Why advanced programming is slowing down your client progress

As a new trainer, you’re probably excited to jump right into an epic workout and hammer your clients all the coolest moves. The truth is, flashy exercises are not the most effective choice for 99% of clients. New trainers often lack the experience to understand how to work with clients who have never been active, never played sports… maybe they’ve never even been to a gym before!

Why advanced programming
is slowing down your
client progress

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As a new trainer, you’re probably excited to jump right into an epic workout and hammer your clients all the coolest moves. The truth is, flashy exercises are not the most effective choice for 99% of clients. New trainers often lack the experience to understand how to work with clients who have never been active, never played sports… maybe they’ve never even been to a gym before!


Workouts are not about looking cool, and personal training is not about getting clients to fit a mold of what you think a workout looks like. It’s about meeting each client at their level and creating sustainable results.


Truly professional trainers know how to ace the fundamentals even with the trickiest clients. Skillful programming strikes the right balance between a solid foundation and a creative approach.



Are you ready for some game-changing tips to start programming like a pro? The first step is self awareness of your habits and limitations. Check out these 5 mistakes new trainers always make:




1. Programming to look cool.


Can your client perform a bodyweight squat correctly?

Do they know how to hip hinge?

Don’t jump straight into complex combos until the fundamental components are mastered.

Always nail foundations first. Focus on creating muscle memory in all the basic movement patterns. Every client needs to have these 100% ingrained to successfully progress to more complex exercises.

Programming to nail the basics is more complex than it seems. You need to account for each client’s unique strength and mobility limitations, plus address imbalances in the chain as soon as possible. For example, one client’s squat might be held back because of tight hamstrings, while another might struggle with stabilizing their knees. Each one will warrant a different approach.

Learn a variety of regressions and what equipment works best for different issues. Boxes, bands, and balls are all incredible tools, but they need to be applied intentionally- not just because they seem fancy.



2. Skipping assessment.


Your cert probably walked you through some of the basic movement compensation patterns, but do you really know how to spot and address issues across a variety of body types?

Assess your clients regularly in every exercise they perform. Really watch what their bodies are doing. Think critically about the patterns you observe and choose exercises that they can perform correctly, or can safely adjust if their form slips. Practice using different form cues and learn what your clients respond to best.

Over time, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the mechanics of every exercise and how to troubleshoot more efficiently. Be honest with your clients. Tell them if they need to regress an exercise and why. Explain how their programming will help them reach their goals. Communicating your strategy builds rapport by showing them you have the expertise to guide them, even if the workout looks different than they expected.


3. Changing it up too soon.


Let’s be real- when it comes to gaining strength, progressive overload is king. Effective programming is always repetitive. Progress typically looks as simple as moving a few more pounds of weight, or grinding out a few more reps every week.

Successful programs can look pretty boring. Make sure your clients know that. Sure, keep things fresh and switch out a movement here and there, but don’t let it distract you. You can’t track changes in performance without repeating exercises. If you don’t come back to the same staples, you could easily spin your wheels because you aren’t assessing meaningful changes.


4. Hammering the intensity for no reason.


Beatdown workouts and fancy plyometrics will definitely leave your clients panting for breath… maybe even throwing up. But what are you really accomplishing?

Overdoing the intensity can scare some clients off- and for most people, it’s actually overtraining. Just because it feels intense doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for reaching your client’s goals. HIIT style circuits don’t need to take more than 15 minutes, sometimes even less for a beginner, and there are lower-impact programming options for building work capacity, including LISS cardio and strength training.


5. Getting stuck in your comfort zone.


As a new trainer, most of your experience comes from training yourself. It’s easy to fall into a rut of just training clients how to do your personal favorite exercises. You’re also more likely to overlook problem areas you haven’t personally struggled with. If you’ve never had lower back pain or a muscle imbalance, and haven’t worked with other clients with similar issues, you won’t have the knowledge to quickly and intuitively program for those problems. Your textbook might have touched on them when you studied for your cert, but that is no substitute for hands-on experience. 

Sure, there are plenty of exercises that are effective 99% of the time, but if you notice your overall programming looks essentially the same among clients with different goals, stop and analyze your approach.

Ask for feedback and mentorship from more experienced trainers for a fresh perspective. In fact, one of the best ways to deepen your knowledge is to hire your own trainer and experience a new approach firsthand.

Or, take continuing education workshops and certificates. Mix it up by attending different fitness classes. Exploring new modalities helps you expand your toolbox and better serve your clients. You never know what amazing techniques you might discover by trying a new style of workout.


If you recognize yourself in this article and are worried you’ve been doing it all wrong… that is 100% normal! You have to trust the learning process to make it in this industry, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Use this opportunity to identify your next step to becoming a better trainer. Pay attention to your clients and honor their unique needs. Focus on creating direct, goal-oriented workout plans and taking steps to expand your knowledge a little more every day. Stellar results are built one simple step at a time.

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Not Another Group Class?

Not another group class?! Stand out from the competition with group sessions that feel personal and get real results

Group exercise is a great way to reach more clients and make a broader impact in your community. But with most gyms offering an endless parade of overpacked classes, how do you stand out so your sessions don’t get lost in the crowd?

Not Another Group Class?

Stand out from the competition with group sessions that feel personal and get real results!

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Group exercise is a great way to reach more clients and make a broader impact in your community. But with most gyms offering an endless parade of overpacked classes, how do you stand out so your sessions don’t get lost in the crowd?
Classes are an accessible way for members to start working out, but risk losing the customized adjustments that make personal training so effective. With a proper game plan for your sessions, you can bring your signature coaching style into a group setting, creating a next-level experience. Follow these tips to streamline your group training style so your clients get the most out of their workout.




1. Introduce yourself to new attendees and keep an eye out for them.


New members will probably need some extra individual attention, while returning clients probably have the hang of following along. Introduce yourself and let newcomers know you’ll be coming around the room and making adjustments, so they’re prepared and comfortable with it.


Keep new members together at circuit stations so you can help them at the same time, instead of bouncing all over the room. The last thing you want is for other clients to need to play trainer because you couldn’t help someone out.




2. Make sure your members know got their back.


A confident attitude and communication let your clients know they can trust you. If they feel like they’re in good hands, they’ll keep coming back for more. Don’t wait for clients to approach you- put yourself out there. Encourage them to ask questions and request help.


Check in with new gym members before or after sessions. Make sure they know their way around the facility and what to expect from class. Supporting clients in feeling at home at the gym is one of the best ways to encourage them to stick to a new program.




3. Prepare your program and modifications in advance. 


Plan your sessions in advance and take the time to review them before class. You don’t want to get stuck stumped for the next exercise or end up with an imbalanced workout.


A group format means you’ll have people of all ages, strength levels, and fitness backgrounds. You’ll always have members who need modifications. Make sure you have those programmed in advance and any necessary props already set out so you don’t lose the flow of the class. Be prepared to demonstrate all movements, and to help attendees figure out how to set up any equipment.


If you have some more advanced members, you can also add some progressions to add a challenge. Keep an eye out for anyone attempting a variation beyond their skill level and help them adjust to the appropriate version.



4. Don’t trap yourself front and center.


Move around the room! You probably aren’t observing the room as well as you think you are from the front. I’ve had members tell me they’ll slack off when they think the trainer isn’t watching. Cover all your bases and keep your group motivated.


Being more involved with the entire room creates a stronger sense of connection with you as a leader. It shows that you’re involved and creates rapport when you can’t talk to each client individually. Plus, demonstrating exercises from different spots helps everyone get a closer look.




5. Program efficiently.


A group is way more hectic than a one-on-one session. You’ll have a whole room of people to keep track of- so keep it simple! Make sure you don’t intimidate newcomers away because the moves are too complicated.


Be careful with jumps or moves that get up and down off the floor- always offer low-impact variations. This keeps the workout safe and accessible for beginners and older members. You also want to watch out for moves that require extra mobility or balance. Focus on foundational basics and move up from there. Take note if any exercises tend to give a lot of members trouble- you may need to swap those out for something more accessible or take extra time to demo in the future.

These tips might seem simple, but many group exercise instructors aren’t using their full powers of observation or bringing a critical mind to programming in the same way a personal trainer does. Gym members know when they’re getting a quality experience, and that keeps them inspired to show up week after week. Treat your group sessions with the same care as your one-on-one clients, and you’ll make a powerful impact for even more people. I’ll be exploring the specifics of how to coach groups more in depth in future articles, so keep an eye out for part two!

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Writing Effective Training Programs- Your first plan never works

You’ve meticulously planned your client’s program for the next six weeks and included exercises and training methods that will help them reach their desired goal.

You’re chomping at the bit to get started and then you spot your client struggling as they enter the door. Uh-oh, this doesn’t look good.

“ Coach, I threw my back out again while helping my wife with laundry. You know I’ve done this a million times before so I didn’t want to cancel. Anyway, we can work around it today?”

Then your head starts spinning because you’ve got no idea what to do next.

Mike Tyson once said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

This is a trainer’s punch in the mouth.

What separates the good from the great trainers is the ability to think on your feet to solve a client’s problem. You don’t just teach exercise you need to be a professional problem solver too.  


When You Need A Plan B


There are a couple of situations where you need to go off-script to keep the training session flowing and to keep your paying client happy. They are:


1.     All the Equipment is Taken- If you planned bench presses on a Monday, you might be out of luck. There is not much time to wait for equipment when your client’s session is between 30-60 minutes.


2.     Client has an injury, or an exercise variation hurts- working around an injury or pain requires you know regressions and training methods to reduce the discomfort so the client gets a training effect.


Let’s look at these two scenarios so the next time your client or the busy gym throws you a curveball, you’ll be ready.


Lack of Equipment

Let’s look at the two most popular pieces of equipment and what to do when they are not available.

Problem All the benches are taken on national chest day, otherwise known as Monday.  

Walk into any gym on a Monday and you’re probably wishing for an empty bench. We use benches for bench presses and other upper body exercises like rows, pullovers, and seated shoulder presses too

Don’t let the lack of a bench hold you back. Instead of you and your client waiting for a bench to become available do these bench-free exercises.


Barbell Floor Press



Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press



Dumbbell Z Press



Dumbbell Pullover on Floor



Wall One Arm Row



The advantages of these exercises are

  • More core engagement
  • Don’t require a bench
  • Safer for sore shoulders
  • The floor provides the client and trainer with feedback on technique



All the barbells are taken or there is no space to train with one.

Having exercise variations that train the muscles and movements of the squat, hinge, and bench without the barbell is handy to have in your back pocket when you and your client haven’t the time to wait for a barbell. For example


Dumbbell Squat Variations



Band Elevated Split Squat



Mechanical Advantage Dumbbell Bench Press Drop Set



Decline Dumbbell Floor Press With Glute Bridge



Staggered-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift



The advantages of these exercises are

  • Trains the same muscles and movements of the squat, press, and hinge Unilateral variations help strengthen strength imbalances between sides
  • Improved core strength
  • Dumbbells are easier on the joints than barbells


The client has an injury or an exercise that hurts

Training through pain is a no-no. We are not doctors or Physical Therapists and only they can diagnose something. Although we can make guesses on the causes of their pain, we can’t make a diagnosis.  What we can do is make exercise modifications so the client can train pain-free.

Let’s look at some exercises and training methods to train around the discomfort of the knees, hips/lower back, and shoulder region.


Training Methods When Pain Is An Issue

When an exercise hurts, or the client has a non-serious injury there are three methods to use as your plan B. 


1.     Exercise Regressions


When form or technique isn’t part of the problem, dialing down a movement by reducing intensity, increasing stability, or bringing the weight closer to the working muscle can help.

For example, if a Goblet squat hurts their back/hips/knees then bringing the weight closer to their legs (Sumo squat) may solve the problem while still training the squat.

Other examples of regressing an exercise while still maintaining a training effect are

Note- this isn’t an exhaustive list, and you need to use your best judgment. The exercises below start from difficult to less difficult.




Barbell back squat-Barbell Front Squat-Dumbbell Front Squat-Goblet squat- Sumo Squat


Bulgarian Split Squats- Walking Forward lunges- Forward lunges- Reverse lunge- Splits Squats-Assisted split squats


Barbell Deadlift- Trap bar Deadlift- Rack Pulls- RDL’s- Single-Leg Deadlift- Pull Throughs- Banded Hip Thrust


Bench Press- Unilateral Dumbbell bench press- Dumbbell Bench Press-Floor press- Weighted Push Ups- Bodyweight Push Ups- Incline Push Ups


2.     Reducing Range of Motion


The process of pain is complicated, but in simple terms when the brain senses a threat (real or perceived) pain happens. And by reducing the range of motion to a pain-free one, you cut the threat and you still get to strengthen the muscles around the joint.

Hopefully, by reducing the threat, you can strengthen the muscles around the joint while reducing the client’s pain while maintaining a training effect. This proves to your client what they can do and not what they can’t.

Here are some examples


Box squats (adjust the height of the box to a pain-free range of motion)



Rack pulls (above or below the knee)



 Dumbbell Floor Press




3.     Isometrics


Isometric exercises are muscle contractions without movement. There is more to isometric exercises than just planks. These exercises help to strengthen the muscles around the painful joint without the joint having to move. Plus, isometric exercises have been shown to give short-term pain relief also. (1)

Start at 30 seconds and then work into the 1-2 minutes range depending on the client’s ability.  

Iso squat



Iso Split squats



Iso Push Ups



Iso Chin Up Hold



Iso Single Leg Hip Extension



Wrapping Up

Safety of the client and keeping the personal training session flowing is your utmost priority. There are times when you need to go off-script due to injury, lack of equipment, or your client’s stress levels. Having plan B in your pocket reinforces your expert status and keeps your clients happy.



1. Physiother Res Int. 2018 Oct;23. Effects of isometric, eccentric, or heavy slow resistance exercises on pain and function in individuals with patellar tendinopathy: A systematic review.  Lim HY1,2, Wong SH.

How to Play the Long Game, Or Better Yet The Infinite Game in Your Personal Training Career


Are you playing a long game with your personal training career or business? Or will you fall for the traps that will end your career or shut your business down in the first 3 to 5 years, if not sooner?


As a personal trainer and business owner with 20 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Although these last two decades came and went faster than I could have imagined — they taught me how to have a successful career in fitness.


A great book I came across recently, called the “Infinite Game” made me reflect back on my career and helped put some things into perspective. While reading the book, I realized I can use my experiences, both positive and negative, to help the next generation of trainers or personal trainers who run businesses.   


If you want to be in this industry for the long haul, you’ll need to play an Infinite Game. To do that, you’ll need to learn and develop the following five traits as outlined in the book. 


1. Just cause

This is not the same as your ‘why’. Your why comes from the past. Whereas having a just cause comes from a specific vision you have for the future, it doesn’t exist yet. But this vision you hold is your inspiration to stay focused. It’s bigger and more worthwhile than any small wins you might celebrate along the way.


Some attributes of this vision include:

  • Something positive and promising

  • Inclusive for all who want to participate

  • Service orientated and beneficial to others

  • Can endure unforeseen advances and changes 

  • Idealistic, big, and bold


Only the coaches and businesses who stand for something will last. The ones who make money their only goal, will likely fail. 


Let’s take a perfect and relevant example — COVID and the resulting pandemic.


You might have taken the important and necessary steps like getting your certification, a job, made some money and earned a little recognition. But when something like the magnitude of COVID hits, what now? 


Without a long term vision or having a just cause, none of the finite stuff holds up. Your vision and cause will give you the strength to endure a lot. And going through a lot teaches and prepares you to get what you want.  


For me, my ‘why’ is multi-layered. It goes far beyond the desire to teach someone how to squat. I want to have a lasting effect on someone’s quality of life. To help give them more active years, to make it easier for them to play with their grandkids, or help improve their mobility and strength so they can go on that trip of a lifetime.


Also, it’s important for me to develop good trainers into great ones, those who need the right guidance in order to break through. In short, my cause is about changing lives. 


2. Trusting teams

Anyone who’s successful in this industry rarely did it alone. Most have mentors, a strong network, and possibly a team of staff members who contributed to the long-term success of these trainers, coaches, and business owners. This network might also include family members, friends, a spouse, or partner.


The reason these key people played a part in the individual’s success has a lot to do with trust.


Working well together is one thing, but having a group of people who trust each other — mentally and emotionally — is something else entirely. This is a vital part of the long term success equation.


Also, your team has to be on board with your cause. If that changes slightly down the road, it’s important that your team can roll with it and adapt. Otherwise, a change in your team might be necessary.


3. Worthy rivals

Stop viewing the competition as people you need to beat. Instead view them as worthy rivals who can teach you how to be better, in a business and personal sense. Those who are a step ahead and reached the ‘next level’ of success could help you grow and evolve. They might push you to be the best version of yourself.


Know that these people are more like you than you think. They were likely in your shoes at some point. Take that as encouragement and motivation to get you to your next level of success, in whatever form that takes.


Also, it’s critical to be around people who think big. Those who understand that no dream is unattainable. They know how to hold a vision in their mind until it becomes reality. These people are rarely negative. Instead, they focus many of their thoughts and attention on staying positive. 


I’m definitely a competitive guy, which has helped and hurt me. And let’s be honest, there’s a lot of competition in this field. At first, you might beat out most people just by showing up consistently and outworking them. But then you get to a point where working smarter, not just harder will benefit you more.


So, I challenge you to think bigger and reach out to the top people in the industry. The ones that motivate you and stretch you. You’ll find that most are willing to help you get to where you want to be. Even if some aren’t eager to help, don’t let that derail you.


Stay focused on your mission and work with those who will help. In time, you’ll find your niche and realize there’s no ‘real’ competition other than yourself.


4. Existential flexibility

This term refers to extreme adaptability and a love for change. An infinite minded person who demonstrates existential flexibility is someone who welcomes challenges, even in the most intense form. Real coaches live for this.


It might sound strange, but I got excited when COVID hit. Not because of the threat it posed to people. But in the way, it disrupted my current reality by presenting an extremely difficult set of circumstances. In other words, I perform well under pressure and never step down from a challenge. Also, I never see a situation as ‘game over’ because I’m a process minded person. 


Even more, I’ve been part of this game long enough to know that some people will flat out fold during tough times. And this has nothing to do with finances, but everything to do with a lack of love for the game. So, to embody this trait you need a strong love for what you do, which will give you the strength to come out on the other side. 


5. A courage to lead 

When you’re working with an infinite mindset you’ll have the courage to change your perception of how the world works, which will give you the courage to lead. Being open-minded is key. How you see the world now will likely change in the next 1, 3, 5 years, and beyond. The change in your outlook and views will help you adapt to the changes in competition and advances. If not, you’ll be out of a business. 


I see the world much differently now than I did 20 years ago and in the subsequent years since. If you don’t evolve and accept that things will change, then you won’t be a respected leader. Or a leader of any kind.


Final thoughts

To survive the long game, take note of these five traits for success and work on developing a specific skill set. Based on my experience, I learned that some of the most valuable skills to have include patience, drive, and a strategic and future-oriented mindset. Take the longest path to success.


With my 5 to 10-year goals, I focus on the actions that will get me there. But, I often do things quickly with the understanding that failure is my biggest ally. This is something I know to be true because I’ve seen it happen time and time again over the last 20 years. Waiting for perfection is holding most of you back.


You might also be holding yourself back because you’re not where you want to be yet. And those around you seem to have it all. The ‘superstar trainers’ might be a leg or two up on you, but if you commit to playing an infinite game, you will pass them, guaranteed.


A Look Back on the Most Invaluable, Life-Changing Lessons During COVID-19

There are times in life that feel heavy and dark. But, we always make it through. Then there are unprecedented times full of unknowns, which is our current reality because of COVID. It’s an entirely new and different beast.  

Navigating through this has been challenging and excruciating at times. Because of it, I’ve learned that certain things are completely out of my control. When I made peace with this fact, my stress began to subside.

And although COVID isn’t over and the pandemic’s still affecting many around the world, I’ve learned so much from this time. I’ve grown as a business owner and personal trainer, and I’m still standing and going strong. 

Now is the perfect time to reflect on and share 8 lessons I learned during the COVID shutdown and the slow return back to the new ‘normal’.

1. The importance of gratitude

Gratitude is like a superpower. The more grateful you are, the happier you become and the better you feel. When you’re not in a state of gratitude, you may become fearful, depressed, and quickly enter victimhood. This is a place of disempowerment. When you’re dealing with the unknown, like COVID, that’s not a position you want to be in. 

To step back into your power, write down 3 to 5 things you’re grateful for every morning. Say them out loud over and over until a smile appears on your face.

I’m thankful that my fitness business is still successful even with the COVID crisis. Not everyone has been as fortunate. Some people lost everything. When I’m feeling down or frustrated, I shift my mindset and think about everything in my life I’m grateful for.

I think this mindset is one of the main reasons my business persevered.

2. There’s more than one way to make money

Don’t get married to how you make your money. And don’t get stuck in the limited belief that money is hard to come by. When you get creative and think outside the box, you’ll realize there are lots of ways to make money in the fitness industry.

For starters, there’s online one-on-one coaching, virtual group training sessions, paid writing gigs, affiliate marketing, teaching opportunities, and more.

Focus your attention on making money, instead of fearing the lack of money. This is a basic principle of the Law of Attraction. Ask for what you want and it will come. Ask for what you don’t want and that will also come. You get to choose.

3. Let go of the “old, comfortable way” and learn to adapt

The key phrase here is “let go.” Release your attachment to the old way, to the way you’ve always done things. And adapt to the changing environment around you. If this pandemic taught us anything, it taught us how to be resilient and adaptable in the face of adversity. Extreme adversity I might add. 

So, if your regular clients are Baby Boomers and don’t like training online, be okay with that and understand where they’re coming from. Pivot and adapt. Make adjustments to stay in business.

Making money keeps you in the game for the long run. And not only you but everyone down the road who stands to benefit from your expertise and services. 

When we switched to virtual sessions, we noticed our senior clients dropped out at a higher rate. So, we focused our marketing efforts on young athletes to help make up the difference in income. We also transitioned to more one-on-one and semi-private options. 

4. Become more open-minded

I never saw myself giving live coaching sessions online, but I adjusted and enjoyed being at my gym while coaching virtually. It gave me more energy to focus on expanding my leadership and personal training skills. And more energy to attack different revenue sources with my writing and coaching other trainers.

Instead of hating the idea of coaching virtually, I chose to see the positive in it. And from that mindset, I attracted people I wanted to work with. In other words, I changed my perception of virtual fitness training and found a way to make it work for me.

5. Never underestimate the power of your network

A network isn’t just useful and practical — it’s necessary for success. And in the case of a global pandemic, it was necessary for survival. I was fortunate to have established a stable and powerful network long before I actually needed it.

So, it was easy to ask for help and to help others in my network. Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done without my network of fit pros who were also going through the same thing.

If you ever questioned your network before, this time probably helped you see who was on your side and who wasn’t. When your network is defined by a healthy, team-spirited culture, they’ll always support you, even through difficult times.

And if there’s any negativity in your group, you’ll see that very clearly. And your inner guidance system will tell you to part ways with the people who don’t have your best interest at heart. 

As a takeaway, make it a point to develop meaningful connections — one’s that last. One’s that stand the test of time. Not only for your sake but for their benefit as well. We’re stronger together, as you know.

6. Study your numbers and track them close

It’s not always about how much you make, it’s also how much you keep. Make your money work for you. Get better with money management if that’s something you struggle with

There are tons of great online resources and books on the subject of finances. Spend some of your downtime learning and soon enough you’ll be more confident in this area. Also, be sure to have great bookkeepers and accountants on your team.

These important financial steps and decisions can end up saving your business — literally.

7. Ground yourself before making quick decisions

Before making an irrational decision from a place of emotional duress, stop and take a breath. In fact, take several of them. You don’t always have to make decisions at the drop of a dime. You often have more time than you think.

Spend time grounding yourself before making an impulsive or costly decision. This doesn’t have to take days, this can happen in as little as 20 to 30 minutes. 

Go for a walk alone, step your feet onto the grass, feel the connection of the earth. And don’t forget to take breaths, pray if you want to. Having a quiet, uninterrupted moment where you’re breathing slowly and calmly will end up providing you the best insights. 

Coming from a calm, grounded place helped me make decisions fast when I needed to. Like taking the steps to move our training sessions to a virtual platform, which enabled us to maintain our members. 

8. Remember your ‘why’

Why did you start your own gym? What was your main inspiration and driving force behind it all? Now, get back to that.

Remembering why you got into this industry in the first place will bring back a flood of good memories. Such as your love for fitness, your passion for serving others. And your calling to bring joy and health into the lives of those who step foot into your gym.

Your ‘why’ is powerful. It’s going to help you get out of any bind and jump over any hurdle. You got this

    How to Prevent Burnout When You Own and Manage a Personal Training Studio

    Running a fitness business is highly rewarding and exciting, yet it can also be challenging and take its toll on you. Getting breaks are few and far in between, especially when you have less staff and trainers due to COVID. 

    This is when burnout can start to creep in. We’ve all been there. I know I have. And I learned that I needed to switch things up.

    So, that’s what I did. Taking time out for myself became a huge priority. Also, this brush with burnout taught me a lot of valuable lessons. This article will share many of them and hopefully assist you in creating your own ‘burnout prevention plan’.

    Ways to prevent burnout

    When you have a mentally and physically demanding job and are on your feet a lot, and wearing dozens of hats, like us personal trainers — it’s necessary to manage your energy and expectations. After 20 years in this industry, I understand that burnout is real and that it can happen to any of us.

    Based on my personal experience and getting through that difficult time, I want to share some tips with you.

    Become a master of your schedule

    Setting up a detailed schedule can help you stay centered and focused. Also, seeing a visual layout of your day can assist in optimal time management. When your day or week is mapped out, there are fewer surprises. And when there are fewer surprises, there’s less worry and stress in your day.

    Furthermore, the mind likes structure and routine. It doesn’t need every second mapped out, but general structure. This takes the mind away from stressing about the unknown and instead can work from a concrete timetable.   

    Moreover, carve out some time in your calendar for you! Get that ‘me time’ in. Even if you’re in startup mode, or carrying more of the weight because of COVID challenges, still find time for yourself.

    The mistake I made was to push and push and push some more. But, this led to burnout. It took that experience to learn what not to do going forward. Burning out sucks and it can severely impact your business.

    In short, members come to you for more than a workout. When you’re stress-free and mentally calm you can give them a positive experience and make them members for life. But, it’s all about the long-run. Pushing too hard for short term success can lead to serious burnout.

    Make time for your own workouts

    Whether you spend more time managing the business from the office or work with clients most of the day, it’s crucial to get your personal workouts in. Use the schedule you’ve created and find a pocket of time that works best for you. Maybe the early morning is open, or the mid-afternoon.

    We all know this, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get it done. Particularly for us seasoned trainers who have some minor injuries from decades of training. The key is to find balance with your training. And it’s even more crucial to find this balance when you’re pulling off most of the sessions yourself when staffing is limited.

    If you’re struggling to get your workout in, it might be easier to do it in a different place. A new atmosphere or setting away from your gym. Try to make it a priority because this is your time to relieve any accumulated stress you’ve built up.

    As you know, exercise releases endorphins, which have many benefits like creating positive feelings and general happiness. You’re great at encouraging your clients with their fitness goals, so give yourself that same support and encouragement to get your workouts in.

    Ask your colleagues for support

    This is key! Getting support and guidance from close friends and colleagues is incredibly powerful. However, it’s not always easy to ask for it. Many of us learn from a young age that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But, it’s actually a sign of strength. It takes a lot of courage, but the reward is high.

    We’re not meant to do everything alone. When we’re short on trainers or have specific business demands, having someone who’s there for us can make all the difference. So, call up a friend, find a coach or mentor, arrange a lunch meeting, or schedule a workout together and relieve some of your stress and concerns.

    Something as ‘simple’ as this can help you avoid and prevent burnout. When we had to shut down due to COVID, I had multiple people in the industry help us transition to virtual and bounce ideas off of.

    Prioritize your sleep

    Without restful sleep, you’re not allowing your body to restore, reset, and recover. Also, lack of sleep can affect your adrenals and nervous system, which can lead to anxiousness, fatigue, and overwhelm.

    So, do your best to get consistent sleep because it’s honestly one of the best medicines out there. And it won’t cost you a thing. Speaking from experience, I was part of the culture that traded hours of sleep for work. But that always backfires.

    Get as much sleep as you can, so you’ll have more energy during work. You’ll be able to get more done this way and serve your clients better. In this industry, you’re interacting with people all day. Staying sharp is a necessity for your success.

    Take a break from your phone 

    After a long day running your business, motivating, and training clients, you may feel the need to be on your phone. To catch up on emails, texts, social media messages, or anything else your phone requires of you.

    If you own a business, do yourself a favor and get a phone strictly for business. Having the same number for personal and business matters can be difficult and cause unnecessary stress.

    Also, try to make your downtime real downtime. Put your phone in another room if need be, or turn it off. Your brain needs a break. It’s not meant to be staring or working on screens often. This can affect your circadian rhythm, which then impacts your ability to get restful, deep, restorative sleep.

    Final points on how to deal with burnout 

    If you burnout as a business owner and don’t have a business partner to back you up, what then? Who will run your gym for you?

    To prevent burnout from happening in the first place, it’s essential to take preventative and proactive measures, rather than being reactive. By implementing the tips mentioned, you’re keeping your daily health needs in check. And from that place of empowerment and vitality, burnout is less likely to occur.

      Equality in Fitness – The Three Best Articles You Might Have Missed

      In fitness, the ultimate goal is to build a healthy lifestyle for everyone who wants it. In order to do so, coaches and trainers must understand that every single person is a complete individual. No two clients are the same, and no two trainers are the same. That’s why this week I’m excited to bring you three articles by fitness industry leaders that discuss these issues. In the following articles, you’ll hear from experts about: 

      1. How gender roles contribute to industry success
      2. How “a calorie is a calorie” differs in men and women
      3. …and how dieting is a privilege. 

      I hope you enjoy these articles as much as I did!

      “Do We Have Gender Equity in Fitness?”  by Amanda Vogel

      Amanda Vogel brings a question that’s ringing across the corporate world to our doorstep. In the fitness industry, the majority of personal trainers and fitness instructors are women, but how does that transfer to leadership? Vogel highlights the issues with stereotypes, illuminating their roles in gender disparity in fitness. We’d like to think our industry is different. After all, we’re in the business of helping people achieve their goals, regardless of background. Read her article to find out why the fitness industry might have further to go than you think.

      “I’m really sorry about your calories” by Jason Leenaarts

      If you’ve been following my page, you know that weight loss is a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out. Jason Leenaarts wants to apologize, to both genders (but especially women), about the tiny portions they have to eat. Read his article to learn why men have an advantage when it comes to losing weight, and what women (and those who coach them) can do about it.

      “Privilege and Intuitive Eating: A Few Thoughts”   by Lore McSpadden

      Lore McSpadden loves intuitive eating, and so do I. The concept of rejecting the diet mentality rings true throughout what we do at Results. What McSpadden highlights in this article, however, is the privilege that comes with it. They dive into how gender dysphoria and eating disorders relate to one’s relationship with food. They even demand that body liberation include “eradicating social inequity, food insecurity, and poverty”. Read their article to learn how, for some populations, intuitive eating might not be as simple as we think.

      Questions to ask the coaching staff when starting a high school strength program

      High school strength coaches play a massive role in long-term athlete development. Teenagers are in their formative years, many embarking on a college playing career or a lifetime of fitness. Plus, coaches are among some of the most influential mentors and figures in our lives. That’s why it’s so important to get on the same page with a united message.

      We all have a former coach who inspired us to grow, challenged us in new ways, or provided a listening ear during tough times. Until recently, however, that was only the role of the sport coach. Strength and conditioning coaches were limited to select high school football programs. Often, the head coach and strength coach were one in the same. As high school athletic departments come around to the idea, more and more strength coaches are joining the staff. It’s important to understand, however, that high school sports are a different game. These athletes stay constantly busy despite still developing. Programs operate along tight schedules, and coaches foster individual styles of play. 

      In order to pull the best out of each athlete, the head coach and S&C coach need open communication. Here are a few questions to get answered before you start. 

      Question #1: How much time can your team devote to strength training?

      Each sport operates off of their own schedule. Some teams have ten players, others have 60+. Although a lot can be accomplished in a little amount of time, it’s important to block off a specific section for S&C. 

      We know it’s easier to align ten people’s schedules than thirty. Can you split the team into groups, with some training in the morning, some before practice, and some on the weekends? If the coach can commit two hours total, would one longer session be best, or could they donate 30 minutes of practice across four days? 

      Under tight schedules, no one wants to give up their time. Therefore, it’s important to align with the strength coach on the benefits of strength training. Show that you can take away 15 minutes of their regular warm up by working with players in the gym before. Or explain how targeted strength and conditioning helps athletes recover faster and prevents injury. 

      Whatever you come up with – be realistic. It doesn’t do any good to write a five-day, multi-hour strength program when you get two hours a week with the athletes. 

      Question #2 – What’s your practice and game schedule like?

      Programs should be designed around performance. It’s hard to sell an athletic department on strength training if it impedes their win/loss record. Therefore, you want to avoid placing your hardest sessions the day before a game. It might be common sense, but if you don’t have that conversation, how will you know?

      Does their sport play once per week, such as football? Or do they have multiple game nights, like basketball? Do they have to travel far and wide for competition and practice, cutting into strength training time? Do they have the luxury of an off-day after a game, or is it always a quick turn-around? Asking these questions not only helps you program effectively, but it shows that you’re invested in the team-first, not your bottom line. 

      Finally, figure out when to peak the program. When’s their championship season, and when’s the off-season? Are there weeks where there’s an “easier” match-up, or more important ones featuring the hometown rival? Know these details intimately. On easier weeks, maybe you run them a bit harder. On rival week, maybe you up the competition in the weight room. Little intricacies like these make more difference than a blanket, one-size-fits-all program. 

      Question #3 – What’s your style of play?

      Coaches love to outsmart opponents. To do so, each team adopts a certain style of play. Whether it’s structure, pace, or physicality, the chess match of coaching warrants attention. You might have the perfect program to challenge aerobic fitness. You get ready to present it to the coach, only to find they win most games on brute strength alone. That’s not to say a slightly fitter team can’t help, but you don’t want to take away from their style of play. 

      Before beginning any high school strength program, talk to the coach about how they want their team to look. Watch old film with them, if you can. Talk about areas he or she focuses on, and areas they’d like to improve. Have they always been a physical team, but graduated their biggest players last year? Can you help their freshmen get stronger? Do they beat teams in transition, but struggle in half-court play? How can your program assure they dominate the defensive boards and win the race down court?

      Work with the coach, not against them, to enhance their strengths and improve their weaknesses. 

      Question #4: How many players are preparing for college?

      How many are in their first year of the sport? And how many players fall somewhere in between? Experience levels not only influence on-field or on-court play. Seniors headed to college in a few months need to prepare for their upcoming challenges. They’ll definitely be in the gym multiple times per week in college. As a high school strength coach, connect with their collegiate S&C coach for a smooth transition. Will they be training barbell squats? Power snatches? While your 14-year-old freshman is learning to jump correctly, you can add the advanced movements for college prep athletes. Align movement patterns and progressions to limit injury and enhance performance. 

      On the flip side, newer athletes might need regressions. Push ups instead of bench, inverted rows vs pull-ups… you get the idea. They might even benefit from an entirely separate introduction week. If possible, spend extra time with them going over basic safety, especially if you’re one coach for every 60 athletes. Rather than face a surprise on day 1, meet with the coach and identify the needs of individual athletes. 

      Question #5 – What’s the team culture?

      Whether you like it or not, you’re going to be the new person. A new face, new coaching style, in possibly a completely new environment. They’re teenagers, and all that comes with it. They’re likely a mix of good friends. Maybe some have bad blood. Many might be wary of change. Before you step foot in that weight room, learn about the team culture. It doesn’t matter if your strength plan took Team USA to the Olympics if your high school team doesn’t buy-in. They won’t get much out of it. 

      Ask the head coach who the team leaders are. Maybe it’s the captains, maybe it’s the seniors, or maybe it’s the quiet guy always doing extras. Each team has someone who generates a following. If you can get buy-in from those athletes, the rest will follow. 

      Equally as important are the clowns – those players who are always down to goof off. Talk to the coach about how they manage these athletes. Are they hard-workers who just need a little reminder to focus? What motivates them to compete? What tactics or techniques does the head coach use to get them on the same page?

      Finally, it’s just cool to be a part of the team culture. Get to know the athletes you’re coaching. Show them respect and investment, and they’ll return the favor. Imagine showing up day one and your coach is playing your season theme song in the weight room. It changes the entire vibe of the session. Start off on the right foot so you can carry that momentum forward.


      The most important part of joining a high school coaching staff is constant communication. You might come from a different background as the head coach, so ask questions. The better understanding you have, the better prepared you’ll be. Keep the door open as well – it’s not just one meeting and done. Foster constant back and forth as the season progresses. What’s working? What can we do better? Is the team tired or hungry for more? Stay in touch, stay engaged, and you and the team will grow together. 


      Detric Smith, NSCA CSCS, ACSM EP-C, Pn-1 is the owner of Results Performance Training (www.resultsperformancetraining.com) in Williamsburg, VA. He has a BS in Kinesiology from Virginia Commonwealth University and specializes in Sports Performance Training and Fat Loss Transformations. For over 15 years he has gained experience at various sports performance centers and personal training studios, as well as coaching and teaching physical education from elementary school to high school. 

      Don’t Play their Game – How small group personal training studios are losing by copying franchises

      Under the money-making lure of franchises, we have a tendency to get away from what got us here. The enchantment of expanding into a corporation makes us greedy and we go after too many things at once.

      Rather than playing the franchise game, make your strengths stronger. Focus on what makes you different. Make sure everyone knows your expertise within your specific niche, and own that. A few things you might actually do BETTER than the big franchises:

      • Smaller group sizes
      • Safety
      • Individual attention
      • Sport, age, or niche-specific training

      Offer higher-end services that allow you to provide more personal attention. You don’t want to become the McDonald’s of the fitness industry serving up everyone fast food. You’re the Michelin-starred chef, so act like it. You might not be able to beat these franchises on presentation from the start. As long as you keep up with the times, cover up any glaring weaknesses you may have, and focus on your strengths as you grow, you’ll be better off.

      Staff up, but just enough to stay small

      As a sole business owner, you’ll eventually grow to the point where you need help. Create a team around you that can lift you up, take some weight off of your shoulders, and allow you to focus on continuing to grow.

      When hiring a small, close knit team, here are my top five recommendations:

      1. Hire for your weaknesses first. Pick someone who compliments you to run a business. That’s why I recommend the first hire be an admin.
      2. Don’t let them leave the nest too soon, and don’t fill up your nest with too many birds. Sure, they’ll eventually learn to fly on their own, but time and dedication from you (and room for growth and personal attention) helps them flourish. In other words, don’t move too fast in hiring so you really help your team grow.
      3. Be diverse! Yes, you want them to have a common value system, but diversity helps us all connect to each other on a deeper level and see different perspectives.
      4. Set up systems for each aspect of your business – group training, personal training, and all of the work that goes on behind the scenes
      5. Delegate a leader. At some point, your team may get large enough that you can’t do it all. By then, you should have already developed and identified a leader you trust to carry the weight. Like a captain of a great team, they should be the liaison between you and the rest of the players.

      When you get to a point where running the day-to-day takes away from the personal touch, hire someone. Not a trainer. Your first hire should be an administrative assistant. Let them do what they’re good at – bookkeeping, new member sign-ins, funneling the flood of emails. That frees up to do what you do best – coach.

      You will have to continue to grow and build a team within your budget. Building a team requires a gradual transition away from the training floor, if any at all. Set up systems for your team of trainers to align them with your core values. After all, it’s your company, your brand. Hire for your brand and build a team you can trust.

      Create a Community by finding the gaps in the market

      Every franchise targets women in the 25-40 range. These gyms target people who a) are independent and old enough to make their own decisions and b) have been inundated with social media ideas of the perfect body. Does every single person in the world fit into that category? Absolutely not.

      What about kids? Youth training is a great niche. Or the senior population. Maybe it’s male powerlifters or people who like to climb or divorcees wanting to work out with their pets. Humans are incredibly diverse and there are always gaps in the market. A few tips on creating a community:

      When they come to you, make them want to come back.

      Most are coming to you because of a bad experience. Even if they don’t find you as their first gym, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that when they arrive, they stay.

      Set your systems for consultations, questions, assessments, and the entire intake process. Make them feel at home, like they finally found “their” gym. Most undernourished markets value educates trainers, smaller group sizes, more personal attention, and an enjoyable atmosphere.

      Don’t be afraid to turn people away

      Not everyone is a good fit for your community. If you start taking on everyone who walks into the door, people will leave just as quickly as they arrived. Even your loyal members will notice a shift in the community atmosphere. Again, don’t play the franchise game of grabbing everyone. Stick to what you’re good at and provide value to those people.

      Play the long game

      Don’t worry if the first, fourth, or even fiftieth interaction you have with a customer doesn’t turn in to profit. You’re interested in keeping members for the long-term in your community.

      Use education to your advantage

      Small businesses competing against franchises can position themselves as experts in the industry. Providing valuable content for free may seem like a bad idea to the ill-advised. But trust me, if they’re not getting it from you, they’re getting it from the thousands of others handing out information. Use blogs, Social Media Posts, free e-books, and more to show your potential clientele that you know what you’re doing. Let them test it out on themselves first at their franchise gym, and when eventually disillusioned, they will come to you as the expert.

      Get an email. Always.

      If you’re going to offer something for free, send it to their inbox. That way, you have their email for future use. Use the follow-up period to offer some value. Whether it’s a free book, consult, or assessment, just do something memorable. You’re opening up a window for years, even after they have tried other places. You might not notice it right away, but emails with a free dining out guide might turn in to a member down the road.

      But please, please. Don’t just spam people. Every follow-up has to be different to add value. Space them out over time. Saying, “Hey do you want to meet with me?!” 80 times is only going to annoy them.

      Focus on retention

      You can’t speak to everyone. If you’re attracting the wrong person, then it’s not good for you or your current members (see above)> When you DO get valued members, treat them as such. Do the basics incredibly well. Check on them when they miss a class or haven’t been around the gym in a while. Know about their family. Learn their passions outside of training. Treat them as family members, and they’ll stick around.

      Get Creative with Marketing Strategies

      You won’t have the same awareness off the bat as a franchise, but that can work to your advantage. Rather than beat your head in to a wall trying to copy the big box gyms, get creative with these tricks.

      Know your numbers

      You’ve created a community. You’re killing it by educating others about your expertise. Now where to focus your attention?

      You won’t need as many members as a franchise to make a profit. On top of their overhead, paying out all their employees, and opening up multiple locations, they’re bleeding money left and right. A small business can shrink or swell with comfort as long as you know your numbers. If accounting and admin isn’t your strength, go back to step one and hire an expert. Get to know what exactly is coming in and out, and you can make informed decisions about what to do next.

      Hit Singles every time rather than going for a home run

      Advertising on TV, radio, or expensive websites might look like they’re putting points on the board. But if you get one home run out of 50 at-bats, is that a successful strategy? It’s not bad to shoot for the moon, but make sure you’re actually getting a return on them.

      Instead, get out in to your local community. Systemize ways to build your network with joint venture and supporting local causes. Make your in-house methods of getting referrals solid. Basically, utilize guerilla marketing to your advantage.

      Don’t Completely Ignore the Franchise

      What? This entire time you’ve been telling us to not play their game, and now I’m supposed to pay attention.

      Well, yes. Anyone can see that they’re obviously doing some things right by getting thousands of members in their doors.

      Rather than try and copycat their strategy, learn from their business side. Those in the industry know that franchises (or anything that can put up a new place each week) is not going to beat you on “real coaching”. But they exist for a reason – they do a very good job of speaking to a particular person and making it easy for that person to find their services.

      Get out in to your specific community and do the same. Find that particular person in your niche who is begging for tailored coaching. Make it easy for them to find you. Put your information and education in the places they’re looking, such as local clubs, small business partners, or their own inbox.