The Impostor Syndrome and Staying Hungry

First let me explain what impostor syndrome is. An article on Time.com poses the question, “Have you ever felt like you don’t belong? Like your friends or colleagues are going to discover you’re a fraud, and you don’t actually deserve your job and accomplishments?” The article goes on to say that 70% of individuals feel this at some point in their lives. Most people are afraid to admit this because they assume that if people find out, they may not continue to give them the same opportunities or look at them in the same way. Because I know that so many others feel or have felt this, I’m not afraid to admit it. I have felt like an impostor on many occasions. I also know that I shouldn’t feel this way. I’ve worked very hard to reach my various goals and my level of expertise, but still I have those doubts. I’m sure there are reasons that so many of us feel this. For me, maybe it was growing up as the third of eight kids. Maybe I felt I had to work hard to get out from under my older siblings’ shadows. Who knows? I don’t need to know why.

Recently, in a book that I was reading, the author made a point that there was an upside to suffering from impostor syndrome. That is, because somehow we don’t feel we’ve earned our success, we end up working extra hard to make sure that we get it right. I feel that’s very true. We need to feel that we’ve put in at least as much if not more than anyone else to prove our right to be where we are. Rarely are we satisfied, and that is a strength. In talking about his climb to success, Arnold Schwarzenegger has said that, “I always stay hungry, never satisfied with current accomplishments.” and I believe that is us, too. I’m my own worst critic and it keeps me on my toes and always trying to do better.

If you are one of the many that suffer from impostor syndrome, know that you’re not alone… far from it. Know that it can be an asset and help you attain even more success, if you let it. So, stay hungry, keep getting better, accept your achievements (because you deserve them) and move on to the next challenge. Best wishes going forward!

Rolling With the Punches: Our Case Study

We’ve all been though tough times lately. Our industry has changed. As yet another stumbling block rears its head, I thought I’d share how we’ve been handling the challenges.

Point of reference: September 25th, 2015, my wife (a fitness pro and manager since 1995) and I (fitness pro and manager since 1980) moved to Easton, PA and opened a boutique fitness studio (Jiva Fitness) offering personal training and group fitness. All’s going well and our business gradually builds.

March, 16th, 2020, all gyms/clubs/studios are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Like everyone else, we had a moment of panic as we thought through, “What now?” Most were either moving to on-demand workouts for their clients or live streaming their workouts. We decided to go live streaming only (we believe in the supervision and interaction of being able see and assist our clients.) So, we immediately made the shift. We purchased some essential sound and video equipment, upgraded our internet, rented equipment to members that needed it to do their workouts from home, and began training and teaching live streaming workouts.

*The positive:

  • Some of our existing members and clients found that working out from home had a lot of benefits and continue to workout from home even though our studio is now open for in-person workouts.
  • Family and friends of our members and clients were able to join in from wherever they were in the world. (We had a couple of people from Europe join us.)
  • It’s a new market that we wouldn’t have discovered had we not jumped on it.

May 26th, 2020, my wife was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. (one year later, she’s actually doing okay and we’re hopeful.) So, she was unable to teach her classes and train her clients. How could we keep the number and quality of our class schedule without her? I was already teaching a lot and couldn’t take on all of her classes as well. I picked up a couple of her classes and we decided to have friends of ours teach the remainder of her classes via Zoom from their location in Maine.

*The positive:

  • We realized that we could hire teachers from anywhere to teach for us online. In fact, we had a friend teach Pilates to our members from her studio in France.
  • We could offer classes that may not be available in your area. i.e. maybe there are no good Tai Chi instructors in your area, but you might find one that could teach online for you.

June 29th, 2021, I will get my right hip replaced. Okay, now I’m going to be unable to teach for a while. I, to date, have been teaching all of the in person classes since we were allowed to open our doors again. So, we’ve had some classes that have been online only and some that were both online and in person. Some of our members waited until we reopened before they came back. They’ve worked hard and regained their fitness levels. We can’t go all online again. The downside of the live streaming from remote locations has been that nobody would be able to see the instructor in the studio. How can we handle this? Our next move is to make the online classes accessible to people in the studio. I know that there are companies that have classes on demand that clubs can integrate into there studio spaces, but that’s not what we want. We want to offer our members live classes. Long story short, we are going to project the live streaming classes onto the front of the studio.

* The positive:

  • This will allow our members that like, want, and/or need to come into the studio to get in their workouts, a way to continue.
  • While my wife and I won’t be able to physically do the workouts, we can still be in the room and offer support and corrections during the projected classes. This adds back in the more personal touch that people expect when coming in to the studio.
  • This also expands the audience of our previously online only classes.

Now, the point of all of this is to highlight that when challenges come up (and they always do), you need to realize that, more often than not, there is an opportunity that comes along with it. Look for those chances to rethink what you do and how you do it.

Best of luck with your challenges!

“Special Populations” is Not a Niche!

There are a lot of fitness professionals that are “special population specialists”. There are certifications in which you can earn that designation. The problem is that “special populations” includes prenatal/postpartum women, older adults, youth, obesity, adults with specific diseases or disorders, injuries, and those with multiple health conditions. So, if you include all of those categories, you never get in depth in any one area. Not only that, but, it means that the majority of the population is deemed special.

And, as the saying goes, if everyone is special then nobody is special.

The benefit of choosing a real niche, a specialty, is twofold.

One, it allows you to get very specific in your education and really know that one area. i.e. Cancer Exercise Specialist & Training the Older Adult.

Two, it allows you to own that space with that specific target market. This means that to that specific audience, you are the expert in that area, the go to person for safe, effective training that is appropriate for them and their specific circumstance. If you need brain surgery done, you don’t want to go to your general practitioner. You want someone who specializes in brain surgery. The same is true for seeking out a fitness professional that specializes in training those with Parkinson’s or joint replacements or prenatal/postpartum.

Now, I’m not saying that knowing a little more about a lot of areas isn’t beneficial. However, it doesn’t give you enough in any one area to be “the specialist” in that area. Home in one specific specialty and own it!

Gotta Catch Em All… Trading Cards

The first baseball cards came out in the 1860s. The idea of collecting a complete set of whatever type card someone might be collecting has been a passion of many people for a very long time. Whether it’s sports cards, Marvel superheroes, or Pokemon, we’ve “gotta catch em all”. I don’t know what got me thinking about this, but I had, what I believe to be, a fun idea.

Members and clients feel more connected to a facility if they know, like, and trust the individuals that make up the organization. What if… you created a set of trading cards of your entire staff? Then, as a promotion, you tasked the members and/or clients to collect them all and offered prizes to those that accomplished that. They would get a bigger prize if they got them all signed, of course, because signed cards are always worth more.

You could give out random cards (just like you would find them in a gum package) for certain achievements such as taking a certain class or trying one of the club’s shakes. As in other card collecting, they could trade duplicates for cards they didn’t have yet.

Again, this would help members and clients connect with managers, trainers, teachers, cleaning staff, etc. and with that, a deeper connection to the club. I would try this in a heartbeat if we weren’t currently a two person operated boutique studio with two additional teachers. That doesn’t leave a lot of collecting to be done. (the pics above are just mock-ups)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and if you decide to try it, I’d love to follow your progress with it.

Investing in Yourself: What’s the ROI?

Return On Investment (ROI) is a measurement of the profitability of something. We try to predict it before making an investment and then we measure afterward to see if it was profitable.

In the fitness realm, businesses invest in equipment, programs, people, etc. in the hopes that the investment more than pays for itself in the end. Members and clients invest in their health and wellness by joining clubs, programs, and hiring personal trainers with the intent that it will pay off with added health and a better quality of life.

Pretty much everything we do has an ROI. Even donating or volunteering for a charity has the ROI of making us feel better about ourselves for having done so. Our ROI decisions aren’t always a conscious thing, but maybe we should start to make these decisions more consciously.

For fitness professionals, I’ve seen too many underinvest in themselves and their careers because “they can’t afford it”. “I can’t afford to go to that conference, take the course, hire that coach, or pay for that system.” But what if you actually looked at the return on those investments?

I had a personal trainer that used to work for me who would complain about doing paperwork(reporting client sessions and payroll) when she could be training and making more money. My suggestion was to hire someone to do it for her. If she paid the individual $15 an hour and the trainer could fill that hour with a client then if the trainer makes $45/hour (just picking a number) she still comes out $30 ahead and saves herself from a task she didn’t like doing. She never did hire the help.

What about conferences, certifications, a programs? What’s the total cost? Would what you learn help you get more clients? How many client sessions would it take to make it profitable? Let’s just say that the personal trainer makes $45/client session and the event or program could yield 2 additional client sessions/week. What kind of income are we talking?

  • 1 wk = $90
  • 2 wks = $180
  • 3 wks = $270
  • 4 wks = $360
  • 8 wks = $720
  • 52 wks = $4,680

How much was that conference, certification, or program again? What’s the ROI on it? Was the return higher than the investment? Rather than just looking at the investment number and letting your gut reaction stop you from making the investment, figure out the potential ROI and let that guide your decision.

Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself and your career if it’s going to give you the return you want.

What Are Fitness Professionals Missing?

It’s not uncommon for struggling fitness professionals to believe that acquiring more fitness information is somehow going to help them build their business. If they don’t have a degree in exercise science or a major certification, maybe it will, but… once you have the basics, building your business isn’t going to come from another training certification. I know. I’ve held 20+ certifications over the years and while they added tools to my tool belt, they didn’t teach me anything about building my business. That, I had to learn on my own.

Now, if you wanted to build your business, where would you go to learn about business? Take a look at what is offered for certifications and certificate programs by a few of the major organizations and see if there’s anything missing.

NSCA:
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)
Certified Special Population Specialist (CSPS)
Certified Tactical Strength and Conditioning Facilitator (TSAC-F)
Certified Performance and Sports Scientist (CPSS)

ACSM:
ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
ACSM Certified Group Exercise Instructor
ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist
ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist
Specialty Credentials:
Exercise is Medicine
ACSM/NCHPAD Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer (CIFT)
ACSM/ACS Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET)
ACSM/NPAS Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist (PAPHS)

NASM:
Certified Personal Training (CPT)
Certified Group Fitness Instructor (CGFI)
Performance Enhancement Specialization (PES)
Corrective Exercise Specialization (CES)
Nutrition Certification (CNC)
Behavior Change Specialization (BCS)
Virtual Coaching Specialist (VCS)
Weight Loss Specialist (WLS)

ACE:
Certified Personal Training
Certified Group Fitness Instructor
Certified Health Coach
Certified Medical Exercise Specialist

ISSA:
Certified Glute Specialist
Weight Management Specialist
Exercise Recovery Specialist
Bodybuilding Specialist
Certified Indoor Cycling Instructor
Corrective Exercise Specialist
Group Exercise Instructor
DNA-Based Fitness Coach
Strength & Conditioning Certification
Exercise Therapy Certification
Performance Enhancement Certification
Lifespan Coach Certification
Senior Fitness Certification
Online Coach Certification
Nutritionist
Certified Yoga Instructor
Transformation Specialist
Kickboxing Instructor
Youth Fitness Certification
Powerlifting Instructor

SCW:
Group Exercise
Personal Trainer
Aquatic Exercise
Active Aging
Active Aging Nutrition
Aqua Barre
Barre
Boxing
Career Crash Course
Core Training
Corrective Exercise
Functional Flexibility
Functional Pilates
Group Step
Group Strength
HIIT
Kettlebell Training
Kids in Motion
Meditation
Mind Body Fusion
Moms in Motion
Nutrition Coaching for Fitness Professionals
Nutrition, Hormones & Metabolism
Performance Stability Training
Pilates Matwork
Pilates Small Apparatus
Practical Approach to Recovery & Rolling
Program Design for Fitness Professionals
Small Group Personal Training
Small Group Training
Sports Nutrition
T’ai Chi
WaterinMotion
Weight Management
Yoga 1
Yoga 2
Flowing Yoga

ASFA:
Personal Trainer
Advanced Personal Trainer
Master Personal Trainer
Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Health & Wellness Coach
Master Health & Wellness Coach
Advanced Cycling Instructor
Advanced Water Aerobics Instructor
Advanced Group Fitness & Bootcamp Instructor
Advanced Pilates
Advanced Senior Fitness Instructor
Advanced Yoga
Advanced Sports Nutrition
Water Aerobics Instructor
Senior Fitness Instructor
Pilates
Sports Nutrition
Yoga
Functional Fitness Training
HIIT
Dance Fitness & Hip-Hop Aerobics
Barre
Self Defense Instructor
Kettlebell Instructor
Sport Specific Training
Youth Fitness Training
Running Coach
Speed & Agility Instructor
Stretching Instructor
Women’s Fitness Instructor
Bodyweight Training
Step Aerobics & Cardio Kickboxing
Martial Arts Fitness Instructor
Tai Chi
Health Club & Gym Manager*
Core Fitness Training
Competition Bodybuilding Trainer
Olympic & Powerlifting Coach
Balance & Stability Instructor
Golf Fitness Instructor
Triathlon Coach
Foam Rolling
Fitness Professional Kit

Now, there are some very interesting options listed above and I believe that you should never stop learning, but where were the business certifications or certificate programs? Out of all of those listed, only ASFA had any business offerings. They do offer a Health Club & Gym Manager*. However, you can take their True/False exam immediately and only pay if you pass. Do you think it’s easy? You can bet on it. So, how much do you really learn and how much is this really going to help your career? ACSM used to offer a very challenging Health & Fitness Director certification (which I achieved), but then they stopped offering the program after a few years.

What’s left? Having been a personal trainer and health club manager since 1980 and a business owner off and on throughout those years, I wrote a business book for fitness professionals, The Business of Personal Training that was published in 2018 by Human Kinetics. I also spent nearly 10 years on the NSCA Personal Trainer Exam Development Committee. Putting these two together, on April 5th, I’ll be launching an exam-based fitness business certificate program, the Fitness Business Specialist. Find out more at https://fitnessbusinessspecialist.com

Certifications vs Certificate Programs

There are a gazillion certification and certificate programs available to fitness professionals. Which is better… a certification or certificate program? This was a question that I had as I was preparing my upcoming “assessment-based certificate” (ABC) program. I wanted it to be a “certification” because I believed the public perceived it as being of greater value. However, the fact is they are just different. They do different things.

Let’s start with the purpose. A certification is an assessment meant to recognize competency in a particular area of information. While it may recommend certain resources, the information can be learned from any factual source. An ABC program, on the other hand, teaches the information and then assesses the participant’s competency on that material.

The assessment for a certification is conducted by a separate certifying body while the ABC assessment is conducted by the educational body.

As for ongoing requirements, certifications typically require ongoing education in order to maintain the certification, whereas ABCs only require passing the initial assessment to keep the designation.

Both the certification and the ABC program can earn accreditation if they meet the guidelines of the accrediting organization.

Note that an ABC program requires a demonstration of mastery and is not the same as receiving a certificate of completion or attendance.

Now that you understand the difference between these two you may notice, as I did, many certification programs out there that are actually ABC programs. Does it really matter? Maybe not, but I like to make sure that I’m not perpetuating a misunderstanding.

Resources: https://www.credentialingexcellence.org/programdifferences, https://www.asha.org/CE/CEUs/Professional-Certification-vs-Certificate-Program/

When You Refer, Your Brand is at Stake

It’s very important to have a network of professionals that you can refer your people to. All of those things that they need that you do not do. This could be a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a registered dietician, or even a good car mechanic.

Being able to help your members/clients solve a problem that they have is a great way to build social currency (being held in higher esteem). Which equals greater loyalty. So, yea! However, be careful who you refer people to. Every referral that you make is a reflection on you and your brand. As said, a successful referral increases the positive feelings that people have for you, but, a negative experience can have the opposite effect. You lose respect and loyalty.

Build your referral network by getting to know the people you intend on referring people to. Chiropractor? Go talk with them and get an adjustment. Massage therapist? Get a massage. Don’t refer unless you know what they can do. Sure, it will take longer to build that network, but your clients, the people you referring your clients to, and your brand will thank you.

Note: What got me going on this was that I was talked into joining this online referral group. As I made connections to other businesses, I kept getting asked to refer them when I really didn’t know anything about them. Referrals are precious. Use them only when you know that they will serve your people well.