I love being a part of the fitness industry. Where else do you get the chance to play all day every day and make such an impactful impression on so many peoples' lives -- while rocking a tank top like no one's business?
The funny thing was, about a decade ago personal training was the last thing I wanted to do with my life. Initially I wanted to move into a career in physiotherapy, but the pull of athletic training from my previous competitive days kept making me want to lift and throw heavy things, something that doesn't typically happen in a clinical setting. On top of that, I tend to get bored pretty easily, so I wanted to use the information I was able to accrue during my kinesiology degree and work with weight loss clients, athletic performance clients, as well as post-rehab clients, so the ideal situation seemed to be personal training. Realizing this was one of those cathartic moments that changed my path.
When I first began working as a personal trainer, I had no intention of working with injury clients, simply because I thought it was boring. Then I noticed a strange phenomenon: whenever I was going through a medical history with a new client, especially ones over 40, they would always talk about their sore knee or shoulder or the surgery they had recently had on their back, and I quickly came to realize that this knowing about injuries was something I needed to do, whether I liked it or not. Clients quit when you can't help them.
After working with a few dozen clients who had post-rehab needs, I started to get more working relationships with physiotherapists, chiropractors and even a few physicians whose patients I was working with. As a result of them seeing the benefits of training before their very eyes, they started sending me more of their patients, and I started to get a reputation as a good trainer to work with injuries. Now I'm at a stage in my career where I only take new clients who are medical referrals, as I don't have enough hours in the day to take everyone else.
When I started training clients, the concept of group training seemed so incredibly unproductive to me. Sure, people paid less and I would make more, but from where I was sitting, the level of service would also decrease, which was unacceptable. However, over time, I came to a small realisation that people would often work harder and be more focused on the workouts themselves if there was the element of competition from others in a similar situation.
Take my one marathon-runner client Diane. She first started training with me two years ago looking to get her times down. She was running close to 4 hour marathons, which just seems like such a stupid thing to do. I hate distance running, but I'm not going to dictate others dreams, so I was more than happy to get her on a good training and dietary regimen to keep her healthy (seriously, if you have to go 26.2 miles to get somewhere, Drive. You get air conditioning and a cup holder). Once she was comfortable understanding what a squat, lunge, push and pull were, and what I meant when I said something like "split stance stepback lunge to deficit," she would be able to do the exercise whether I was right there or 50 feet away.
Additionally, when we started training, she said she wasn't competitive at all (this was a lie), and we found out how competitive when I put her into a Boot Camp class I run twice a week through the River Valley in Edmonton. She HAD to be first each time, no matter what. When others would try to pass her, she would turn on the afterburners and kick it up a notch. This competitiveness lead to me partnering her with a few other clients who I thought would drive each other, and it worked. They all have individual programs, and occasionally I put in tandem activities that benefit everyone, and they love it. So by focusing on service and the results a client can get, it made sense to do small group and large group training as well as one-on-one training.
That's not the best part...
One other element of training that I love is teaching. I love being able to share even a small piece of information that someone else (a client or another trainer in one of my workshops or who may purchase one of my products) can take with them to somehow improve their own abilities. It's addictive to see and help others succeed. Because of this, I like to get off the floor occasionally (remember, I get bored pretty easily) and teach the odd lecture or hands-on workshop to trainers. This helps me to keep up to date with what's going on in the industry, but also provides an additional stream of revenue to pay my bills. I've also parlayed this into speaking at a few conferences, most notably the NSCA Personal Trainer conference and the canfitpro National conference this past year. Truly cool.
Top it off with the fact that I'm a PRO Trainer through canfitpro and have the ability to certify new trainers, and my teaching schedule can keep me busy. This isn't easy to do, especially for someone who was always the shy, quiet kid growing up. I never thought I would be the kind of person standing in front of a room full of people sharing ideas, but I also never thought someone as kick-ass as Jon Goodman would want to hang out and talk shop with me.
To pair in to this love of sharing information, like to be able to write different things and share through print or website publications. I've written my own blog, deansomerset.com, for over a year now, and have also authored articles for T-Nation.Com and thePTDC.com, plus a few small guest postings on some other guys sites. When I was in high school, I was always able to ace English classes, and managed to have some pretty stand-out creative writing marks. If only I was that good in chemistry. A couple years ago I decided to make a run at getting into medical school, and quickly found that after writing the MCAT admissions test, I should stick to fitness. My writing sample was in the top 5%, whereas my chemistry mark was in the bottom 20%. I guess you should know something about chemistry if you're writing a prescription. But I would write the HELL out of that prescription, throw down some prose or iambic pentameter maybe, probably making the pharmacist have an out of body emotional experience while filling it. So writing it is!!
Think outside the box
So in a nutshell, this is me saying that there's so much more to the fitness industry than simply training one client at a time. That is still my bread and butter, but I also include, small and large group training, teaching, writing, and even on-line consulting to the mix to make sure I never get bored. There's also a ton of other ways to make fitness into a career, if you decide you want to do them. The key fact to remember is that you only get paid for done in fitness, not simply for the hours logged, so follow your passion and find ways to make yourself excited while still earning an income.
If you're getting bored or finding yourself stagnate, go to a conference (I'm speaking at the Edmonton canfitpro in February, just sayin), buy someone's DVDs (Post Rehab Essentials is pretty hot right now, I hear), read a new book, or try out a new type of training on yourself or your clients. Switch up your business model, offer new or complimentary services, and market to new niches to build a different career while never actually "working" a single day. Sounds like the best job in the world to me, but what about you?
Let's say you're looking to carve out more of a market share in the booming post-rehab aspect of fitness. Start off by learning the basics, which will give any doctor or physio or chiropractor enough confidence in the fact that you won't damage their patients any further to trust you and send you some business. You can learn about the basics through my workshop Post Rehab Essentials. It covers all the bases, from shoulder injuries to knees and spinal conditions, but also gives you ready-made templates for assessments and programs to give to your clients to get them feeling better right out of the gate.
It's also on sale right now, so it's probably going to be the best investment in your education you can get, especially if it makes even one client believe in you enough to fork out some cash to have you help them with their injuries.
I'm still getting better, because I truly don't see myself as "successful" yet. There's a lot of other big dog's in the yard with more clout than I have, so I'm going to keep reaching and working my butt off to get better at what I do on a daily basis. I figure anytime someone comes in with a problem, I have to turn into Vanilla Ice, cuz Yo' I'll solve it. There's a lot of problems out there I still haven't figured out how to solve, so I have to keep working to stay ahead of the curve. You should too.