Subjects: Derek Heintz and Brian White
Company: Edge Fitness, San Diego
Going Beyond the Per-Session Approach. Derek Heintz had been working as a trainer for about 6 years when he realized he wanted to take his training approach to a new level. “I thought it was a mistake to just offer clients a package of sessions and that’s it. I wanted to provide more of a lifestyle approach that would really help clients change their lives. That can take more than the length of time in a package of workout sessions.” So Derek teamed up with fellow trainer Brian White to create Edge Fitness. “Brian and I wanted ‘the edge’ in our business to be a lifelong fitness environment that creates a family or team of clients who support each other while they’re working toward their individual fitness goals.”
Making Clients for Life. To achieve their lifestyle fitness vision, Derek and Brian include traditional one-on-one sessions but go beyond that by adding monthly group seminars, outdoor activities such as hikes (often also offered to clients’ friends, families and pets) and kayaking trips, 30-minute weekly check-up sessions and monthly newsletters. “We let clients know the day they meet us that they’re going to be clients for life,” says Derek. “Our weekly checkups, where we evaluate what’s working and what isn’t, are probably more valuable than the training sessions themselves, because clients learn so much about themselves. All our outdoor events and our checkups are free, so that encourages clients to stay involved with us.” The outdoor events have been a particularly successful strategy. “After a kayaking trip, two of our clients actually bought their own kayaks. Our goal is for clients to discover or rediscover what they really enjoy, so they can continue for a lifetime. Sometimes, it’s outdoor activities or team sports—it’s not always in the gym.”
A Partnership That Works. Derek and Brian have an office and conduct their indoor training within a health club. Although their business is only a year old, they have already added one additional full-time trainer on staff and three contract trainers on an as-needed basis. Derek handles program design and administrative tasks, such as payroll and taxes; Brian deals with sales and marketing. “The biggest challenge is finding that balance between taking care of business and taking care of clients,” says Derek. They’ve found that the best ratio is for each of them to work 20–25 sessions per week and devote 10–15 hours weekly to business and marketing activities.
Encouraging Client Awareness Breakthroughs. Edge Fitness’s focus on lifetime changes includes programming designed to encourage and support clients’ moments of self-discovery. “There’s always that breakthrough, when clients discover why they’re making the choices that they do,” says Derek. “Often, the reason is stress-related, and we encourage strategies such as meditation, breathing exercises and even lighting candles and playing music the client enjoys.” Sometimes the barrier is just fear of change—or fear of success. “We’ve found that clients who have a great training week often follow it with a poor week. If the problem is fear of change, we emphasize that they might not be changing as much as they’re just getting back to who they used to be before bad habits set in.” Sometimes the client and the trainer discover the need for outside help—a therapist, nutritionist or other professional. “We have references for everything,” says Derek. “And we find that fitness goals can get easier when the clients have the help they need.”
Feeling Inspired by Clients. Derek and Brian are both passionate about clients’ progress. Says Brian, “I feel fortunate to work in a business that allows me to help people change their entire outlook on themselves and on life. It is inspiring work, and I can’t see myself doing anything else.” Derek agrees: “My favorite thing is teaching, whether it’s in a group setting or individually,” he says. “If I weren’t doing this, I’d probably be teaching high-school kids or a sport. I love finding a way to make learning fun, and I love when people ‘get it.’”