Consent in Fitness

The process of obtaining consent builds stronger, more productive, and more rewarding coaching relationships.
Ashleigh Flanagan
November 10, 2021

What is consent?

Consent is an open, evolving conversation based on mutual respect, trust and recognition of personhood; the rights, protections and privileges due to all people. All consent should be informed consent which means that effort needs to be made to ensure a person understands they have choice and the implications of their choice.  

Why is consent necessary in fitness?

Other than being a legal requirement, consent:

When is consent required in fitness?

Clients have the right to make reasonable, informed choices about matters that impact them directly. This can include but is not limited to:

If you are not sure something is ok for a person, ask them.
If you are not sure if something is still ok, ask them.

But don’t we have a waiver for that?

Most gyms and studios require clients to sign a liability waiver before they train. This doesn’t constitute consent. Let’s take a look at the differences;

Isn’t a client consenting to train by turning up?

Implied consent is the idea that by turning up to participate, a person is automatically providing consent. Even if you have trained them 3x a week for the last six months, do they know exactly what you have planned for them today? Do they have a choice, not just to train or not train, but the content of their training? Call it consent or just good coaching; it’s always appropriate to agree on a training plan together before starting each session. 

What if I need to put my hands on a client during training?

Always ask first. We all have a right not to be touched. It doesn’t matter if you regularly use your hands to spot or facilitate a client; it’s appropriate to ask permission each time. This doesn’t have to be formal or awkward. A quick confirmation from your client that they are comfortable continuing is often all that is needed.

Besides being their right, there are many reasons an individual may not want to be touched or touched without permission (even if they have consented on previous occasions), including injury, pain, cultural beliefs, sensory concerns or past trauma. 

What if I put my hands on someone without consent to prevent an accident? 

Creating a consent friendly space

Studios need to be safe spaces to say ‘no’. 

Often trainers are held in high esteem by their clients. Be aware that clients may say ‘yes’, just to avoid disappointing you.

Consider consent an opportunity

It's very short-sighted to think of consent as an annoying obligation. Instead, asking for consent allows you to learn about your client, build a stronger, more rewarding coaching relationship, get better results, and become a better coach/human.

Learn more:

What is a Theraputic Alliance and why does it matter?

Book an appointment with a Physio: Book a physio now

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