Tricks of the Trade

Apr 01, 2008


“What is the biggest challenge in your personal training career?”

My biggest challenge is finding the right trainers to work with me. It is hard to find qualified trainers who are willing to train some of the clientele that I have (the morbidly obese). Some of my clients require a lot of motivation, and not every trainer is a motivator. I would rather have trainers who are recently certified so that I can train them in the way my business, Fitting Fitness In, works with clients. It is easier to work with trainers who have not already put in place their procedures and ways of doing things, because there is less of a learning curve in getting them to follow our procedures. I look for trainers who have busy lives and know how hard it is to fit fitness in. My clients can better relate to these trainers.

How do I meet the challenge of finding trainers? I tell everyone I talk to that I am looking for trainers. I found my last trainer by talking to the electrician who was working on my house. I told him that I was looking for trainers. He told me his sister just went through a weekend course and was studying for the certification exam. I gave him some information to give her, and she called me the next day. It was a few months before she took and passed the exam, but once she got her certification she came to work for me. She has been an excellent hire.

I belong to a BNI (Business Networking International) networking group and I announce in our meetings that I am looking for trainers. Posting on websites of various certification companies and organizations like IDEA helps me find good trainers, as well.

A new idea I received from Phil Kaplan during one of our Be Better Project teleconferences is to print help-wanted ad business cards and hand them out. This strategy has worked well because it gives people something to hand to a prospective trainer that is more than a business card. The card details what I am looking for, so only people who are interested contact me. I have been getting great response from these cards.

It seems like I need to interview 5–10 candidates to get a trainer who is the right fit. However, finding that person makes a huge difference in my business.

Holly Kouvo
Owner, Fitting Fitness In
Stow, Massachusetts

Early in my career I was all over the place with the type of clients I wanted to reach. Clients ranged from young athletes who wanted to improve their running time to 90-year-olds who desired to move around the house more easily. I found myself good at working with many types of clients, but not great at helping any one type. Although our businesses do cater to many different demographics, I discovered that my “sweet spot” client is the mature adult who wants therapeutic and functional exercise. Working with this clientele challenges my mind. I receive great pleasure when clients tell me how much more easily they climbed out of their cars or were able to catch themselves when they slipped! I feel like I have a much greater impact on the life and well-being of this group than I do on other demographics.

Now, at this point in my career (four facilities, 60 employees), the challenge has become finding time for me and my family, leaving work at work and not bringing home the day-to-day stress. When your business is open 7 days a week, you co-own your business with your wife and you are passionate about what you do, it is difficult to put down your work and find time to exercise or to take a weekend off for your family. Most weeks fly by in a blink, and I wonder how they passed so quickly. I truly feel lucky for what we have accomplished with the great team we have in place, but can’t help but wonder if the work-life-health balance can be accomplished at a breakneck pace! To help me find balance, I joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization, so I can discuss issues with others who have experienced life challenges similar to my own. I try to leave my computer at the office as much as possible and stop answering my phone once I am home.

Dale Huff, CSCS
Co-Owner, NutriFormance, LLC,
& NutriFormance Acceleration, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Going into my 18th year in the fitness industry, one of my biggest challenges has been fighting the various stereotypes of the personal trainer. The perpetual stereotype of the trainer in films and on television wearing inappropriate clothing, having a weak knowledge base, flirting with clients, shouting orders and behaving unprofessionally unfortunately still exists.

I meet this challenge head-on by behaving as a professional consistently and in every sense of the word. Professional behavior includes reinforcing my business structure (hours, compensation, policies), being punctual, maintaining appropriate records, returning phone calls and e-mails in a timely manner, regularly attending continuing education courses, becoming thoroughly versed in the most recent research and getting my clients results.

My mission remains to legitimize professional fitness training as a long-term and rewarding career choice. I am in this unique field of study that allows us to directly and positively impact clients’ lives! I don’t take this opportunity for granted; instead, I focus on providing top-notch customer service, science-based fun and challenging fitness training.

I am a full-time professional fitness trainer by trade—and proud of it!

Nicole Clancy
President, Healthy Living Services
and Fitness Training
Santa Barbara, California

My biggest challenge at this point in my career is ensuring that I can continue providing quality service to my loyal clientele while creating space in my schedule for other interests and opportunities.

Recently a wonderful opportunity with Canadian Sport Centre Pacific/PacificSport opened up for me. The position is a part-time contract for the next year. It allows me to help supply resources and support to high-performance athletes and coaches—especially with the 2010 Winter Olympics [in British Columbia] around the corner.

In order to take the new job, I needed to rework my schedule and tweak my training business. Ultimately, I made the decision not to take on any new clientele, to focus solely on maintaining the loyalty of long-time regulars and to limit group fitness offerings to two classes per week and find a simpler way to operate the classes.

Now my schedule is set for 31/2 days of the week with the new job. My regular clients have adapted to fit into the available appointment slots around those days. I offered clients who lost one training session a week the challenge of following a workout on their own at home. I catch up with them via e-mail or phone before their next face-to-face meeting to see how everything has gone and to determine what adjustments need to be made—if any—for the following workouts.

The logistics of my fitness classes have been easier since I became an employee of the local fitness centre. Someone else advertises the classes and registers clients, and I can focus purely on teaching the classes. While this change may seem to some people like a step back from working on my own, it has provided a refreshing respite for me.

Restructuring my schedule certainly hasn’t all been smooth; a few regular clients couldn’t make the change with me, and I miss them. And for the meantime, as I catch up with my own business and climb the learning curve of the new position, my life seems more hectic than ever before.

Overall, though, the effort it has taken to accept the challenge of a new and exciting job and make it work with the best parts of my personal training business is worth it. At the end of the yearlong contract, who knows what will happen and what other opportunities may open up? But no matter what they are, I know there is always a way to make things work—especially if you really want to make the changes happen.

Diana Rochon, CSCS, NCCP,
Director, Dynamic Core Fitness
Whistler, British Columbia

Fitness Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4

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