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21 Ways to Win Friends and Influence People in the Gym

by Jonathan Goodman | Follow on Twitter

People don’t buy training, they buy trainers. A major key to success is winning friends and influencing people in the gym.

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The following is a guest post from Rich Thaw.

[Enter Rich]

As trainers, we possess the power of intrigue. The exercises we do at the gym are not at all what the general public normally sees.

Strategy #1

“Get the other person nodding their head in respectable appreciation.”

By performing conventional and unconventional exercises flawlessly, we can attract the good kind of attention.

So what exercises REALLY turns heads at the gym? – A woman in short shorts doing quarter squats on the smith machine? A bro in a cut-off shirt doing curls…in the squat rack?

No. Neither. Unfortunately both are quite commonly seen in gyms worldwide.

Something that really turns heads is a guy or gal grimacing, pushing though the burn and sweating up a storm while performing every exercise with textbook execution. – That’s respectable.

Strategy #2

“Dramatize your ideas.”

I was approached at a coffee shop this past week by a fellow trainer.

“I’ve never seen someone front squat that heavy with such perfect form before. Must be nice.” he said.

Strategy #3

“Arouse in the other person an eager want.”

I thought to myself, “why didn’t he approach me at the gym that day?” I remembered wearing a hat pulled down extremely low and headphones that were turned up one notch higher than socially acceptable.

Everyone in the gym noticed when I loaded the third plate on either side of the bar. I mean who doesn’t want to be THAT badass?

Rep’ing out set after set of progressively heavier front squats with intensity drew attention.

rich thaw become a personal trainer

Where I failed to convey the ‘I’m approachable, let me teach you how’ message was in my body language.

Regardless of the smile on my face after each set, or my choice to not wear anything even moderately offensive, I quickly moved from one exercise to another before returning to the squat rack. I didn’t look up from under my hat, nor make eye contact with anyone else in the gym. It was clear that I was there to work and not to socialize.

When someone sees that you have your work hat on, they’ll be more hesitant to approach you when you’re ‘working’.

You want people to approach you. But you want to workout. It’s kind of a double edged sword isn’t it.

The solution is simple, when you’re transitioning from exercise to exercise look up and smile, or give a friendly nod to whoever catches your eye.

After your done lifting/conditioning you can take off your headphones, lift up your hat a little (better yet altogether) and Voila! – You’ve become approachable!

Strategy 4

“Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.”

You’ve established that you’re friendly, are there to bust your butt, know what you’re doing and are willing to talk…after the workout. People will recognize that.

If you’ve seen someone around the gym before and have exchanged nods once or twice, you can kindly ask if they would like any constructive criticism on their chosen exercise.

If you happen to be taken up on your offer, follow these steps so you won’t be flipped the proverbial bird.

5. “Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”
(I see you here working hard often, my name is Rich. *offers hand to shake*)

6. “Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.”
(Ever notice that everyone is talking about how bad their posture is?)

7. “Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.”
(Before I was shown how to do a pushup properly, I was guilty of the same thing. My elbows were flared out to the side and my shoulders were up in my ears).

8. “Ask questions instead of giving direct orders”
(Ever notice when you’re standing, the ideal posture has the shoulder blades pinned down and back to the ribcage?)

9. “Let the other person save face.”
(…Oh ya I read that somewhere that blah blah blah…)

10. “Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
(Say something nice or positive about what they read or heard)

11. “Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”
(Try this trick I picked up, it may work wonders for you!
Twist the floor clockwise when doing the pushup and that’ll automatically put your arms in the ideal place and fix nearly everything! – *Demonstrate the exercise flawlessly*)

12. “Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.”
(*After they attempt it* – See, how’d that feel?
It sure looked great!)

13. “Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”
(You had it in you all along! Now you can easily beat your old pushup record! )

The more you go to that gym, train hard and do exercises that look flat out awesome, the more people will recognize you. Now all you have to do is to look up from under your sweaty brow and share a kind nod or smile.

People will know when to approach you, and when not to.

When that conversation does happen, remember these 6 crucial friend-winning (read: new-client-winning) strategies.

14. Become genuinely interested in other people.

15. Smile   

16. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

17. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

18. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

19. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Chocolate protein is the best flavor – Fact. But my mom loves vanilla. We all have different views. Respect that.

Strategy #20 

Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”

If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

Now that you’ve gained the knowledge of a thousand men, I challenge you to go out and use it!
Go to the gym you train at and pick up 1 new client in the next week.

If you keep the key points in this article in mind, you shouldn’t have a problem landing not 1 but 10, easily!

Strategy #21

“Throw down a challenge.”

About the Author

become a personal trainer rich thawRich Thaw, CPT, FMS-1, Pn1 is a Montreal native who spends his time divided between completing a degree at Concordia University, writing for his website, and working at CoreXcellence. Rich brings his extensive years of coaching experience to help others reach their fitness, nutritional, personal and athletic goals.

Recognized as one of the premier trainers in Montreal, Rich has established an outstanding reputation due to his no-nonsense approach to training, unique perspective on program design, and corrective exercise experience.

In addition to working at CoreXcellence, Rich runs a promising educational blog titled ‘Inner Athlete’ intended to educate aspiring athletes and gym goers about training, nutrition, rehabilitation and everything in between. On his website you will discover sound wellness-based strategies to transform from Joe into Pro. The website can be found at


How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

About the Author
Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is the creator and head coach of the PTDC and has a distaste for third person bios ... Hey, I'm Jon and I'd have to say that this site is pretty awesome. Thanks for being here. If you're interested in my brand new book, it's called Ignite the Fire (revised, updated, and expanded). My team and I have also created the first Academy and certification for online trainers. Click here to check out the Online Trainer Academy.