Tricks of the trade

Questions & Answers: Do you mentor other trainers either at your own business or elsewhere in the industry? If so, how?

I have been using mentoring within my business for a number of years and have had some amazing results in terms of business growth and effectiveness of trainer-client relationships.

In many cases, new trainers come to us after completing a personal training program or receiving higher levels of education via a university program. These programs and courses are great at developing knowledge but are rarely long enough. Plus, they don’t usually give trainers the opportunity to develop the practical skills demanded by the modern client. I believe the practical side comes only from spending time with an experienced mentor.

At our organization we couple each new trainer with one of our senior personal trainers. The new trainers are set goals that push their limits and promote self-development. We work on practical skills, theoretical knowledge, customer service skills, coaching skills and communication skills, in a formal manner. Our mentors teach new trainers “the Foresight way” and serve as experienced advisors—people the trainers can turn to with any questions or problems. New trainers benefit from the mentors’ wealth of experience.

I have been part of various mentoring programs. I have always found them very valuable and have received a massive return on my investment. If you do not have an internal mentoring program in your organization, start one now. If you do not have mentors for various aspects of your life, start seeking them out. The results will be amazing!

Tom Godwin
Managing Director, Foresight Fitness Services
Manchester, England

I believe mentoring and giving back to the industry are obligations we all have. (At the same time, it is important for those being mentored to realize that none of us has all the answers.) A mentor is someone who has already traveled a path you wish to travel and whose role is to help you find the most efficient route there.

At Function First I offer mentoring in several ways. First, to our team. The mentoring process covers all aspects of making a contribution as a professional and achieving greatness. These aspects include learning the technical skills of our successful approach to corrective exercise. I feel it is equally important to help trainers develop interpersonal skills so trainers can connect with our clientele, convey confidence and command respect for the unique skill sets we possess. During the mentoring process, trainers observe my work with clients and receive one-on-one coaching, and we set expectations for the team to meet.

I also offer a professional mentorship, which is a fee-based, 3-day intensive. I take accomplished professionals and help make them better. These individuals are particularly interested in designing a career around corrective exercise and establishing a niche for themselves with this work. I help them understand the profile of the types of clients they will encounter as a corrective exercise specialist and how they can help them.

Anthony Carey, MA, CSCS
CEO, Function First
San Diego, California

I have been in the industry for over 20 years and have coached other trainers for the past 11. I’ve presented workshops, seminars and courses in a variety of areas related to functional fitness, sports conditioning and the “soft” skills of personal training. I’ve also used internal mentoring at FRESH!

After working this long in the industry, I find that teaching and presenting keep me fresh (no pun intended!) and always learning. The internal mentoring began because we have a different philosophy from the typical health club or training studio. I wanted a way of systemizing my philosophy and style of training so I could retain clients and keep them happy without having to do all of the coaching sessions.

The sad part is that this took me too long to figure out, and I lost many great trainers because of my poor mentorship skills and lack of business knowledge. While I’m light years ahead of where I started, the journey is still in progress! The great news is that I have now transferred a significant portion of the mentorship duties to my director of education. He is fantastic at conveying the original purpose and philosophy of our business to all new team members and ultimately to our clients.

The fact that the majority of trainers leave the industry after only a few years shows that there are some significant gaps in the education and professional development process (technical knowledge, business-related knowledge and “soft” skills such as customer service). Mentoring new trainers can help us improve in these areas. That’s why the mentorship process at our business focuses on teaching people to follow five key principles:

1. Know and internalize our philosophy (fitness, nutrition, values, etc.). We actively screen for people who share our values and beliefs on fitness, nutrition and active living.

2. Understand the fundamental science behind the profession, including anatomy, physiology and biomechanics.

3. Learn how to teach these scientific principles to your clients in a simple, concise and passionate way.

4. Discover the behaviors that attract, retain, motivate and engage people toward lifelong change.

5. Change your mindset from "employee" to "CEO of your own personal services corporation"; from "scarcity" to "plenty"; from "negative" to "positive"; and from "teacher" to "student."

Each person who enters the FRESH! Mentorship Program follows our guidelines for practical and theoretical training. Depending on the experience of the individuals, they may spend more or less time in a specific area. However, they are exposed to all areas and have to pass practical and written competency assessments along the way. Additionally, there are practical and theoretical competency evaluations at regular intervals each year.

Tim Borys
President/CEO, FRESH! Wellness Group
Calgary, Alberta

Over the 25 years that I’ve been in the personal training business, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor several men and women.

I’ve found that first and foremost, successful trainers are professionals who are excellent at selling themselves to others. Second, they need to have a good knowledge of their craft and a willingness to keep learning. Third, they need to apply their training principles to themselves as well as their clients. You can’t truly understand what you are teaching unless you have done it yourself. Fourth, you need to be good with money and take a financially conservative approach.

My mentoring process is definitely a hands-on approach. I like each new trainer to shadow me and also shadow my most successful personal trainers. I take my newest trainers through their own workouts. They get a deeper understanding of how I approach strength training, cardio training and other aspects of physical conditioning. I do a lot to help my newest trainers build their business, but the most successful ones will know how to bring in clients of their own. I have an open-door policy and talk to my trainers on a regular basis about how I’ve been successful and how they can be, too.

Rob Hudson
Owner, Fitness by Design
Indianapolis, Indiana

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November 2011

© 2011 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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