Alwyn Cosgrove on “The Evolution of Personal Training”

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Alwyn Cosgrove has been a great friend and mentor to me for almost five years now.  I can directly attribute a lot of the success I’ve had to the fantastic advice he’s given me on the business side of things.  Since Alwyn just released a DVD (of a seminar I had the privilege of attending), I thought it’d be the perfect time to chat with him about the new product and some other thoughts he has on the state of the fitness industry.  If you make a living training clients, this is must-view material.


EC: In your experience, what are the biggest mistakes aspiring fitness professionals make?

AC: Here are my top four:

1) They don’t understand that they are running a business!!!!

Most fitness professionals are running a hobby and trying to make money at it. That will never work long-term.

Being a great trainer is imperative in today’s market. You aren’t going to succeed unless your skill-set is of a high enough level.

However, it’s not just training skills – that’s only part of the big picture – the “client fulfillment “portion.

It’s also business skills. Michael Gerber – the author of The E-myth – calls this the seven essential skills: Leadership, Marketing, Money, Management, Lead Generation, Lead Conversion and Client Fulfillment.


You have to understand how to lead and motivate your team: leadership.

You have to understand marketing, which results in lead generation.

You have to have good sales skills – which converts leads to customers.

And you have to be able to understand cash flow and operating expenses before you can create a profit.

You need to have mindset AND skill-set before you can be successful. But skill-set consists of seven areas. Make sure you are studying each area (not just training) equally.

2) They don’t understand the client mindset.

Ask yourself these questions if you’re a trainer:

Do you think a good fitness professional is a valuable investment?

Do you think a good fitness professional can get someone to their goals faster than they can get there on their own?

Are you personally in the greatest physical condition of your life right now?

Are you ecstatic with your own strength levels and conditioning?

I bet that 80-90% of those who answered will say – yes, yes, no, no.

So – extrapolating from that – what is YOUR trainers name? Why did you hire him or her?

I bet most trainers don’t even have training partners – never mind a coach to help them with programming and getting to the next level.

In other words – if you tell me right now that you DON’T have a trainer – despite not being in the best shape of your life, not being ecstatic at your own fitness, and believing that a good trainer can get you there faster than you can alone, and is valuable — then deep down – you don’t believe that a trainer IS valuable.

What I’m getting at – is WHY, despite all the knowledge and beliefs and goals, most trainers haven’t hired (or used) another trainer to help them?

It’s the same reason prospects aren’t hiring you — they aren’t in great shape, and maybe don’t know (as we do) how much a trainer can help?

Lawyers hire other lawyers. Barbers hire other barbers. Doctors see other doctors.

So list the reasons why you didn’t hire a trainer personally. That’s why people don’t hire you.  And that’s the WHY we need to figure out for your next career move: the client mindset.

“If you can see John Smith through John Smith’s eyes, you can sell John Smith what John Smith buys.”

3) They Don’t Create TOMA.

Have you ever had a client tell you that “I’m definitely going to hire you as my trainer, but I am going to lose ten pounds first!”

I’m sure you have. But while we think it’s crazy, it’s a sign that you don’t have weight loss TOMA in your area.

TOMA is Top Of Mind Awareness. Are you the first person or business that jumps into a client’s mind when they think “weight loss?” Or “sports conditioning?”

Quick, name a soft drink company. I bet it was either Coca-Cola or Pepsi.

What is the number one sneaker brand? I bet you came up with one of three names: Nike, Adidas, or Reebok.


Your goal with all of your marketing is to position yourself, in your area, for your target market as the “top of mind awareness” obvious choice for that particular topic.

A lot of fitness businesses get hurt here by dividing their efforts and marketing to different demographics – and that’s ok – but two demographics should mean two different campaigns – not two “half” campaigns.

What do you want to be known for?

This is something that you’ve actually done very well, Eric (probably before you actually had your business systems in place). Think baseball conditioning in Boston and Cressey Performance springs to mind.

4. They don’t find mentors and coaches for the business side, and they don’t mastermind with like-minded successful individuals.

Okay, this is really two for one!

Mentoring: “All successful individuals have coaches” – James Malinchak.

Think about this: boxing and MMA are probably the ultimate “one-on-one” sports. Two guys, with no equipment (or even shirts!) face one another.

But when you look back to the corner – there are usually three or more guys helping him. They include a coach (known as the “chief second”) and several other teammates.

To me, a mentor is nothing more than someone who is climbing or has climbed the mountain before you, and has reached back and is helping you up, way faster and easier than you can climb yourself.

One of the fastest ways to success in any field is to find a mentor who will help you, and a “mastermind” group of likeminded people with whom to network. The key phrase there is “likeminded;” we’ve all had the situation of asking a family member or friend for feedback on a project and being shut down when they don’t realize or understand the big picture. You need to be around people who are thinking the same way as you.

Your mind is like a garden. Be careful what you plant in there.

EC: That’s fantastic stuff – and #4 certainly hits home for me, as you’ve been my primary mentor in getting my facility off the ground.  To that end, while all my education came via email exchanges between the two of us, you’ve now made it easier for folks to learn what’s made you successful by introducing some products.

Most recently, there is “The Evolution of Personal Training” DVD, and just a few months ago, you released “55 Fitness Business Tips for Success” book.  I’ve checked out each of them, and in my eyes, people should buy both!  However, can you go into a bit of detail on the difference between the two?


AC: The DVD is a live shoot of a presentation I did for Perform Better this year where I really go into detail about how to evolve your business in today’s economy. The old methods of one-on-one training, weight-training-only workouts, and charging people for a “ten-pack” of sessions are just inadequate or outdated practices. I cover a few things in more detail – like transitioning into a semi-private model, repositioning yourself as a consultant as opposed to a “rep counter,” and understanding the client or prospect mindset. If you don’t understand that, you’re dead in the water as a business owner.

The book “55 Fitness Business Tips for Success” should have been titled “55 things that we did wrong when we opened our facility and somehow managed to survive, but make sure you don’t repeat these!” It’s kind of like a “pocket guide” to basic business tips for fitness professionals. And when I say “basic,” I mean stuff everyone NEEDS to know and practice but usually don’t! I tell my business coaching group to keep that book in their office and read a couple of pages every day to make sure you don’t ignore anything crucial.

EC: Thanks for the time, Alwyn.

I’d strongly encourage those readers of mine in the fitness industry to check out these resources, as Alwyn’s stuff is fantastic.  You can find out more and order at Alwyn’s site.