Working Outside the Big Box (gym)
31 things I’ve learned as an independent personal trainer.
This year has been a journey of intense learning, awesome relationship-building, entreneurship, and a step outside of what I used to know as my comfort zone. In early 2011 I took a step of faith. I left a secure personal trainer position where I was #2 in training sales volume in a massive Fitness Center and began an independent personal training business in an 8500 square foot Anytime Fitness gym in Davenport, FL.
I have a lot of gratitude to the big Fitness Center and all of the great clients I had there for helping me develop my training philosophy and allowing me to practice my progamming. If I had tried to strike out on my own immediately upon obtaining my CSCS, I'm certain I wouldn't have the experience and be where I am today. The sheer volume of clients that the Fitness Center sent my way was absolutely paramount to my success. It was there I was also able to work part time while finishing up my master's degree in Exercise Science. I am grateful for not having to meet a sales quota at that time to cover my bottom line.
Training as an independent fitness professional over the past two years at Anytime Fitness has been very rewarding, challenging, and a definite (and sometimes humble) learning experience. My heart is chock-full of gratitude to the owners, Todd and Bruce and the manager, strongman Alan Colley, for allowing me to gain more entrepreneurial experience under their roof.
Thank you to all of my clients, my husband Troy, Linda my tax professional, and everyone else who has had a role in me becoming a better fitness professional/business person or held my hand in guidance when I needed help.
I've listed 31 tips (in no particular order) on things I've learned over the past couple of years that have helped shape my fitness coaching philosophy and improved the way I do business. I'm looking forward to adding to it all the time.
1. I’m really in the marketing business. Read just as many, if not more, books on business as you do on training.
2. Get in front of the community as often as possible. 99% of the time you will not be directly compensated for this.
3. Clients WANT you to hold them accountable, remember their birthdays, give them homework and coach proper technique-- not just make them sweat.
4. Selling sessions by the package is dead. Recurring monthly (or every four weeks) billing is not only more affordable, it requires consistency (use it or lose it) which gets better results.
5. Set client expectations up front. Tell them in writing about your cancellation/late/reschedule policy, how they are expected to pay for sessions, how they can contact you outside the gym, if you expect them to arrive early to warm up on their own, what kind of nutrition compliance they must stick with for the best results, and any “homework” that is to be done independently. They will respect you for it and get better results.
6. Giving clients homework and “extra credit” to do when they’re not with you is necessary, especially if you only see them 1-2x/week
7. There is a place for static stretching before a training session.
8. Sometimes asymmetries are not caused by tight muscles but by postural positioning. Educate yourself to recognize and understand the difference.
9. Weekly nutrition journal review combined with motivational interviewing are powerful tools for results.
10. Know why you are having your client do each exercise in their program and be prepared to explain it quickly, and thoroughly in layman’s terms. If you can’t do this, don’t assign the exercise!
11. Be consistently upbeat and greet your clients every day like they’re your best friend who you haven’t seen in a year.
12. Interact with all gym members like they are your clients. We are in the relationship business and you never know when they may decide to work with you.
13. Once in a while, actually perform a workout you prescribe in its entirety
14. In regards to program design, be realistic on the parameter of time. Understand how long it takes to complete the workouts you write including tempo, sets, reps, rest periods and bilateral exercises.
15. Inconsistent training clients don’t need programs, but intelligent workouts are paramount.
16. Consistent training clients, sport athletes and physique athletes need programs and a built-in deloading period every 4-6 weeks.
17. Reverse crunches are useful.
18. I STILL don’t know what a BOSU is for! Please don't try to perfect this at home...
19. A mistake is something that happens when you don’t learn from it.
20. If a client or athlete progresses to the end of your knowledge or expertise, referring them to a more seasoned coach to further their progress and growth is the respectful and professional thing to do. Your first objective is to give the client/athlete what they need to get better, even if it means losing business.
21. Network and keep in touch. You never know how you can help someone else find what they need through your diverse connections. It goes full circle.
22. If an initial assessment of your client or athlete brings to light a condition out of your scope of practice, refer to a qualified professional. Whether it is medical or dietary, it is your ethical and professional obligation as a fitness professional to “first do no harm” that precedes any programming objectives in the gym.
23. A bit of gratitude and humbleness go a long way; so does giving credit where credit is due.
24. Everyone will do better on a program, but not everyone wants personal training. Offering program design opens up an additional market of potential clients that among other reasons can’t afford personal training or whose schedules may not allow them to train when you’re available.
25. Using evidence-based research, be able to back up supplement recommendations for each individual client/athlete before suggesting they use one.
26. Find and use a good accountant/tax professional. She will save you time and money.
27. Schedule your time wisely. Poor use of time lends itself to spreading yourself too thin, procrastination, unpreparedness, losing your professional and passionate “edge,” and trainer burnout.
28. Take before pictures and measurements of every client. You never know who your superstars will be.
29. Recognize when a client/athlete has worked exceptionally hard and praise the effort with well-timed, specific feedback.
30. It’s okay to discuss nutrition with your clients up to a point. The information in the Precision Nutrition Coaching Certification is top shelf. Prescribing therapeutic diets is not within a trainer's scope of practice, but discussing healthy nutrition and how to shop for it is. Refer out to a dietician when in doubt.
31. Invest in yourself with continuing education seminars, books and DVDs. Don't be too proud or shy to ask for help with your business or training systems. Having a mentor to bounce ideas off of or ask advice is invaluable and helps you grow as a fitness professional and business owner.