's easy to understand the benefits of having your personal training clients fill out a thorough questionnaire, but actually creating the questionnaire and managing the information you receive are more complex tasks. Here are some need-to-know tips on how to handle personal trainer client questionnaires.
When you're designing your questionnaire, it's essential to keep the questions as short and to the point as possible. There will be quite a few questions for your prospective clients to work through, and some people need more patience, time or reading comprehension to puzzle through long-winded or strangely-worded questions. If your questions are too long and convoluted, they can also end up being "leading," meaning they prompt the answerer to provide the response they think you want to hear rather than the most honest or accurate answer. Keep the questions simple and let them give the details.
A questionnaire is only helpful to you if it has been completely filled out with accurate information. Some prospective clients will only partially fill it out, think to themselves, "that should be good enough," and send it back to you. Realistically, it needs to be better. Those questions are there for a reason (or at least they should be), and you need that information to come up with the best personal training strategy to get the results they're looking for. Politely but firmly insist that they answer all the questions—if they are not willing to do that on their own, the right way to handle it is to verbally go over the questions with them, record their answers on the questionnaire, and have them confirm that the information you recorded is correct.
It can be more challenging to determine whether the information is accurate. Still, red flags often indicate they could have told the whole truth purposefully or carelessly. For example, if one answer contradicts another, you know something's not quite right, and you should clarify with the client to ensure you're both on the same page.
Completed questionnaires can contain some sensitive information about your prospective clients' health conditions, lifestyle habits and more that they don't necessarily want everyone to have access to. It's critical to treat that information and those who provided it with respect by storing it securely and safely out of the way of prying eyes. That could mean a locked filing cabinet for hardcopies and a secure data storage location online or on a secured server.
This may seem obvious, but it's a surprisingly neglected step. Once you get the completed questionnaire, please sit down and take the time to read it and think about the information you've been given. After all, the questionnaire is only helpful if you look at your prospective client's answers. But of course you can't just read it—you also need to understand it. As you look over it for the first time, questions may occur to you. Jot them down and schedule a meeting with the client, ideally in person, to ask for clarification and go over each of the answers they provided. Even if you don't have any questions, reviewing the answers with the client is an essential step because it helps to clarify misunderstandings that you didn't even know you had and eliminates any concern that the information has not been stated or understood correctly.
Questionnaires contain plenty of questions about lifestyle, diet, fitness efforts and more, and all of that is subject to change. One of the reasons your client is seeking personal training services may be because they're interested in making some significant changes to better their health. As a result, the answers to your questionnaire will only be accurate for a while. It makes sense to sit down with your client every so often and go over the answers so they have an opportunity to tell you about any changes in their life that may alter your strategy for their personal training sessions. This also allows you to use the questionnaire as an informative feedback tool and get additional information that they couldn't provide initially, like feedback on exercise difficulty, their favourite and least favourite parts of your training sessions together, and other valuable feedback that can inform you about what's working and what's not.
This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.