How to Help Your Clients Win

How to Help Your Clients Win

Only you can put your clients on a podium.

Their bosses aren’t writing their names on the wall after a good week in the office.

Their kids aren’t giving them a round of applause after they mow the lawn.

No one else is celebrating them.

You have a daily opportunity to delight your clients. Not just to deliver a good class with individual scaling and cheerleading. Those are the basics. The best gyms put their clients on a podium.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Find opportunities for “podiums” within your scheduled workouts.

For example, in the workout Jackie, there are at least four opportunities to do something they’ve never done before:

A. Row 1,000 m faster than ever before.
B. Do 50 unbroken thrusters.
C. Do 30 unbroken pull-ups
D. Finish the workout in a PR time.

And I’m sure you already see more opportunities, right?

2. Before the workout, ask each client which podium they’ll aim for (or their personal goal in the workout).

3. Coach the client toward that goal when the workout begins.

4. When he or she hits the mark, write the goal on a small whiteboard and take a creative picture of the person holding it up and smiling. Stand the member on a plyo box with a small whiteboard listing PRs and use the #podium hashtag.

5. Post on your Facebook business page and your personal page. Tag the athlete. Make sure the post is “public” so the person’s friends can see it.

You’re probably already taking pictures of your clients during workouts, right? Uploading and tagging them? That’s not new to anyone. But context matters: a sweaty heap of Henrietta on the floor isn’t as appealing as a beaming Henny, standing on a plyo box, holding a banner that reads, “I DID IT!!!”


This is also helpful to your gym in other ways:

1. It gets your coaches thinking about celebrating success and delighting your clients.

2. It teaches the habit of internalizing small wins.

3. It presents a new way to approach old workouts.

4. It puts small wins in context (“the growth mindset”).

5. It allows for mucho celebration. If you’re using SugarWOD, the fist-bumps will fly.



1. Review your programming with coaches a week before. What are the best opportunities for podiums?

2. Get 10-15 small whiteboards and a lot of whiteboard markers.

3. Allow two minutes at the end of class for podium celebrations, pictures and hashtag time.

4. Post one picture from each class to Instagram; auto-feed to Facebook.

5. Create a Facebook album on your page for the other photos.

6. Tag every person in every picture.

7. Host a Podium Party every quarter.

8. Smile.

Our business isn’t “based on service.” It is service. The best way to service your clients is to show them the path to success … and help them celebrate when they get there.

Your best programming doesn’t matter nearly as much as celebrating success does.

When your clients celebrate success, they’re more likely to internalize joy and gratitude. That is the definition of delight.

Put them on a podium.

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

Humans do things for a reason.

You can’t improve a person’s health until you change his or her behavior. This includes your clients, your coaches and yourself.

The process I’m about to teach you is the result of all the current research on behavioral change. It’s the sum of two decades’ worth of study in changing behavior and making people healthy. It’s so important that I co-founded Two-Brain Coaching to help coaches learn the things that really change lives.

Everyone teaches cues and corrections; no one teaches how to change behavior—until now. It’s a fundamental part of our courses at Two-Brain Coaching.


8 Steps to Behavior Change


As I’ve said earlier in this series, behavioral change has to come before motivation, before adoption of a new fitness program and before adherence. Retention—keeping a client long term—is the result of mastering behavioral change. It’s a lagging metric, not a leading metric.

Here’s how to do it, step by step:

1. Start with a clear picture of success. No one joins a gym for the sake of joining. Ask every client—in a sit-down, 1:1 conversation—what his or her goals are.

2. After you get a clear goal, ask “Why?” until you get to the root motivation. You need to know what the elephant likes to eat, so to speak. In this analogy, the elephant is the client’s emotional mind, and the rider atop the elephant is the client’s rational mind.

3. Show the client your plan to get him or her to the goal. We call this the “prescriptive model.” If you read the previous post in this series, you can call it “informing the rider” atop the elephant.

4. Provide a 20 percent bonus. Show the client what he or she is already doing right. It’s easier to modify an existing behavior than to start a new one. I wrote about “head starts” in “Two-Brain Business” and “Help First.” It’s important to show people they’re already a little bit successful.

5. Find Bright Spots. Motivation requires success, not the other way around. Highlight wins early. Celebrate them. Make this a priority for your coaches.

6. Put clients on podiums. A podium is a victory over a previous best. It’s also a chance to step up and move to a higher degree of challenge. And it’s the best marketing you can do. Make your clients famous. Tell their stories.

7. Ask for the next goal. This is the step most coaches miss.

8. Repeat.

The fitness industry is changing. Selling the same thing to everyone means selling a commodity. But no one can compete with personalized delivery. Even if your gym sells only group programming, your program must be delivered in an individual way.

Gym owners in our Incubator program build out their Client Journey step by step. They plan every interaction with their clients in advance. They keep clients longer. They don’t sell memberships; they sell change. And they can make this righteous claim because they understand behavior.

In the next installment in this series, I’ll talk with Ty Krueger of Behavior Change Collective and Packerland CrossFit on Two-Brain Radio. He’ll give you some real-world examples of behavior change in action.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

I will never be the cheapest gym in town.

I will not spend $100,000 on equipment every year. I will not provide 24-hour keycard access. I will not provide towels or run a juice bar.

I sell coaching. Coaching is more than teaching, more than cheerleading, more than dictating. I don’t merely provide access to equipment; I deliver people from their current state to their goals.

Reaching their goals requires hard work. But before hard work comes motivation, and before motivation comes behavioral change. I can’t out-yell a bad lifestyle.

No goal is motivational enough to pull a client past every temptation, every late-night craving, every moment of weakness. None. The knowledge that “this is bad for me” won’t overcome “I want this right now” without practice.

That’s because logic doesn’t drive our behavior; emotion does.


Riders on the Storm?


Picture an elephant with a rider sitting on its back.

The rider is your client’s rational mind: the logical thinker, the planner.

The elephant is the client’s emotional mind: the irrational, easily distracted thinker driven by urgency and whim.

The rider sits on top of the elephant. It’s how our brains have evolved.

But the driver only thinks he or she is controlling the elephant.

The rider can see the road ahead. The rider can consult the map. The rider can plot a course. But in the end, if the elephant wants to stop to eat, it will stop. If the elephant turns around and heads in the other direction, the rider can’t really force it back on course. All the kicking, prodding and even whipping won’t force an elephant to turn around.

To keep our clients on track, we have to understand how to inform the rider and how to motivate the elephant.

What really motivates the elephant?

Fire. Mice. Immediate threats. Things that are urgent, not necessarily things that are important.

Luckily, elephants are trainable. The best way to keep an elephant from crashing off course is train it to stay on the path.

It’s not hard to train the rider: Just tell the person exactly what to do and why.

Training the elephant part of the brain is more difficult. In the next article in this series, I’m going to share our step-by-step process for training an elephant.

People do things for a reason. That reason is rarely logical. Most even know what they “should” do. My job is to make them want to do it for the rest of their lives.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
How to Change Your Client’s Behavior
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?

Turning Pro

Turning Pro

Becoming a professional coach takes a lot more than a certification.

After more than 23 years coaching fitness, here’s what I know of professional coaches.


Professionals show up and do the work. On time. With a smile.


Professionals look like professionals.

Professionals know they’re “on stage” even when they’re not in the building.

Turning pro means showing up, at your best, every single day.

Turning pro means smiling when you’re tired. Turning pro means that you don’t have excuses anymore. Turning pro means you do the stuff you don’t want to do instead of just punching a clock.

Turning pro means putting the client’s perception of your brand ahead of your desire to drink coffee, hit “snooze” or skip your morning shower.


Professionals aren’t too good for the basics.


Greg Glassman said: “Stick to the basics, and when you feel you’ve mastered them, it’s time to start all over again, begin anew—again with the basics—this time paying closer attention.”

Professionals can get excited about teaching the air squat.

Professionals don’t mind explaining the same thing in a different way.

Professionals don’t have clients who “just don’t get it.”


Professionals just keep showing up.


Steven Pressfield wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “The War of Art.” He also wrote “Turning Pro,” a book about developing habits and committing to a higher level in life.

Steven is also a professional exerciser, even though it’s not his career or even his passion. He’s a pro because he turns up to meet his trainer at the gym every day, even when he doesn’t feel like it.

He learned to be a pro exerciser by being a pro writer. He doesn’t always feel like writing, but he does anyway. And on an interview this morning, he said:

“The defining feature of a professional is the willingness to go back to basics over and over again.”

Amateur writers get “writers’s block.” Pro writers write.

Plumbers don’t get “plumber’s block.” Orthopedic surgeons don’t say, “I’m just not feeling it today.”

Pro fitness coaches don’t let themselves off the hook.

Pros deliver at the same level for the first client and the 100th.


Professionals have coaches.


Tom Brady has a throwing coach. After every season, he starts from scratch with his coach: learning the forward pass, just like he did as a 6-year-old.

When you get a certification, you get to call yourself a trainer. That doesn’t mean you’re a professional coach. Not yet.

You have a lifetime of learning ahead of you—you’ll go back to the basics all the time—but you get to wear the same badge as me. Thank you for reshaping our world.

You’re not done learning. You will never be done.


Professionals know that exercise cuing and corrections are essential but insufficient.


If the client doesn’t want to come back tomorrow, you’ve failed that client.

Consistency is greater than everything else. A client doesn’t have to fix movement problems today.

Coaching is more than teaching or correcting.


Professionals are method agnostic.


Professionals find a way to get results.

Professionals rise above ideology, dogma and their own biases in order to help the client.

Professionals care more that the client gets results than about how the client gets them.

Professionals don’t “compete” with other exercise practitioners or therapists.


Pros never complain, criticize or condemn.


Professionals don’t try to tear others down to build themselves up.

Professionals aren’t scared to listen to other opinions.

Professionals play the infinite game.


Professionals behave like professionals when they don’t have to.


Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk have made entrepreneurship cool.

This new breed wears snapbacks onstage. They wear designer jeans and have cameras following them around just in case they say something extra special.

But they’re never unclean. They don’t yawn on camera.

They get away with some stuff—using F-bombs, for example—because they have a solid foundation of professionalism. One bad habit is the exception to their rule; it’s not the rule.

A real pro lays personal style on top of professionalism. The standards of a pro don’t dip to meet the amateurs or copycats. Being a pro means you can’t turn it off.


Pros create more pros.


Real professionals upgrade their profession.

Real professionals inspire others to be like them.

Real professionals are models for the next generation.


Real pros are made, not born.


No one turns pro quickly.

No one turns pro easily.

No one turns pro without sacrificing the habits of amateurs.

No one turns pro without help.

And pros know that “professional coach” isn’t the same as “professional gym owner.”


Other Articles in This Series

How to Coach Forever
How to Make a Living as a Personal Trainer
How to Open a Profitable, Scalable Gym
How to Start and Online Training Business, With Jonathan Goodman

How to Open a Profitable, Scalable Gym

How to Open a Profitable, Scalable Gym

The top reason most owners tell us they open gyms?

“I wanted to make this my career, and I couldn’t make enough coaching for someone else.”

The top reason most owners close their gyms?

“I loved the people and the community and the coaching—but I couldn’t figure out ‘the business side.'”

(Maybe they blame marketing or competition or other people, but it’s always “the business stuff.” You get it.)

In the previous article in this series, I gave you a few ways to make a great living as a fitness coach without opening a gym. In this post, I’m going to tell you how to bootstrap an open, get your first clients, get your next clients and scale up.

This isn’t just my opinion; it’s the proven method we’ve used with dozens of gym owners before they started.


Step 1: Build an Audience


It seems funny to say that you should get people’s attention before you decide what your service will be, but that’s really the best advice I can give you.

When I started Catalyst, I had an audience: my clients at the studio where I worked and local readers of online news sources. I also knew a ton of local teen athletes I’d met through my current clients. I simply went to track meets or hockey games, helped my trainees warm up and met their friends. So when I opened the first Catalyst (an appointment-only PT studio), I started with over 40 clients.

John Franklin ran bootcamps in local parks to build his audience before opening his gyms. He just posted on local event boards online. People showed up, signed a waiver and paid. When he reached enough people to sustain a space, he opened a small one.

And we did it before Facebook!

On Two-Brain Radio, you can hear Jonathan Goodman tell you how to build an audience before you launch an online coaching business (link to show coming Dec. 19).


Step 2: Build Your Service


Ask, “What are the common goals that my best clients share?”

This step is really avoiding the temptation to buy the space and equipment you want—for now. Focus on what your clients actually need to get to their goals instead of building CrossFit Wonderland.

What you’ll probably realize is that you can get people pretty fit on a budget of $2,000 or less.

Slowly accumulate equipment and build what you can. Many, many gyms built their pull-up racks themselves back in 2008, and I still have homemade plyo boxes in use after 10 years. If you catch yourself reading about bar spin or the different types of roll-out flooring at startup, you’re probably missing the mark.


Step 3: Build Your Space


Find a small space. You need:

  • A friendly neighbor who understands what you plan to do.
  • Somewhere people can pee and change in peace.
  • A small office with a door that closes.
  • Enough room to train four to six people at one time.
  • A short lease (because you’ll grow out of it).

The temptation you’ll have to resist at this stage is “going big” to accommodate the huge crowds of people who are sure to bust down your doors on opening day. But if you can start with a small space, you’ll avoid all kinds of massive problems later.

Gym owners who open with a huge space feel panicked, and they try to fill the space at any cost. So they run class times instead of appointments, then they offer discounts to get people in the door, then they take anyone who will sign a waiver. You won’t have to dig yourself out of those holes if you start with what you need and plan to grow.



Step 4: Build Your Client List


Set up your booking calendar and payment method.

Tell your clients they can get into your “Founder’s Club” if they sign up before opening day.


Launch a grand opening. Tell your clients to bring their friends. Commence Affinity Marketing. (Get our free 76-page guide here.)

Turn each client into two, then four. Partner them up. Don’t try to get 10 new people; try to get Mary and Alice, and then try to get John and Frank.


Step 5: Build Your Team


Begin replacing yourself in lower-value roles. Hire a cleaner.


Step 6: Build Your Business


Forgive yourself. For the next few months, your fitness will suffer. Your sleep will suffer. You’ll drink too much coffee and eat too little fruit.

But that’s a small price to pay for freedom later. And with our help, you can get out of Founder Phase really fast.


Need More Info? Read These Articles!


How to Start a Gym

Starting a Gym: Location, Space and Equipment

Scaling up From Scratch

Marketing Your New Gym

Adding Staff (the Value Ladder)

Do You Need a Partner?

And if you want more than information—if you want real helpbook a call with our team here.


Other Articles in This Series

How to Coach Forever
How to Make a Living as a Personal Trainer
How to Start and Online Training Business, With Jonathan Goodman
Turning Pro

How to Make a Living as a Personal Trainer

How to Make a Living as a Personal Trainer

Whether you work in a big gym, a little gym or own your own private studio, here’s how to make a great living as a personal trainer in 2020.

I started as a personal trainer in 1998. In 2005, I opened my own studio because I needed to make more money. In 2008, I added a CrossFit gym as a second location. That gym wasn’t always profitable, but my personal-training practice always was. My problem was time: I could literally fill as many hours as I wanted to work, so I worked a ton. I had other trainers working at my studio, and they also worked a ton because I didn’t understand how to scale up my time.

In this article, I’ll tell you:

  • How to get your first clients.
  • How to get more clients who can afford you.
  • How to scale up your coaching without spending more time.
  • What tools you can use to make your life easier.

In the next article, I’ll tell you how to start your own gym—if you want to.

After that, I’ll tell you how to do online training (with help from Jonathan Goodman, who’s been doing it successfully since 2013).


How to become a Personal Trainer


First things first: To start training people, you’ll need insurance. And to be insurable, you’ll need a certification of some type.

If you work for a chain gym, they might offer you an in-house certification course. They might also cover your insurance. Both are huge gifts you shouldn’t take for granted.

If you don’t work for a big chain, you can become certified and insured elsewhere. We built our First Degree Coaching program to serve this need on


How to Get Your First Clients


If you work for a big chain, part of your training in fitness will include training in sales.

You’ll be taught how to cold-call the gym’s client list and how to approach people in the gym to sell personal training.

Learning to sell might feel uncomfortable, but the training is actually a huge gift. You’re going to need to sell yourself, so you might as well get trained to do it well. And access to the gym’s client list is priceless; gym owners routinely pay up to $1,000 every month to build lists of potential clients.

If you want to own your own studio, the best way to get your first clients is to make yourself famous.

We call this the Founder Phase of entrepreneurship, and I write about it at length in my book “Founder, Farmer, Tinker, Thief.”

To get your first clients, you must act as your own PR firm. You must publish videos or blog posts every day. And you must get them in front of people: Post them in your gym or in a members’ Facebook group or send them to local newspapers. You must make content and get it in front of potential clients.

For example, when I was trying to get clients, I wrote editorials for three local online news sites. The sites were eager to get them because they sold ads on each page. And I got my first few clients really quickly: I wanted to train athletes, so my articles were about athletic training. If I had wanted to get weight-loss clients, I would have written about that topic but used the same process.

The important thing: You can’t wait for other people to “find” you and then tell their friends. Neither will happen quickly enough.


How to Get Your Next Clients


You need your first good clients to refer their friends, family and coworkers.

I know: You don’t like selling. Neither do I. So I created the Affinity Marketing strategy to help.

You can follow the process step by step if you read this blog post (and there’s even a free 76-page guide to download here).

The other top strategy I used was assigning homework. All my clients needed to exercise more than just inside the one or two sessions per week they did with me. They would usually do this homework at home or at a local chain gym.

I made sure to give them printed homework sheets with my logo at the top (a big green arrow that said “Catalyst” on it). These sheets attracted attention: They were carried around the gym or pinned to the fridge at home. Other people would ask what my clients were doing or look at their homework plans surreptitiously. And they’d see my logo and website first.


How to Scale


This is where I almost bankrupted my PT business (and myself).

I knew I had to make more money in the same amount of time (or, preferably, less). So I opened a second location where I could sell group training.

And that was the near-fatal move: I jumped from training one person to training 12 people. It was nearly fatal because:

A. It takes a completely different skill set to train 12 people than to train one person (and that’s what our Second Degree Course focuses on in Two-Brain Coaching).

B. The equipment and space necessary to train 12 people required a massive financial risk that I didn’t really have to take.

C. I needed at least six or seven clients in each group to earn more than I was earning 1:1. And that didn’t happen fast enough; I was losing money on every class with two or three people in it.

Instead, I should have gone from 1:1 training to 1:2 training, and then to 1:3 or 1:4 training. I could have earned a lot more money without any extra expenses at all.

We teach that process in our Incubator program, and I’ll write more about it in my next post, but here’s a preview.

The other option for scaling is to add a secondary service or revenue stream, like nutrition coaching. You can charge separately for nutrition coaching, and—let’s face it—that’s what most people need. Your program should center around accountability instead of a specific “diet.”

You can also sell supplements. We like Driven Nutrition if you do.


The Tools You Need



I firmly believe that the best trainers don’t need a ton of equipment. When I started Catalyst in 2005, I had $16,000 to spend (so I spent all of it). I bought lat-pulldown and cable-crossover and leg-extension machines … and one barbell. Guess what I used? The barbell. The rest has been in storage for a decade.

If you had to train a client and you owned a plyo box, a medicine ball, a kettlebell and a soft mat, I bet you could train him or her for a full year, get great results and never need more equipment.



You need a general prescription that will get results for the average person but which you can personalize for each client. “Personal training” doesn’t just mean coaching people one at a time; it means customizing workouts and diets to match goals. You should have a firm philosophy and flexible delivery. And unlike group programming, you can’t buy an individual program from someone else and deliver it to your clients.

The more people you’re training at once, the broader and more general your method must be. I use CrossFit for larger groups, but you can choose anything that produces results for your clients. Combine kettlebells with a spin class, push-ups with a pool, or calisthenics with a set of rings and you can cover a lot of bases. But you should be certified in your method of choice.



You need a system that will help your clients pay online and book their own appointments. Those two things will save you time and awkward conversations about overdue bills.

Secondarily, you might want some software that will allow you to deliver “homework” to your clients. I’ve always liked because you can build an app that looks like your own, start sending out homework with how-to videos, and upsell nutrition coaching very easily. You can literally set it up in less than two hours, and it looks great. I don’t make anything for recommending Trainerize, by the way.


Many Paths to Success


The cost to start as a personal trainer is pretty minimal. Almost every gym in Two-Brain (over 800 of them!) is looking for someone to deliver 1:1 or small-group training (here’s the map of Two-Brain gyms). Start there.

Imagine being provided all the tools you need, a roof over your head, access to a big client base, built-in marketing and sales systems, insurance coverage, and pay that’s usually around double what you’d get at a big chain gym. Amazing!

Alternately, you could work for a big chain, get trained on sales and slowly develop a client list before leaving to open your own studio.

A third option is to open in your garage, slowly build up clients with no time pressure and pay for studio space when you’re ready.

Fourth, you could open a gym. That’s what I did. I didn’t do it the right way. I’ll tell you the right way to do it in the next article.


Other Articles in This Series

How to Coach Forever
How to Open a Profitable, Scalable Gym
How to Start and Online Training Business, With Jonathan Goodman
Turning Pro