“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.

Reopening Communication Begins With Your Team.

Once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, clubs/studios around the country will slowly start to reopen. Much of what I see published these days about plans for reopening is the importance of communicating with your members/clients. This IS very important. Not only does your facility need to take all of the steps necessary to create as safe an environment as possible for your members/clients, but you need to let them know exactly what you have done and will be doing. Their perception of safety is what will bring them back through your doors.

However, before that, you have to communicate with your team. They are going to have their own fears and concerns and if they don’t understand or agree with the reopening procedures, they won’t be able to pass that on to your members/clients.

Start by involving them in the discussion. Before you tell them what the new rules are, ask them what would make them feel safe in delivering their services. Ask them what they think would be important guidelines to put in place. Even if they come up with the same ideas that you had, if they say it first, there will be greater understanding and buy in. They may also come up with some items that you had overlooked. After they are satisfied with their list, ask their thoughts on any additional ideas that you might have had on your list.

Once reopening procedures are set, walk your whole team through the club/studio, mapping out how all of the new guidelines will be actualized. Answer all your teams questions thoroughly so that they are all on the same page and can communicate the guidelines to your members/clients. Document all of this in writing and/or video for their future reference.

Finally, role play potential challenges that may come up with members/clients. There are going to be members/clients that either don’t understand or don’t want to play by the rules. Role play these scenarios with your team and discuss the possible outcomes with them.

The best opportunity you have to get your members/clients back in your club/studio as soon as possible, is to have your team prepped, ready, and eager to help them with the transition into your facility’s new normal.

Good luck!

Are You Ready to Reopen?

The national guidelines for reopening the country put gyms/health clubs/studios into Phase 1. As of Friday, some facilities opened in Georgia. How and if facilities were opening has been a huge discussion over the past week. Where do you stand and are you ready to safely reopen your business?

Our brick and mortar business, Jiva Fitness, is in Easton, PA. First, in PA, gyms are not in the first phase of reopening and I anticipate at least another month or two of being closed. However, now is a great time to talk about the considerations of how to safely open.

Untitled design (87)Let’s start by recognizing that there are the things we can do to prevent the spread of the virus and there are things we can do to increase the perception of what we are doing. What I mean by that is that if we just cleaned, sanitized, moved equipment, etc. and never said anything about it, people would not know how safe it is to come to our facilities. If we want our members/clients to return, we also need to show and tell them everything we are doing. Make everything visible and people will feel more comfortable. I’ve seen some great videos on the internet of clubs talking to their members/clients about what they are doing to safely reopen. That needs to be followed up by signage and by the constant assurance of the staff. (BTW, make sure your staff knows all that you are doing.)

Some things that can be done:

  • Encourage members/clients to stay at home if they are not feeling well. Don’t assume that people are thinking about it. Post a list of symptoms at the door and have them do a mental checklist just to keep them on guard.
  • Taking members temperatures at the door. Some facilities are doing this and others are taking staff’s temperatures. My thoughts? Not having a temperature does not mean they are not carrying the virus. It will create lines that will have to be controlled and spaced. One benefit of this, however, would be the perception of taking every precaution. This isn’t one that we’re going to implement at our facility.
  • Wearing masks would help but remember, you wear them to not infect others, not keep yourself safe. Do you make this mandatory? If optional, it’s always the “inconsiderate of others” types that leave weights on the floor, restack weights improperly, leave sweat on machines, don’t wear masks, and sneeze and cough on everyone and everything. (no rant here 😉 ) I also know masks are uncomfortable and can cause skin irritation when working out. So, I honestly don’t know about this one and will have to make a decision when it gets closer for us.
  • Washing hands on entry and exit seems to be a common precaution. While washing hands on entry would be good, this could also create lines that need to be controlled. As for washing on exit, I’m not sure how necessary or effective it is. For us, we don’t actually have a washroom in our facility, just one in the building’s common hallway. We will be requiring everyone to use the hand sanitizer on entry.
  • Increase the HVAC circulation frequency and change the filter more often if you can. In our historic building, we only have a vented heating system and window air conditioning, so this isn’t something we can do.
  • Increased cleaning schedule. Deeper and more frequent cleaning is needed for floors, equipment, all surfaces, door handles, drinking fountains (although, if we had one, I might turn it off), locker rooms, wash rooms, etc. This also includes having members clean everything that they touch/use (provide plenty of spray disinfectant and wipes or towels).
  • Encourage members to bring their own water bottles and mats. Mats are so up close and personal, I think everyone would be more comfortable using their own.
  • 6′ distance apart and then some. Be generous with space. Remember, “spray” can travel more than 6′. We’re probably going to allow less than half capacity in our studio.
  • Have class equipment out and leave it out. Most studios have equipment located in one location where everyone needs to go to gather and take care of their equipment. We’re going to set up the equipment before class and, after they clean their equipment, members will leave them in place and we will switch the equipment for the next class.
  • Plenty of signage to inform and set expectations. Never assume people know or remember what they should be doing. You can have arrows on the floor to direct traffic and lines to denote 6′ distances. Whatever will help members/clients follow your guidelines.
  • Distance high fives. Keep the social distancing, but keep the social engagement (and maybe a little fun) happening.

Now, for us and many of you, it’s a sit back, wait and see. Then, when we get the official green light to reopen, we need to ask ourselves if we are comfortable with it. You need to feel very confident that opening will not put anyone at additional risk. In the meantime, get your reopening plan ready and make that decision when the time comes.

Best of luck going forward.