Today, I was able to catch up with one of the first coworkers I ever had in my career as a coach. It was good catching up , and remembering the early days of our careers. My god, how things have changed for me. Getting older in itself comes with some maturity, but growing up in the fitness industry has been especially enlightening. Growing through the upshift in social media usage has been ESPECIALLY interesting. I thought it might be fun to note a few huge shifts I have been fortunate to see in my own career.
a.) Social media exploded in the past 10 years, making access to coaches and information easier than ever. Additionally, the need to produce content and promote yourself has never been more urgent. Relevance is influence and influence is power. That’s not a pretty truth, but it is undeniable.
b.) The fitness industry is starting to regulate itself. Aside from collegiate and above coaching, most states still see fitness as a recreational endeavor. Thus, we are wildly unregulated. You don’t need much more than a free weekend and a few hundred bucks to be a certified personal trainer. You don’t even have to be good. In fact, most coaches are really terrible. But if you have the barriers to entry knocked out and can market yourself, you will have a business. THANKFULLY, we are starting to get to a place that access to information and reviews is easier than ever. Each iron sport or fitness endeavor has its own “gurus” that everyone would agree have proved themselves in their niche. If you asked every bodybuilder who they believe the top five coaches are, you would likely get a very similar list from person to person, barring a few personal attachments. Same goes for every sport. Crossfit, endurance, powerlifting, strongman, etc etc all have a handful of VERY popular coaches. Those popular coaches, love or hate it, provide the standard for what we consider to be great coaching.
c.) Clients are still buying relationships: So lets be honest. 11 years ago, I wasn’t shit. I was not a good coach, I did not have a great understanding of what I was doing, and I lacked experience. However: I was totally booked most of the time. Why? Because I knew that my coaching wasn’t going to keep them around. Ha. It had to come down to two things: doing the best I could (even if I wasn’t great) and communicating that to the client. I didn’t take clients I felt were out of my skill set and we problem solved together. This has proven to stay the case, and I believe the key to a long, successful career coaching lies in building relationships.
d.) Its totally cool to be wrong: Perhaps the most daunting part of creating content is that you may, at some point, change your mind. I have changed my opinion on a few things: HIIT vs LISS, training frequency, training volume, training intensity, low carb diets, low fat diets, fasting, Intermittent fasting, vaccines, PEDs, endurance sports, technique/skill training, different cues, coaching voice in general, community cultivation, billing procedures, SOPS, causes of various injuries, rehab protocols, chiropractors, supplements, paleo diet, fish oil…you get it. While biology hasn’t changed much since we have been alive, our understanding of it all is constantly shifting. The only way to proceed and stimulate conversation is to be open to the idea that you, too, will be dead wrong. What you will find is that people are usually quite alright with that, so long as you explain your position.
e.) Huge network < productive network: I have worked in huge facilities that were a constant fight for clientele between trainers/coaches and I have worked in facilities that saw the big picture better. If you have a TON of colleagues where the fear mentality is front and center, you will not thrive. In that instance, its best to have fewer colleagues that know there are more than enough people out there that need help. Best case scenario: huge productive network. The best way to make room for those relationships is to trim the fat on your friends list.
f.) Education Matters: The fitness industry, as mentioned earlier, still does not require any formal education. Because of these, we see a huge social pendulum: for months you will see people talk about how important education is and then, with just one voice instigating the switch, you will hear a ton of chatter about how education is totally unnecessary because all the learning is done on the job. I will say this: there is validity to both. However, if nothing else, getting really involved in the cellular level of training will give you a great bullshit meter. We are not only plagued with a zero-barrier-to-entry situation in the fitness industry, but our sister industry (supplements) is also wildly unregulated. When you get two convincing voices together talking absolute non-sense to an already ill-informed public, we have a marketing masterpiece waiting to happen. This happens SO OFTEN in the fitness industry, that all you need to do to stand out is explain why proposed biology explanations are bullshit. Example: when I was in the collegiate sector, there was a private studio gym that sold caffeine pills. However, they told their clients (who trusted them), that there was a dosing protocol based on hair color. This resulted in slight overconsumption of caffeine and clients flying through these overpriced No-Doz. This scheme existed until enough other professionals were able to broadcast that there was no actual link between hair color and caffeine sensitivity. That knowledge then collapsed the entire business structure of that group, which was unfortunate for the trainers who simply took their superiors word. Had they the knowledge to know that was bullshit, perhaps they could have steered themselves in a different direction
e.) Find what you are great at and own it: Its tempting for me to spend my few moments of free time learning more about powerlifting, because its interesting. However, I will *never* have the passion for it that Christian does. What I do enjoy is hybrid athletics. I find it fascinating. Luckily, I don’t have to take on powerlifting, because I can always refer to Christian. The neat thing about referring to true specialists is that I still kind of look like the superhero by association. Additionally, I have more time to really dive into the nitty gritty of hybrid athletics and take something I do believe I’m great at, and become better. You simply will never have the time to be great at everything that grabs your attention. Choose something you have a natural tendency towards, and manage the weaknesses. Bonus: this requires developing a strong referral bridge.
f.) You are a screenshot away from being ruined: This is a relatively new concern, but worth mentioning: every bit of text communication you commit is subject to be shared. As a general rule, just assume any and all text messages will be public. Its best to say nothing at all, then let loose lips sink ships.