From One Trainer to Another
Q: Here’s a personal question for you:
Why did you decided to get out of the commercial gym setting and focus more on athletes? I assume you still train everyday folks at your place but do you still focus on the same kind of movements?
I ask this b/c I am currently at Golds and I to say I hate it would be an understatement. People sign up for training and they want a quick fix and most of the time it’s people who have never lifted a weight in their life or have crappy body mechanics.
Now, I know I have a TON to learn but I like to think that I am (ummm…how do I put this without sounding like a pompass ass?) “more educated” than most of the other trainers at the gym…..just an observation. Anyway, I’d like to hear your thoughts on your experience and how you arrived at the fact that you were tired of beating your head against the wall with corporate owned facilities?
A: Why did I decide to get out of the commercial gym setting? Easy – common sense. HA! Okay, in all seriousness, this one’s a doozy, and something I definitely can’t do justice in one simple blog post. That being the case, I’m going to take more of a serious tone with this one – so for those looking for the usual LOLs, you’re going to be disappointed.
As well, I’m going to jump around a bit – so hopefully my message doesn’t get lost in translation.
With that out of the way:
Believe me, as someone who’s “been there, done that” with regards to working in a commercial gym setting, I can definitely commiserate. I worked in various commercial gyms early in my career (some good, mostly bad), and to be quite frank, I wouldn’t take any of it back because I honestly feel that those experiences made me a better trainer – and coach – in the long run.
Thing is, though, there was a little bit of luck in my case. Don’t get me wrong, I feel I’ve worked my butt off to get where I’m at now – and, despite the contrary (and my joking around about it) I’ll be the first to admit that I have a loooooooooong ways to go before I achieve ninja status in this industry.
Yeah, yeah, I write for various sites like t-nation.com and livestrong.com, have appeared in Men’s Health several times, have a fairly successive blog, and can stop bullets with my pecs, but at the same time, I recognize that I have a shit-ton (read: a lot) more to learn and know that I have plenty of room for improvement. Anyone who states otherwise – and I’ve heard people say it – is an asshat.
I remember walking into a room a few years ago where Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Alwyn Cosgrove, Lee Taft, Pat Rigsby, Papa Smurf (kidding), and Stuart McGill were all talking shop. Talk about a surreal moment where I literally felt like the dumbest person on Earth! That put things into perspective for me.
I’m VERY lucky in that I was able to surround myself with very smart people early on in my career. Not coincidentally, I owe A LOT to Eric (Cressey), as he’s been a huge mentor for me throughout the years – and, it just so happens that he’s one of my best friends, too.
I’m sure I’ve told this story in the past, but it was back in the fall of 2005 when Eric contacted me asking me if I’d be interested in moving out to CT. He had just finished his Masters at UCONN and had started working at a local gym in Ridgefield. He mentioned to me in passing that they were looking for another trainer and suggested that I look into it.
Long story short, I went out, interviewed, badda-bing, badda-boom, I nailed it, got the job, and a few weeks later, I left central NY.
Now, having already worked in corporate fitness for three years, as well as a local gym in Syracuse (Bally Total Fitness), I had my fair share of commercial gym nightmares.
Ridgefield Fitness Club (where I worked in CT), however, was completely different. There, the owners (a husband and wife) “got it” and never placed any undue pressure on us to meet quotas or to hit specific numbers as far as selling training was concerned. Instead, they took it upon themselves to hire quality trainers, which in turn, got their members results, which then led to members buying more training. Weird how that works!
Moreover, I grew a lot as a trainer there. I was surrounded by like-minded people who were eager to learn, shot ideas off one another, pushed me to get better, and were just amazing people through and through. Like I said, it was a completely different scenario for me, and it was refreshing to work in an environment where teaching someone how to squat properly was emphasized more than BOSU ball bootcamps.
Alas, after a year, both Eric and myself decided to head to Boston. I ended up getting a job at a swanky, high-end commercial gym in the heart of the city, and it was back to douchyville. Much like you mentioned above, I had to deal with many of the same things you’re dealing with now – trainers who were more concerned with checking their text messages or looking at themselves in the mirror than actually paying attention to their client.
Note: as luck would have it, I came across the above picture on Facebook this morning!
Granted, I’m not saying that that was the case with all the trainers there, but it was certainly more common than not.
In not so many terms, I wanted nothing more than to throw my face into an ax, but I made the best of it. No matter where you go or where you work, you’re going to deal with un-motivated clients who are going to bitch and whine and feel that so long as they show up (if they show up at all) for their two sessions per week, they’re going to look beach ready in no time.
Of course, while some are quick to point the finger at you as to why they’re not getting results, you can point the finger at the other 166 hours during the week that they’re not under your supervision and crushing M & Ms at the office. You’re not a babysitter – and so long as you can look yourself in the mirror and know you’ve done all you can to prepare said client for success than you’ve done your job.
If they’re not willing to listen, then that’s on them – not you. You can’t beat yourself up about it. On the flip side, though, if you can motivate the un-motivated, they’re like putty in your hands.
Thankfully, now, I don’t really have to worry about motivation most of the time. Sure, I may have to kick some skulls in occasionally, but for the most part, people who walk through our doors at CP know what they’re getting themselves into – motivating people isn’t generally a problem.
Conversely, in many commercial settings (with few exceptions) you may have to take it upon yourself what type of clientele you “hire.” When I was working as a personal trainer, I eventually got to a point where I basically interviewed any potential clients sent my way.
At first, I used to go out of my way to try to impress prospective clients with big words and glow sticks. I’d bust out things like lower-cross syndrome, anterior pelvic tilt, reciprocal inhibition, glute medius this, quadratus lumborum that, crunches suck, yada yada yada, you know the drill.
At the end of the day, and this is something Mike Boyle has stressed repeatedly time and time again:
No one cares how much you know, until they know you care.
All I can say is that if you’re consistently getting your clients results, and you actually give a shit, they’ll reward you with their loyalty. If not, fire them!
Granted, if you have bills to pay, and you need clients, that throws a monkey wrench into things. But, once you’re at the point where you can fill your schedule with A and B clients (that is, those clients that show up religiously, do what you say, refer their friends, and are walking billboards for YOU); and you can dump your C and D clients (those that cancel all the time, always complain, never refer clients, and are otherwise walking balls of fail), your life will be infinitely more enjoyable.
It will take time, obviously. But so long as you’re consistently trying to get better, networking, attending seminars, reading blogs, etc – it will happen.
Trying to wrap things up (this is longer than I expected), I’d highly suggest that you look into reading anything and everything by Thomas Plummer and Pat Rigsby. Both do a fantastic job at discussing the business side of things, which sadly, is something I waited far too long to take advantage of. Nonetheless, both are undoubtedly a wealth of knowledge in that regard. Far more than myself to say the least! I guess in the end, all I can say is that there is no definitive answer. It takes time to establish and learn the ropes – but something tells me you’re far a head in the curve compared to most of your peers.
That said, I wouldn’t poo-poo on the fact that you train “regular folk” exclusively. Trust me, athletes can be just as much of a pain in the ass as non-athletes – sometimes moreso when you consider the entitlement factor.
In the end, I don’t know if I even answered your question (I told you I as going to babble). I knew I was going to get long-winded, but hopefully I was able to shed some light on the topic. Heck, maybe I at least sparked some conversation amongst other fitness professionals that might chime in below in the comments section. Anyone?