How to Develop Your First Online Fitness Product for Under $20 With or Without a Website

Written by, and reposted with permission from, Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Training Development Center.

If you’re interested in creating more freedom in your life then developing a side, or full-time business in online fitness is a great option.

Every trainer should create intellectual property (IP) to sell. The first major thing that you sell (product, course, book, etc.) should have the potential to fundamentally change your business.

  1. An amazing print book that’s professionally put-together from the design to the editing to the networking required to get the book out to a large but purposeful audience.
  2. An online product that has the potential to infuse a lot of money into your business.

This article, at first glance, is contradictory to my theory.

First, a bit of my background and how I stumbled into recognizing the power of both items above:

My first print book, Ignite the Fire: The Secrets to Building a Successful Personal Training Career, was released in April 2012. The book took 3 years to write, cost over $12,000 to produce, and has since changed my life. It’s now being used as course material in colleges and mentorships around the World.

Aside from enabling me to live life and run a business on my own terms, the book is primarily responsible for the growth of the Personal Trainer Development Center, this site, that helped 2.45 million trainers Worldwide last year and is on pace to help over 5 million this year – both are unfathomably large numbers.

Here’s what many don’t know.

After writing Ignite but before releasing it I consulted with a few online fitness goo-roos for help in polishing and promoting the product. They promised the World and, for a small (not so small) fee, would turn it into an Ebook and sell millions. Somewhere along the lines they seemed to miss the step about how they were planning on selling millions. Nevertheless they were happy to sell me on a dream and take my money.

It might have done OK, who knows. What I do know is that if I had made the decision to go the easy route and make it digital I wouldn’t be here writing this to you right now.

A well-received print book has the potential to fundamentally change your life. Print books are cherished, shared, and dog-earred. A book gets displayed proudly on a shelf for the owner to show off his or her breadth of knowledge to any passers-by. A digital book, on the other hand, often gets lost in the 100s of gigs of data on a hardrive.

If it was a digital book early on, there’d be no way I could have compiled a Facebook album showcasing trainers with the book.

Additionally, a high-quality print book is exceptionally hard to produce and even more difficult to promote, especially if you’re self-published. You need an audience and a network; you need to navigate the publishing World; and you need great interior design, editing, and distribution.

So the book came out – that was cool. A few years later I released my first online product. After a painstaking research, development, and testing process, 1K Extra – How to Build a Scalable and Efficient Online Personal Training Business, was released.

1K Extra’s first release infused so much money into my business that I was able to hire 8 contractors the next week to do 8 different jobs that I was previously handling myself. Aside from finally being able to breathe, I had provided myself an opportunity to spend the majority of my time being proactive.

And turning a reactive business into a proactive one is what I want to help you with today. And it all starts the first step.

How to Transition Out of a Reactive Business Model – You Need a First Step …

Below is a step-by-step strategy to develop your first-step – an Ebook – an asset.

I say asset because an asset works for you. A healthy business works for you, not the opposite. If there’s one thing you take from this article, it’s to do everything in your power to build a business that works for you.

“Do everything in your power to build a business that works for you, not the opposite.” – Click to Tweet

This is a simple Ebook. It’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be perfect. And it’s going to be something that you’ll look back on a few years from now and laugh at.

But it’s a first step. And a forest begins with an acorn and a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step yadda yadda yadda.

At the end of a hike to the Ink Blots in Johnson Canyon in Banff National Park (one of the 16 National Parks my girlfriend and I hiked through this past fall)

At the end of a hike to the Ink Blots in Johnson Canyon in Banff National Park (one of the 16 National Parks my girlfriend and I hiked through this past fall)

Now it may seem like I’m contradicting myself. I said above that the first product that you put out needs to be awesome and should fundamentally change your business. This won’t do that. What this will do is provide yourself an opportunity to allot the required mental energy, time, and money into producing something special.

The system below will walk you through taking a workout that you’ve already written for a client and turn it into an e-book for less than $20.

This will help you make a little extra money for no extra effort and it can be done in an afternoon. From here the process compounds as you cut out a few hours of training and organize your schedule better.

Corollary – Is it Irresponsible for a Young(er) Trainer to Sell Template Workouts Before Gaining A Lot of Experience?

There will always be people who operate with low integrity. Throw them out the window.

A relatively new trainer is still training clients in the gym. There is still somebody who is paying them to work so it is their responsibility to know their place at that point. Their place is “I know how to work with this one person”. You have a 20 year old who has put on muscle. Well, he knows how to get 15-20 year old man with no injuries to put on muscle.

The original IP should provide you an opportunity to gather a bit more freedom in your life to be proactive in your business. At that point proactive probably means that you’re going to spend a lot more time studying. Package the workout into a template and .pdf via the system below and sell it to friends and family who meet those same guidelines for $19.99. You’re not marketing it to the World  based off of sensationalistic claims.

All this allows you to do is make a bit of money outside of the gym which allows you to spend a bit fewer hours in the gym which allows you to spend more time on your continuing development.

Here’s the Soup to Nuts Process to Developing an Online Fitness Product

Steps to Creating the Book
  1. Identify the top 3 requests that you get from friends and family (i.e., fat loss, bulking, cutting). These should be pretty general.
  2. Choose the most popular request. (This should be pretty obvious to you)
  3. Pick the best program that you have already written for a client that suits that goal.

Put each exercise on a template, noting the important exercise variables (sets, reps, tempo, rest, etc.)

  1. List 1 to 2 progressions and regressions for each exercise.
  2. Take a picture or film a video for each exercise. If you don’t want to create your own, find a YouTube link to a video from somebody else and put it beside your exercise.
 These can be done in an afternoon. Each video is two reps, 5-20s. I wrote a full breakdown of the process here.
  3. Write a 2- to 4-line description of each exercise. (You can Google these for almost every exercise.)

7. Write a short intro for the program that describes a) who the program is for; b) why the program works (include the hook, or why they should care); and c) important considerations for participants.

The purpose isn’t to sell the program, so there’s no need to be promotional. Simply explain the purpose of the program and why it works if somebody adheres to it. Ideally you’ll have a “hook”, i.e. this program is for more advanced trainees and takes advantage of a concept called overreaching and supercompensation to result in more muscle growth than anybody has ever experienced anywhere. In the World. Because science.

  1. Write a half page or so that describes how to know whether to progress or regress an exercise (i.e., if you can perform all reps, progress the exercise. If at the most advanced exercise, then progress the weight).
  2. Describe the variables of the program (sets, reps, tempo, et cetera). You can Google these.
  3. You can also include notes on gym etiquette. (This is optional.) I suggest including a list of 5 to 10 gym etiquette considerations like putting the weights away, wiping down equipment, and the like.

11. Describe how to fail with the program, such as not lifting heavy enough or not taking enough time off between workouts to recover. Here’s a slideshow I put together for Livestrong with workout mistakes you can “borrow” (read: steal).

  1. Give them advice about what to do next; generally, this will be a call to buy another program or hire you for in-person or for your online personal training business.
  2. Include a disclaimer. Look at any workout book in the bookstore to find one to emulate. It should say something like, “This book is for information purposes only. Consult a physician before starting any exercise program.”
  3. Include copyright information (optional).
  4. Upsell (optional). This might include a call for more money for a custom nutrition plan or an affiliate link to buy a recipe book online where you get money if they buy. This complicates things and there are a ton of options of ways to make more money after you’ve sold the initial book. If you want to simplify your life, just sell the basic book.

Steps to Editing/Polishing the Book

Decide on a name. Don’t overthink this for a basic book. A simple descriptive title that communicates the main benefit (i.e. Feel Better Naked) works.

Get a cover designed using fiverr. It should cost you $5. If you want to get a more expensive and better-looking cover, you can use eLance or 99Designs.

Get the book edited. A service called Scribendi is fantastic and cheap or get a friend or family member to do it.

Compile your document into a .pdf file and include separate workout templates. You can use existing ones that you have or get free ones online. A site called is a good option.

Sign up for a free PayPal account (you’re only charged a percentage of the sale), connect to your bank account, and create a payment button for the book. Charge whatever you like; $19.99 is reasonable.

Have a system for delivering the book. There are a host of options but here are 3 simple ones to choose from:

  1. Have your PayPal button redirect the user to a hidden page on your website (if you have one) where they can download the book.
  2. Connect PayPal to your email marketing system and have the first auto-response message contain a link to download the book.
  3. Manually send the book file via email to the buyer whenever you receive an email that notifies you of a successful payment made via PayPal.

Steps to Promoting/Selling the Book

Make a list of everybody who you know who has a goal similar to the one that the book is designed to help people meet.

Email these people a week before the book is released, and tell them to get on a pre-sale list by filling out a Google form (this is free) or simply emailing you; enter their names into a spreadsheet to capture their emails. You can also share a “coming soon” notice on your social media accounts telling people to join the pre-sale list.

Create a “products” page on your website and sell directly through there (again, this is optional).

Wait for people to approach you with questions. Remember that this is an asset for your business. The idea isn’t that you sell millions the first week. It’s meant to serve as something to offer people if they ask for your advice, if they don’t live close, or if they can’t afford your in-person rates. This is not something that you overthink or overdo with promotion. It’s meant to free up a bit of time for you to work on the next step. Nothing more.

If you’re actually good at what you do, you will already have friends, family members, and mutual contacts asking health and fitness questions of you.

And if you’re not already good at what you do, don’t write a fucking book about stuff that you’re not good at yet.

If you follow the steps I listed above, the book should cost you less than $20 to produce from start to finish; possibly a touch more due to editing depending on length. A single sale and you’ve made back your entire investment. Two sales and you’ve made a profit!

I suggest creating 2 to 3 books (one for each major issue that your training solves). Even at a single book sale each week is an extra $1,040/year. Not only that, when you write you become an expert. You’ll be surprised at how much an e-book like this will drive awareness of your training and build your reputation.

Consider this: if you sell 3 to 5 e-books each week, you’ll make an extra $3,120- $5,200/year on top of your regular training income.

Don’t go buy stupid stuff that you don’t need with that money. Instead use it to replace income as you scale back and better organize your time in the gym.

Then, and this is the fun part, commit your extra time and mental energy to becoming a better writer, networking, and putting together something special – something that will fundamentally change your business, and life.


Jonathan Goodman is the author of the book on personal training, Ignite the Fire, and creator of the personal trainer marketing site, the Personal Trainer Development Center (thePTDC)Grab the free course teaching you how to have a more successful, fulfilling, and profitable career today. Jonathan has also just published his latest book Viralnomics, in which he shows how to use social media to help professionals discover how to get the right type of people to want to talk about them and the services they provide.


Fitness tracking app magic with FitBit!

We’ve already enabled the syncing of workout and activity data from FitBit, the world’s most popular fitness tracking device,. We’d like to now tell you about a really cool  magic trick (ok, a workaround), which also makes it possible to automatically import data from other tracking devices and apps directly to Motivade.



It involves using a free FitBit account as a so-called ‘proxy’ or go between service, even if you don’t otherwise use a Fitbit activity tracker! The following example shows how to import data from the very popular (and our head coach’s favourite!) running focused fitness tracking apps iSmoothRun to Motivade:

  • Set up a free FitBit account (if you don’t already have one)
  • in the iSmoothRun app, authorise the export of your workout data to FitBit
  • At the end of a workout using iSmoothRun, export your data to FitBit (either automatically or manually based on your app settings).
  • Login to Motivade and link your account to FitBit (if haven’t already done so)
  • Your iSmoothRun workout data will now appear in Motivade (and if it doesn’t, just click the sync -link).


And that’s it. It’s so simple that it really is (almost) magical!

So, if you’re into running, we can’t recommend the iSmoothRun app highly enough. It’s been created by some awesome running developers who care about what real runners and active people need, and that includes the easy importability and exportability of data to support those who simply prefer to also use other apps. It’s definitely worth trying it out!

Jyri Manninen

Motivade head coach


With visits to the two major fitness and health expos in Sydney and Brisbane over back to back weekends, October was the key month for me during my Aussie road trip. So, here’s a little about my experiences and observations at them.

To be totally frank, industry expos are a bit of a mixed bag. You get to see the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s happening lately in our industry, which in this case is everything related to personal training. Expos afford the opportunity to increase your awareness about the possibilities, simply because they make you think. For example, it’s great to admire those focusing on providing new customer services, or doing old things better, and really thinking about how are industry is viewed by the world. On the flipside, even the things that make you cringe and shout (in silence in your head), ”That can’t be what personal training is about?!”, offer clues as to what emotional needs they are catering to in potential users. And that leads me to the very important sales related idiom of ’People buy with emotion and justify with logic’. For me, understanding the emotions related to relationships, whether they be trainer to client or B2B, and how they affect outcomes, is the most important thing to figuring out how successful a new product or service will be. In essence, the key question to the success of anything is ”Does it emotionally move people?”

2015-10-25 14.17.382015-10-25 14.10.26

Without going into specifics about different product and service providers at the two expos, some were absolutely fantastic at communicating the emotion behind their businesses, while others … well, were not so fantastic. My own assessment to gauge this is double-barreled. Firstly, I listen to the business pitch to see how it is delivered. Then I perform a kind of flip and start talking about what I’m interested in and which may not be of direct financial benefit to the business in question. The idea is to see how the level of enthusiasm and interest of the business’s representative changes when I start talking about how they can help me in my business. In terms of Motivade, my purpose for visiting the expos was to chat with other industry representatives about possible symbiotic win-win collaborations, in particular personal trainer and fitness instruction education providers. While Motivade is an online software solution that costs professional users a subscription fee, I was approaching the education providers to offer the use of our software to their students completely free of charge. Of course, nothing is completely free, so the benefits to Motivade would be to receive feedback from the students to help us improve our software, and to also create a loyal long-term customer base from our future industry professionals. For the education providers, they would also gain benefit by being able to introduce their students to a professional level tool to improve their effectiveness in communicating and managing the fitness of their clients. In relation to that, Motivade is specifically designed to support of the provision of online personal training services, which is one of the major areas of growth in our industry, as trainers look for new, more effective and flexible ways to increase their income levels.

2015-10-17 14.16.44

However, to cut a potentially long story short, the reception I received range from the really unfriendly, “What’s this? We don’t do or need that as our students wouldn’t use it.”, to the really good, “Wow, the idea behind this is really great! How does it work, and what do we need to do to try it out with our students?”. However, I was pleased that the general level of interest (and enthusiasm) that I received was well on the positive side of neutral. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think that all the positive feedback signified a definite direct interest in Motivade, but it certainly showed that those representatives understood good communication and how to cultivate good business relationships, which means that they would be the kinds of businesses that we would be happy to work with based on their attitudes alone.

Anyway, I hope that I’ve made my general point here, which is that in our industry we need to find better ways to emotionally connect with our customers, and with each other, in order to be successful. Hopefully, the services that we have to offer are also of a sufficiently high quality, as I’m certainly not advocating the selling of crap with panache (also known as selling a turd in a silk scalf). That to me is one of the greatest sins in business if you’re looking to create a successful, long-term career. It’s also just a really bad way to treat people.

So, please let me finish off by clearly spelling out our offer to the providers and students of personal trainer and fitness instruction education.

  • free use of the Motivade professional software tools for the entire duration of the students’ studies
  • direct support to students in the use of the software (from me mostly).
  • minimal or no administrative requirements from the education providers, as we offer the same end result in two ways (see:  Education Partner and Student Community programs)
  • no contracts, but simply and flexibly with (virtual) handshake type agreements that can be modified at a moment’s notice.

Essentially, there really is nothing in our offer that costs education providers (or students) anything, apart from the willingness to introduce it and to try it out. Even working personal trainers can see what they think of our communication and fitness management software at no charge, with all features unlocked, with our free two week free trial – and should they like it, our special Aussie Expos offer of a 50% discount off the yearly subscription fee is still continuing to the end of November. We’re also happy to offer select personal trainers extended free trial periods (even 6 to 12 months) in cases where we can collaborate on a more deeper level.

2015-10-24 12.55.22

So, if you’re interested in finding out more about Motivade, and how it can be used to grow your business – in particular to develop your online personal training services – then please send me a personal message via my dedicated Motivade webpage here.

As my time in Australia comes to an end in a few weeks, I’m starting to look forward to returning back to Europe to enjoy the long winter (yeh, right), but I’d already like to take this opportunity to thank all the great and welcoming people that I’ve met in our industry over the past two months. If their attitude is anything to go by, our future is in good hands.

Jyri Manninen

Motivade head coach


The State of the Personal Training Industry

Guest post by Sarai Sinai of HFE – Health and Fitness Education (UK).

Working in the fitness sector can offer various opportunities for a range of people, especially as the industry continues to grow.


Fitness facilities, such as public gyms and private leisure centres, have seen a huge boom in popularity as more and more people are looking to improve their lifestyles. From 2013 to 2014, fitness facilities have grown from 6,112 to 6,312, while personal trainers are also reporting a rise in client enquiries. Digital advancements, and a boom in fitness classes, means that the fitness industry is also more accessible than ever, with career options to suit a variety of individual requirements. Flexibility within the sector means that there are also plenty of avenues to consider when it comes to pursuing a career in fitness, whether this is around training (e.g. providing personal training and fitness instruction services), funding or further qualifications.

The following infographic by HFE  looks at some more key statistics around salary, training, funding and development within the fitness industry in the United Kingdom, alongside some insights into the most popular occupational roles and places of work.




I departed from Finland of the 10th of September to head ’down unda’ for a two month long ’road trip’ for Motivade. I can’t believe how quickly the first 3 weeks have flown by. It’s already the start of October and it feels like I’ve barely got over the jetlag! But what in the world am I doing in Australia?

The aim of my visit to Australia is to meet up with personal trainers, fitness centre owners/managers, as well as fitness education companies, to research the degree to which they offer personal training services online. This includes finding out about the approaches they’ve used to develop this very rapidly growing aspect of the personal training profession. While I’m here, I’ll also be attending the two major fitness & health expos. The First is in Sydney on the 16-18 October, with the second in Brisbane a week after that. I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s new in the fitness industry, as well as getting the opportunity to spend some time with my peers, which include some old friends from over two decades past.

Anyway, during my first three weeks here, I’ve concentrated on making contact with fitness centres located in the mid-north coast region of New South Wales, where I’m myself currently based. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to visit 9 of them, and they’ve lead to some really interesting conversations about the current status and need for online personal training. I’m very grateful to all those fellow fitness industry professionals at these centres who took time out of their busy schedules to have a chat with me. This has included receiving some great feedback about Motivade, our own communication and fitness management software for personal trainers, active people and organizations. The following provides a general summary of my observations so far.


Apart from the usual general gym management type solutions for general client account administration and appointment scheduling, very few seem to be using (at least not on a regular basis) online solutions for the creation and management of fitness programs, as well as communicating with clients. It seems that face-to-face personal training services are still king, and I totally understand that. It is supposed to be PERSONAL after all, right? However, I think there’s an interesting point to be made here. Providing online personal training services, in addition to our ‘bread and butter’ live work, doesn’t make it any less personal. It just makes it different. It’s all about the approach used. In that respect, the aim of Motivade is to provide an additional way of staying better connected with clients, and for longer. Essentially, this creates more flexibility in how personal trainers and other fitness professionals are able to interact with their clients. It also extends the length of the tail of personal training relationships, as it makes it easier and more cost-effective to continue to provide clients with the reduced level of, but nevertheless long-term, support that many of them still want and need. That’s surely a win-win for everyone.

It’s almost impossible to convince any personal trainer who believes that face-to-face personal training is the ONLY way to do the job properly to think differently. As the old saying goes, “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” Howeber, I do think that all professional people, regardless of the industry, would find it beneficial to at least consider new alternatives to their current practices. That’s if they really care about providing their clients with the best possible services, which must be (at least in my opinion it should be) the main goal of any business. For sure it must be the case in PERSONAL training?

Once again, I’d like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the fantastic people that I’ve had the privilege of meeting and chatting with so far on my tour. Their attitude and careful consideration of the topics brought up convinces me that our industry, at least in Australia, is doing well – and will continue to move forward with the times for the benefit of our clients … and ourselves too. Here I’d like to make special mention about my experience with Denis and his son Scott at Challenge Fitness in Port Macquarie. After my impromptu drop-in visit, they kindly invited me back to demonstrate how Motivade works, including how they could use it to better serve their clients. In particular, we discussed its application in group training.


Now that Motivade has just completed our support of automatic workout data syncing with FitBit, it’s provided us with a great time to try it out in practice given many of the members at Challenge Fitness already use FitBit (the world’s most popular fitness tracking device). We’re actually proposing to set up a pilot group training challenge of sort. This will involve using Fitbit for workout data collection, which will be then automatically imported into. Once all the group training workout data is in our system, we can seamlessly manage communications with the participants, as well as analyze of the group’s collective workout results. When this all moves forward, I’ll of course be providing progress updates.

In finishing this ‘September Round-up’, I’ll just let you know that I’ll be writing the next blog after the two expos. Until then, you can obtain up-to-date info about my Aussie road trip, as well as about Motivade in general, via my special ‘headcoach’ webpage. It includes weekly diary notes, my contact details and a message reply form, as well as a collection of the most important Motivade related info (e.g. links to our Education Partner & Student Community programs, FAQs, introductory & help videos etc.). You can access this page here:

Jyri Manninen

Motivade head coach


Thanks to:

Denis & Scott at Challenge Fitness, Your Life Fitness and 5 Star Fitness in Port Macquarie; Tony at the Manning Aquatic Leisure Centre gym in Taree; Reece at the Sweat Shed n Forster; and then Ryan, Elise & Karen at the Anytime Fitness Centres in Port Macquarie, Taree & Forster, respectively. Finally, a very special thanks to Casey and her team at Adrenalin Fitness, Laurieton, my own home-away-from-home gym.


I need to work my way up to the gym (understanding the needs of personal training clients)

F …uck I hate this line.

Written by, and reposted with permission from, Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Training Development Center.

We’re not doing a good enough job. Obesity is still rampant, health care costs are increasing, and too many people are reasoning themselves out of exercise. The easy thing to do is to blame them, call them lazy, and condescendingly snicker when they grab a, well… Snickers bar.


We can continue what we’re doing and shout loud that people need to “get after it”. We can continue to post self-representing pictures stroking our own ego and masking it as motivation. We can even continue to tell people for the 10 millionths time the secret to losing weight and getting ripped. But it’s not working…

Einstein once said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. This mantra is well-established in program design but isn’t being followed where I believe it should be most present.

At the end I’m going to go over how you should respond when a client says this to you.

I believe the problem starts and ends with personal trainers — the preventative care practitioners. I believe that we are missing the root of the problem that far too many people don’t feel comfortable in the gym in their present state. I believe some people are not ready to make a change yet and this is our fault, not theirs.

We have made the learning curve too high with fitness. An elitist atmosphere has been created in gyms where the average inactive person no longer feels comfortable.

The gym is my second home. I joined the YMCA as a shy 105lbs 15 year old. I’m more comfortable there than I am on the street. Many of you are likely the same. Now put yourself in an uncomfortable scenario, say walking into a club. But this club isn’t the run of the mill club where guys lean awkwardly against the wall sipping mixed drinks with embarrassingly small straws while the girls have fun. It’s different…

You walked in on tango night and everybody else seems to be an expert. Suddenly you’re conscious of your every move. In your head you start yelling at the tiny black straw, “why won’t you get to my mouth? You’re making me look stupid!

That’s how a new member of a gym feels. One wrong move and or one perceived condescending look and they’re out faster than you can sing the chorus line from Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice”.

laiiiiiid back
With my mind on my money
And my money on my mind

I don’t have all of the answers but in this article I’m going to attempt to lay out all of the problems. Where I can I’ll offer a solution. I ask that you help and put any solutions to the problems you can think of below in the comments. I never want to hear anybody say that they need to work their way up to the gym again.


How to personal trainer marketing
I don’t blame people for mistrusting fitness professionals. Whenever I had a client come from another trainer I immediately became concerned and assumed that trainer didn’t do a good job.

That’s scary.

Fitness is an unregulated industry that thrives off of emotion. Promises are made with little to no evidence to back them up and are too often broken. There’s no board to report to and the client is left with a bitter taste in their mouth and nowhere to turn. The worst part of all of this is that I believe it’s justified. There is no reason to trust a lot of fitness professionals.

The human body is the most complicated machine in the world. Professionals are trying to manipulate, fine tune, and heal every aspect of it with as little as a weekend’s education and anecdotal experience.

I don’t have a solution here other than to plead professionals to be just that, a professional. Be more comfortable saying “I don’t know” than you are saying “I know”. Just follow it up with, “I’m going to find out”. You aren’t supposed to understand the complications that come with chronic illnesses or nagging injuries that may or may not have been diagnosed properly on the back of your hand.

If you feel you can work with the client or are willing to research adequately to provide them with a high level of service go for it. If not, refer out.

Tried and failed before

Why did they fail? Answer that question before moving forward.

Don’t repeat the same mistakes another professional made and/or work to help them with whatever habits they struggled with previously.

The biggest reason I encountered when I spoke to new clients was that their schedule got in the way. A planned or unplanned interruption occurred and they never recovered. I advise trainers to always build a calendar 3 months in advance with every client.

Don’t just lay out major events like vacations. A friends wedding, daughter’s graduation, or family reunion needs to get documented as well. This way you can create a plan with your client to make sure that they understand how to recover after a weekend of indulgence. More than anything it’s comfort in knowing that they are doing the right thing.

If the problem was with a previous trainer be careful not to badmouth anybody. Listen intently to what the trainer did to curb the client’s results and don’t make the same mistake. Lay out your plan while making special mention of not repeating the same mistake.

Marketing images

Fitness models shoot pictures close to a competition. This means that they are usually in a dehydrated and malnourished state. It’s not sustainable. Nobody walks around shredded 24/7. In addition the photos are usually photoshopped.

Unfortunately these are the images we’re pummeled by that define fitness. It’s important to educate clients how these photos are taken and what is attainable. You might also want to lay out the daily sleep, nutrition, and workout plans these people follow. Try telling a 36-year-old professional father of 4 that he needs to eat 6 meals, sleep 8hrs, and workout 5 times a week.

My solution is to keep fitness fun. Exercise should be done for the love of movement and the vitality it brings, not for the six-pack. Realistic expectations and role models are a necessity. Teach people to train for life, not living to train.

Exercise should be done for the love of movement and the vitality it brings, not for the six-pack – Click to Tweet

Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory states that self-efficacy stems from 4 things:

1. Social persuasion. You can increase this with verbal encouragement. Compliment them on a specific aspect of the exercise they did well.

2. Psychological responses. This is largely determined by the client’s reaction to situations like trying a new exercise. What important to note is that intensity of the psychological response is secondary to perception of how it is perceived and interpreted.

3. Master experiences. When a client performs well his or her self-efficacy increases. If you want them to try a new exercise where they may feel silly have them perform something you know they do well right before.

4. Social modeling. This is achieved by witnessing others accomplish a similar task. Providing clients with good role models is essential.

Nobody knows what works, not even trainers

I was at conference and made a point to walk around when lectures were on. In one room there was a lecturer speaking on research pertaining to human performance. The room was sparse. Down the hall was a group exercise class with loud pumping music, instructors yelling, and more variations of fitness toys than you would see in most gyms. The room was packed.

Trainers fall prey to the same marketing hype as their clients. They get taken in by the next best thing and run home with their arms full of toys eager to show it to their clients.

I don’t argue with trainers anymore on their chosen modality(ies) because everything works for at least a little while. The caveat is that you have to stick with something long enough to get a training effect.

What doesn’t work is confusing the hell out of your clients. Educating yourself on different equipment is great but constantly throwing new toys at them is counterproductive.

They pay good money and take time out of their busy day to get results, not play with toys. Confusing people into not knowing what works and what doesn’t work will keep them out of the gym. They might think that they look stupid if they feel they aren’t doing the right thing. Presenting too many options or constantly changing what the right thing is could keep or drive them away.

bad personal trainer

Supplements replacing real food

I had a rule when I was a trainer that until a client could bring me a food record showing a well-rounded, consistent, healthy diet for a month I didn’t recommend even a protein powder. That diet was simple and almost always the same: nutrient dense carbs surrounding workouts, lots of protein, tons of veggies, healthy fats, and lots of fiber specifically for older folks.

Maybe this was right and maybe it was wrong. I got fed up answering questions on the minutia of whether one protein supplement was better than another when the client hadn’t eaten a vegetable since Lewinski thrust herself into the public eye (whammy…) My goal was always to help the client focus on the 80% and leave the 20% until later. Arguing over the heavy metal content in different protein powders seemed irrelevant.

So how about we go back to the basics with nutrition? My system was simple and worked magic:

The client completed a 3-day food record and gave it to me. I took a look over while they sat with me at the desk. I then would ask them what THEY wanted to change. They almost always chose what I would have chosen. I agreed, circled it on the paper, ripped the paper off of the page and told them to keep the note in their pocket wherever they went.

I never expected them to read the note but I knew they would put their hand in their pocket. When they did it stimulated a cascade of events starting with remembering what was on the paper and finishing with an image of me smiling at them from across the table.

The following week they would pick a second change, and so on until they had fixed their own diet.

Frustrated that client’s aren’t following your nutrition plan? This will help.

I built this system off of my belief that people know what they should be eating; they just don’t know where to start. Allowing them ownership over their decision worked wonders and it resulted in a greater sense of accomplishment.

Confusing them with a batch of new rules and limitations at once resulted in confusion and reduced adherence. Big rocks first – fill in the dust later.

Rehab Paralysis

When did personal trainers become rehab professionals?

Rehab is meant to be done by rehabilitation professionals. Generally they have 4 additional years of schooling. Personal trainers are meant to take people post-rehab and get them performing.

This past week I was in Lethbridge, Alberta with a consulting client and we worked out at Gold’s Gym for 4 days. At first the trainers impressed me, their clients seemed to be training with good form. After 4 days of working out in the same club I didn’t see one client that appeared to be working hard. They hardly broke a sweat.

There seems to be a trend where clients are being told they are hurt and are put in cycles of perpetual rehab. I call this rehab paralysis. A minor ache that would otherwise go unnoticed becomes a big deal. Each workout the trainer takes 20+ minutes activating, mobilizing, and massaging a client to take away their aches and pains.

I believe this is the trainer’s fault. The human brain is powerful. If a person believes they are injured they develop phantom pain and start to protect the area.

The result is a lot of people that are afraid to move – exactly the opposite of what we want.

My rule was that if a client was in pain I referred them out. If they could move we worked on grooving motor patterns and performance. That was my job. The rehab experts can focus on the boring stuff (sorry Dean).

I have “x” or are intolerant to “y” or somebody told me not to do “z”

bad fitness and exercise advise personal trainer

I once had a client that had serious shoulder issues. She couldn’t ride in a car without writhing in pain because of the vibration. 3 different professionals diagnosed the shoulder as 3 different things: a bursitis, a rotator cuff tear, and an impingement. Every scan she had was negative.

What the crap?

These were chiropractors and physiotherapists. She was scheduled for surgery to repair something that wasn’t torn. After a careful assessment I had a hunch and with the help of Eric Cressey we postulated that the problem was in her diaphragm. I thought that years of singing caused it to be in spasm compressing a nerve and causing referred pain in the shoulder. A combination of singing lessons, a cortisol shot, and strengthening of the mid back made the problem go away. To this day she doesn’t have any issues.

Whether I was right or not isn’t the point. The point is that she was going to go under the knife to fix a problem that wasn’t there.

People are being told that they are rife with problems. The news is filled every day with a new scare in our food and our caring friends are quick to diagnose our aches and pains without a thorough assessment or requisite knowledge.

It’s an uphill battle but one personal trainer’s must fight. A friend who plants an idea in your clients head that they have patella tendinitis will leave them walking into the gym slower and more protective. This phenomenon was shown in a famous study by John Bargh.

In it he scrambled words for 30 students at New York University. For one group the scrambled sets of words pertained to the elderly (ex. worried, old and grey). In the other group the words were free of association. The participants were asked to complete sentences with the words. After completion they were thanked and led out — this is where the real study took place.

The group that formed sentences with words pertaining to the elderly took 15% longer to reach the elevator than those who didn’t. Among other things this study showed that our subconscious pervades all aspects of our behaviour, even the ones we don’t commonly see as choices. (Note that I learned about this study from the Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. I also stole that last sentence directly from the book because she worded it so well)

What all this means to us is that if people believe they are hurt or are told that they are feeble they will perform worse. This happens on both a conscious and subconscious level.

Exercise is daunting

The first step is always the hardest. When new people come into the gym they are often teetering on the edge. One wrong move could lead them astray and cause them to relapse back into inactivity. It’s up to us to make fitness approachable and do everything in our power to help them keep at it.

What to Do When Somebody Says This to You

This is where I recommend asking “why?” 3 times. A common response is to say something about the importance of form, but that’s not really emotional to the client and it will rarely work. If the client has previously gotten hurt in the gym you may be able to make an appeal to safety.

Similar to dealing with any other objection, you must first know what the real objection is.

Is the client embarrassed? Dealing with the objection would be to tell him or her that you can train in a private part of the gym?

Does the client think that your training won’t be effective for them yet? Here you can speak about the fabulous gains that trainees get early on and that it’s actually more important to train when “green” than after.

Get deeper.



Further reading


The Art of Choosing – Sheena Iyengar

Client Behavior Change: A Key to Personal Trainer Success (Understanding the transtheoretical model) – Mark Young

Personal Trainers Shouldn’t Periodize – Jonathan Goodman

References: Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., and Burrows, L. “Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and sterotype activation on action,.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71 (1996): 230-244.

Photo Credits: I like istolethetv

Understanding the needs of personal training clients.

A System for Getting Testimonials for Personal Training

Written by, and reposted with permission from, Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Training Development Center.

In an industry rife with dishonestly and associated distrust, it’s important for you to add in as many proof elements before making a sales proposition as possible.


Every trainer should have a binder of testimonials from past and current client that they continually add to.

In an industry rife with dishonestly and associated distrust, it’s important for you to add in as many proof elements before making a sales proposition as possible. Getting testimonials for personal training is the best way to do it.

Imagine the power of having a full binder sitting in the waiting room for potential clients to flip through as they wait for a tour, complimentary session, or sales meeting.

One of the contributing factors of Self-efficacy (or the belief that one can achieve) is social modeling. This is a huge contributing factor to whether a client will make the decision to purchase your services. You can enhance this belief by being able to show a testimonial specific to your potential client.

Ideally you’ll first identify your target client types (or avatars) as detailed as possible. For example:

A 26-year old African American women who is 30lbs overweight. She’s never used a trainer and is finally looking for some direction after numerous failed attempts at the gym. She’s a nurse, so shift work makes regular sleep and food habits hard to come by.

The above is just an example, but I urge you to create 3-4 of your ideal client avatar’s in a similar fashion (but much more detailed). This way you’ll know what aspects of the testimonial that you want to highlight with your potential clients who have similar goals and limitations.

Here’s an example of a great testimonial that I would show to my made up client above.

When I started to train with Jon I wasn’t obese, but definitely had some weight to lose. It’s funny, you know, I’d been in the gym on and off for a few years without much to show for it. I didn’t believe that a trainer would really be able to help me until I had “worked my way up to it”. I also work shifts – sometimes nights – and don’t sleep well.

What I particularly liked about Jon was that he looked at me as a whole as opposed to giving me some exercises and counting the sets and reps. It took a bit of time but he first helped me establish better sleep habits. Not one to diet, Jon took a look at what I ate and helped me identify what foods I really loved, and which ones that I could live without. The result was an almost immediate weight loss. I’d recommend Jon to anybody.

The above example client and testimonial are made up but meant to showcase how important it is to have testimonials specific to your avatar. Notice how my testimonial shows how all-major reservations have been solved with my training.

How to Collect The Testimonials

Aside from telling you to just ask, there are some strategies for collecting great testimonials that will result in you getting more usable ones in addition to clients actually giving you them.

Before getting into the brief strategies, I recommend getting permission to use the testimonial for promotional purposes either in writing or via email and keeping that on file. Better to be safe than sorry. If handing the client a form to fill out, a simple check box and place for a signature with a line allowing permission of use should suffice.

After a client registers for training, why not set a reminder in your phone for 2-3 months away to ask for a testimonial? This way you don’t have to think about it. Once your phone beeps, you hand them the form that I describe below.

The more specific the questions that you ask, the better the chance that you’ll get answers and higher quality answers that you’ll get.

I recommend creating a simple document on your computer with all questions and space to fill out the answers that you simply print and hand to a client asking them to fill it out. Be detailed not just in the question, but also in the length of response that you want. I also recommend including 3 questions for improving your business taken directly from Scott Stratten’s book UnMarketing (the first 3 examples below).

Here’s an example form that you might hand out:

  1. What’s one thing that you’d like me to start doing?
  2.  What’s one thing that you’d like me to stop doing?
  3.  What’s one thing that you’d like me to keep doing?
  4.  In 3 sentences or less, can you describe any reservations that you had before we started working together?
  5.  In 3 sentences or less, can you explain how I was able to help you with your reservations?
  6.  Can you describe your 1-2 top goals when you started?
  7.  In point form, can you list your achievements with training thus far?
  8.  Is there anything else at all that you’d like to add?


Note: The following is a template that Jon has created for you to use. You are also free to alter it to suit your own needs.



Jonathan Goodman is the author of the book on personal training, Ignite the Fire, and creator of the personal trainer marketing site, the Personal Trainer Development Center (thePTDC). Grab the free course teaching you how to have a more successful, fulfilling, and profitable career today.


In part 1, I described the foundation of the Motivade London Challenge, which had the aim of testing the Motivade software with people who had no previous knowledge of the system, as well as incorporating it with use of activity tracking devices, such as FitBit. The blog concluded with a summary of the week long experiment’s physical activity plan. Here, in part 2, I’ll be presenting the results, as well as a discussion of what we, my London couple and myself, learned from the experience.




  • The total number of kilometers walked was about 73km for Elisabeth and 102km for George. Additionally, Elisabeth cycled approximately 25km and with George doing about 15km.

  • The distance and caloric expenditure (Elisabeth 13,014 kcal & George 25,940 kcal) data provided by the FitBit physical activity tracker was quite close to that provided by Motivade, which was not unexpected as FitBit uses GPS technology to track movement progress, just as the Motivade mobile app does.

  • The daily caloric deficits for both Elisabeth and George averaged around 600 kCal within a range of 100-1000 kCal, as energy consumption was purposely varied from day to day.

  • Body weight loss for Elisabeth for the week was 300g. For George the figure was 700g (note: measurements were taken at the beginning of day 1 and then again at the beginning of day 8. It should also be noted that day 5 was a planned ’loading day’, which involved the consumption of approximately 65-75% more calories than the average for the preceding 4 days).

  • In relation to the nutritional data provided by FitBit, there seemed to be some clear discrepancies between the true amount of calories consumed (according to my own manual calculations) and the data provided by FitBit. However, this was not a fault of FitBit, but simply the degree of accuracy with which the data was inputted into the FitBit app. That, of course, is the sole responsibility of the user with the accuracy determined by their ability to make correct judgements on food type, content and quantity. Thus, while FitBit certainly presents the data very clearly, its accuracy is completely at the mercy of the user’s ability to provide accurate data to the app. In other words, a very clear case of ’what you get out is what you put in.’


Lessons learned

Based on this week long intensive experience, I’ve been left with the a number of key thoughts. The first one is very clear, which is that no software or device, be it Motivade or FitBit or anything else, can ultimately take responsibility for developing a person’s fitness. While, physical activity tracking devices and apps can certainly provide great looking data in clear and easy-to-read formats, that’s not the same thing as having an understanding of what that data actually means and how it can be optimally utilized. That’s still the job of trained professionals, and it probably always will be. However, it is also true to say that no professional can help a person who doesn’t want to be helped, or then doesn’t either know about or be able to access the services of a professional. Regardless, I do believe that the use of automated physical activity tracking devices may be a great tools for initially getting otherwise inactive and unmotivated people off the couch and moving.

The second key thought was that a significant degree of the effectiveness of automated activity trackers seems to be due to their function as a social stimulator as they also allow the posting of workouts to social media for sharing with other people. Also, the tracking devices currently on the market (in this case the FitBit) are actually visually quite attractive and trendy. In other words they are simply cook to wear as an accessory and as an outwardly directed symbol of a person’s commitment to being physically active


The third though was related to long term effectiveness of automated tracking. I suspect that over a relatively short period of time, perhaps in the order of 3-12 months, the novelty of being auto-monitored and held accountable by an electronic device will wear off. This is likely to occur when the initial good and self-motivating results start to level off and I think it’s fair to say that the majority of activity tracker users will, sooner or later, get to this point even with continued use of their devices. To move to the next stage, health and fitness professionals, such as personal trainers, will need to become involved. Their job is to facilitate the transition of the automated activity tracker user to the next stage, which involves gaining a greater awareness and understanding of what the data provided by the tracking devices actually means. Through this process, sustainable, long-term behavioural changes can be achieved, which involve making regular physical activity and appropriate nutritional practices normal parts of people’s lifestyles. Otherwise, and to be quite blunt, all that you’re left with is a short-term, although certainly quite entertaining and motivational, automated electronic device fuelled fad.

After this experience, I can say that my knowledge of physical activity tracking devices is now much improved. As a consequence, my attitudes towards their efficacy has also been revised. I believe them to be a fantastic way to initially get people started on the road to becoming more active, especially when a professional is either not available or perhaps not even desired. However, they are just a tool after all, and there is just no way of getting around the fact that a real person with real knowledge and experience is the optimal choice to make sense of all the data the trackers provide. At least so far, no device has been able to help a person transition from the great start they’ve made (using that particular device) into positive long-term, lifestyle changes.


Now, in relation to my ’crash test dummies’, I certainly wasn’t going to leave them high and dry after just seven days! So, we agreed to a 60 day follow-up period (since that is considered as being the minimum amount of time required to form new habits). To cover this 2 month period, I created a training program for Elisabeth and George, which they can do together on their own. The program included a muscle conditioning routine, as well as, in addition to the walking sessions that they have already been doing, more intense, running related cardio workouts. I also supplied them with further supportive information, including documents about better nutrition (such as about the glycemic index, sources of lean protein and healthy recipe ideas), as well as exercise and progress monitoring (e.g. resting heart rate measurements and the orthostatic heart rate test to gauge recovery patterns). Although they’re now responsible for following the program themselves, which is as it should be, I’ll still be providing ongoing monitoring, support and encouragement to them using the Motivade system, in particular via the recently added Motivade group training feature. So, stay tuned as I’ll be writing a follow-up report on how things went after the two month period has concluded.

Ultimately, optimal long-term, sustainable changes require the effective transfer of learning from those who have it to those who don’t. In other words, it all boils down to the art of communication. So, what is Motivade’s part in the health and fitness equation for success? While out software certainly provides personal trainers with great client management and exercise programming tools, as well as all fitness enthusiasts with the ability to easily track their fitness progress, our system actually functions as a communication system. It facilitates effective dialogue and sharing between personal trainers and their clients, as well as between fitness enthusiasts who support each other to stay motivated. While we all have our own personal reasons for exercising, or engaging in any activity for that matter, I think that when we make the effort to share our experiences with others, as well as support them in their own progress, almost magically, we find that we end up motivating ourselves. Motivade exists to serve as a facilitator of this communication-focused behavior for the purpose of helping people to achieve their physical fitness goals and to lead healthier and happier lives.

Jyri Manninen

Motivade Head Coach


Over a week long period spanning the end of April and the beginning of May, I conducted an experiment called the Motivade London Challenge, with the aim being to test out the Motivade software with people who had no previous knowledge of the system. I wanted to gain some first-hand feedback into just how much benefit, both short and long term, they could gain from using it, as well as get some insights into how we could better serve the needs of personal trainers and their clients. This blog, which will be published in two parts, is a report of how things went down.


I was going to be in London for a little over a week for meetings with some personal trainers, as well as fitness education providers as we were now offering the use of our software to personal trainer students completely free of charge via our recently launched Motivade Education Partner Program. However, I still had lots of time between those meetings to make use so it was time to get creative. Over a morning coffee with a friend and professional colleague, I came up with the idea of conducting an experiment where I would provide a professional London based couple intensive 1-on-1 health and fitness coaching (or should that then be 1-on-2?) for a 7 day period. The two criteria for selection were that they had to already be working on improving their fitness and that they had to not have used Motivade before.


The main aim of this experiment would be to obtain direct, real-time feedback from the couple about how they experienced Motivade in terms of adding value to their current health and fitness program. As it turned out, they had been using the very popular FitBit fitness tracking wristband devices for the last few months, but despite feeling motivated by the devices, as well as already seeing some results, they still felt that they weren’t making optimal progress. This was also a very interesting situation for me too, as I wasn’t really sure how I felt about fitness tracking wristbands and their true usefulness. To be honest, I didn’t really know that much about FitBit, or other similar fitness tracking devices, apart from the fact that there’s been an explosive growth in their use in recent years. For example, there were around 6.7 million active users of the FitBit device at the end of 2014, which was an increase of 4.1 million from the previous year. Maybe my lack of attention (until now!) in regards to such devices was because, in some ways, l’m still fairly old school when it comes to personal training and fitness coaching. I lean towards thinking that people can get the best results from health and fitness programs when working with a real human rather than being guided by an electronic device. I guess I have to admit that I’ve been a bit sceptical about the trend towards automation in the fitness industry, one which essentially is leading to a case of the ‘outsourcing’ of personal training to electronic gadgets and fitness tracking software over qualified personal trainers and coaches. However, I do believe in always keeping an open mind and to take the best from everything when trying to create optimal solutions for clients. So, in addition to testing Motivade with my two willing ’crash test dummies’ (who will be referred to by their pseudonyms of Elisabeth and George Waters), I was also going to be addressing my own attitudes towards electronic fitness tracking devices and how they could best be used for achieving positive, long-term lifestyle changes. I was really looking forward to seeing how Motivade would work in tandem with FitBit, and whether the combination would be an even better solution for my clients, as opposed to just one or the other on its own. We even added in use of fantastic GPS tracking app, iSmoothRun, which is something I personally use for tracking my own running training, in order to gauge the accuracy of the FitBit device’s distance measurement function.



Activity Plan

As the week we spent together was a very intensive one, it would take at least 10 pages to report on all the specific details of what we planned and executed, as well as reporting on the results of it all. However, to keep things simple, here is a brief summary of the plan:

  • daily cardio workouts involving mainly brisk walking sessions ranging between 8-18km in length
  • the daily logging of the cardio workouts into Motivade followed by an analysis of the workout data provided by FitBit
  • a review and discussion of Elisabeth’s and George’s eating habits since they started using FitBit, and the inputting of their daily food consumption into the FitBit online app, which offers the possibility for basic nutritional analyses
  • the creation and implementation of a new weekly nutritional plan template to act as a basic guide for optimizing their eating behaviour
  • educational visits to local supermarkets, as well as away-from-home eating locations, to learn about appropriate food selection


In part 2, I will be presenting the specific results of the experiment. This will also include a discussion of what we, both my crash test dummies and myself, learned from the experiment, and how the experience is likely to shape our future behaviours.

Jyri Manninen

Motivade Head Coach

Personal Training – What You Really Need to Know

Written by, and reposted with permission from, Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Training Development Center.
Misplaced guidance, unfounded promises, lack of integrity, biased decision making, and money-grubbing have all become synonymous with personal training.

The fitness industry was worth $21.4 billion in 2011 (1) and is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010-2020 (2). Buying personal trainers’ services is an emotional decision and one that’s often done without adequate thought. It’s not surprising that some people are taking advantage of consumers. Personal training service is arbitrary. Trainers don’t have a prescribed scope.  Nobody really knows what they should, or should not, know.

Buying personal trainers services is an emotional decision and one that often lacks adequate thought. – Click to Tweet

What’s funny is neither do a lot of trainers. I’m here to tell you that we’re just as confused as you are.

The industry is in disarray.

Terms like metabolic conditioning, functional training, core, muscle confusion, leaning out, and periodization are thrown around so haphazardly that they have lost all meaning. Education for for trainers in North America is un-regulated. While good resources exist for trainers, the overall picture is not bright. Anybody can call himself or herself a personal trainer, even without certification. And anybody can create educational platforms and designate trainers as “certified”.

Trainers are also duped into believing that the next best thing is better than the last best thing. The reality is that they get tricked into emptying their wallets just as much as the unfortunate clients they serve.  The trainers are trying to do the right thing. With all the noise, it’s difficult to get a clear and unbiased view of what the job entails and what methods work best.

I was a personal trainer. It was my career and I was passionate about it. My focus is now on giving personal trainers the skills they need to succeed. The prospect that my generation won’t be able to support the raising health care costs for the baby boomers in the near future is scary. Preventative medicine must be a priority. Exercise has been well established to decrease/eliminate risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and even dementia. (3, 4, 5, 6)

Personal training can change people’s lives.  It’s a fulfilling career and not a part-time job. Teaching proper exercise technique and theory is the greatest weapon in our arsenal to decrease pain and suffering from disease, help people live more fulfilling lives, and save billions of dollars in health care costs.

This is what personal training is all about:

We don’t all have six-packs.

Yes, even we sometimes have that  extra piece of cake and skip our workouts. Fitness is important,  but it isn’t all we think about morning to night. I believe that life should be enjoyed both in and out of the gym. (A six-pack doesn’t hurt for those days on the beach, though.)

Sure, some trainers’ lives revolve around fitness. They eat a steady diet of un-flavored chicken and broccoli, work out twice a day, and are in bed by 9:00 PM sharp. I bet they’re ripped. I also bet you aren’t willing to mimic their lifestyle.

Judging a personal trainer solely on appearance is not the way to choose a coach. What they did to attain their physique probably took years of trial and error or protocols that the average Joe can’t follow. Just because they are in good shape doesn’t mean they know how to help you. You’re different in everything from your daily commitments to body type. Even genetics has been shown to have a massive effect on adaptation to exercise. In one study, subjects followed the same protocol. Some subjects gained as much as 10cm in their biceps and doubled their strength, while others showed little to no gain. (7)

While it’s important for a personal trainer to practice what they preach, their personal fitness level is not a good indicator of how much they can help you. Tiger Woods has a golf coach whom I’m comfortable assuming is a worse golfer than Tiger. This expert has taken years to study every aspect of the game and can help Tiger. Even if a trainer isn’t able to grate cheese with their abs, it doesn’t mean they can’t get you there. They know what it really takes and have decided to live a healthy life without the requisite dieting.

The best program is the one that you will follow. A trainer’s job is to mesh a quality workout program with your lifestyle, while understanding your limitations. They’ve done the same for themselves.

Our goal is not the make you hurt.

This might surprise you: my goal is to make you hurt less. I don’t get secret pleasure when you can’t walk up the stairs and my goal is not to make you “feel it”.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the result of unaccustomed exercise and is modulated due to type, intensity, and duration or training. What this means is that anything different will make you sore. Making somebody sore is not the purpose for training; making the muscles grow is. It’s possible that the same things that make you sore also signal the body to build more muscle but powerful mechanisms exist in the body in the absence of soreness.(8) The three primary mechanisms for hypertrophy (muscle gain) are mechanical stress, metabolic stress, and muscle damage. All of these occur in the absence of soreness.

So, yes:  I will see how you’re feeling and want to know if you’re sore. But I don’t pump my fist in jubilation when you tell me you can’t feel your legs. Soreness tells me how you’re adapting to the workouts and how well your recovery mechanisms are working. It allows me to adapt the training as I learn how your body functions (yes,  it’s different than mine). If you continue to get sore, something is awry. And my aim is to fix it.

You will get stronger, look better, and function better in the absence of soreness. You can also train more frequently and be less miserable. I’ll save my fist pumps for when you put on muscle, not when you suffer.

We care more about the why.

In 1981 George T. Doran created the mnemonic SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely). The system was first published in an issue of Management Review and has since gone on to become synonymous with goal setting.

The most important letter when it comes to adherence towards exercise is the “R” but most people focus on the S, M, and T.

Having a goal of losing 10 lbs for the summer may seem SMART. It’s specific (10 lbs), it’s measurable, it’s attainable, and it’s timely (the summer). Why is it relevant?

Does 10 lbs mean that you’ll feel comfortable going to the cottage with your friends and sun bathing?  Maybe it means that you will be able to fit into the red dress you wore on the cruise last year. ( You remember that cruise;  your husband told you that you were beautiful.)

You will stick with your exercise plan if you take the time to look deep inside yourself at the why — and stop focusing on numbers. Running a 5k is not a goal, losing 10 lbs is not a goal, and benching 225 lbs is not a goal. The goal is the reason behind why you want to do those things. So why do you go to the gym?

We get frustrated when you don’t do your homework.

Personal trainers don’t make millions. We’re hard working people doing a job that we love. Our greatest passion comes from seeing you succeed. That’s why we get frustrated when you don’t do your homework.

The average client trains one to two times a week. Occasionally, somebody will train three days and week,  and rarely will somebody train four or more.. That leaves 164 hours in a week for you to mess up your lifestyle, diet, or exercise.  A trainer will make sure you’re exercising well. But the onus is on you to want it badly enough to take some responsibility in your own hands.

If you’re working hard and not getting the results you want,  something is awry and we want to help you figure it out. Either the goals set are unreasonably high, or you’re not following your routine outside of gym hours.

Open communication is a must. Tell us. If you’re finding it hard to do your homework our job is to figure out a way to fit it into your lifestyle. It may mean your goals will have to be scaled back but expectations must be realistic.

We progress and regress appropriately.

Most new clients I take on can’t do a push up properly. There are people who boast 1.5x bodyweight bench presses yet they don’t have the requisite shoulder and mid back strength to support their own bodyweight. Most complex movements are done so poorly in the gym that they are ineffective.

This goes back to my point on SMART goals (more particularly the “R”). Is your goal to perform a heavy bench press or to look good? If it’s to look good, you probably need to take some weight off of the bar and focus on quality of movement. 99% of trainees aren’t looking to become Olympic lifters. They want to get ripped to feel like they’re more attractive to the opposite sex.

There’s a reason why bodybuilders flex constantly. And it less to do with ego than you think. The mind-muscle connection is a powerful way to recruit a higher percentage of muscle fibres. The idea here is to take a minute before you start the exercise to think where you should feel it. Flex that muscle and keep it engaged throughout the whole movement. The result is higher recruitment and more muscle.

This cannot be done if you’re doing quarter squats or pumping out low-quality reps quicker than Universal Pictures makes sequels for the Fast & Furious movies. Oftentimes, taking a step back and refocusing is the best thing you can do for your workouts.

We advise you on nutrition, to a point.

Personal training is unregulated. This means there is no scope of practice. Despite what you might think, it is generally okay for  trainers to advise clients on nutrition. In most places, they can even called themselves a nutritionist without repercussions. (Note:  you may only use the term “dietician”  if you have the appropriate  qualifications and the same caveat applies to the term  “registered nutritionist” in many places. The only real no-no for personal trainers everywhere is to dispense “medical nutrition therapy” or to  claim to be something they’re not.)

It is the responsibility of the trainer to only advocate eating habits they know well. Nothing is black and white. Even common vitamins can be beneficial for some and toxic to others.  Supplements compound the issue. If your trainer recommends you take supplement,  I recommend you do your own research before buying it  — especially if the trainer is the one selling it to you.

Large commissions are paid to trainers who sell supplements to trusting clients. Multi-tier marketing schemes are rampant in gyms across North America. Whether or not the products are effective is not up for debate here. What’s important is that full disclosure is given if the trainer is receiving compensation in any way for the recommendation.

The reality is that most trainers know just as much about nutrition as you do. When you break it down it isn’t complicated: eat breakfast and consistently throughout the day, eat lots of healthy fats, eat tons of veggies, and restrict carb intake to before and after your workout. I realize that I’m over-simplifying the point and the paleo/intermittent fasting crowd may be shaking their heads. Take a step back and think what’s really important. If everybody followed these very simple rules, the population would be a lot healthier.

So the crux of it is that a trainer’s job is to make sure you have adequate information about nutrition and helping you devise strategies to adhere to your plan. If there’s anything they don’t have advanced knowledge of, or if you have specific needs, it’s their responsibility to refer you to somebody who does.

A session does not need to be one hour to be effective.

Some protocols require more frequent shorter bouts of 30-40 minutes and others require 90 minutes.

The one hour  session has become standard in gyms across North America. But you may be surprised to hear that personal trainers hate it. If we end a session in 50 minutes,  it’s not because we want to go to lunch earlier. It’s because 50 minutes was the optimal time for you to train. Because of the one hour rule, most trainers feel forced to stretch their clients after the session,  even though the stretching may be negatively affecting those clients’ results.

On the other hand, some sessions should last longer than one hour hr because a high volume is needed. A trainer is often forced to cut the session at the one hour mark due to scheduling constraints instead of providing you with the optimal workout.

Optimal training should dictate business practice, not the other way around. – Click to Tweet

We’re not educated by YouTube.

For some reason, it’s become accepted that personal trainers should educate themselves the  same way their clients do.  I don’t know why and how this happened. But it needs to stop. Accountants don’t do your books by reading “Accounting for Dummies” and doctors don’t prescribe based on what the latest popular magazine article recommends.

To get ideas, a trainer should be reading industry journals and textbooks —  and not watching the latest Body Rock video on YouTube. Clients are not test subjects; they’re paying customers. The best trainers are those who constantly improve their methods and learn new techniques. But they test the techniques before prescribing them in a workout.

Our Job is to make sure you avoid our mistakes.

People become  personal trainers after years of self-discovery, both mental and physical. They’ve failed and have learned from their mistakes. After years of self-experimentation, they decide they want to become a trainers to pass on their knowledge and passion for fitness to others.

We want to make sure that you take the quickest route possible to the body you’ve always dreamed of. If you decide to hire a trainer, you are not hiring them for one hour. You are hiring them for their years of expertise. We go into work every day with the goal of making you better. Your success is our success.


Further Reading:

The Death of Functional in Personal Training – Jon-Erik Kawamoto

Personal Trainers Shouldn’t Periodize – Jonathan Goodman

Should all Personal Trainers Have Six-Pack Abs? – Jonathan Goodman

Your SMAT Goals are STUPID – Jonathan Goodman





Jonathan Goodman is the author of the book on personal training, Ignite the Fire, and creator of the personal trainer marketing site, the Personal Trainer Development Center (thePTDC). Grab the free course teaching you how to have a more successful, fulfilling, and profitable career today.