Five Must-Do's to Excel as an Up-and-Coming Fitness Pro

Friends and colleagues of mine within the fitness world always reach out and ask me how they can improve their coaching repertoire. I don't know whether it's because I've chosen to be more active on my website/social networks, but it feels like these questions come rolling in daily.

I'm sure you just read this title and asked, "who the hell are you to decide what makes and doesn't make a coach successful?"

  Why wouldn't you listen to this 210-pound pasty white hairball?

Why wouldn't you listen to this 210-pound pasty white hairball?

By no means am I sitting here claiming I'm some sort of fitness/business guru.

I have, however, lined myself up with a ton of great mentors that have helped jump start my career and show me the ropes to success in this industry. As a way to say thank you to those that have helped me out along the way, I'd like to pass down these five calls of action to those of you striving to improve your craft and your client's experience.

1.) Learn People's Names from the Start

As crazy as it sounds, this one simple skill is so commonly overlooked but easy to master. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard, "I'm very bad with names," in my life. You know what the secret is to getting better at learning names?


That's really all there is to it. What is the person standing right in front of you saying? I make it my responsibility to learn something about a new client's personal life during their initial consultation. Whether it's a hobby, profession, favorite food, etc., I genuinely want to learn more about everybody I work with. It makes the training experience much more enjoyable when we could actually hold conversations.

We love to hear our names. Starbucks doesn't just write (or type... I prefer my name misspelled in marker rather than a printed sticker) your name on the cup for no reason. In group training sessions, I try to say each client's name on at least three separate occasions.

2.) Acknowledge Progress and Achievements

As human beings, we're great at adapting. Regardless of the stimuli that you throw at the folks you train, they're going to improve. Whether it's improvements in physique, personal records (PRs), or even joint range of motion... seriously, show recognition.

You have no idea how excited I get when a client of mine smashes a new PR, or loses an inch or two off their waist. There's no better feeling than watching their hard work pay off, and it's important to acknowledge these victories as long as you have their consent.

3.) Tell Your Story on Social Media

I think of Facebook and Instagram as living portfolios of my work. As coaches, we're artists that need to express our creativity. It's crucial to be consistent on social media, where we unfortunately spend a ton of time daily.

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I apologize (no I don't) if you find my presence on your News Feed and Timeline redundant and annoying. I've used Facebook and Instagram as my primary marketing outlets and in return they've helped create leads, revenue, and an audience that I wouldn't otherwise have.

Whether you're a physical therapist, strength coach, nutritionist, yoga instructor, etc., you need to find a way to have your voice heard in a social media universe that's overwhelmingly noisy already. It's possible, you just need to put effort into developing content that's appealing to the eye and depicts who you are.

4.) Find a Mentor

I can't stress enough how important this is. I've done well over a thousand hours of free work these past three years in order to acquire the sweat equity and knowledge to excel in this business.

As most of you know, I Interned at Cressey Sports Performance in Massachusetts last Fall. I was surrounded by dozens of top collegiate and professional baseball players on the regular, which I have to say was pretty awesome in itself. This wasn't the reason behind this internship being a success, though.

The real takeaway from the experience was being able to spend seven hours daily with well-established, knowledgeable coaches and understand what's made them successful. I was lucky enough to spend four full months in this type of environment. You're bound to pick up on beneficial habits when you spend that much time around good coaches that love what they do.

Does it suck work to work for free? Of course, I'm not denying that.

Keep in mind, however, that if you play your cards right, those free hours you put in now end up being a huge investment down the road. I have business referred to me now quite often simply because I know the "CSP System" or "Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) System".

5.) Network, Network, Network

Fun fact: over the last two years, I've spent upwards of $10,000 dollars on continuing education resources. $10,000. Granted, this number also includes travel expenses, food, hotel, services charges, the whole nine yards, but it's still a hefty price to pay to get better.

I'm not saying that you should go batshit crazy and sign up for every single seminar that you come across on your Facebook feed. When you do decide to plunge on a seminar or certification course, you have to do your absolute best to make the most out of your time there.

Want to know the best way to own a weekend summit, 8-hour workshop, or FRC/StrongFirst course? 

  • Introduce yourself to people.
  • Go out to lunch in groups.
  • Connect through their social networking pages and stay in contact after the event is over.
  • Post content with other attendees/presenters.
  • Attend socials that are typically included with most weekend-long events.

Yes, I know you're paying for the educational component above all. But if you attend these types of events without getting to know other pros fighting the good fight, that needs to change ASAP.

Through networking at events, I've been granted the opportunity to write guest blog posts for different outlets, which allows me to further extend my audience. It also allows me to create a referral network with other resources outside of my scope, like physical therapists, dietitians, and manual therapists.

Maybe in-person events aren't in your price range. I know the price tag on continuing ed. can be hefty. If that's the case, I highly suggest you seek out an online Mastermind group. I'm currently a member of Chris Merritt and Todd Bumgardner's Strength Faction summer group, which is an excellent resource for coaches looking to get better and meet new people.

Not only is the service these guys provide phenomenal, but the community is just as great. The collaboration of minds (and maniacs) that make up Strength Faction has helped fine-tune my thinking with their constant suggestions and contributions. It's also opened up doors for me to meet other coaches in different cities when I travel; it's a win-win all the way around.

There's one key component to this list that I want all of you to realize.

Not once did I mention that you need to know the four muscles of the rotator cuff, or the principles behind a 5-3-1 powerlifting program. Understanding how the body works and how to apply that knowledge into training is important, don't get me wrong. At the end of the day though, the experience you cultivate with your clients trumps everything else.

If you can hammer the hell out of these five things, you're in great shape for building yourself a solid future. Whether you're an underclassman in your exercise science program or looking to jump into the fitness industry from another field, you need to be willing to put in the hours and give your clients everything you've got. Make it happen.