“There’s a lot of crap out there”.
It’s a statement I probably hear every week working in this industry. Some may say it rings true in other industries too, but I think in mine, it’s especially powerful. See, what makes fitness unique is the fact that it’s unregulated. That means people can become professionals and obtain licenses to do this stuff for a living in just hours.
The thing is, no trainer who says the above quote, ever thinks they’re one of those bad trainers contributing to the crap.
Peruse the self-aggrandizing website of your classic, shirtless, under-30 instagram trainer and you’ll see that they’ve all “helped thousands reach their goals”, “trained a variety of clients, from beginners to professional athletes”, and have years of extensive experience in the world of fitness. I didn’t know including your pre-pubescent winter seasons in PeeWee hockey was fair game for your professional resume.
Scroll past the motivational quotes, superfluous client testimony, and portfolio of training stills in outfits one would never actually wear to train, and you’ll probably find a story of their long road to success.
It’s all a game I try my best not to play. I come into contact with these types quite often (in my city, it’s basically impossible to avoid). For that reason, I feel like I should clear the air in case I’m ever mistaken for the type due to improper research.
Here’s the research.
I’m in this game for a couple of reasons. First: I like what I do. Genuinely. I couldn’t imagine a job I’d enjoy doing as much, other than actually being a professional athlete. Second, believe it or not, money and controlling the web aren’t my priority – respect is. The guys who I look up to in this industry put in the time to get the respect of a whole lot of people, and likewise, I want theirs. The way I see it, having the respect of a few is better than the fluffiest dingbat following ever. I’m doing my best to take the steps these guys took to “make it” during their come-up phase.
Even if that means selling myself short, “losing business”, or missing out on opportunities to make fast money or quick popularity. Here it is, raw and uncut.
ON TRAINING CLIENTS
I made this the first subheading, because it most urgently needs to be voiced. The past year, I’ve been asked more than once if I only write, due to the sheer volume of work I get published. Many didn’t (don’t?) believe I work with physical clients 1 on 1. My answer is actually a resounding “yes”. Clients are and will be the hub of my work, as I often mention anecdote trumps anything when it comes to building training knowledge and improving your intuition as a coach. I couldn’t imagine not training, and won’t stop working with clients in some quantity for as long as I’m doing this. I don’t believe it’s fair to write about training methods that you’re not practicing, or at least having someone practice under your guidance. And no, online distance training doesn’t count. Currently I work up to 25 clients in a given week.
ON LEVERAGING THE INTERNET, AND SOCIAL MEDIA
If I wanted 30,000 followers on Twitter, and 10,000 fans on Facebook, I’m sure I’d be able to come close to those figures if I used tactics I’ve seen and heard are available to me. Some recommend it, but again, it’s not my focus. I’m going to stay off of Instagram for as long as I can, because I don’t feel I’d have any need for it at this point.
Furthermore, I don’t want the following I’ve built to be based off of things other than my training background, and my sharing of that information. I could eat tuna and rice cakes for two months, get really lean, drop the shirt and flex in my photos and vids. But again, none of the guys I look up to (nor the ones whom I’m friends with) currently use that approach – nor do I ever remember them doing so. I’ll likely never post a “selfie” on Facebook, or post anything that doesn’t have to do with training (Ok, ok. THAT may be a bit eccentric, but hey, it’s in line with my personality). 95% of the time, I tweet about training content, and the other 5% I tweet out a review on a new movie I just saw. Life on the wild side, I know.
I won’t follow 9000 people on twitter so that I get 9000 follows back. I want people to take the initiative to follow me for the right reasons, and based on their own volition – not because I’m throwing myself in their faces. If that means it takes 3 times as long to have a large following, that’s fine. I’ll wait.
ON MARKETING, BRANDING, ETC
I don’t have a brand. I don’t really want one. I’m a generalist trainer who goes by his own name. I don’t have affiliations to certain products. I have no one working over me, and no one working under me. For the time being, it’s the way I’d like to keep things if at all possible. I’m sure many of my friends would get a kick out of seeing me post a photo of myself, posing with a vapid smile and aMonsturGainz shaker cup to fulfill my sponsorship obligations. I don’t use search engine optimization so that when someone types “trainer”, “Toronto”, “fitness”, or “fried chicken”, I’m the first name that pops up on Google.
For the record, I don’t think any of these things are worthy of any shame at all. In the future, some of the above may change for me personally – who knows? My point is that in the present day, it’s just not on my wavelength.
I know; I’m really selling myself short here. No marketing strategies, no attractive PR girl to help me write my tweets every hour or blast onto new platforms and amass thousands more followers in the blink of an eye, not even SEO or a fan page. What am I doing? I’m focusing on doing my job, and getting my name out there the old school way. Hate me and my methods all you want. If you reread the above, you’ll probably agree when I say I’m not a business guy. That’s ok. For respect, I need to be a training guy.
ON LAUNCHING PRODUCTS AND WRITING BOOKS
I’m a 28 year old trainer entering his 9th year on the job. What business do I have writing a bookabout training? Overnight Celebrity Syndrome (OCS) can often push inexperienced people to reach for the “next level” once they’ve reached a certain point of e-success in a short period of time. I can’t speak for whether or not the momentum someone in this situation has gained would be sustainable – that’s quite case specific, and I’d suspect it depends on whether the information is credible and useful. But when a 20something writes a big book of fitness or product-launches a download, I can’t help but wonder what the original vets in the game are thinking. Part of me hopes they’d be proud and encouraging. The other part suspects they’d be shaking their heads, since what took them 17 years of in-the-trenches experience to decide to complete, took the next guy 3 and a half.
As I said, I’m a firm believer that anecdote trumps everything – so I can’t justify making myself a published author after only a few years in the game. Again, it doesn’t mean the alternative iswrong. For example, one of my favourite training books was written by a well-known and respected coach who was probably 28 at the time it was published. But I think people are missing the fact that anomalies are anomalies for that reason. They should be few and far between. Unfortunately, I believe this is happening too many times to keep this industry’s credibility intact.
ON THIS WEBSITE
Wanna know the real reason I don’t blog nearly as much as most think I should?
It’s because there’s not that much to talk about. Straight up.
Sure, I’m busy with paid assignments for publications, plus my in-person clients, but it’s actually easy to write two blog articles every week from a time management perspective. The thing is, I have a belief system on this page that I’d prefer not to compromise. I believe in emphasizing the importance of strength training, learning to move well, and improving strength while moving well. That’s it. I also don’t talk much about direct training content on this blog; I leave that for the publication articles. Early on, I chose a different wavelength in sharing thoughts on exercise and training from the perspective of a coach, and from a sociocultural perspective. It made things unique. The things I see in the industry and popular culture are worth talking about, and in my mind, there’s no better medium than my own personal outlet to use to do that.
It’s the reason I’ve declined a high number of guest post email proposals that I get from other trainers (I’m very sorry about that, and appreciate you reaching out!). Most blogs out there have posts on “The 6 Most Important Programming Tweaks You’re not Making”, or “The Back-Friendly Leg Workout”. I already write enough about that sort of thing for other places, and I find great benefit to changing the subject matter not only to improve and challenge my writing skills, but also for those reading to get a better idea of my views and personality. Of course, the inception for these kinds of blogs still stay centered on training and fitness as a science, practice and culture.
With such specificity, it limits just how much volume can be produced in a given week, month, or year. I’m never going to post blogs about life lessons, motivating the spirit, or the best icebreakers to use at the bar to score the girl you had your eye on. I’ll always expand on the importance of proper training methods, and expose methods that I believe aren’t useful to the masses.
Infrequent and inconsistent blogging. I’m positive that that hurts my blog traffic ranking. That means less chances for people to ask me if they can pay me to run their ads on my site, helping me gross off of volume. It also means less need for a newsletter, and a lesser chance that launching an e-product would go well. All of this means less money. It’s not an issue until it becomes an issue – and hopefully for me, that time is never.
ON TV INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES, MEDIA
The most embarrassing moment of my career to this point happened about 5 years ago. I was doing a TV segment for a local breakfast show that had a holiday fitness theme. I should have been more aware by the title itself, but the segment ended up being 6 of the longest minutes of my life. I compromised what I’d learned and believed in to take part in promoting a “fun”, “do-it-anywhere-in-10-minutes” workout method that was just plain offensive to anyone who knew a thing or two about training. It wasn’t my first TV spot, but it was my first “sellout” moment on regional television. I made sure that it would also be my only one.
Television, publications, and other forms of media often gravitate to what’s “hot” or “trending” because their businesses are largely dependent on ratings, rankings, and hits. If they don’t get them, they’re toast. Sadly, having a coach talk about strength training, primal movement patterns, and the death of popularized training styles on the air wouldn’t be most networks’ go-to choice. It’s not sexy enough. At this point, I’ve done plenty of TV and radio media – but I’ve also had to turn down a large number of segment offers due to the content and expectations. That means less exposure, and others taking the place in being commonly viewed as “today’s most popular trainers”. It’s a sad reality, but an eye opener for what matters the most. When you think about it, no influential training vets are as well known and “household” as media moguls like Jillian Michaels, Tracy Anderson, Billy Blanks or Tony Little. So I guess I’m on the right track.
If you’ve read this far, I offer my thanks. This has been an entirely self-centred 2500 word blog that strictly talks about everything I’m not doing for your attention. And I needed to get it out there.
Many say I’m not thinking about all the areas I’ve touched on here. The truth is, I’m constantly thinking of them, which is what affects the decisions I’ve made on them. I place a lot of value in the “put your head down and grind” approach – especially when many methods are being made available to bypass that process to a degree, in favor of popularity, money, or a short term opportunity. The truth is, doing any of the above things I cut into in this article can still help a coach attain respect, but not doing them will never help a coach attain disrespect. Quite honestly, it’s a very particular game, and it’s not a risk I’m personally willing to take. I’d rather focus on keeping consistent and racking up years of experience. Just like many of the old vets I admire who didn’t have these tools available to them when they racked up their followings.
Speaking of respect, I have plenty of it for my friends in the industry (all of you know who you are!). Some of them even do a couple of the things that I said I won’t do – and that works for them and their personality, their brand, and makes them unique. It doesn’t mean their info is less credible and there’s not an endless amount I can learn from them. It also doesn’t mean that the vast majority of the things that make up their work ethic don’t harmonize with the way I do things. I realize that my “approach” to this all is a little draconian, so you can call me an old-school stickler.
I’m voicing this because each of the 6 subheadings listed above were the subject of a growing amount of questions from not only followers and proponents of my work, but also other professionals in my industry. I figured I’d answer them all at once, right here. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a comfortable living doing this, which can’t be said for everyone who enters (and eventually leaves) this industry – it’s generally not a lucrative one. I’m also thrilled to see the slow increase in following over the last few years, and I closely notice those who are constantly sharing, retweeting, and otherwise spreading my work and thoughts.
I wouldn’t have guessed 8 years deep would put me in places I’ve been. I’d have said not enough time would have passed to have done them. I hope to continue to be inspired by coaches around me and walk in the footsteps of those who I respect, while simultaneously getting theirs and that of a growing number of people.
It’s only a matter of time.