Regardless of how effective your advertising and marketing is, your client onboarding process for new in person fitness clients is essential for making a great impression on the client. Attracting new clients and retaining existing clients is always challenging. However, providing an outstanding and seamless customer service experience through an onboarding process which addresses important areas and provides key documents to the client and information for the fitness professional’s records, can be essential to the success of your fitness business and your ability to thrive, as well as be legally protected.
An excellent on-boarding experience for new in person fitness clients is an opportunity to collect information about the client that will help you provide high quality services, and establish a working relationship with the potential for mutual benefit.
Key documents for on-boarding new fitness clients include:
- Client Information Form
- A PAR-Q Form.
- Contract or Agreement
- Personal Training Participant Release (including Waivers and Disclaimers) and informed consent
- Medical Release Form
- Fitness Progress Measurement Form
Client Information Form
What you include in this form to ask of your clients is not just about collecting information for its own sake. Make sure that you are collecting information that you need to provide your services in a safe and professional manner, and that you have a way of storing that information. While HIPAA may not apply to fitness professionals strictly, you still have a duty to keep the information of your clients secure and private. For more information about potential liability risks related to privacy, read this post.
The Client Information form may also be referred to as a Client Screening Questionnaire.
Much of the information collected on this form is about gaining an accurate picture of your client, understanding their needs and the best advice to provide them. This information can also indicate the existence of major health factors that would indicate a need to require a Medical Release Form before the commencement of an exercise or fitness program.
For example, asking a client for their age can help determine health risks and computing maximum heart rate. Asking their occupation, on the other hand, will assist you in being able to advise on exercise scheduling, potential additional risk factors, and level of incidental activity.
In addition to asking about current exercise levels, you will need to know about the level of experience and knowledge of the client. You also will likely need to know if a client has been instructed by a physician not to exercise for any reason that they may not have indicated elsewhere.
The Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) is used internationally as an industry standard, as a client waiver, prior to the performance of “pre-exercise” tests of all kinds. It is considered to be most useful for clients aged 15-69.
The PAR-Q was created by the British Columbia Ministry of Health. There are now a variety of PAR-Q questionnaires and other health self-directed screening assessments in use, the basic questions from the original questionnaire haven’t changed significantly. All the questions are designed to help uncover any potential health risks associated with exercise. The questions aim to uncover heart, circulatory, balance, medication, emotional and joint problems that could make exercise difficult, or even dangerous for some people. This can provide a fitness professional with essential information!
Contract or Agreement
A contract or agreement for the provision of fitness training services is an essential onboarding document. This may be the overarching document in which the personal training participant release is incorporated.
There are some specific clauses that you may want to consider including, such as a cancellation clause, or what happens if either you or the client are late to an appointment? It should also include information related to fees, and the length of training sessions, as well as the number. If you have more than one trainer in your business, be sure to ask your lawyer about a clause about which trainer (if any) will be involved – and allowing for substitution if this is needed.
Be sure to have any agreement reviewed by your attorney to make sure that it is suitable for your circumstances and addresses any state based issues.
Personal Training Participant Release
The Personal Training Participant Release is, alongside the agreement discussed above (these two can be included in one document), are arguably the most important forms on this list. This release provides the client with information that makes them aware of possible risks in participating in an exercise program.
It is common to have the client specifically initial key paragraphs so that they are more likely to read them and ask questions if they need clarification. It is also important to have your release specifically address the client providing their “informed consent,”
For more details about essential waivers and disclaimers, read this post.
A document that details liability waivers and disclaimers agreed to by a client have been upheld by the courts. However, many states have specific requirements in order for a liability waiver and disclaimer document to be considered legally valid. Some States limit the effect or prohibit the use of a liability waiver, such as New York. This document is one where the cost of having an attorney licensed in the state where you are located may be a wise investment.
Medical Release Form
Many fitness professionals (including personal trainers) do not require their in person training clients to fill out a medical history form. Some of this information is revealed by the PAR-Q form and by the Client information form.
However, fitness professionals should proactively protect themselves from liability in situations where clients who have pre-existing injuries or other risk factors claim that the exercise advice provided caused injury or harm. It can be argued that without knowledge of the relevant medical history of a client, such as past illnesses and injuries, surgeries, and medications, a fitness professional may be negligent if in failing to inquire then directs a client to undertake an exercise program, and that client is then becomes injured as a consequence of that program.
This medical release form is intended to be given to your client’s physician to fill out accordingly.
As an aside, fitness professionals should not provide medical advice to clients, unless you are qualified to do, and legally permitted. Each state has slightly different laws and regulations governing the dispensing of medical or nutritional advice, the scope of fitness practice regulations, and diagnosing and treatment of health-related conditions.
Fitness Progress Measurement Form
Utilizing fitness progress forms to track a client’s fitness assessments and measurements over time can be a helpful way of tracking the effectiveness of the fitness program. While it is essential to have results disclaimers in your liability and waivers document, measuring progress can help a client objectively see the benefit of your advice. It can also be used to show your diligence in tracking how a client is progressing through the course of a program.
There’s one other document that we consider essential that we haven’t included above. That document is a checklist for your whole client onboarding process. The reason for a checklist is to ensure that you have thought through your process and are hitting all of the key touchpoints with each and every client. Such procedural standardisation to onboarding new fitness clients can also have the added benefit of helping to highlight liability risks, and to help you grow your business in a way that can be taught to staff.