It’s been about twelve years since I broke into the training field. Since my first training gig as a part-time trainer at a commercial gym a lot has changed in the field of strength and conditioning, whether it’s the way I train myself or the way I train my clients. I look back at some of the stuff I did and ask “What the hell was I thinking?”. Sometimes I don’t think I was. I was just going along with any “advice” from Muscle and Fitness. Or enjoying a few cold ones with the buddies on a Thursday night had prevented me from doing any thinking on a Friday morning. Aw…the Purple Shamrock. Those were the days.
Lets take a look back at different spots along my training history, without tying in any stories of those late nights, bad financial mistakes or girlfriends gone bad.
1999 – My first training gig at a commercial gym. I had a degree in Sports Biology, was in shape and read Mens Health and Muscle & Fitness. Maybe some Shape Magazine now and then. I thought I knew how to train. Armed with a clipboard and a room packed full of machines I went to work, running clients through every damn machine. Everyone did sets of anywhere from 12-15 reps. For ab work (the word core had not been used at the time) I had clients do every crunch imaginable in anywhere from the 25-50 rep range. All cardio was at least 30 minutes in duration. And carbs were in. Fat was out.
2001 – I broke out of that commercial gym and got my first job at a training studio. I had no idea these places even existed. About 1200 sq ft full of machines, dumbbells up to 50lbs and two flat benches. I went from being a crappy trainer to a less crappy trainer. I started to focus a little bit more on continuing ed, but really still didn’t know a whole lot. Even without knowing a whole lot people wanted to train with me. I was doing anywhere from 38-46 sessions a week of one/one training, running myself into the ground while I was running clients into the ground. At the same time I was doing some long distance running, training for the marathon. I was thin, weak, and hurt getting out of bed every single day. And I was still thinking low fat was was the way to go, evidenced by my daily corns muffins or cinnamon raisins bagels (sometimes both) for breakfast.
2004 – I moved onto my next training studio. I started to get my training information from better sources and the light started to finally turn on in my head. I started to do just about everything opposite of what I had been doing for the previous five years. No more long, steady state cardio. Interval training was in. I cut back on the carbs. Very little bread and multiple chicken Caesar salads on a daily basis. No more putting the moms on the inner/outer thigh machines to tone up. More single leg work. More core work, a lot of which was done on the Swiss ball. More continuing education. Started attending more seminars and investing in books and videos. I finally realized, “Hey this is my career”.
2007 – This is right around the time I started to become more aware of the business side of things as it related to personal training. Before whenever I went to to a training seminar it was all about training. More seminars started to include the business of training. So as I started to think more about the business side of things. I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing working for someone else?”. I was usually the one who followed the company line. I put in a lot of hours. Always tried to please the bosses. Was always working to get better as a trainer. So why not log the hours and get better as a trainer but be my own boss? So in the spring of 2007 I took that leap. I knew it would be hard starting up on my own, but I didn’t think it would be that hard. Again, it was more than just training clients whenever I could. I had to learn about putting up a website, about blogging, about marketing, about print materials. There was always something to do, but I was enjoying the process and the challenge. It took about 6-7 months to build up a pretty solid in-home training business that just consisted of one on one training. Oh, yeah. I did make the mistake of getting back into distance running. A friend talked me into running the marathon with him and after multiple calf pulls, a stress reaction and four of the hardest hours of my life on a miserable spring day, I gave up distance running…..for good.
2010 – Still doing the in-home thing and also sub-contracting out of one gym. Still doing mostly one/one training with some partner training sprinkled in from time to time. But in as as little as 2.5 years, the entire training landscape had changed when the economy started to go in the tank. Also 2.5 years of driving around in my SUV from house to house from 6am to 8pm was starting to wear on me. I can not remember how many stop lights I fell asleep at and even for me sports radio can get a bit old. I needed to do two things. One, was to try and the push the semi-private model a bit more. The semi-private way of training was the new wave of training. It made training more affordable and also has the Biggest Loser type of effect, minus Jillian Michaels and Bob What’s His Face. Put people in a group setting and people are usually going to achieve higher levels of success. The other thing I needed to do was find a place to call home for my training because I was tired of living out of my car. After about five months of searching for a space, getting the space built out, getting it outfitted with equipment and having a few clients ready to make the switch, Accelerated Fitness opened it doors. Again, I thought I knew what I was getting myself into…wrong.
2011 – Here we are in 2011. Accelerated Fitness has been open for about eight months now. It’s been a lot of work. It’s been an even bigger challenge. Not all things have turned out like I thought they would. When the local newspaper hooks you in for for a series of advertisements and then you realize what the readership is of that newspaper…that’s a bad idea. But every moment has been a learning moment, business wise and training wise. Clients are gravitating towards the semi-private training. Some clients still prefer the private training. I can say in the last six months I’ve never done more continuing education ever in that time frame. I became a certified TRX trainer, became a Level one Precision Nutrition Coach and was certified as a Functional Movement Screen specialist. Yeah, I need to learn more about business, but I also have to continue to get better as a trainer. And I still have not gone back to any distance running. Funny thing is that I’m only 2-3 pounds heavier than when I was running 30-40 miles a week. Better nutrition. Better training.
What will the rest of 2011 and beyond bring? I haven’t the slightest clue to be honest. Just keep changing with the times. Continue to develop the business. Continue to work with clients. Figure out what works. Figure out what doesn’t work. Just keep on keeping on.