The Secret Sauce of a Fitness “Cult”

If you look at what’s happening in fitness industry, you’d be hard pressed not to have noticed the “cult-like” following that surrounds some brands such as CrossFit and Zumba.


CrossFit is “Forging Elite Fitness” though constantly varied, high intensity activities that includes everything from Olympic Lifts to kipping pull-ups. Zumba, on the other hand, wants you to “Ditch the Workout and Join the Party” a Latin dance based workout system. Could these two styles of training be further apart? While they are very different (and Crossfitters even make fun of Zumba participants), what they have in common is the blind devotion of their followers. How does that happen?


In The Power of Cult Branding authors Matthew W. Ragas and Bolivar J. Bueno present the Seven Golden Rules of Cult Branding:
1. Consumers want to be part of a group that’s different.
2. Cult brand inventors show daring and determination.
3. Cult brands sell lifestyles.
4. Listen to the choir and create cult brand evangelists.
5. Cult brands always create customer communities.
6. Cult brands are inclusive.
7. Cult brands promote personal freedom and draw power from enemies

Think about CrossFit and Zumba.
1. They are very different than other modes of exercise.
2. The creators were committed to their way of training.
3. They are absolutely selling a lifestyle through various branded products, and shared experiences. Zumba even has a magazine called Z-Life.
4. The participants feel a part of the organization, feel like they are appreciated and are encouraged to spread the gospel.
5. Crossfitters and Zumba enthusiasts are all about their community. This may include their own language (WODs, poods, and ”Uncle Pukie” in CrossFit) or outfits, bags, and other apparel as can be found in the Zumba store.
6. Both are inclusive. Everyone is welcome to drink the Kool-Aid, including kids and seniors.
7. Both CrossFit facilities and Zumba classes are as different as the instructors. They are free to structure them as the individual instructors see fit. Differentiation from the competition is often an integral part of the marketing plan. “We are not…”

This type of community can be yours too with whatever type program you offer. Think about how you can utilize these rules to create your own fitness cult.

The 80/20 Principle and Getting Things Done

The 80/20 principle, also known as the Pareto principle, states that, for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Whole books have been written on this. It’s applied to every conceivable scenario and the concept is simple. We all waste a lot of time and effort on things that are unproductive. If we can focus on those few things that create the greatest results, we will achieve so much more in less time. A couple of tools I find useful are as follows: In his book, “First Things First”, Steven Covey describes a grid of four boxes. In one box are those things that are urgent and important (must be handled now and is important for reaching my goal). In a second box are things that are urgent and unimportant (the typical things that pop up day-to-day that, because of it’s urgency, we feel like it must be important, but it won’t help us reach our goals) You’ll be amazed how many actually fall into this category. These are the real life-suckers that can leave us too fatigued to do the meaningful stuff. A third… not urgent, but important (envisioning your future and how to attain it or maybe planning/taking some down time to recharge your inner batteries). A fourth… not urgent and unimportant (wasting time).


Write out your list of things to do and label them as fitting into one of these boxes. Then stick to the two “important” boxes and either delegate or toss out the rest. (I love this exercise.)

Take that one step further with a tip from “The 4-Hour Workweek”, by Tim Ferris. It discusses the inefficient use of our time and how multi-tasking helps us work at many things and finish none of them. Ferries believes in locking yourself away from distractions and working on only one task at a time until that task is finished. (I’m a big believer in this one.)

Now go to your lists in the important boxes and prioritize them. Gather all of the information or things you will need for the first project and lock yourself away until it’s done. If you can’t get it all done in one sitting, then schedule a meeting with yourself each day until you do finish. If we can set our minds to attacking and completing the 20% of things on our list that are really important , we’ll attain the results we’re seeking sooner than we could have imagined.

Good luck, Mark

No Man (or Woman) is an Island

I know that many trainers get certified and head out into the world believing that they have all of the answers. They may see other trainers as competition and choose to keep whatever knowledge/information they have to themselves for fear of giving away something that will give others a business advantage.

islandThis is a trap that will hold you back from becoming the best trainer that you could be. The times change, the science changes, and you need to change and grow with them.

I have been a personal trainer and in club management for 35 years. I have acquired a great deal of information over the years and have much to share. That said, every time I get a chance to talk with other professionals in the field, I come away with new insight. Sometimes it’s something completely new and sometimes it’s an affirmation that I am on the right track. I example, I just got back from an executive roundtable for fitness directors. Everyone on the roundtable disclosed everything from financials to best practices and I believe I speak for the group in saying that we all came away with new ideas and a better understanding of how to become more successful.

While this example is larger scale and you may not think it is applicable to you, it is. I have had similar discussions with fellow trainers in our club and even with trainers from competing clubs. The key is that almost 70% of the US population is overweight or obese. We sit too much. We eat too much. We are an unwell society. There is no shortage of potential clients.

So go talk to other trainers about their training and their business and talk to them about yours.

You cannot be your best if you isolate yourself.

Share, listen, learn, and repeat.

Service With a Smile?

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s incredible to me how often I see people in the service industry that just don’t get it. How many times do you walk into a store or restaurant and can’t seem to get anyone’s attention or, if you do, you’re obviously interrupting something very important (like an inspection of their nail polish or a conversation they’re having with a co-worker) because they genuinely seemed ticked off that you’re there. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone cared enough to even fake caring?
For me, it’s like Roy Scheider’s portrayal of Bob Fosse in the movie “All That Jazz”. Fosse wakes every morning up after obvious hard nights, throws some Visine in his eyes, takes a couple of uppers, and says to himself in the mirror, “It’s show time, folks!” and puts on his I-must-deal-with-the-public face.

While that may be an extreme example, the point is that every interaction that you have can make or break someone’s day. It’s no different with Personal Trainers. I always talk about it being “show time”. You need to leave everything that’s bothering you outside of work. Remind yourself you have the power to create positive experiences for others and that’s a wonderful thing. Enjoy that power. Even if life is hard outside of work, you can choose to focus on the positive effects you have on others while at work.
So, smile and pass it on.

Revisiting “Who Moved My Cheese”

“Change is the only constant. Hanging on is the only sin.” – Denise McCluggage

Every once in a while I am astounded by certain people’s resistance to change. In any business or, in fact, any life, change is inevitable.


The world around us is changing so rapidly, how can we believe that we can, or should, escape it? I’m reminded of when my wife Heather and I first joined the corporate team of Town Sports International. We were immediately handed a copy of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese”. The message of the book is simple, things change and if you don’t accept it and move on you’ll be left behind wondering where it all went and when is it coming back (which its not).

We can always improve how and what we do. How can we help more people? How can we have a greater impact? How can we improve the world? Change has it’s ups and downs but, the yin and yang of it is that without the downs there are no ups. Without the risk of failing, there’s no chance of improving, no growth.

We need to embrace change and go for that ride of what could be. With change the possibilities are endless.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston S. Churchill


Ello? Another Social Media Option

I don’t know if you’re aware yet, but there’s a new social media site building interest and getting ready to launch. Ello! It is currently by invitation only and is still in beta version. Do we need another social media site? Who cares about one more site?



It’s ad free, does that make you want to join it? Maybe not, but as Facebook posts more and more ads in your news stream, you may change your mind. Ello likes to think of itself as anti-Facebook in that sense.

The marketing rule of thumb is go to where your market is. They’ve been on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Maybe Ello is the next stop for them. You can’t know yet. None of us can predict it. So, don’t wait. Join it when you can and explore it. Create a presence before your competition does. It may not pan out, but many didn’t think Twitter would either.

When you do join, connect with me at Let’s get in there and figure Ello out together.Ello


In The Art of Prospecting for New Clients, Part 1, I discussed the most immediate return for invested time, individuals that are already at your facility trying to change their fitness level.
In this post we’ll address how you go about getting prospective clients into your facility. For the sake of brevity, I’m going keep this about-face to face meetings.
If you’re working at a personal training studio, do in-home training, or simply want to reach a greater audience than your club, you need to go to where your target market is. (determining who your target market is, is a topic for another time.)


Find out where they are. In example, if you’re seeking to connect with seniors you may want to go check out the senior center, senior college, local churches, or other groups for the older population. Get involved with these groups. You don’t need to be a senior. Volunteer. This could be your service as a presenter of health and fitness information or simply to help out with their day-to-day needs. The key is to become someone they know and trust. Note: Do not come to the group with your marketing guns a blazin’ or they will reject you. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Work on building relationships. Once people trust you, they will ask you, give you permission, to tell them more about how they might become more fit.
When you are asked, and this is true for any time you are asked (like at a party when someone finds our you are a trainer and they want to know how to lose “this” area.) proceed mindfully. Making recommendations without knowing all the important details is reckless and probably won’t get you the client. Your goal is to get them to come to your office or club so that you can sit down with them to find out all relevant information. This will allow you to make your best recommendation as to how to proceed from there.

1) Listen to what they are saying and acknowledge their concerns.

2) If you believe you can help them, tell them so.

3) Explain that in order to make a valid recommendation, you need to have time to sit down and learn more about them. (medical health history, lifestyle questionnaire, etc.)

4) If you can make an appointment now, do it. Then take their number so you can call and confirm. Give them yours in case they need to change times/days.

5) If you can’t make an appointment now, get an idea of what times and days are good for them. Then take their number so you can schedule the appointment. Give them yours in case they need to change times/days.

Remember to get out and meet your prospective clients where they spend time. Take time and build a relationship with them. Then, when they ask or you see an opportunity to help, invite them to sit and talk. Getting them to come in is the best way to be able to help them by gaining them as a client.

What groups do you connect with to find prospective clients? Please post them in the comments. I’d love to hear about it.


The Art of Prospecting on the Training Floor
While the point of sale (when an individual buys a club membership) is one place that personal training can be sold, it is not where the greatest potential for acquiring new clients is. One of the best places to engage these members is on the Training Floor.

There are two main methods of gaining new clients on the Training Floor. Both options should take place within the time that you wish to gain clients (if they’re in the club when you are willing to work, your time schedules will likely mesh).
Walking the Floor in Uniform is a great opportunity to establish your presence as a personal trainer. Make an effort to introduce yourself and meet everyone on the floor.

Approach those performing exercises correctly. Introduce yourself. Complement them on their form and effort. You may ask where they learned the exercise. Then ask what their heath/fitness goals are and if they feel that they are achieving them. If they are, congratulate them and let them know that if they have any questions, that you are more than happy to be of service. If they are not achieving their goals, ask what they think may be holding them back. Listen to their response then let them know that you’d love to help and that you could schedule a half hour to sit down and have a more in-depth conversation after which you could offer more personalized suggestions.

Approach those that you believe are performing exercises in poor form. Introduce yourself. Positively note their effort, ask what they are trying to accomplish with that exercise, then, if appropriate* offer a correction to make the exercise more effective or offer a different exercise entirely. (*sometimes, hearing what they are trying to accomplish may justify the form they are using). Then proceed as with those performing exercises correctly, (sorry for the repetition, but this part is important.) ask what their heath/fitness goals are and if they feel that they are achieving them. If they are, congratulate them and let them know that if they have any questions, that you are more than happy to be of service. If they are not achieving their goals, ask what they think may be holding them back. Listen to their response then let them know that you’d love to help and that you could schedule a half hour to sit down and have a more in-depth conversation after which you could offer more personalized suggestions.

When helping members on the floor, a trainer should limit his/her time with each member. If the trainer is locked in conversation with one person, he/she can be perceived as inaccessible to other members. You can come back to that member after walking around, putting equipment back in place, and interacting with other members. Keep in mind, having extended, exclusive time with a trainer is why people purchase personal training.

Working out on the Training Floor creates a casual opportunity for members to approach you and you should capitalize on it. While the conversations on the floor may slow your workout down, trainers must weigh that with increasing the chance of gaining new clients. (Never wear headphones while working out. It sends the message that you are unavailable.) The conversations can proceed in the same progression as with Walking the Floor in Uniform. Note: I just picked up a new client this morning by being accessible while I was working out.

The members of your club are your greatest potential for new clients. Don’t let the opportunities slip by you.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Why Did It Go Viral?

Have you been challenged to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yet and did you complete it? The media is swamped with videos of groups and individuals dumping ice water over themselves. Why did this event catch on like it did? Over 3 million donors gave during this challenge and, according to the ALS Association, they have collected over 100.9 million dollars in donations compared with 2.8 million at this time last year. Amazing response to say the least. Why??? Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is not the leading cause of death in the United States. It’s not even in the top ten. Why this cause? What prompted people to do this?

Here are some of the reasons that I believe it has been such a success.

1) This movement struck a chord with the public that allowed them to be part of something important. It created/is creating a greater awareness of this particular disease and with that awareness comes understanding for those afflicted with ALS and an increased likelihood of money being donated to help find a cure.

2) The act of dumping a bucket full of icy water is silly. This allows people to have fun with it and get creative.

3) It has a direct challenge to specific people. It’s a little like when you learn CPR. You never just call out, “Someone call 911!” Everyone assumes that someone else will act and nobody does. You need to say, “You! (pointing your finger at a particular person) Call 911!” They now know that they have been chosen to act. This is not a call out to the masses. It’s a call to “You. (state their name)”

4) Social media allows ideas to spread like a, oh, I don’t know… a virus, maybe! You do the challenge and call out your friends. Your friends do the challenge and call out their friends. Your friends’ friends do the challenge, etc.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has all of the elements to make it the successful campaign that it is.

Why am I writing about this in a fitness business blog? We, as fitness professionals, are in the business of helping people become more healthy. It is within our scope of interest to champion a health issue, align ourselves with a charity. How can we use the elements of the ALS Challenge to bring light to the charity of our choice? One thing that I’ve done in the past is run Zombie Boot Camps on Halloween to benefit the local food pantry. Now I need to think of how I can go bigger with it (and I have an idea…).

Are you doing something to benefit some cause? Let us know about it in the comments below.

By the way, if you would like to donate to the ALS Association, click here.



#10 Successful Personal Trainers Are Mentors

A mentor, according to Merriam-Webster, is “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person.” I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that all successful Personal Trainers have had at least one mentor in their lives. I’ve had many. And I would not be the professional or the person that I am today had I not. My mentors were and are people I trust, like and admire who have been open, honest and willing to share their expertise with me.

mentoringI would also like to believe that I have, in turn, been a mentor to others whenever I have been able. It is enormously fulfilling to help others reach their potential.

If it is as rewarding as I say, why don’t more people mentor others? Maybe they don’t think they have enough experience. I understand that, although I think everybody has something to share. I’ve also heard (and this is the one that floors me) Trainers say, “I’m not telling other Trainers how I do things because then they’ll be taking clients that I should be getting.” So, they’re not willing to mentor others for fear that there’s not enough business to go around and that somehow helping other Personal Trainers become better limits their own earning potential. That simply shows their insecurity and, frankly, ignorance.

If you truly believe you are a great Personal Trainer then you know you can get the clients and aren’t threatened by others. And to think there aren’t enough clients to go around is ridiculous. How many people need post-rehab training, want to be in better condition for their sport, want to function better in their day-to-day activities, and of the nearly 70% of the population that’s overweight or obese, how many would like to lose weight?

Successful Personal Trainers are mentors because helping others succeed is a way of giving back and a way to share in the joy of others reaching their goals.

“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #5
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #6
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #7
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #8
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #9
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #10

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.