Notes From the New Kid: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Notes From the New Kid: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Hmm. “New” is a relative term, and I like to think of myself as 31 (my age plus the age that I act most of the time, averaged).  Regardless of my age, in retiring after 31 years in the Air Force and leaping into the fitness industry, I’m the new guy in this crowd.  Never one to accept the status quo, I’ll continue to challenge those things that don’t make sense to me, but only after careful deliberation of what I’m actually seeing, and what it means.  In the military we use this thing called an OODA loop – observe orient decide act, then repeat the loop.  It’s a good tool.  I’m still very much working mostly on the first two Os, with a bit of “DA” thrown in; but I still have a long way to go.
Here is what I’ve seen so far, and why it should matter to you:
The “Hammer and the Nail” :
There are a ton of personal training (PT)/ fitness folks who are excellent hammers and therefore see every potential client as a nail.  “I am a crossfit guru and therefore everyone should do crossfit- it is the best thing the person can do.”  Talk with a weight room fan and “I am a weightlifting guru and therefore everyone should do weights- it is the best thing the person can do.”  I had a woman go further and tell me how she had “been in the PT business for 20 years and therefore person X should do”….  Really?  You’ve never met this person, you haven’t talked to them, you don’t know what their limitations or aspirations are, you haven’t done an intake assessment, etc.”  I was left dumbfounded.  I found it impossible to continue conversing with this self-proclaimed amazing “20 years in the business” PT woman.  Sadly I was at a dinner with friends, stuck in the same room for the rest of the night.  “Pass the wine, please?”
The reason I sought out UpRise Fit (pardon the shameless plug here; I’m not paid in any way, by the way, and I would not write it were it not true) is simply that their philosophy mirrored my own.  The studio offers a wide variety of activities on and off-site to satisfy the needs and wants of the people who choose UpRise.  [I’ve chosen words carefully there] – The client/customer/athlete is being listened to, and their needs and wants are being addressed, by a skilled, diverse, flexible and enthusiastic team, to ensure a safe and meaningful training environment.  That makes sense to me.  If you feel like something isn’t working for you, if you feel like something isn’t your thing, if you are getting hurt a lot, or if you feel like you will respond to a different personality even, don’t just stand there like a nail and prepare to be hammered.  Continue your search- your “thing” is out there and you will find it if you keep looking.  Do not take hard earned money out of your pocket and pay some hammer for the privilege of being their nail.
“The reason I chose UpRise Fit The client/customer/athlete is being listened to, and their needs and wants are being addressed, by a skilled, diverse, flexible and enthusiastic team, to ensure a safe and meaningful training environment. “
“If you are getting hurt a lot, or if you feel like you will respond to a different personality even, don’t just stand there like a nail and prepare to be hammered.”
Need creation and the “Up-sell”:
I was reading in a blog post by a PT about how he/she lost a client.  I thought it would be informative.  It was- it’s just that I didn’t learn the message the author was trying to deliver.  instead I learned a different lesson- there are some unscrupulous snake oil salespersons in this industry.  The author made claims to the fact not that they weren’t genuinely listening to the client but as one of the “take-aways” the author actually said – hook the client for at least two more sessions. or words to that effect.
The flip side of this – the business side- is valid – if a studio is trying to plan, and instructors have lives too (hard to believe, but true), then knowing a bit ahead to properly plan just makes sense.  Most certainly I’m not challenging that very reasonable notion.  But the context of the message in the article had nothing to do with that.  It was all about getting one’s hooks into a client.  Reading it I thought to myself – “ugh, I don’t want to be one of those business people that people avoid because they feel like they are getting taken to the cleaners every time they strike up conversation.”  Here is a naive thought- believe in what you’re doing as a trainer, work hard to earn the trust and commitment of your people, and create something that your people WANT to keep doing.  When I show up to class, I’ve worked hard to develop a plan: “how can I deliver something that I know my folks “need” while at the same time making it so much fun that they actually want to come back and do it all over again next time?”  Not easy I know, but that is how lasting meaningful relationships are made.  Don’t view people as clients.  When they stop being clients and become people, what we are doing takes on a whole new dimension and meaning.   By all means, if you as one of our people, are asked about a package big or small, vice drop-in fee – there should be a benefit to you and if it makes sense, go for it.  Not everyone offering to save you money by seeing you more consistently and for longer is trying to empty your bank account.  But if you feel excessive pressure to commit to something beyond your desires or means, then say so and if it continues, then most likely you ought to be looking elsewhere because of the discomfort or even guilt imposed upon you.  It’s not fair and it’s not respectful and no one wants to stay in a situation they deem unfair or where the don’t feel respected.  Finally, while up-sell tactics can be more commonplace in what I’ll term the “big box stores” of the fitness industry, I know plenty of folks who enjoy training with some of those organizations, and most certainly the tactics are not limited to big-box.  You can just as likely feel pressured anywhere.  There is no general rule for this one.  Listen with your head, with your heart, and with your body before opening your wallet.
 “Here is a naive thought- believe in what you’re doing as a trainer, work hard to earn the trust and commitment of your people, and create something that your people WANT to keep doing.  When I show up to class, I’ve worked hard to develop a plan: “how can I deliver something that I know my folks “need” while at the same time making it so much fun that they actually want to come back and do it all over again next time?”
“Cut-and-paste” Client Base:
I have a friend who has done numerous Ironman distance triathlons as well as “ultra” endurance events.  He and I have a mutual friend who had never done a half Ironman (70.3) distance event, and who was working at getting in shape.  He is “competing” in his events.  She is “participating” in her events.  Both have super busy jobs and lives, but one has tons of flexibility, the other not so much.  Imagine when the two of them, both “coached” (if you can call it that) by the same individual, looked at their programs for the week, only to find they had THE EXACT SAME programs, right down to the “personal” notes.  Clearly, this “coach” had cut and paste the Training Peaks (TM) from one to the other.  While it was ok for the fitter of the two athletes, it was most certainly not ok for the other.  While there is the slim possibility that two very different athletes might on some occasion benefit from smilier scheduling, in this case, it most definitely was not a good idea.  Damaging?  Her 2015 race season ended before the end of March.  It breaks my heart.  Her pace got slower and slower and the complaints of injuries increased and increased, and the visits to physical therapists increased, and by the end of March, she could no longer run, at all.  If you don’t feel like your personal program is personal, then look elsewhere, and remember – doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.  If you’ve told your coach or trainer that your foot hurts really bad and it’s not going away, and that coach/trainer has you slated for 30k of running this week, it’s ok for you to ask yourself DoubleUTeeEff?  If you don’t after discussion feel like you are being heard, it’s time to look elsewhere.  There is a reason you decided to have a coach instead of paying $39.99 for a ten week online program.  If you aren’t getting what you expected from your coach, then say so, vote with your dollar, and find a great coach.  There is no shortage of great coaches out there who care about you as a person as well as an athlete – I promise.
“Over 80% of the men and women surveyed think that monitoring and accountability is important to getting in better shape.  However, most don’t have a person or a program to help keep them accountable.”
I have made a great many other observations in my short time in the fitness industry, but the three “buyer beware” ideas that I’ve presented here are of stand out prevalence and of which you as a person and athlete ought to be aware.  While in reading this you might think “Ouch, he won’t make any friends writing “that”, I’m ok with that.  It’s my (possibly?) deluded belief that I will make friends with the great percentage of the industry’s ethical and well meaning people, and if I’ve saved myself from having to spend time with those less ethical folks, then that is time in my life that I’ve just managed to bank.   There are a ton of awesome well meaning people in the personal training and coaching businesses.  How important for you as a person is having “your person” to help you?  Precision Nutrition (TM) surveyed almost ten thousand people and here is what they found:  Both men and women are busier than ever these days, “[of the] survey respondents, 90% of women and 92% of men wish they could be happier with their bodies and the choices they’re making on a daily basis. They want to eat healthy and exercise, but often they: struggle to find the time; are unsure of the right approach; aren’t putting their knowledge into action consistently, “  Finally, “Over 80% of the men and women surveyed think that monitoring and accountability is important to getting in better shape.  However, most don’t have a person or a program to help keep them accountable.”  For you, it’s my hope in writing this down that you can find one or some of these many really great people in the fitness industry to be your person(s), who will help you to make the changes in your life that you seek, and achieve those things that only a short while ago you did not imagine possible!
Post script
Most sincere thanks to Angela and Meg from Uprise Fit for the amazing opportunity to learn from the members of your team and thank you to the team for welcoming me to the Studio – your “office” where the magic happens!  :)
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