If you’ve ever had a client go dark on you, you’re not alone. Veteran trainer Jason Leenaarts learned that last year, when he published the original version of this article on his website.
Entitled “Open Letter to the ‘Disappearing’ Client,” the piece is addressed to every client who’s ever “disappeared”—the ones who stopped checking in, logging their meals, and participating in workouts. Guess that’s the fitness equivalent of ghosting.
But the letter resonated not just with Leenaarts’s clients but with his fellow trainers as well. In fact, it became his site’s most popular article of 2018.
That’s why we wanted to share it too. Because while the individual reasons behind this phenomenon vary from one client to the next, your response should be the same: to encourage your client to talk to you and to lend a nonjudgmental ear if he’s ready.
“I hope the letter reminds trainers to keep an open dialogue with their clients,” Leenaarts told us. “The client-trainer relationship should remain a safe space.”
For anyone struggling with this situation, this letter is a must-read.
First, I just want to say thank you—for all the time and effort you give me at our sessions. Whenever you add a little more weight or push through just one extra rep, I know you’re moving forward, and that’s incredibly rewarding to see.
I also know you probably don’t give yourself the credit you deserve. Progress comes in many forms. It’s not just about achieving fitness benchmarks or adding up grams of protein. It’s about growing in other areas too.
Progress can mean being more proactive at work, having more energy to get through your day, or achieving a more satisfying relationship. It’s about gaining confidence and self-awareness in all aspects of your life.
But there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you about lately. I’ve noticed you’re quieter than usual. It’s like you’re actively not engaging. It reminds me of the student who didn’t do his homework and doesn’t want to get called on in class.
Maybe you just want to be alone with your thoughts, and that’s fine. But sometimes I get the sense there’s something on your mind, something you’d like to bring up but aren’t sure how to have that conversation. If that’s the case, I want you to know I’ll welcome the chance to talk about it with you.
What I’ve found is that when my clients stop sharing things with me, it’s because they feel they’re slipping. That’s when the food plan gets out of control and the number on the scale starts to climb. Sometimes you stop stepping on the scale altogether to avoid verifying it.
Whatever challenges you may be facing, it’s my job as your coach to help you through them. It’s exactly what you hired me to do, whether you realize it or not. Granted, I’m no psychiatrist. But I’ve helped plenty of clients work through difficult times to stay on track. I don’t mean to nag, but technically, you hired me to do that too.
I don’t forget about you when you fall silent. In fact, I only think about you more. That’s because I worry about you. I worry that you’re struggling, suffering, and stressing about perceived failures. I worry because I’ve been there too. And I want you to know what took me years to realize: Anytime you speak up, it’s a win.
Because all those “failures” you’re upset about? Those can actually be helpful. They help me understand your challenges and obstacles. The more I understand, the more we can do to keep you from repeating mistakes. But I can’t help if you don’t talk to me.
We’re a team, you and I. Your success is immensely important to me. I hope you’ll treat me as your teammate and not a teacher who might give you a bad grade.
Together, we focus on progress—in all its forms. When you leave our sessions, the hard work of continuing that progress is back in your hands. I’m here to support you for as long as you’ll let me.