21 Tips for Up and Coming Fitness Professionals
Written on October 1, 2015 at 9:19 pm, by Eric Cressey
Over the years, my favorite posts to write have been my "Random Thoughts" pieces. Effectively, these write-ups are just brain dumps on a particular topic, as opposed to a clearly constructed arguments. It occurred to me the other day that - after years of our internship programs at Cressey Sports Performance - I've accumulated a lot of useful tips for up-and-coming fitness professionals. So, here's a brain dump on the subject!
1. Improve your writing skills.
In this industry – as much as you may think it’s unfair – a lot of people are going to assume that you are just a meathead. You’re feeding into that stereotype each time you send an email with all lower-case letters or fail to utilize correction punctuation.
True story: I once had an athlete’s mother joke with me that she was sure that I was the only strength coach on the planet that knew how to correctly use a semicolon.
2. Don’t make continuing education harder than it needs to be. Your goal should be 30 hours per month, or 360 hours per year.
-Three seminars of 1-2 days each = 24-48 hours/year
-20 minutes per day of audiobooks during your commute, or regular book reading: 122 hours/year
-Go observe another trainer/physical therapist/doctor once a month for 4 hours: 48 hours/year
-Online Programs/Videos for 20 minutes per day: 122 hours/year
-Buy/Watch three DVD sets: 24-48 hours
At the minimum, this is 340 hours. On the high end, it’s 388. Either way, it’s incredibly manageable. You just have to make it a priority.
Subscribe to Elite Training Mentorship. It's under $30/month, and literally takes 75% of the guesswork out of this continuing education "battle" for you. Just make sure you cover everything that's included in every update each month, and you'll be in a great spot.
3. Talk 20% of the time, and listen 80% of the time – especially during initial evaluations/consults.
4. Incorporate videos into your coaching. Many clients are visual learners who do best when they see themselves performing an exercise.
5. Make it easier for potential clients to perceive your expertise. There are a million different avenues you can use to do this; think long and hard about what really “matters” to your clients. For instance, don’t expect an awesome Facebook presence to mean much to teenage athletes, as they’re all on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.
6. Have a clear and consistent persona. Don’t be an introvert one day and then bounce off the walls the next. Sure, there is a time and a place to shake things up to help with client engagement, but that shouldn’t change you are as a person to the point that clients don’t know what to expect when they show up. Moreover, they should never be able to tell whether you’re having a bad day or not.
8. Look the part. It actually does matter.
9. Use social media as a means of building rapport with your clients and potential clients, celebrating clients’ achievements, and also in positioning or reaffirming your expertise (think of it as a short article or blog). Don’t use it to be confrontational/negative.
9. Never be afraid to refer out. Your #1 priority is to help clients – especially if that means to get them out of pain. I see too many trainers who are afraid to refer clients out to doctors and physical therapists because they’re afraid the client won’t come back and they’ll lose the business. If that’s the way you’re thinking, then you ought to be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I create a stronger relationship with this client?” If you do a good job, you should create a sense of loyalty in your clients – and this shouldn’t even be an issue.
10. Some clients won’t mind it if you swear. Others will REALLY mind it. Why risk it when there is nothing to be gained?
11. Don’t try to fit clients to programs. Fit programs to clients.
12. When you see another trainer with a busy calendar, don’t think, “That guy sucks. I should have way more clients than he does.” Instead, ask yourself, “What is that guy doing so well that he makes clients flocks to him?”
13. If you want to build confidence while honing your skill set in the early stages, volunteer to help out with training teenage female athletes. They have considerable joint hypermobility, which means that it’ll be easier for them to acquire the postures needed to lift effectively. And, if you’re familiar with the concept of relative stiffness, because they have less passive stability, there will be less “bad stiffness” for them to overcome as you work to establish good stiffness for lifting.
Additionally, younger female athletes are generally more untrained, meaning they haven’t spent years lifting in the basement, establishing bad patterns the entire time. So, you don’t have egos to deal with in terms of changing lifting techniques or selecting lighter training loads. They won’t put another 2.5 pounds on the bar until you tell them to do so.
Finally, untrained athletes will make progress quickly – and that can make the training process more fun for coach and athlete alike.
Obviously, you don’t always get to pick the exact populations with whom you work, but training this “slam dunk” population is one way to get some momentum on your side.
14. Find ways to introduce clients to each other to help establish culture. Did one client vacation where another client is heading? Maybe Client A will have a good restaurant recommendation for Client B, or can comment on how good the gym access is at a particular resort.
Just this past week, an agent reached out to me to ask if I knew of any forward-thinking doctors in the Arizona area where one of his baseball clients could get blood work done. I texted one of our MLB clients who’d had it done out there last year, and he got me the contact info for one – as well as a thorough review of his experience with this particular doctor.
The more you grow your culture, the more you realize that clients don’t just come back to you time and time again for the training. If you need proof, here's a photo of the CSP Family members from the Mets, Marlins, and Cardinals during the 2014 Spring Training. We organized this get together for dinner on 24 hours notice. Not pictured are the wives and girlfriends in attendance, but suffice it to say we were a crew of 30+ that evening.
You don't get that if you just punch the clock with your clients; you get it by treating them as family and inviting them to be part of something much bigger.
15. Never speak badly about another trainer or business. Focus on what you do well and, more importantly, how you can help the client.
16. Be very careful with how you manually cue female clients, particularly if you are a male trainer. I can lightly jab my fist into a 24-year-old MLB athlete’s core to get him to brace, but this would be highly inappropriate with a 45-year-old female client on her first day. So, if you feel the need to use your hands to cue a client directly, politely ask permission before doing so.
17. Always be on time. On the first day of their internship, I teach all our new interns about the concept of “Respect Reciprocity.” If you want clients to respect you as a coach, you need to respect them first – and that begins and ends with showing up on time and being ready to coach. Organized facilities/trainers attract (or help to create) organized clients.
If that’s not incentive enough to show up on time, just remember that doctors who have poor bedside manner are more likely to be sued by patients – and that’s independent of their actual diagnostic or treatment abilities. If a customer perceives you as disrespectful, you’re going to be paddling upstream to make things right.
18. Never, ever, ever discuss religion or politics.
19. Don’t just work to create a good network of medical professionals around you, but also a great network of specialists. Not all orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, massage therapists, and other related professionals have identical skill sets. I'm very in tune with this because you can't send baseball elbows and shoulders to "just any" doctor or physical therapist. It's a unique population with specific adaptations, injury mechanisms, and functional demands.
20. Be really, really, really good at something and you will do very well in this industry. However, before you can be really, really, really good at something, you should be proficient at a lot of things.
21. Remember that proficiency precedes popularity. You’ll get really busy when you’re really good at what you do.
That does it for this go-round. I'll definitely do this one again, as they really rolled off my fingertips!
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