6 Tips On Becoming a Better Fitness Professional

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I’ve been toying around with writing a post providing tips and insight for new and upcoming trainers/coaches on how to become a better fitness professional for a while now, as I feel the ‘new class’ coming in often has an overwhelming sense of entitlement.

Not all of them, of course.  But a fair share.

For some, they feel that just because they’ve spent the last four years in school and completed a few internships, they’re entitled to a killer job that has them training professional athletes eight hours a day and provides them with full benefits and a Lamborghini.  Hell, throw in some stock options, too!

Sorry, hate to break it to you, it doesn’t quite work that way.

For others, they feel that all they need to do is find the perfect 15,000 sq. foot location, sign a lease, and the people will just magically appear readily handing over their money.

Again, you’re more likely to ride a unicorn to work this morning than that actually happening.

For a select few, however, they “get it,” and understand that it often takes YEARS of incessant studying, honing their craft, attending seminars and workshops, developing interpersonal relationships, building professional networks, and putting in some VERY long hours writing programs, scheduling, building a client list, and otherwise building their business (whether they’re a one-person show or part of a group or team of trainers/coaches) to become successful.

As luck would have it, Pat Rigsby dropped it like it’s hot last week, and shared some of his thoughts on the topic at his website:  www.fitbusinessinsider.com.

HINT:  if you’re a fitness professional and NOT subscribed to this site, you’re really missing out on a ton of FREE information that’s helped not only myself and countless others.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I figured I’d re-post Pat’s thoughts here, and then expound of them a bit with my own musings and diatribes.

Enjoy!

6 Tips On Becoming a Better Fitness Professional

If you want to become the best fitness professionals and run the best business in your area, here’s what you need to do:

1. Study Your Craft.

You need to be studying continually.  Becoming the best is a dynamic thing as every day you need to keep improving to either climb to the top or stay there.  Study everything you can that will assist you in getting your clients better results.

TG:  We had a staff in-service yesterday where myself and Chris Howard took all six of our interns and had them name a muscle that attached to the scapulae, as well as name an attachment point (distal or proximal), as well as name an action (as it relates to the shoulder).

Upon looking at some of their faces when put on the spot, you would think we asked them to swallow the red pill

I’m not gonna lie and say that I passed with flying colors (I held my own), but it was definitely a testament on how important it is to take it upon yourself to get better.

I’ve worked with people in the past who hadn’t picked up a book in years.  YEARS!!!  I can remember one instance where a male trainer I worked with a few years ago said to me during a casual conversation about attending a seminar, “I’m not going. I’ve learned all I need to know.”

He was a douche.

2. Practice What You Learn.

There are a bunch of internet jockeys out there that read enough that you’d think they could become PhDs, but reading or watching isn’t enough.  You need to put what you learn into action.

TG:  It seems that anyone with a digital camera and a Youtube channel can mold themselves into a fitness celebrity nowadays.  In reality, for many, it’s nothing more than a facade of BS.

One of the best ways to get better is to actually take what you learn, and apply it to a real…..live……person.  Unfortunately, as much as I love the internet, it seems that anyone who’s read Zatisiorky (and has 10,000 posts on some random forum) thinks they know what they’re talking about.

I’ve witnessed firsthand trainers who had all the book smarts in the world and could give Doogie Howser a run for his money, but when it came to actually coaching and applying what they learned to a real person, they were a walking ball of fail.

3. Become An Implementer.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a marketing strategy or a cue for an exercise – learning it does no good if you’re not implementing.  Once you implement something, you can track the outcome and determine if you want to keep doing it or discard it.  But it starts with implementation.

TG:  Pigging back on my point above, what good is it to increase your knowledge base if you’re not going to use it?  For some reason, there’s often a disconnect between what we read and how we apply it.

I was talking with another trainer last week who was in town for a week observing, and he mentioned how many of the coaches at the facility where he works are complacent. He reiterated to me that they were all very bright guys, but that they rarely ever implemented what they read or watched into their programming.

Using an example:  he stated how they work with a lot of basketball players who, for the most part, are notorious for having poor t-spine mobility.

He suggested implementing the side lying windmill to help.

Nothing.  Nada.  No one listened.  The worst part:  many of the coaches KNOW that t-spine mobility is crucial for shoulder health (they all read the likes of Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey, Mike Boyle, Gray Cook, and maybe even myself), yet, they do nothing to implement what they learn.

I don’t get it.

4. Commit.

Being the best requires making a commitment – it doesn’t happen by chance.  You have to be willing to do the things others won’t. You have to be willing to study not just training, but business too. You have to be willing to find solutions to the things holding you back rather than settling for less. You have to decide to be better than everyone else and do what it takes to get there.

TG:  This is something I wish I would have adapted sooner rather than later.  Early in my career, I read nothing but t-nation, and various other websites/books/DVDs on training and nutrition. Basically if it didn’t help me attain knowledge to make people more badass, I didn’t read it.

Then, I slowly started to realize that I wasn’t really making a lot of money despite getting all of my clients results. I had NO idea how to sell myself.  Worse, unlike the paperboy from Better Off Dead (arguably the best movie of the 80s), I HATED asking people for money.  

That’s right:  I just made a reference to Better Off Dead.  God, I’m a blogging ninja.

It wasn’t until I started reading more books on personal development, business, behavioral economics, and the like, that things started to click.

Likewise, the sooner you realize that this industry is not just a 9-5 endeavor, the better of you’ll be. 

HINT:  Get up earlier.

5. Get Help.

No one gets to the top on their own. No one.  Mentors, Mastermind Groups, Business Partners, Strategic Alliances – there is no faster way to get to where you want to be than to get help.

TG:  I owe much of my success as a trainer and coach to people like Eric Cressey, Dr. John Berardi, Dan John, Mike Roberson, Mike Boyle, Optimus Prime, Bret Contreras, and numerous other people whom I know I’m forgetting (sorry!).

Make it a point to visit other facilities and watch other coaches.  Ask for help!   Better yet, help people yourself.

I’ve always been under the mindset that I’m NEVER that big of a deal that I can’t answer people’s emails. Weirdly enough, I’m always surprised when, after taking the time to respond to their email, people email me back just to say ‘thank you’ for responding.

I took it upon myself to reach out to random people early in my career – to the annoyance of a few – but more often than not, they WANTED to help.  So don’t be intimidated to ask.

6. Attend Live Events.

They provide 5 incredibly valuable things: A learning opportunity, Motivation from being around successful, dedicated peers and leaders, networking opportunities with people who can make you
better and understand where you’re at and a chance to get away from your business and work on it rather than in it.

TG:  Listen to the man…..attend live events.  It’s that simple.

Do those 6 things and you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd, guaranteed. I can promise you that most of your competition will never do more than 1 or 2 of those things and only a few will do as many as 3-4.  Commit to doing all six and you’ll quickly be on the path to being the best.

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  • Katie

    Thank you for this Tony. I often get discouraged when I read what other trainers (the ones that I’ve discovered to be some of the best, that is) out there are accomplishing for themselves. When I feel this way I step back and think about, like you mentioned, how it takes time to be great at what you do, and then I go back to re-reading one of the many college textbooks and other books in my collection that I’ve been chipping away at to finish! I love searching for seminars and am also seeking out help by applying for various internships and jobs where I will gain more hands-on experience, so I’m hoping for big things.

    “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

    Thanks for keeping an awesome blog that I look forward to reading everyday, Tony!

    • Anonymous

      Don’t get discouraged at all Katie. In fact, you’re doing EVERYTHING you need to be doing to get better. I hope you get that PEAK internship! Joe’s a great guy.

      Thanks for reading, and keep me posted!

  • Damon

    Great info Tony! Attending live events is one thing I wish I had done earlier in my career. About 7 years ago I saw Mike Boyle, Paul Chek, and JC Santana speak at a conference in Miami and it was an “eye opening” experience. Not too may conferences make it to the South Florida area, so I make it a point to travel to at least one a year. I plan on hitting a Perform Better Summit this year, I heard they are phenomenal.

    • Anonymous

      I saw JC speak once about four years ago, and to say that that guy is a ball of energy would be an understatement! Awesome speaker.

      You should totally try to hit up a Perform Better Summit soon. Unparalleled in terms of the quality of speakers and people who attend.

  • Joe E O

    So how do you go from complete novice to competent entry-level fitness professional? …I am a experienced software engineer who has always been interested on strength and conditioning and would like to learn more. My son has started working the BiggerFasterStronger program at his high school and I would like to “KNOW” if what he is doing is good/bad/indifferent and not rely some sort “Bro-Science” BS.
    Is a certification a place to start?

  • Mike

    I had never heard of that Two Girls vid before and I unfortunately looked it up. Thanks for that!

    • Anonymous

      Sorry about that! I’ve never watched it. Never want to either.

      • Cadinavi

        Tip #7 on becoming a better fitness professional: don’t use links to human depravity in your blog. People might associate you with the subject matter of that link.

        Bonus, tip #8: Lose the animal cruelty jokes. Joking about “drop-kicking kittens” doesn’t make you cool, or ironic. It just detracts from your obvious talent, intelligence, and work ethic.

        Unless of course this is just the “exciting new world” we live in.

        • Anonymous

          Tip #9: Read my blog more than once, and you’ll realize I DO NOT advocate human depravity.

          Tip #10: Get a sense of humor. I’ll give you the 2G1C reference – sure, not for everyone – but again, don’t take yourself so seriously.

          Thanks for reading, though.

          • Cadi

            Actually Mr. Gentilcore, I have read your blog probably 50-times, going back to the Boston Herald days, and it is often very funny, often very informative.

            Read my post more than once, and you’ll realize that I didn’t say that you advocate depravity. I said people might associate that depravity with you. You are leading them to the door, and saying “Hey look in here!” And then you go on to lecture the young folks about professionalism. Right.

            My sense of humor is great. It couldn’t be that joking about kicking animals is just, I don’t know, not funny?

            Please make sure and include that good-natured line “drop-kicking kittens, or puppies” in your next Men’s Health article. My guess is that they will kick it back to you. But that’s only because they probably aren’t very hip, and need to get over themselves.

            Don’t worry, I know where the door is. I’ll stay off your blog.

          • Anonymous

            Well, Cadi, I do appreciate that you’ve read my stuff going back to my Herald days. Really, I do.

            The thing about a blog, though, is that it’s A FUCKING BLOG!!!!!! Here, I’m able to take a few more liberties with my tone and language. Obviously when writing for places like Men’s Health or Livestrong, I use more of a social filter and I refrain from the kitten jokes.

            My apologies for offending you. And in fact, you do make a good point about my reference to 2G1C. I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong…..so much in fact, that I took it down.

            Hugs?

  • Thank you for writing this Tony.

    “For some, they feel that just because they’ve spent the last four years in school and completed a few internships, they’re entitled to a killer job that has them training professional athletes eight hours a day and provides them with full benefits and a Lamborghini. Hell, throw in some stock options, too!

    Sorry, hate to break it to you, it doesn’t quite work that way.” What you said there is gold!

    Although I am a new trainer myself to the industry, it upsets me to see new trainers who don’t go beyond what they learn and apply it. I feel it is a privledge to read and apply all the things I have learned from yourself and the likes of the Cosgroves, Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson, Dean Somerset, Jon Goodman, Pat Rigsby, and many many more.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Matt. I really appreciate the kind words.

  • Neil

    Great post Tony! I was curious regarding your recommendations for books regarding personal development, business, behavioral economics, etc.?

    • Anonymous

      Neil –

      If you go to my recommended resources page and scroll down towards the bottom, you should see several recommendations there.

  • I think this list is spot on for a lot of things other than just becoming a fitness professional. It applies to anything you want to do, really. I wrote a similar post just last weekend – albeit my profession isn’t exactly one most look to get into. I think the networking/selling yourself side is definitely an underrated big deal. It doesn’t mean you need to sell-out, it means you need to meet people, talk to people, and know people.

    Good piece.

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  • Rob Brokaw

    Thanks for responding

  • This was great Tony, thanks for the tips. You make a great point about just watching other coaches coach. On top of that I’d also add to pay for training yourself. Find a coach/trainer/instructor you respect, and pay for training. I do that with pilates and it helps tremendously.

    Sirena

    p.s. I cannot believe you mentioned 2G1C….you just took fitness blogging to a whole new level.

  • Sean

    Just wanted to thank you Tony for the Better Off Dead reference! Simply tremendous, you are in fact a ninja blogger!

  • Brett

    Great stuff Tony, thanks for the information

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  • Ed

    I am a massage therapist but all of this is very applicable Tony – got it printed and stuck on my wall 🙂

    If anyone is reading this I should say that I e-mailed Tony back in to 2010 after have a back issue and he sent me back a really long, helpful e-mail which I still remember 18 months later.

    • Anonymous

      Ed –

      Awesome, thanks!

      And glad to hear that my advice panned out for the best!