10 Years In: An Open Letter To A Young Coach
Dear Young (Strength Coach/Personal Trainer),
Just the other day, while prepping to speak with students at the ACSM Annual Meeting in Boston I came to the realization that I am standing at a professional milestone.
This is my 10th year working in the fitness industry. I’ve officially “done a dime” in this field. Bare with me as I quickly recount my path.
At 17 I took my first job at Gold’s Gym in Maynard, Massachusetts. Here, I toiled away for a year as a front desk attendant swiping cards, answering phones and cleaning the tanning bed all so I could workout for free. At 18, I passed the ACE Personal Training examination the morning after my senior prom.
I was officially a Personal Trainer. I was ready to take over the fitness industry. There was only one problem..
I realized very quickly when I got my first training client that I didn’t know shit. Pretty sure I couldn’t even name any muscles outside of The Big Three (Chest, Arms and Abs right?) much less write a legitimate training program for another living, breathing human. I desperately needed to learn and gain experience
Over the next decade I learned a lot, mostly how much I didn’t know. Thus far, I have been extremely fortunate. The people I have met, places I have worked and experiences I have had have changed my life. But none of this has come without struggle and some serious second thoughts about my career choice. This isn’t an easy field to “make it” in. Which brings me back to why I am writing this letter in the first place.
In prepping for my presentation I started jotting down my reflections on the last ten years. 10 pages later I was staring at the notebook and realized I may have actually written down something of value for a young coach like yourself.
So here are some gems that I’ve learned along the way. Take them in, follow my lead or just ignore me and screw up for yourself because that’s how you’re really gonna learn anyways.…
- If you’re still in college pay attention in Biology, A & P, Motor Control, Chemistry and Physics. You’re paying a shit-ton of money to go to college and you’re gonna have to pay for the books and read them again in 5 years if you want to be successful. Slack off in your Gen-Eds, those classes don’t matter.
- Loving to train and training people are two very different things. You can have both but one does not depend on the other. Exercise is fun, the workout takes 1 hour and you can stop when you’re tired. Coaching is hard, you work 14 hour days and better not quit on your client.
- Your degree and certification mean nothing. I’m not kidding. (Unless you went to a CFSC Course, I hear you actually learn to coach at those things…)
- Back to those Gen Ed classes for a minute. They aren’t completely useless. Brendon Rearick and I read E-Myth and Crush It and wrote our entire business plan during a semester of Religious Studies 101. True Story.
- When I walked into the MBSC at 19 for my interview I felt like I had just discovered my second family. I felt home, I also realized very quickly I was way out of my depth and knew nothing about training. I hope you all experience this one day.
- The word “Internship” implies that you will not be paid very much, if at all. Accept this. The person that expects $12/hour to intern will probably make $12/hour for the rest of their life.
- $18.66…That’s the average hourly wage for a personal trainer in the United States. The median yearly income for a personal trainer is $39,000. You aren’t underpaid. You either don’t work hard enough, aren’t innovative enough or you chose the wrong career.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead and see for yourself….
- No one outside of Instagram gives a shit about your abs or how much you bench. #FitsPo #FitFam
- Put down the Tuppleware and eat like a normal human being every once and awhile. Maybe even drink beer or have some ice cream. Normal people cannot relate to you.
- When you start working always show up and do extra. This applies to everyone, intern to CEO. Remember this:
“Poor effort will get you no results. Good effort will only earn you poor results. Excellent effort as awesome it sounds will only yield good results. The one degree jump from excellent to outstanding is where you reap all the rewards.” – Tony Robbins (paraphrased)
- Every young coach goes through a “Know it all” phase get through that as quickly as possible to get to the “Wow, I don’t know anything” phase and stay there forever.
- Be a sponge. Listen. Practice. Fail. Repeat. Continue this process for the rest of your life.
- First and foremost coaching is about relationships, invest with emotional currency first.
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” – John Maxwell
(I don’t care if this is a cliché, its true.)
- Set aside a percentage of your earnings every single year for continuing education. Eventually, a much larger percentage of your income will come from other people paying you for that very same knowledge.
^ True Story: Brendon and I set aside every penny of profit from our first year at Movement As Medicine to pay for continuing education courses. Since then we have made 10x that in revenue. Every well earning coach that I know has done the same.
- Find your “Why.”
Identifying by “what you do and how you do it” is easy. It also will fail to set you apart from anyone else. Extraordinary people live by their “Why” and let the “What” and “How” fall where they may.
What’s my Why?
“I will spread the positive benefits of great coaching and physical activity as far as possible. Everything I do will be “World Class.” I will deliver the best possible health and fitness information and services to everybody I possibly can.”
Whether I am a friend, coach, therapist or educator this “Why” encompasses me and drives “What I Do” and “How I Do It”
Read This Book: Start With Why
- If you’re bored, unmovtivated or too tired to go to work today then change something. It could be your routine or it could be your career. Your clients pay way too much money and invest way too much energy to have a coach who doesn’t care.
- There are very few jobs in the world where you get to wear a t-shirt, gym shorts and be barefoot everyday. Capitalize on that privledge.
- Work with your friends. Even when it’s hard (it will be) it won’t feel that much like work.
- You have to care every single day. Not just when it’s convenient. The principle of Compounding Interest (Continual reinvestment) vs. Simple Interest (Single investment) applies to all things in life: Careers, Relationships and Finances.
- Early on you will be broke and your earning ceiling is lower than many other professions. We were so broke the first few years Brendon wouldn’t let us turn the heat above 55 degrees in our apartment.
- Eventually, when your training schedule is full you’ll hit a wall. You’ll be stuck trading dollars for hours. This is where many trainers burn out and quit. This is also where the trainers who reach the next level innovate by increasing their hourly worth or developing other streams of income.
It’s probably going to take longer than you think to make money.
- Work another job early on to help you get by.
Everyone started somewhere: Mike Boyle was a bartender at Who’s On First, Marco Sanchez was a Barista at Starbucks, I scooped ice cream and bussed tables. Do what you have to do to survive while you chip away at your dream life….or just cash it all in and waste away behind a desk for the rest of your life.
- Your income won’t matter if you truly love to do this. If you are passionate and committed to your mission you will have more fulfillment than you could ever imagine.
- Mentors are an invaluable resource. Find someone who is a master of doing what you want to do and model their behavior.
- Say thank you to people who have helped you and then pay it forward.
Thank you Mike Boyle and the entire staff at MBSC during my first few years.
- Live intentionally. Set goals. What get’s written down get’s done. This applies to you and your clients. Be specific.
What do you want in…1 Week, 3 Months, 5 Years, 20 years?
What behaviors does that goal require out of you daily?
Are you willing to do those things? Is it worth it?
If you can’t answer these questions how do you expect to be successful?
- Find your tribe. Surround yourself with the right people.
Write down the 5 people you associate with most frequently.
From 1-10, Average their Happiness, Income, Social Status and Health?
Look in the mirror. Do you like what you see?
You will be the average of the five people you associate with most frequently. If people in your life are negative, frequently complaining or discouraging you from chasing your passion get rid of them.
- It’s no mistake that the single commonality between all the wealthiest people in the world is that they read frequently. 26% of the worlds adult population are illiterate (1 Billion people). If you know how to read you owe it to everyone who cannot to pick up a damn book.
“Those who can read and don’t are just as well off as those who cannot read at all.” – I have no idea who said this
Also, this fun fact from Rich Habits: The Daily Habits of Wealthy Individuals by Thomas Corley
“67% of rich people watch TV for one hour or less per day, while just 23% of poor people keep their TV time under 60 minutes. Corley also found only 6% of the wealthy watch reality shows, while 78% of the poor do.”
(No idea if this is true but I read it in a book)
- Make sure you take time to reflect. Reflection will help you appreciate, analyze and learn from past experiences.
After a training session: Review the program and the client. Did what I do work? Did it fail? What was great? What could I do better?
At The End Of Every Night: Did I positively impact someones life today? Did I make progress on my “Why?”
After a financially successful week: How many clients did I train? How much money did I make? Is this sustainable for me? With this much coaching can I continue to deliver a high quality product?
After a tough coaching week: What was stressful this week? Why did I struggle to bring the energy needed? What do I need to do to deliver better coaching?
Every 3 Months: How much did I earn this quarter? Am I on track to my goals? Have I made progress on my “Why?” What is my goal for the next 3 months?
Every Year: What am I thankful for? What did I achieve this year? What did I want to achieve this year but didn’t and why? What are my big goals for next year/3 months?
- I probably could have condensed this whole article into one slide….
I hope this helps you avoid some potholes and with luck (and a lot of hard work) provides you some guidance towards professional success. When you get there just make sure you take the time to pass some tips along to the next young coach.
A coach who is still figuring it out himself.
Kevin Carr is a strength and conditioning coach at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning in Boston, Massachusetts as well as a co-founder of Movement As Medicine and Certified Functional Strength Coach.
Kevin has amassed a wealth of experience in the field of sports performance and massage therapy. He has worked with everyone from US Olympians and professionals looking for a competitive edge to Average Joes looking to shed some pounds and get healthier.
Whether working as a coach or therapist, Kevin’s goal is to help you move better so that you can excel at the activities that make you happy. Kevin can be contacted at Kevin@Movement-As-Medicine.com