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Personal Trainers – Embrace The Mistakes!

December 26, 2010

‘Twas a week before New Years, still two-thousand ten,

The personal trainers were at it again.

They scraped and they scrounged through December confusion,

Knowing that New Years brings grand resolution,

And nobody realized they were making mistakes,

Until good old Kaplan said, “put on the brakes!”

Move focus away from the first of the year,

And focus beyond, to the platform, up there,

There’s no better time to command your position,

As a true fitness leader with an excellence mission.

The first of the year everybody seeks diets,

And supplements, drugs, and the free sample “try its.”

They go for procedures and medical tucks,

Put bands on their stomachs and grumble, “this sucks.”

Trainers get caught in the New Years insanity,

Believing the chaos is all about vanity.

It’s time to step up, time to do what it takes.

To prosper, to thrill, and to learn from mistakes.


Yes, we who pursue career in fitness typically follow a passion and drive, and we plod ahead, no matter what, seeking to better the lives of others.  There are several differences between those who find financial peace and those who begin a lifelong struggle to make ends meet.

Of course there are the obvious differences, like drive and energy, but there’s another less obvious difference.  It is the embracing of mistakes.

There are few personal trainers who shot from certification to wealth, but I have a number of impressive colleagues who have stepped into the realm of financial peace.  Every single one of them stepped and mis-stepped, plodding ahead with each mistake a learning experience.

I often say the reason I’ve earned a position where I am able to educate fitness professionals is because I made more mistakes than anyone I know.   I conducted free consultations for years before I realized my time investment was my biggest expense.  Through that realization I began to charge for consultations, and eventually grew those consults into group settings where eight people would attend at once, each one paying, each one a potential client.  If it were not for the mistake, I would never have created what proved to be a huge source of direct and indirect revenue.

I was subjected to cancels and no-shows for so many years, I had trouble counting on any expected income.  I allowed clients to cancel without penalty, as I was afraid to lose them by asking for more money than I imagined they were comfortable paying.  Wow, was that a mistake.  Today I teach personal training teams to contract all clients on what I call a “series” with an advance retainer to ensure payment.  Today I maintain a strict cancellation and reschedule policy and it allows me the security to know, a session scheduled is a session paid.  I never would have had the courage to do that had I not suffered the consequences of the mistake.

I know personal trainers, and I know how hungry we are for new knowledge.  Most trainers in the first 5 years of their careers seek out more information on exercise techniques and methodologies.  They believe they’ll be better trainers if they understand isolation, functional movement, and cross training, and continue to explore kettlebells, the TRX, and trendy exercise pieces.  There are so many resources for that information I’d be doing you a disservice if I took you in that direction.  All trainers seek that information.

Remember what I said earlier.  One of the key differences that has allowed a handful of trainers to find prosperity is appreciation of the mistakes you make, the willingness to get out there and try, and to learn from the experience if the outcome isn’t what you hoped it would be.

I see fitness professionals collectively making the mistake of “counting on” the New Years Resolution as a great client source.  They will, in all likelihood, find it easier to acquire new clients in January, but there’s an inherent mistake that few recognize.  The New Years Resolution only comes once a year.

You don’t want a strong January followed by a difficult February.  You want growth.  Ongoing growth.  That only comes with planning and with a step away from a myopic focus and a willingness to look at the overall.  Are you charging what you’re worth?  Are you retaining clients as you should be?  Are you working the hours you want to work and finding a sense of gratitude for the time you have to yourself and your family?

These are important questions.  If you are committed to this being your livelihood, sooner or later you have to look beyond bands and balls and start to understand some fundamentals of business.

Right now I’d like to share three Mistakes in Judgment, three assumptions I hear both fitness and medical professionals make that I have personally found to be limiting if you honestly seek to stand upon a platform of excellence and pursue continuous growth.

If you allow the wave of New Years frenzy to pass, you’ll have an opportunity to get personal with people, to go beyond the goals that fall under the heading of vanity, and to help them take control of their health.  I’ve seen things I never thought possible.  I’ve learned about the hazards of “the typical American Lifestyle,” and they go far beyond weight gain.  We live in a world where diabetes is diagnosed and medicated in unprecedented volume.  We live in a world where, even the “good” foods can contain heavy metals, toxins, and chemical compounds that do cellular damage.  We are exposed to thousands of toxins daily ranging from the formaldehyde used to protect new carpet and furniture to the pesticides that are sprayed throughout generously landscaped communities.  Health is a very real concern, and our medical field is not equipped to treat “the unwell.”  We should be.

So what are the three mistakes in judgment?  Here they are . . .

  1. People aren’t motivated. I heard this in a workshop I conducted for medical professionals.  They agreed that in the 21st century, motivation to control health is absent.  “People just want the drugs” is a flawed assumption they make when people ask for lexapro or ambien.  Here’s the reality.  People are more confused and misinformed than ever.  Without clarity and ultimately evidence that an effort is worthwhile, motivation cannot exist.  Change the circumstance of an individual and you reignite declined motivation.  There are some fine points to consider.  If you speak to prospective clients about  “exercise,” many will reveal an absence of motivation.  If you speak to prospective clients about getting great abs, their motivation may be short lived if they don’t see progress quickly.  The trick lies in recognizing that people all seek betterment, and if you talk to people about improving, whether that applies to health, energy, or relationships, they’ll handle their ends of the conversations well.  It’s also important that you set milestones that you know you can help people reach relatively quickly.  The aesthetic milestones will follow if you can use “more energy,” “greater strength, and greater performance in a given arena as the initial mile markers.
  2. People care more about their material possessions than their bodies. I’ve heard that in seminars, I’ve read it in books, and I’ve even made the mistake of believing it to be true.  That was before I began to delve deeper into the psychology of achievement and motivation, and with a new education, I have adopted new beliefs.  I believe people absolutely care about their lives, and in that their bodies and minds, more than anything they own.  The challenge is this.  People attend to that which they believe they can control.   If your car gets rear ended, you know the body shop can restore it to mint condition.  That doesn’t mean you care more about your car than about a body you may be neglecting.  It’s just that most people don’t have the manual for their bodies.  They don’t understand how to control their physical being, and failed attempts lead to frustration.  They’d rather find momentary pleasure from the things they can control than experience another bout of frustration.  Give someone enough knowledge so they become empowered, give someone the ability to reshape his or her body, and watch how quickly their attentiveness changes.
  3. People don’t want to eat right. This is another mistake in judgment.  If you’ve find your clients failing to adhere to food logs and eating plans, don’t judge them based on what you believe they want.  Recognize that nutritional shifts are difficult for a number of reasons, some of them psychological, others biochemical.  People develop habits as to what they buy in the grocery store, what they keep accessible in their homes, and what they consume out of familiarity.  I believe everyone WANTS to eat right, but in most cases they don’t understand what eat right means.  They try to eat less and wind up binging and gorging.  They try to eliminate foods and they fail to find adequate substitutes.  They can’t imagine taking the yolk out of the egg, having a shake for breakfast, or ordering their food grilled or broiled instead of fried, but with patience and clear direction, nutritional habits are malleable.

So as this New Year arrives, look at the power you have beyond “being there when they resolve to get great bodies.”   Instead, look at the year ahead and determine how you can instill motivation, give people a sense of control, and gradually direct eating habits and as long as you maintain a marketing effort, you’re guaranteed to grow!

Wishing you prosperity in the year ahead.

Be Better,


One Comment leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 8:15 pm

    Thanks Phil. you always keep me motivated and informed

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