Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020

ACSM recently published the results of the “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020” and I thought that I would weigh in on the trends that were reported. Let’s start with some food for thought about the respondents. If you read the demographic information about the people that took the survey, only 50% report being in the fitness industry. Others include doctors, nurses, students, etc. so, people that may not really have their finger on the pulse of fitness trends. Another interesting bit is that when asked where they work, almost 50% chose Private Practice/Own Business and Hospital/Medical Center Program/Department. Granted “Own Business” might be fitness professionals, but it’s not clear. Again, questionable as to their real knowledge of current trends. My point is to take it with a grain of salt, the results provide some interesting topics for discussion, but maybe not what is really going to be happening in 2020. Also, one more item of clarification, they survey defined “trend” as “a general development or change in a situation or in the way that people are behaving” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/). So, is there an upward shift in popularity to make the item a trend?

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So, here’s the top 20 list. Let’s discuss.

1. Wearable technology. Wearable technology is getting to be pretty amazing. We’ve entered into the science fiction area (well it IS 2020). From the standard heart rate, activity, and distances traveled, to sleep, lactate levels, analyzing your running technique, and correcting your posture, wearables are offering more and more information to the consumer. The questions are, however, who is actually using them and how long do they use them? IMHO, (In My Humble Opinion, just in case you didn’t know the acronym) I think the people that like to track and chart their information will be in heaven (a minority in my experience). The rest my buy it for the cool factor, but won’t really make any changes because of it. For an interesting read, check out Fitt Insider’s article on wearables.

2. High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Yes, this is a trend with a cautionary tale. HIIT offers the same or even greater results (depending on your goal) in less time. Of course that’s attractive to people. The cautionary tale is that injuries are more likely to occur with HIIT than slower, less intense programs. Please remember that you can start people out SHIIT first (LOL, it only hit me as I was writing it…SHIIT! I’ll have to do a presentation on this, “From HIIT to SHIIT”.) Anyway… Slightly Higher Intensity Interval Training. You can start teaching people what intervals are all about and have them begin them utilizing an only slightly greater speed than is normal for them. Let them get acclimated as to what higher intensity is all about and gradually work them up to higher levels.

3. Group training. Yes, defined as more than 5 people for the survey (and this includes fitness classes) with greater camaraderie and a more affordable than one-on-one training, group training will continue to grow as a trend.

4. Training with free weights. Hmmn? Trend or just what we do and have almost always done? Well, we veered away and worshipped machine based training for quite a while, but, with the rediscovery of “functional” training, the industry got back to free weights and it’s unlikely they will ever leave again.

5. Personal training. In spite of some small group advocates claiming one-on-one training is dead, it will, in fact, never leave. The service with the greatest amount of personal attention has ongoing value.

6. Exercise is Medicine®. Exercise is Medicine® (EIM). Yes, with the state of health care, there needs to be and is gradually getting to be a greater focus on prehabilitation, post-rehab conditioning, and conditioning for those individuals with known disease. Yea! It’s about time.

7. Body weight training. In the old days, this would have been called calisthenics. Is it a trend? I’d have to say yes. I think that people have a growing attraction to it because it can be very effective, you don’t need equipment, and it can be done anywhere (and therefore no gym membership needed).

8. Fitness programs for older adults. More and more people are living longer and are needing and wanting to stay active and independent. If you’re not currently training older adults, you should consider it. It is a rapidly growing market.

9. Health/wellness coaching. Coaching and the use of motivational interviewing as a means to get clients to take charge of their own health and wellness. It is, IMHO, a key to the future in getting non-movers started and help them stay committed to their program. I think it is trending, but maybe not as quickly as I’d like to see.

10. Employing certified fitness professionals. ??? Again… a trend? Should be the law. (But, not licensed. See # 15 Licensure for Fitness Professionals.)

11. Exercise for weight loss. This is a “duh”. When about half of the population is actively trying to lose weight, exercise and diet for weight loss will always be in the mix. Hard to say that it’s trending up, though.

12. Functional fitness training. Yes, we know that our ability to perform specific movements can be enhanced by utilizing movements that have a similar demand on your body and I think we’ll continue to see it grow. Hopefully, the industry will keep it to truly functional activities and not circus acts (unless the circus is what you need it for).

13. Outdoor activities. There are always people that enjoy the outdoors. Is walking, riding, and hiking a trend? I’m more likely to say that the obstacle course events, as an outdoor activity (not mentioned in the survey), is the trend. 

14. Yoga. Again, it’s been around forever and will continue to be. Along with the physical challenge, the mind/body/spirit aspect of it is attractive to many.

15. Licensure for fitness professionals. This is interesting because it’s not a trend, at least not in the US. Now, there is a call out for it, but mostly by the highly educated personal trainers that resent lesser qualified ones. I’ll debate this one all day. I am not for licensure. I don’t think it will solve the problem. We’ll still have trainers that will pass a test and will still be lousy trainers. With licensure will also come stricter regulations as to what we can and can’t do. Maybe we won’t be able to work with individuals with known disease or post-rehab or even talk about diet. Additionally, who is to say that a lesser qualified trainer just calls him/herself a “fitness facilitator” and continue working doing the same work they did as a trainer. Too many questions, too many issues, this is not going to happen in the near future. – IMHO

16. Lifestyle medicine. Loosely defined as helping people change lifestyle behaviors that effect their health, i.e. “eliminating tobacco use, improving diet, increasing physical activity, and moderating alcohol consumption”. Like coaching, there could be a greater push here to help it become more of a trend.

17. Circuit training. I think this is a trend, but really only because many HIIT programs utilize circuit training. I don’t see the non-HIIT circuit training increasing. Let’s face it, most weight machine lines are set up as circuits. Weight machines circuits have been around since Universal Gym’s multi-station piece first appeared in 1957.

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18. Worksite health promotion and workplace well-being programs. Another slowly trending item on the list. I think it’s slow for two reasons. One, the return on investment (ROI) isn’t easily measured (and that means that companies are reluctant to spend money on it). Two, most American companies are focused on the quarterly or annual reports and fail to see the big picture of how these programs can help their company with reduced sick time, greater productivity, greater job satisfaction, and employee retention. Come on people. Pick it up!

19. Outcome measurements. Outcome measures have always been important. 20+ years ago, when I got my first certification from ACSM, we were tested on health and fitness assessments. Is it becoming more prevalent? Yes, I think so, but mostly because new technology makes taking measurements easier.

20. Children and exercise. I don’t see this trending up. I think that, like some other entrees here, there is a need and a hope that it will, but I don’t see the changes happening. IMHO, not a trend.

Missing from the list, ones that I believe really are trending, are Online Training and Streaming Group Fitness. Both of these are growing because of the technology available and the ease of being able to train anywhere, any time, and with a lower price tag.

So, check out the survey for yourself, Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2020, reread my thoughts and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your take on it all.

Time to Switch to Real Estate?

I just saw that another personal trainer that I know has now become a real estate agent. I’ve noticed this happening a lot. Maybe they simply love real estate more than personal training, but, I would bet that they were seeking a way to make more money than they were as a trainer. While some continue to do both, I’ve seen many trainers simply change careers, often times, to become a real estate agent. Maybe it’s the ease of getting into it or the dream of big commissions, but ultimately I find it truly disheartening.

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Personal training can be one the most rewarding careers and we have never been more needed than we are right now. “Why are trainers leaving?”, you may ask. I have a few thoughts on that.

  1. New trainers are not taught and don’t understand the business side of personal training and without the business knowledge, including marketing and sales, it is very difficult to make a living.
  2. They don’t realize that it takes time to build a clientele. This means that, even if they had the business knowledge, they are unlikely have a full schedule for quite a while. I knew one trainer that showed great promise, who, after only a few months into their position at a health club, started feeling financial pressures and is now a salesperson at a lumber store.
  3. I also think that we are in a time, with boutique fitness studios and CrossFit-like boxes opening right and left, when it seems that being your own boss is the new expectation. This can be a huge mistake. So much can be learned from working for others, particularly in a larger club. This not a sell-out, it’s a smart move. I spent most of my career working in other people’s clubs and, at every new club, I acquired new skill sets.

So, before you go off and start selling real estate (or lumber), know that it takes time and knowledge to build your career. Get the training that you need to be a successful personal trainer and enjoy a lifetime of helping others change their lives. I’ve been at it almost 40 years and can’t imagine doing anything else.

P.S.  If you feel stuck and don’t know what to do, feel free to shoot me a message.

The Allure of Being a Celebrity Trainer

There are a lot of trainers that set their sights on training celebrities. Why do you think that is? What is it about celebrities that makes them a desirable target market?

Is it that it would be cool to know a celebrity?

Is it because they have more money so you could charge more?

Is it because you want to be famous yourself?

Is it that you want to have someone who works their butt off because it’s their job?

Or, maybe you want to work as a full-time trainer for one person, have them take you on trips or on to their movie sets.

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First, don’t think that celebrity trainers are automatically good trainers (although I know some very talented ones: see Gina Lombardi and Chad Landers ) or what they do is something you should do with your clients. There are plenty of trainers that put their clients through unsafe, ridiculous workouts and prescribe bad diets and un-needed, possibly dangerous, supplements. Yet, most people will get some results when starting any workout or implementing any diet. And, if the trainer happens to acquire a celebrity client and they see results, they will tell their celebrity friends, and next thing you know, they’re a celebrity trainer. (see the unscientific philosophies of Tracy Anderson).

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to train celebrities.

  1. Remember, like all personal training, it’s about them, not you. Know your stuff. Give great results no matter who you’re working with.
  2. Training celebrities is a niche. There are some commonalities in celebrity life, that if you know, could give you an advantage over other trainers. (this could be anything from understanding the audition process to knowing that business meetings could make keeping appointments difficult.) You need to understand their life/work challenges. 
  3. Live and work where there are celebrities. When I lived in NYC, I trained a number of actors and performers, from soap operas, to broadway, and even one superstar Diva. They could be found (and therefore trained) in New York City. I now live in Easton, PA. Guess what? I have no famous clients here. Celebrity trainers all typically live in the big cities (as do most celebrities).
  4. Their hours can be chaotic and you need to be able to work around their schedule.
  5. The building of a famous clientele list starts with a single celebrity client, their success story, and word of mouth. You can’t just claim to be a celebrity trainer and get celebrities. Referrals are the lifeblood for building this client base.

So, is being a celebrity trainer realistic? Sure, but it takes a long time to build that niche business and you’re going to need to train a lot of “regular folk” in the meantime. I also can’t stress enough that, just like any other client, it’s about how you can help them that matters. Good luck.

What’s Getting One More Client Worth?

I’ve known many personal trainers through the years who “couldn’t afford” to pay for further education, mentorships, networking groups, and/or services that could help them build their business. It’s interesting that the inability for those trainers to see the value is not so different from how some individuals looking for health and fitness results balk at paying for personal training. It’s about finding the value.

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Now, not all programs or products are worth it and that’s why you want to rate each offering individually for its value.

As personal trainers, one of the basic questions is, “Will this get me more clients, and, if so, how many?” When you look at the value of a new client, you are also not simply looking at one session, or a week’s worth of sessions, but what the lifetime value of gaining this client.

To figure out the lifetime value of a client, look at how much you receive for the average personal training session (your income, not the fee they pay), multiply by the average number of times per week that you meet with clients, times the number of weeks you train clients each year (hint: it’s never 52), and finally multiply that by the average number of years that clients stay with you.

In example:

  • Average income/client session = $35
  • Average sessions/week = 2
  • Typical weeks/year = 46
  • Lifetime of client = 7 years

$35 x 2 = $70, x 46 = $3220, x 7 years = $22,540

Yeah… that’s right. The lifetime value of one new client could easily be $22,540!

So, back to the question. Is spending $500 (or more or less) on a program, conference, or… whatever, worth it? If it will get you one or more clients that you wouldn’t get otherwise, the answer really is easy. Yes. How can you afford not to?

Invest in the future of your business.

Group Fitness for Personal Trainers

For the longest time, personal trainers have always looked down on group fitness (GF) instructors. Maybe because the certification process (if they even bothered to get certified) was much less rigorous than that of personal training certifications. Or, maybe, the trainers didn’t believe that the “aerobics” classes were as demanding, or as technique driven, or as… personal and therefore less effective. I’m writing this as someone who has been teaching GF as long as I’ve been a personal trainer (38 years) with the hopes that I might change your mind about group fitness and even convince you of becoming a GF instructor.

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Me teaching MOSSA‘s Group Power.

Let’s start with the benefits of GF.

 

  1. Variety – GF classes come in all shapes and sizes. Participants can choose the type that they like the most, which will also keep them coming the longest.
  2. Social – One of the greatest draws to GF is that participants can meet new people and make new friends.
  3. Motivation – Participants will work harder when those around them are working hard.
  4. Accountability – Not only will the instructor keep you accountable for showing up to class and working appropriately hard, so will the other participants.
  5. Misery loves company – Well, not misery exactly, but when working hard, sweating, maybe a little grunting (or a lot), it always seems a little better when there are others, working just as hard, right there beside you.
  6. Correct form demonstration and coaching – GF classes have instructors there to show you how to perform movements, correct your form, and offer regressions and progressions.
  7. More affordable than personal training – This is one reason that some people will choose GF over PT (It’s one of the reasons that small group training draws people too).
  8. Great results – Beyond all of the previously listed benefits, GF can also deliver the results the participants are looking for. This is another reason they will keep coming back.

So, you can see from this partial list of participant benefits that group fitness is an important piece of the health and fitness solution. What about the benefits to a personal trainer who choses to teach GF?

  1. Benefiting others – You get to help impact the health, fitness, and lives of more people when you teach GF.
  2. Better verbal cueing – You learn multiple ways of verbally cueing the same exercise (to accommodate a diverse group ) as well as becoming more verbally descriptive. This can carry over as a benefit to your personal training.
  3. Better public speaking skills – Public speaking is a great way to build your business and GF is a great way to start to hone those skills.
  4. Gain personal training clients from the class – Many times you may notice participants that need extra help and you can suggest adding personal training to their program or, they may decide they need extra help and come to you for personal training on their own.
  5. Referrals – If your people love you, they will refer you. They will refer others to your class and to you for personal training (as long as they know you’re a personal trainer… make sure they know you’re a personal trainer!).

I know that many trainers are adding small group training as one of their services. Small group training is actually more like GF than one on one training and you’ll need those GF skills to succeed with small groups. Also, personal trainers don’t typically hesitate when it comes to teaching a boot camp. Guess what? That’s group fitness!

The point is, group fitness is good for participants, good for personal trainers, and it’s time to jump on the proverbial band wagon and start teaching classes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Become a “Conference Commando”

I just came back from attending the National Strength and Conditioning Association‘s annual conference. On my return, people ask, “How was the conference?” Hmmn? Let’s talk about what I actually get out of attending a live conference or clinic (Live offers so much more than online).

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Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, has written about being a “Conference Commando” or, going into a conference with a definite battle plan to get the most out of the conference.

So, what should you get out of a live conference or clinic?

Learn from the sessions. Naturally, the conference sessions are what most people think of when attending an event. This is where a lot of up-to-date information can be found and you should absolutely make sure that the program fits your learning needs.

Choose your presenters. The speakers are another thing to consider. A bad presenter can make it challenging to learn even if the material they are presenting is good. (Attending a session by Tudor Bompa, “the father of sports periodization” comes to mind. I’m sure it was great information, but he put me to sleep and I honestly missed most of what he said.)

Connect with your presenters. Now, beyond those first couple obvious reasons, you should also attend live events to connect with presenters that you liked and that inspired you. Stay after the session to ask further questions or just introduce yourself and thank them for what they just shared. Most presenters really appreciate hearing that and may strike up a conversation with you. Ask if you could email them an additional question or two and if they agree, you now have a new, trusted resource for information. If you nurture that relationship, you may also find yourself with a mentor who can help guide you in your career.

Connect with manufacturers. Most conferences and many clinics will have an exhibit hall or trade show. Here you can see and try new equipment, sample supplements (I often live on trade show protein bars. LOL), and connect with the manufacturers or distributors. Ask them questions about their products. See if they are right for you and/or your business. They will often have conference discounts too, if you’re interested.

Connect with other attendees. I find networking with peers one of my favorite things about attending live events. Discussions between the scheduled sessions about the topics presented, training modalities, business issues, and just getting to know other like-minded people can be so rewarding. Take contact information, connect on social media, stay in touch. Fellow attendees can also turn out to be mentors, general sounding boards, and, as I’ve found to be often the case, lifelong friends.

The key to becoming a “conference commando”, however, is to plan ahead. Go to the conference with a plan. What sessions will you take? What presenters do you want to meet? What products do you want to check out. Finally, plan on where and when you can connect with your peers. Then, execute that plan and come home with far more than just what can be learned online.

Your Career Ladder

Through the almost four decades that I’ve been a personal trainer and health club  manager, I’ve seen a lot of personal trainers come and go. Only a small portion create a sustainable career as a personal trainer. In my opinion, this is because, for some reason, entry level trainers are not thinking about it like other careers. They think that they can jump in, get some clients, and life is good just doing the same old, same old. To really succeed in this industry (well, in fact, any industry) you need to plan long-term. You need to map out the steps your ideal career.

56AD03F9-86C5-4115-9B56-525AAB3F5A65If you look at other careers, what do you see? Someone planning to be a lawyer, maybe they plan to go to a top school, pass the bar exam, get hired by a top company, and make partner by age forty. How about and architect? Go to a top school, work for a top agency, and their own firm by fifty. What these have in common is that they have the end game in mind and steps to take them there. With a specific vision in mind of where you want your career to go, you can break it down to those steps necessary to carry you to that goal.

What is your career end game? Let’s say you want to own your own health club or studio as an example. What things do you have to accomplish to get you there? Start with the major steps and then you can break each major step into smaller (not unlike periodizing a client’s program).

  • Start saving money for your facility (oh, yeah. You better start as soon as you can. It could be $10/week, but start now. This is something that I wish I had known when I began my career.)
  • Get a degree or accredited certification.
  • Intern or get hired by a fitness club to get hands-on experience
  • Seek out opportunities in management (assistant fitness director, manager on duty, assistant manager)
  • Become a general manager
  • Open your own facility

Simplistic? Definitely! It may take 10-20 years to achieve, too. That depends on how ambitious you are. (Shortly after college, I started as a personal trainer at a fairly large health club in Boston and became general manager within two years. Granted, there weren’t as many fitness professionals back in those days, but I was still very career focused.)

The key to reaching your career goal once you have mapped out your ladder is to look for the opportunities to learn and utilize the skills that will take you to that next step. Learn more about training, behavior modification, business, interpersonal communication, professional writing, public speaking, and any other thing that could make you a better rounded professional.

Make the most of your career in health and fitness. There’s nothing more rewarding.

 

Why I Became a Personal Trainer

When choosing what you hope to be your life’s work, there is often that moment, something that makes you have an epiphany that tells you that this is your mission. What was the tipping point for you that made you choose your career? This was my story.

A long time ago, in a university far, far away, (the University of Maine, to be precise), I worked in a human performance center. There we performed maximal stress tests, blood chemistry, body composition assessments, lung function tests and many other measures to get a complete health and fitness profile on individuals that came through our various programs.

Among these programs was a cardiac rehabilitation class. Leading that class was one of my responsibilities. Susan was a class participant. Susan was 75 years old, about 5’2″, frail, and was recovering from a heart attack. At first she was challenged to simply walk around. By taking this class regularly, she was finding herself able to do more and more.

Six months after starting the program, Susan came up to me and said, “Mark, I’ve been thinking about doing more in my off days. Do you think it would be okay if I got a stationary bicycle?” Of course, I was thrilled to hear that she wanted to get more active.

Elderly Woman Smiling Wearing a Swimming Cap in a Swimming PoolAbout six months after that, still coming to class and with added biking to her program, Susan approached me with some news. “Mark, I’m feeling great and I decided I am going to start taking swimming lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn, but never got around to it.” At 75 years old (actually, then 76) she felt confident enough to do something that she’d never done before. I hugged Susan, kissed her on the top of her silver-haired head and was sold on the idea of how much we, as personal trainers/instructors, could help people live healthier, more active lives.

37 years later, I still get the same thrill seeing the successes of my clients, watching them gain the ability to do things they never thought possible. It keeps me excited about continuing my personal training career for decades to come (and I’m almost 60 now).

What was the moment when you knew what your life’s work would be?

Should You Be Selling Sessions, Packages, Memberships or Programs? 

As you begin your business or as you reevaluate your business model, you may wonder what the best way is to present and sell your personal training. In the old days (I can say that because I’ve been personal training since the dawn of time.) personal training was sold as a single session or in small to medium sized packages that were increasingly discounted the more you bought. The idea behind selling discounted packages was that the client would see the savings in the larger packages, purchase those and would be committed for a longer period of time. Since then, a number of problems and potential solutions have come to light.

pricesProblem #1: Larger packages, even with their discounts, could run thousands of dollars. This could put them out of reach for those that really needed the financial discount.

Solution #1: I know some clubs that sold nothing less than a 24 session package, but they offered a payment plan for the amount. This made it accessible to those who couldn’t afford the larger sum up front and got that commitment for a longer period of time.

Problem #2: Personal trainers saw the discounting of packages as a discounting of the value of their service.

Solution #2: Choose one, consistent session price and offer bigger packages as a convenience and/or a commitment, not a money saver. This is not a very popular model as many feel it can lead to clients paying session by session and the fear is that the more often the client has to make a financial decision, the more opportunities they have to decide it isn’t worth it. We happen to offer the pay-as-you-go/session by session because a) it doesn’t devalue by discounting the sessions, b) is an easy financial commitment for more people, and c) I believe that if the skill, the service, and the results are there, the client would have no reason stop. (i.e. I had one client that paid session by session, 6 times/wk for 12 years)

Problem #3: With any session by session package, clients can be inconsistent. This leaves the personal trainer and/or club with an ever fluctuating, unpredictable income.

Solution #3: Clubs and studios are now offering “memberships” (monthly agreements) that are generally priced with a session/wk assumption. (i.e. Members pay $x/month for 2 personal training sessions/wk) What makes this more predictable is that it is a monthly fee that is most often set up as an automatic charge to the member’s credit card or bank account. There is the potential for a secondary problem in that if a client needs to cancel and you allow them to make it up, you can build a backlog of sessions that the trainer will “owe” the client. I knew one trainer that, because the member had a difficult time making up the sessions, ended up owing her client over 30 sessions. One way to handle this would be to allow the client to make up the session within a week or it would be otherwise be forfeited.

Problem #4: Finally, there are clients that only want to commit for a certain amount of time and want the maximum results for that time. This means they have to know the expected outcome, be held accountable, and maybe need more than just the exercise sessions to get those results.

8-week-fat-loss-program-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscleSolution #4: The idea of creating goal specific small group programs (such as a preseason sports prep i.e. golf conditioning, a specific health concern focus i.e. healthy back program, or bundled offerings i.e. 2 small group training sessions + 1 nutritional coaching session each week), that have a defined start and end date can be a great alternative to other offerings. This could be a 4 week, 8 wk, 12 wk, etc. Do pre and post program assessments to gather data and then use that in setting program expectations, “In this program, the average participant achieved ….” This also assures the income, because clients sign up for the program, not individual sessions. I think the addition of various programs will be the biggest change in our industry in the near future.

These are not all of the issues and they are certainly not all of the possible solutions, but they are some of the most prevalent concerns. This post is meant to be food for thought. There is no wrong answer if your choice is working for you.