Announcer (00:00:00):
It’s Two-Brain Radio. Every week we’ll deliver top-shelf tactics to help you improve your fitness business and move you closer to wealth. And now here’s your host, the most interesting man in fitness, Chris Cooper.
Chris (00:00:16):
Today’s episode is brought to you by Now full disclosure, I own shares in Ignite Gym because I believe so much in the program. What started out as a way to use exercise to treat one kid with autism has grown into this worldwide program with its own network of affiliates and licensees and neuromotive coaches working with special populations like veterans with PTSD and autism and people with cognitive challenges and behavioral challenges. This is some of the best work that you can do. If rewarding has a scale of one to 10 this is an 11. But don’t take my word for it. At 2013 at the affiliate gathering in Montana, Greg Glassman said that the next frontier for CrossFit was probably the cognitive realm that we could easily take over the tutoring businesses that are all over North America and Europe right now and I think that we’re best positioned to do it. Why? Because kids love it. If kids have to go to a tutor after class and they have to do extra math, they hate it, but throw in 10 to 15 minutes of CrossFit Kids-type workouts or fun obstacle courses or Ninja warrior training and they will love it. They’ll come every day of the week and you can even mix some math in there. It’s also optimal for their learning. Ignite Gym 101 course is coming out again in about two weeks. Next week we’ll be talking about Legends and working with older populations and Tyler Belanger of Ignite Gym will also be on the show with us to talk about building brain WODs into your programming. For right now though, if you go to or you can see some daily brain workouts that you can try in your gym and help some people with their cognition.
Chris (00:01:53):
Today’s guest is Pat Barber of but that’s not where Pat started his CrossFit career. In 2003 just doing the math for you, that’s about 13 years, he’s been doing this stuff, he was in high school and his volleyball coach, Tony Budding, was looking for clean and jerk on the Internet and what he found was CrossFit. And he went down the street, started doing CrossFit and brought CrossFit to the volleyball team and that’s when Pat started training. Before too long, of course, Pat was competing and he was doing these workouts at CrossFit HQ and then CrossFit Santa Cruz. He was part of the CrossFit media team. He became known as Pat “the manimal” Barber. He was on the cover of “Every Second Counts,” the movie. He has been around CrossFit since its inception. He’s seen all the different coaches come and go. He has worked with all the top-level guys and now he’s in charge of coach development at NorCal CrossFit. So he oversees the training of dozens of coaches and he preps these guys for really high-level coaching jobs. What we can learn from him is some great stories about the origins of CrossFit, but also the development of the theoretical hierarchy of coaching. Pat talks about getting closer to his Perfect Day, about why a lot of gyms are starting to farm out their programming, which was once kind of thought to be the heart and soul of the gym—now we know that’s not true—and how he puts programming together. He also talks about how he evaluates coaches and how he evaluates clients to see who’s the perfect fit, how to remove the clients that he doesn’t like and how to keep the clients that he does. It’s a fantastic interview. Let’s get to it.
Chris (00:03:26):
Pat Barber, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.
Pat (00:03:28):
Yeah. Pleasure to be here.
Chris (00:03:30):
So, for those who in the audience who haven’t heard your full story, can you just take five minutes and kind of give us the whole rundown?
Pat (00:03:38):
The whole thing?
Chris (00:03:39):
The whole thing. Point to point.
Pat (00:03:45):
So my whole story—I’m assuming my CrossFit story—that started back in 2000, it was like late 2003 in high school, early 2004 I would say that Tony Budding and Nicole Carroll brought over CrossFit to the school and the way they brought it over to the school is Tony was looking for a way to train the volleyball team and he typed in clean and jerk, because he heard those were good for volleyball training. And what came up on Google was CrossFit Santa Cruz, which was Glassman’s gym at the time. So he went in there and he went to learn how to do CrossFit or actually went to learn how to do clean and jerks. And he was like, I want to learn how to do clean and jerk. And they’re like, well, we do something called CrossFit here. And he’s like, I don’t want that. I just want to clean and jerk. And he ended up being like, fine, I’ll take the CrossFit with the learning how to clean and jerk, and did some training there and just immediately, cause he was a very intelligent guy, figured out how amazing what cross it was. And from there took that program and brought it up to the school and they started training the volleyball team and just kids, and ended up bringing a bunch of gear up and we would train up at the school and it was really fun. And then from there I went off to college, down at Cal State Northridge in LA, and went there for like, not even a year. Hated the San Fernando valley, moved back up to Santa Cruz area and started going to school for musical theatre at a local community college and working at a resort. In the meantime, I was going to CrossFit back and forth, just going and training with Tony and just kind of meeting all the people at the original HQ gym, which is like Annie Sakamoto and Greg Glassman and Eva Twardokens and Hollis Malloy and Danielle Malloy and just like meeting all these people. And I was just kind of like a young punk kid and not to say that I’m too much different than that now, but at the same time it, back then I was just going there to train and what drew me to CrossFit, because I never did any sort of fitness other than CrossFit, was that it was competition based and I’d never cared for working out. I just cared about competing and I loved being in the gym and just throwing down and I was pretty good at body-weight stuff back in the day, but I was so weak and I had—I couldn’t run, like a 400 would make me wheeze and it was fun. It was such a different experience. But when I went in, I would train for like probably about a month at a time and I would throw up after every workout and then I would get so sick of that, that I wouldn’t do it for six months.
Pat (00:06:20):
So my off-on was like mo one month on, six months off, which is not a sustainable schedule for trying to get fit. But from there what ended up happening is I went to—I one day quit my job working room service cause I got this bad boss and I was like, you know what, I’m done here. And I was driving by CrossFit and I hadn’t been in a while and I looked inside and Tony was in there and I drove in and Tony was like, “work out with me,” he put me through a workout. It was just horrible. And afterwards I told him what had just happened, that I quit my job and he was like, “Hey, do you know how to edit video? And I was like, no, I have no idea how to edit video. But I can learn.” And he’s like, all right. So he took me to his house. He sat me in front of his computer and he’s like, this is Final Cut. I need you to edit this, of Annie Sakamoto doing, I think it was cleans, but it was a front shot and a side shot, and I had to basically trial by fire. He’s like, this is a blade tool. Let’s take these two clips up and make this clip for me. And I was like, all right. So I sat down and started editing video for him, 14 hours later I have a janky little 20-second clip. And from there, that was pretty much my introduction to being part of CrossFit media. They at that point started doing more and more seminars, so they needed people to go and film, and then Tony was like, “Hey, you’re kind of my right-hand guy here. Would you want to go to these seminars and start filming?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure.” So basically what I do is I—we take cameras and we take takes back in the day, it wasn’t digital yet. And we’d mike up—it was crazy cause like we didn’t really have a background in film. Tony didn’t, I mean he learns everything but he didn’t have a background in that. He basically—I called it blanket filming, I’m not sure if that’s the actual term, but you’d go and we’d had a seminar in Asia when the seminars have all kinds of specialists, it had like Buddy Lee, the jump-rope guy, you know, Robb Wolf who talked nutrition, and Rippetoe would come in and Glassman would be there and you’d have rock climbers and you’d have all these crazy amounts of people and they would, we would mike up every single lecture and every single break-out group and film, you know, from 8:00 a.m. on Day 1 till closing on Day 2 or Day 3 if they were a there-day seminar. And every single thing was miked, andd that’s all I did was walk around with a camera and watch some of the best coaches in the world just coach and lecture. And I just got completely absorbed in the community and what it was. And like regardless of if I wanted to or not, like I was getting fed that information, it was pretty cool. So from there, the way we would edit that, is you know, you take three days’ worth of footage and you bring it home and you watch it all and then you find a little gem and then you watch that and you cut that down from 20 minutes to 10 minutes to five minutes to a 30-second clip, so you take like a weekend seminar and break it down into 30-second clips. So through that I just kinda learned. I learned things that would work, things that wouldn’t, and I would watch so many amazing coaches. I got really lucky, basically, to have that kind of experience. One day I was like, “Hey guys, can I coach? You know, can I try coaching?” And it kind of happened perfectly with them needing a little bit more staff, the Level 1s, and me getting a job coaching at CrossFit Santa Cruz, because CrossFit Santa Cruz split into multiple gyms. And so I got to go over to the CrossFit Santa Cruz that was owned by Greg Amundson and Mallee Sato and got to start working there as like a coach for just normal people and tried to create a client base.
Pat (00:10:01):
And that also in conjunction with Level 1s needing more people, I started to get better at coaching and I asked if I could do Level 1s. And I started, I went through that hiring process, which was kind of gnarly. They’d be like, “Hey, you’re going to teach a group, and go ahead, teach everybody to squat.” And then you’d have Dave and Nicole sitting behind you, you know, like with a clipboard watching you teach a group and it’s like, OK, this is nerve-wracking. Got onboard staff then, and have just kind of grown with the community since. I didn’t start competing until 2008, so 2007 was the first year of the CrossFit Games, and 2008, I started competing at the Games that year and that year was— it was funny because I was still working in media, so we were doing all the filming of this big project, the “Every Second Counts” movie. We weren’t filming it, we brought Sevan and Carey to film that, and Sevan and Carey, I’ve always had a really good relationship. They were like “Hey, should we follow Pat around?” And Tony and Dave were like, “Nah, he’s not going to do anything well.” And Dave and Tony were both like, “Dude, you won’t finish top 20.” And I was like, “Oh, thanks guys. I appreciate your support.” And then we went to the Games and that year I got fourth, which kind of started my competition career. So I started competing and you know, from there in 2009 I went to the Games and met my wife there and then 2010 competed team, 2011 competed and got eighth, down in Carson, and then kind of done team stuff since. So I’ve got the competition side, but I think the side that really for me that I love these days, cause I think I’m on the tail end of my competition career—in fact I know I’m on the tail end of that, just because I don’t have the desire to compete anymore. And because people are really, really good. But I don’t have that drive anymore, and in order to be on the top these days, you have to want to go to the gym and die every day, you know? And for me, I’ve got other very important things in my life, like my family and I found other avenues that I’m passionate about, and one of those is coaching and coaching has really kind of become all-consuming for me. I watched all those great coaches from back in the day and took everything that I could from them. And because I came from a background that wasn’t, you know, this is how it’s done, I came from a background in musical theatre. So I just listened to everything I could and tried to learn from everyone I could, I feel like it really set me up well to basically listen to what’s around me and develop a style that will work for a lot of people. And that’s kinda what I’m passionate about these days, is coaching and working with normal people, not athletes, not Division 1 sports, just kind of going in the gym and seeing how fit you can make the people who are around you. And that was my story coming up to where I am now. And day in and day out, I work for NorCal CrossFit and I’m doing coaches’ development where we got, how many gyms do we have now, 20-plus gyms worldwide. And we’ve got so many coaches that me and my wife have a full-time job developing coaches, because we were kind of, once again, right place, right time, when NorCal CrossFit was growing, I basically—all the coaches that I was trying to create for my facility so I wouldn’t have to coach as much that I was working for Jason, or for NorCal, kept on getting taken away from me and being used in other facilities that we were setting up. And eventually they looked at it and they’re like, all our coaches have come through you and Taz. So, sweet. Why don’t you guys develop coaches for us, and now that’s what we do. It’s all been a fun little game to get to where we are.
Chris (00:13:55):
OK man. So you know, a lot of guys coming into the CrossFit world now, they reminisce about the good old days and you know, my good old days are like 2007, which are, you know, a different era from your good old days. What’s the big shift that you’ve seen in coaching from those early days to now?
Pat (00:14:16):
Wow, in coaching? I mean usually I get asked the question about in the, you know, in the competition community, but in coaching then to now, a ton. A ton. I mean think about what a personal trainer was like 10 years ago, in just the world, not even in CrossFit, like worldwide I think CrossFit has done more to improve the overall ability of coaches than any other thing out there. Like I look at these coaches in our community now who have just basically like been humble enough to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. And we have so many people who maybe they don’t have the academic background just yet, but they can, you can only develop knowledge, but they have the ability to coach people, be in a gym and help people better than existed before. Like in super high- profile, one-on-one training. I think what’s been the most amazing thing to me is just to see the quality of coaching and what that really means raised up throughout the community through the last 10 years. And it’s just phenomenal within our community and with outside our community. And don’t get me wrong, I’m sure great coaches did exist back in the day, but they were probably coaches for athletes. They were probably coaches for like sports teams and all these other pieces, not coaches for the populace, you know?
Chris (00:15:38):
Yeah. Paint me a picture of what the rest of the fitness world was like back then outside CrossFit.
Pat (00:15:45):
Well, so I mean even within CrossFit, personal training from what I had seen and what I had experienced is with people who had knowledge, but they had no way to apply it to other people. So they had knowledge. And the weird thing about personal training back in the day too, or when I say back in the day, I mean in the early days of this, CrossFit, is personal training was based off of like conventional methods, like of bodybuilding methods rather than fitness, rather than what we now base most of training off of, and you can see this shift in personal training. So not only were the methods that it was based off of not as good at getting people fit, but the people who were doing, weren’t super passionate about it, because if you looked at what a personal trainer was like, you get that classic idea of like a personal trainer is just a bro who likes working out, and wants to spend time in the gym, and how can I spend time in the gym more? I’m going to start training people here so I can spend my entire day here. Now, I’m sure there was professionals, but as I said before, I think they were few and far between and they mainly worked with high-level athletes rather than just being exposed to the populace.
Chris (00:16:54):
Yeah, I know from my perspective, I was a personal trainer back in 2000 and you just go client after client, after client, after client and you’d be burnt. And after coaching my first group CrossFit class in 2007, you know, I said to a guy that’s a partner in one of my gyms now, I want to just do this for the rest of my life. It’s so much different,
Pat (00:17:17):
So much different. And I mean, think about how many people you can affect too, right? Like the effect you can have on 30 people or 20 people in a class versus one person in the class. It’s like you can help 20 people. Like I personally have a really hard time doing one-on-one because I feel like I can get people moving really well in five minutes, you know, I don’t need an hour with somebody. Whereas like I feel like more of a counselor, like the one- on-ones I’ve done in my life, I feel like a counselor where I sit and I’m more like a therapist I should say, than like a coach, and don’t get me wrong for high-level athletics, yes, maybe it’d be great to spend an hour with a high-level athlete and just kind of work with them. But normal people, I think, that group environment you can help so many more people. So it’s so rewarding to successfully navigate a 20-person class.
Chris (00:18:11):
So let’s talk about, we’re going to get to the knowledge piece and the expertise piece later. But I really want to talk about what other elements of coaching have made you successful. So you’ve got a background in musical theatre that obviously that helps with presentation.
Pat (00:18:26):
Yeah. So presentation obviously is a huge thing, but I think some people might laugh to hear me say it, but I think a certain level of humility. So when it comes to my physicality, I’m very confident in what I can do physically, but when it comes to education and knowledge, it was never something that I had a tremendous amount of success with going up. ‘Cause I’m pretty dyslexic. I have a hard time, you know, gaining any sort of knowledge from something that I’m reading. So I was always not confident with my education, but through—so for me what that manifested itself as in my learning was that I was always willing to be wrong. I was always willing to like, you know, take something on board and learn it as best as I could and put it out there. But I was OK if someone was like, “Hey, this isn’t right,” I’m like, “OK, what is right?” Let me work on this and try to make it better. So that’s kind of I think one of the things that really helped me out where I am right now. So I basically now have developed an ability to look at stuff in front of me, gauge the situation for what it is, and then apply whatever knowledge I learned in the past to the current situation. And then if something goes wrong in that situation, I can look at it and be like, “OK, what can I learn from this? How can I become better as a coach?” Whether it be through knowledge or through a better understanding of the situation in the future.
Chris (00:19:50):
OK. So do you think that making frequent mistakes is, you know, a necessary part of coaching then?
Pat (00:19:57):
Absolutely. Making mistakes is absolutely a necessary part of coaching. Like you have to make mistakes and it’s not the making it—and this is from the Level 1 straight up with, it’s like the intensity versus technique thing. It’s like, do I want one or the other? Well, I want both. And it’s like by making a mistake and correcting the mistake, that’s learning, by just making the mistake, that’s not learning. And by making no mistakes, you’re failing to push that threshold of your ability. You’re failing to go outside the margins of your experience. So I absolutely think that making mistakes as a coach is necessary and how you continue to improve as you go down the road.
Chris (00:20:38):
OK. I want to read you a quote from a theoretical mathematician, Eric Weinstein. And what he said last week about education in any occupation was really intriguing to me and he said that we can teach expertise but we haven’t figured out how to teach creativity and we don’t know how to teach genius. So as far as, you know, creating these really high-level coaches go, Pat, how do you encourage creativity? How do you get them to become genius coaches instead of just experts?
Pat (00:21:11):
Yeah, that’s huge. I wholeheartedly agree with what he’s saying there in a lot of ways. And I think for me, what I do when I’m hiring, honestly, and it’s not to say that I don’t think you can build creativity in people, but I look first and foremost for somebody who shows the creativity. Somebody whose part of their personality is that creativity, part of what they do is they’ve got a passion for what they’re doing because like you said, you can teach expertise, you can teach knowledge, you can build a lot of pieces, but it’s really, really hard to build that other piece, to build that certain creativity. And I’m not saying it’s impossible, but when I’m looking to hire coaches, that’s what I look for first, so I can build the other piecesl because to me that’s way easier.
Chris (00:22:02):
How do you identify that?
Pat (00:22:10):
How do I identify that? I see that for me, in people’s interactions with other people. Like how they treat the world around them, how they, you know, speak to somebody else, how they, you know, how they go out of their way to maybe learn something that they don’t know. Like, people who are truly passionate about something will do stuff regardless if you tell them to do it. People who are just kind of doing something as a job, they seem to just kinda sit back and let stuff happen, and they’ll do something if you tell them to do it, but somebody who’s truly passionate is going to go out of their way to find a way to make themselves better. And so that’s what I look for, somebody who basically shows passion, shows that like excitement for it and for me it’s easy to see, you know, you can see in somebody who’s passionate and somebody who’s not.
Chris (00:22:56):
And are you seeing this in members in classes then, Pat, and then inviting them to the next stage of coaching?
Pat (00:23:02):
Totally. Absolutely. Yeah. So I mean I’ll do both and I see it in coaches who currently exist, but I also see it in members. And that’s two things we’ve done, is we’ve taken members and turned them into coaches and then we’ve also taken coaches and then developed their skills. So to answer your question before about how to develop the creativity, I would say for me, you try to find something that that person already thrives at doing and try to highlight that. So, you know, coaches have different aspects of them that need to be good. You know, coaches—there’s presentation skills that need to be good. There’s knowledge level that needs to be really good. There’s interactions and connecting with clients that needs to be really good. And there’s, you know, straight-up just vocal communication that needs to be good, and if they have something that they are good at, just one of those things, try to highlight that, try to give them every skill that can to magnify that piece that they’re already good at while simultaneously rounding out the other ability level. So say somebody is not a great presenter but they’ve got a ton of knowledge. I’ll take that person and I’ll be honest with them. I’ll be like, “Hey, here’s your presentation skills. You know, we need to get these better, but here’s what you’re really good at. You’re really good at understanding and knowing.” But maybe I’ll take that coach and I’ll make them the assistant coach more often in classes, where, you know, when you got a main coach leading who’s a little bit better at presenting and then you make that person walk around to each client a little bit more and have like a little bit more in-depth conversations with them. Or when someone comes up and asks a question be like, “Hey, go ask Jim, Jim loves that subject, he’ll help you out,” and try to like boost that confidence through what they’re good at while simultaneously building their skills and the stuff that they’re not.
Chris (00:24:48):
Is there some sort of assessment that’s going on where it’s like a functional movement screen for coaching skills?
Pat (00:24:55):
Yeah, for sure. And we do coaching evaluations at NorCal, we’ve got basically a sheet and it goes over a number of different things and then we break it down in like a bunch of small pieces. But in my personal kind of work, it kind of falls into three main categories. Like you’ve got your knowledge base. So an athlete—or a coach always has that knowledge base that they’re referring to. Knowledge can go from actual book smarts and like what you read out of manuals to experiences that you’ve had. And then, you know, you add that into knowledge of situations or knowledge of people or how well do you know the client who’s in front of you. So you’ve got your knowledge base, which kind of everything is centered on, and then you’ve got your ability to see and categorize. So it’s your ability to see what’s going on in the class, or in any situation, and then put it into categories in your head of like what’s happening. So basically if it’s a situation in front of you, whether somebody’s moving or whether it’s an intro to a class or whether it’s a new person coming in, like you can look at what’s going on and you know, based off your knowledge, you’re going to categorize this in your head of what’s going on and how it’s happening. And then you have communication. So my—and communication is just your ability to have an effect in what you say to clients. Also how you say it. So my three categories are like knowledge that we look to you for our coaches and then seeing and categorizing and then communication and effective communication. I thought of this the other day, I called it the cycle of development as a coach. And my whole theory was like, build knowledge. Use that knowledge to see and categorize. Use what you’ve seen and categorized and then communicate. And then that cycle of constantly gaining more knowledge, using that knowledge, applying it, categorizing and then communicating based off of that is this constantly evolving cycle as you go through being a coach. You never stop. You’re always getting more knowledge, that always changes now how you see and categorize things, which should then change the cues that you’re using and the way that you’re dealing with people. And it’s just this constantly evolving piece to try to encompass as many different styles and techniques and everything that you can to be the most effective coach possible. So when a coach is failing for me, what I’ll try to do is I’ll look to one of those areas. I’m like, OK, you know, what’s going on in this class? Is his ability to communicate, failing? Is he maybe just saying the right things but he’s categorizing the situation incorrectly in his head so it’s coming off wrong? Or is his knowledge base off to where he actually doesn’t have the right information, the necessary information for him to improve? He or she. So I’ll look to those categories and then if I can see a place they can improve, I’ll just go after one of those categories and maybe try to provide some sort of information to help them through whatever problem they’re at, or place they’re at.
Chris (00:27:58):
Let’s say that you know the coach has a knowledge base because you’ve been teaching them this, and let’s say that their weakest link is the communication piece. What are some resources that you would give them to help improve?
Pat (00:28:11):
Yeah. Tons. I think that the communication piece, a lot of it is kind of getting in front of people and learning how to be comfortable with communicating. But there’s also things like, you know, you can do speeches, you can do—I sit my coaches down and I’ll give them a subject and I’ll say, “Hey, write like a five-minute lecture” on whatever subject this is. And they’ll be like, “What?” And I’ll give them like Kombucha, the making of Kombucha, and they can make it up, you know? And then they’ll break off and they’ll come back to me and we’ll all present to each other, and then you can analyze what they’re doing in those situations and be like, you did a great job, but you know, when you were speaking here, you turned your body to the board the entire time and we lost your voice. And you can give them, you know, small cues like that or bigger cues where it’s like, when you speak, you speak at like 700 words a minute. I need you to breathe every three words, you know? So there’s communication drills like that. There’s listening drills where you can make it so like you provide a situation for them. So you do the coaching of somebody else. And then you have them like come and talk to the person and have the person talk to them and be like, “OK, what’s going on?” And have the person—have the athlete talk to the coach and be like, “Here’s what I think’s going on.” And then ask the coach, you know, what do you think? What did you just hear? And then basically it’s just communication drills. It’s the same thing as relationship communication drills. Like, I don’t know if you’ve ever done any of that, but there’s this back and forth of listening and then communicating that sometimes doesn’t happen. Sometimes coaches just communicate. They see what they want to see and then they don’t kind of listen to exactly what’s happening. So those are two of the drills that I use.
Chris (00:30:05):
Tell me about this relationship communication relationship drill.
Pat (00:30:08):
Relationship communication drill is putting stuff into like me statements or I feel this way that, and this is actual relationship communication. So like when someone’s—when you get into a fight or something happens, you basically, you listen to what the other person says and then you try to think about what they’re saying. OK, here’s what I’m hearing. I’m hearing that you feel this way. And then you try to say back what they said to you. So if you have a discussion with somebody and then when they tell you something, then you repeat back to them what they’ve just said to you in a way of being like, “Hey, so what I’m hearing is that you feel the situation happened like this.” And then you both come to an agreement of like, OK, that’s good. I also feel like that’s what happened in that situation. And then you can take the next step forward and then you can express how you feel about the situation. So that just makes sure that when you repeat something back to someone, it means you actually heard what they’ve said. And people in relationships, from what I understand, feel—and I’m not trying to give relationship advice here—feel like they’ve been heard when you and they’re much more likely to open up when you don’t just fire right back at them, but you actually listen to what they say and repeat back to them what they just said. And then also it makes you internalize it a bit more. So if coaches can do this in a situation, it just kind of opens up their brain to listening to whatever’s happening with the client.
Chris (00:31:38):
Give me an example of that in practice on the training floor.
Pat (00:31:43):
Yeah, totally. So when you walk up to a client—and so there’s all kinds of times when this could happen, but I think like if you’re in a class and say you’re doing overhead squats and client drops the bar and it kind of grabs his shoulder and you walk over here like, you know, hey, what’s going on? A lot of the times a coach in their head is already kind of sorted out what they want to say to the client or what they think is actually happening. And that’s OK. Like you can have, based off the knowledge that you have, an opinion there. But I take coming onto the floor with more of an open mind and being like, every class is different, you know, every situation’s different. You can walk up to the client and be like, “Hey, what’s going on?” And that the athlete may be like—
Chris (00:32:23):
OK, so let’s take that scenario onto the training floor then. How do you respond to a client so that they know that you’ve heard them and change their perspective on the lesson that you want to teach them.
Pat (00:32:38):
Yeah. That’s great. I think one of the ways you can do this is kind of asking a client, you know, why they think they’re doing something or why it’s happening in their mind. And then kind of hearing that and being like, oh, and maybe trying to figure out a way to justify it to them, why they’re currently doing it, and then give them a reason why you might want them to change. An example of that would be like say a client comes from another gym and they come into your facility and they’re dropping and you walk over and they’ve got a really narrow squatting stance and you know, you walk up and you want to just tell them, hey, you know, widen your stance up. And you can, but sometimes you know, you see the face go or like they squint or something and you’re like, OK. It’s good to build a relationship with that person, walk up and be like, “Hey, I noticed your stance is pretty narrow. Can you widen it up?” And they might be like, “Well at my gym, you know, this is how we squat.” You know, right there you could be like, “Well, at our gym, this is how we squat” if you wanted to, or you can listen to what they say and be like, “Oh, I hear you. So your gym tells you to keep like about a hip-width stance?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” “Oh, I could see that. So with the straight foot, you’re going to have a little bit more potential for torque from the hip flexor. Right?” That’s kind of like Kelly Starrett stuff and they’d be like, “Yeah,” and I’ll be like, “That’s awesome. Why not for today try widening your stance up, tell me how it feels and then we’ll move on from there.” You know? So the two ways of dealing with that situation is one the athlete feels like oh, you heard me, you kind of saw where I was at and you know, we can move on from the situation and I could maybe even try what you’re telling me to try it. And then the other way it’s like, we don’t do that here. Stop doing that. You know, and the client can come out of that situation with two very different feelings.
Chris (00:34:21):
That’s amazing insight, Pat, I just had this exact conversation with a mentoring client an hour ago. Yeah, exactly the same. Client comes in, they’ve been a member for another gym. They didn’t want to leave and now they’re resistant to different cues and different methods of coaching. So let me hit you with a follow-up question from that same phone call. This client is also resistant to the gym rules. They show up late all the time. They might even start coaching other members in class. How would you deal with that client?
Pat (00:34:54):
Yeah, I mean, every situation is different. You can’t put a hard fast rule on it. And you know, how somebody manifests their coaching other people, it’s different, you know. I think for me, the way I’ve done it in the past is I try to figure out where people are coming from. And you can kind of figure it out by the way it’s happening. You know, like if they have reasons behind it or why they may be doing it, you can talk about it. It’s like, “Hey, I just had three kids and every time I leave the house, you know, I can’t get out of there before this time. Is it OK if I come in five minutes late?” Or if it’s like you walk up to me like, “Why are you five minutes late?” And they’re like, “Cause I’m late.” And you’re like, “OK.” Well there’s two different ways in those situations how to with it. If it’s five minutes late guy, like of course we’d be like, hey, try to make it on time. But I get it. When you get here, why don’t you hop on the rower, do 500 and then jump into the rest of the class. And then with the other guy, it’s like, for me, those are bad attitudes and in my facilities I think that spawns bad attitudes and it just kind of creates a bad environment. So I’m kind of like, I’ll be nice to you and to everyone in until they kind of like crap on the respect that I’m showing them, in which case, at that point in time, it’s more important than my facility has a good feel, than they’re at my facility. So then I come and I’m relatively harsh and it’s just, you know, here’s the deal is it’s not OK if you do this and it’s not OK if you act this way. If you want to stay, you can stay. And I really want to coach you. I really want to make you better. And you seem like a really great client in so many ways, but I just can’t have this stuff happening because it’s not OK for this facility. There’s a couple other gyms down the road. They’re great gyms and they might be OK with that, but here we’re not. So I think depending on the situation, I either deal with it like I’m understanding, I’m like, “Hey, you can do this” or if that’s more of just kind of like a sign of disrespect and how this person is, then I stopped that right there just cause it’s just not OK.
Chris (00:37:01):
How many times in the past have you had to fire a client?
Pat (00:37:04):
Like probably two or three. But the way I generally fire our clients is—it’s like the relationship where you know, you make them quit. So like it’ll be, you know the compliment sandwich?
Chris (00:37:22):
Pat (00:37:24):
Where you go like, hey, you know, you’re doing this really well, why don’t you try this and you’re doing this really well. What I find with really—and it’s usually arrogance, and it’s actually not usually man. I’ve a lot of women recently who are also really arrogant in this situation and it’s like you give the compliment sandwich minus the second piece of bread like all the time. So you want them to be better and be like, hey, you’re doing really great with trying to push those elbows up. The rest of the squat looks like shit. And then don’t give the second half of like, but this is also really good. You just kind of leave it at that. So the last thing that year, every time is like, I’m not doing well. And they’ll either one of two things, they’ll either want to improve, like you keep saying this, like how do I improve? And I mean you’re obviously offering them coaching as well. Or they’ll just be like, I don’t feel like I’m getting anything here and they’ll leave. And that’s the way I’ll try to make it happen in those situations. Or, I’ll just have a straight-up talk with them and I’ll sit down and I’ll be like, hey, you’re, you’re not acting how you should and that’s not OK here. If you want to change, you can stay, but if you don’t, you’re going to have to go. And I’ve only had that conversation once and it was like a few years back and the guy ended up leaving. And my gym was better because of it. A lot better because of it.
Chris (00:38:47):
So do you think the coaches who aren’t giving that good-news sandwich, you know, they’re not closing with good news, do you think that they might be firing clients without meaning to?
Pat (00:38:56):
Absolutely. Yeah, totally. If you’re not offering positive reinforcement, a lot of the times you’re not really helping out your clients. Like you have to—most, I would say 99% of clients, they do stuff wrong not to be a dick, but because they don’t understand, you know, or they need some different level of communication. For me, I always say this at the Level 1s, it’s like if you’re coaching somebody, and you throw out a cue and that cue doesn’t work, it’s not the client’s fault. It’s your fault. If they’re not different from when you talk to them last, it’s your fault. Like as a coach. Their job is not to figure out a way to relate to you. Your job is a way to figure out a way to relate to them. So you need, as a coach, to be constantly trying to figure out a way to make people better, whether that be through their movement or through their attitudes or through their diet or whatever it may be. You need to be constantly changing yourself and your way of dealing with people because everybody takes a different kind of back and forth to have a change. But everybody can have change. Everybody can, there’s like not a person out there who’s non-coachable. It’s like everybody out there’s, coachable. You just have to figure out exactly what it is. And it might take longer for some people, might take shorter. So I think coaches who are out there who just throw out the compliment sandwich minus the second piece of bread and they don’t actually offer some sort of change to the athlete, I think hey are putting themselves in a position to lose clients because they’re not figuring out more ways to relate.
Chris (00:40:28):
So these coaches who say, or gym owners, maybe, who say, well, CrossFit’s just not for them. They don’t fit in here. Or you know, motivated people only—
Pat (00:40:39):
No, no. Like that’s probably the biggest thing about CrossFit is like is you know how many unmotivated people are now all of a sudden really pumped to work out? It’s like so many people who never would have gotten off the couch and to a workout and how many members do you hear who are like, I’ve never done anything my entire life. I’m really scared to be here. And all of a sudden that members with you for the next five years. And like buying the shoes and getting the weight belts and throwing on knee sleeves. And it’s like, I think CrossFit is one of the most magical programs for bringing in people who never did have this like motivation or desire to work out before, but all of a sudden have this strong community that they can rely on and are motivated, not even by the working out but by the people around them. And you can be one of those people as a coach. Not to pat myself on the shoulders but I know probably a bunch of clients who like if I wasn’t there, and they even told me like if you weren’t here, you know, I wouldn’t come to the gym. And it’s like, that’s great to hear, like be that kind of a person for people, be that kind of person where when they miss the gym, they miss hanging out with you. And I think if you can do that as a coach, your membership will grow a lot.
Chris (00:41:49):
So you know, one of the courses that we teach even on this site,it says that success doesn’t depend on motivation. That motivation depends on success. How do you show these people that they’re being successful right from Day 1?
Pat (00:42:03):
Numbers. I think CrossFit’s also magical in that sense. Like most workout programs are, but like if you motivate people through body-composition goals, it’s a lot harder than motivating them through performance-based goals. So for me, I try to as much as I can, right when they come in, just constantly revisiting those numbers and being like, hey, look where we’re at now. That’s great. And like celebrating the small successes. You have a PR bell in your gym. We had a big chalk wall in the gym where every month we write everybody’s PRs that they’ve had throughout the month. And I mean anyone who has done CrossFit will tell you like the first five months, like you’re just seeing success after success after success the first couple of years. I mean I had 10 years of constant improvement, which is unheard of for a fitness program. So the program works. You just need to show those successes through numbers. And if you never repeat benchmarks or if you never are doing lifts again or if you’re, you know, you’re not right there with a client and being like, how much did you do last time? And they’ll be like, they’ll say a number and you’ll be like you’re doing 10 more pounds this time. You know, let’s try it. And like constantly pushing your clients’ threshold and showing them those little number successes. I think that’s one of the best ways to keep people motivated, just to show them their successes, that they’re happening.
Chris (00:43:26):
So you can really tailor the programming so that they are seeing frequent success then, right?
Pat (00:43:32):
I think you don’t—I mean yes and no, with a good general program. Just you know, constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity. You’re going to be simultaneously improving everything but you need to celebrate small successes. So when a client has a five-pound PR, explain to them why a five-pound PR is awesome. They’ll be like well Ginny PR’d by 30 pounds and you’re like dude, five-pound PRs are amazing. Any sort of forward movement is amazing. So having having a generalized program means you get generalized results. Like you get a little bit better at everything all the time. You don’t all of a sudden—I mean you shouldn’t all of a sudden like get a 70-pound squat PR. I mean that does occasionally happen cause you don’t revisit squat enough. But I would say keeping the program general and just making sure that you are revisiting benchmarks or revisiting any sort of work that you’ve done before will be the times where you show success. It’s not fully in the program to make that happen.
Chris (00:44:35):
We’re going to talk about your programming in a minute. How often do you program benchmarks in, you know, if it’s that important to show the client objectively measurable success?
Pat (00:44:46):
Yeah. I’d say, you know, you’re programming some sort of workout that they’ve done at least like once or twice a month. It’s not like the same workout every once or twice a month, but it’s like once clients have about a, you know, like three months under their belt, they’re going to start to revisit workouts at least once or twice a month that are—and we’re talking full-on workouts that are very similar or you know, the same as something that they’ve done and it doesn’t even need to be the same. It can be like, hey, last time we did a workout that had power snatches in it that we’e at 135 for men. I did it at 75 pounds and this time I did it at 85 pounds. So it’s not even the same workout, but like they’re seeing that little bit of success because it’s a similar movement and there’s lots of opportunities for that. But just for programming benchmarks, I think you should be revisiting them least the same one every like three months I would say, two, three months.
Chris (00:45:41):
OK. And Are you using, you know, benchmarks? Do you have your own?
Pat (00:45:45):
Yeah, I have my own, but we also have I mean, all the classics are classics for a reason. They’re classic because they are potent stimulus and just amazing workouts. And so we use the classic workouts. We use classic benchmarks, we create our own. I mean, a benchmark really is something that you just put a name to and remember. You don’t even need to put a name to it, you just need to write it down so that way you can retest it.
Chris (00:46:13):
OK. Let’s talk about your project now.
Pat (00:46:18):
Sure. Warm Up and Work Out. We just launched this in—November, was our first month, and my wife and I basically write session plans and if you’ve never used the session plan, basically a session plan is a skeleton and a guide for class. Picture it as like a roadmap for a class. And what we do is we come in and we write these roadmaps for classes because in a class, for a coach, you’ve got your workout and how long is your workout? It’s like anywhere from five to 30 minutes if you’re going on the super long end, but that still leaves you 30 to 55 minutes of other stuff. And I think those other times are times where people practice, they’re times where people, warm up, they’re times where people build community. And I think a lot of gyms waste that time and they just use it as a time to do a couple of leg swings and some shoulder rolls. And as a coach, for me, the way I like to think of is like, do I coach during a workout? Absolutely. But if I’ve done my job during the warm-up, the workout is more about motivation and just kind of keeping people safe here and there. I’m not teaching someone a clean during the workout. I’m teaching someone to clean during the entire session that builds up to that, to where they have some sort of working movement come workout time. So what we did is my wife’s been writing for years and she writes these things called session plans and we basically program out a full month. And then for each one of those days we have a unique session plan that builds to the workout every day. So it’s got like a brief for how you should brief the workout, you know, the things you should say, what the focus isfor the day. It’s got a warm-up to get the body nice and sweaty, get the joints going, and then it’s got some skill work and then it’s got some building up to the workout and then it’s got the workout and then maybe it will have a cool-down and then it also has time frames for how everything falls. So you know roughly about five minutes for this part, maybe 10 minutes for this part and it just makes it so a coach can go in and coach. They can go in and they can follow this guide and they can start to instill their personality and they can, you know, magnify those parts of themselves that are awesome and not have to worry about, OK, what am I going to do for a warm-up today? Or let me think of this on the fly. And then the clients don’t get the same stimulus from class to class. It just basically makes a coach’s and an owner’s job a lot easier. I see that most of the best gyms out there run session plans, they have the same kind of program for all their coaches to follow. And I saw a lot of gyms that didn’t do that, so I was like, hey, why not write one that people can follow and gyms can follow and take a bunch of time away from people who are programming and writing these long session plans out and hopefully give a good CrossFit product.
Chris (00:49:13):
Yeah. We actually tell our mentoring clients to save some time by hiring out their programming so that they can work on their business a little bit more. But how does this actually benefit the coaches, Pat?
Pat (00:49:24):
Well, so I mean, as you said, for like the business, it’s like your product in a CrossFit gym, or in a gym, really, is what? It’s your coaching, right? It’s not the programming. The program the client can get for free online.’s been posting one for years. They can go to your website and get it off your website if they want to do, you know. But the real product you have to offer is your coaching. So to answer your question, how does this help coaches? It basically takes the thought process on what to do and makes it into here’s what you should do, now figure out the best way to do it. And there are a lot of coaches who don’t need this, they love creating it on their own. They love kind of, you know, thinking about what to do and then they apply it there. For myself, I love being with people. I love figuring out how to apply what I have to the people who are in front of me. So I noticed in myself when I started using session plans, I wasn’t so worried about exactly, you know, what I was going to do. I could just focus on doing it, and I could focus on how I was going to make it happen. So it just takes out the what and then it makes a coach, instead of focusing how and what, they’re just focusing on what they’re doing and that’s being with the clients and creating this community, and you know, really saving time and maybe sometimes pushing their boundaries of what they know how to do. ‘Cause like as a coach, you know, you don’t know how to coach everything and if you don’t know how to coach everything, you’re probably not going to program it into what you’re doing. And so then you don’t coach it. Whereas if somebody else is telling you what you should be doing, you’re going to learn ways to coach those pieces. If it says, you know, we’re going to do some rope climbs today and you’ve never taught a rope climb, what are you going to do as a coach? You’re going to go research how to climb a rope, and then you’re gonna figure out how to communicate that to clients. So it kind of forces people a little bit out of their comfort zone while at the same time providing them what to do so that way they just have to figure out how to do it.
Chris (00:51:27):
Really interesting. Some of my clients would say that CrossFit is the best part of their day because they don’t have to think. We tell them exactly what to do. Do you think that coaches might feel the same way? So let’s say that I’m a part-time coach and I work at a car dealership and I’m thinking about the deals I made that day and then I’m showing up at the box and I’ve got 15 minutes to prepare for my class. Do you think that knowing what the programming is gives them time to focus on the other stuff like the athlete experience?
Pat (00:51:57):
Totally. 100%. Absolutely. I mean, I think having program set for you makes it so much easier to just focus on athlete experience and how are you going to coach it. It’s not that you don’t think when you come to class, it’s just that the minutia of what you’re doing, you don’t need to think about. So like the fact that you know, you’ve just come from your car dealership, you look on your phone, you know, you look down and you’re like, OK, what’s the session today? Oh, it’s muscle-ups and, and you know, bar circle-overs. How am I gonna do bar circle-overs? OK, here’s a link, you know, check this out. And then you get to focus. And it’s not that you show up to class and it’s just mindless. I mean, anybody who’s coached can tell you that when you’re coaching, like when you get done with a class you’re spent, right? You coach three hours in a row and that’s equal to eight hours of sitting at a desk. Like, if you’re a good coach and you’re really moving around that class and you’re putting every little bit of energy you can into each client that you see and throwing cues out and relating with people, that takes so much energy. That on top of that, if you had to figure out what you were doing each day, you’d A, over time lose inspiration and B, it’s probably be very similar every day because you’re just trying to get it out there so you can get in there and actually coach the clients. So I think it helps out a lot.
Chris (00:53:21):
OK. And just kind of with the cognitive overload piece too, I know back when I was coaching every class at my gym, I’d be distracted a lot of the time because of business stuff, you know. Hey, that guy owes me 50 bucks. You know, you’d be thinking about that while you’re coaching them too. So let’s talk about coach burnout a little bit, Pat. So have you seen this before? Like how big a problem is it?
Pat (00:53:49):
It’s huge. I think what happens is like a lot of times gym owners, they start and then they start as the only coach at their gym and they run, you know, a full schedule of classes and they’re coaching like 10 hours a day, and then they go home and they try to program. Then they show up the next day and do the same thing for months and like, maybe they’re young and really passionate and they do that for like six months, they’re crushing it and their gym grows and they hire on new coach, and they slowly pull themselves out of coaching and it’s like that much more relaxing but now more business stuff is building up. And then even now—that’s just one example of like the coach burnout, and that’s like the coach-owner burnout. And you can see that as gyms starts to lose passion after a while, like you see the owner come in, it’s like they just kind of talk to the class and it’s not much coaching. They’re just kind of standing up in front of the class and lecturing and assuming that the clients know it and they walk out. But then there’s also, I think, just overloading coaches in general and it’s a very high output job. And I think that in order to do well for a long term, you have to—my rules and the rules we use in NorCal are basically you shouldn’t be doing more than three classes in a row and probably no more than four classes in a day. We prefer like two classes in a row at the most and then maybe an assistant coach in class, or a couple assistant coaches in class. In a week we do two, it’s 21 hours, 20-23 hours of coaching a week. And then like 10 hours of other stuff like cleaning the gym or you know, sitting at front desk or whatever it may be. So the job’s like a 30-plus hour-a-week job where only 21 of it is coaching. And even then it’s like, that’s hard. But if a coach is coaching five hours day and five classes in a row, I see burnout all the time. I see incredibly unmotivated coaches and just non-passionate people because they had the passion beat out of them. And getting creative with scheduling is is one of the ways I try to fix that. Like have people do like an on-off schedule where they coach a class, sit a class, coach a class, so they get a little bit more of that even, though they’re there for three hours they can output harder for it. There’s all kinds of ways you can work around it. But I see coach burnout often.
Chris (00:56:21):
What about a macro view. Do you think it’s important for coaches to take, you know, a week every so often and not coach?
Pat (00:56:28):
Absolutely. Absolutely. A week and not coach, or, I think ideally at a facility, if you could have the finances to—and this is just a thought, I haven’t thought about it too much, but at a facility, it’d be really cool to be able to cycle like monthly, you know like have a monthly—so have like whatever number of coaches, but where a coach could have like two weeks off at a time, two weeks to a month off at a time, and then come back into a full schedule and then two weeks to a month at a time. Kind of like a firefighter would, where they’re on fire, they’re on for four straight days, but then they get like three or four days off and they come back. And that way every time you hit the gym, you just got that zest again. I know for myself, and I’m sure you’ve had it too where you stop coaching for a second and you come back into it, maybe the first class was a little rusty, but then you just—the fire’s there again. You know, you’re walking around, you’re cuing people, you’re jumping around the class and you can output that energy back into people and pump people back up. So I think ideally if you could have those weeks off, that’d be great.
Chris (00:57:34):
I find for me about four classes a week is perfect. That fires me up without making me tired. So perfect world, how many classes are you coaching a week?
Pat (00:57:44):
Preferably how many classes am I coaching a week? And if coaching pays all my bills and all that? Perfect world for me I think I would coach probably like 10 classes a week. Right now I only coach two classes a week. So I coach my Tuesday mornings, my Thursday mornings at 6:00 a.m. just because I wanted to hold those two classes. Just there are some of my oldest running clients in that facility, so I’m only doing two days a week. But I also do like the Level 1 seminars, which is like two straight days of coaching. And then also I do coach development, and that’s what I’m doing full time now. But I think, you know, long term. say I had my own little boutique gym, and I’m just kinda like running classes, I’d probably like, you know, seven to 10 classes a week. Probably like a class a day or three classes one day and no class one of the other days just because I love being in a gym. I love talking to people. I love helping people. I love having people in front of me have those successes cause that’s in the end, like the best part about it is when someone comes up and is like, my entire life is different because of the way I was treated here and what I’m now able to do. And you’re like, OK, this is worth it.
Chris (00:58:58):
Let’s talk about the self-actualization of Pat Barber. How close are you to that right now?
Pat (00:59:05):
What do you mean?
Chris (00:59:06):
Are you living your Perfect Day right now?
Pat (00:59:09):
I am doing very close to that. I’m really passionate about surfing at the moment. I quit surfing for my entire CrossFit career, it was like 10 years of not surfing and then all of a sudden about a year ago I got back into that. So I’ve got this crazy connection with nature again and being out in the ocean and loving life and I have an amazing family. I actually ticked all my boxes. Like, I have these life goals that I had set years ago and I checked off my last life goal like a year and a half ago. I’m like, uh-oh, I gotta set some new life goals. But I’m at a really good place. Like I work for an awesome company, NorCal CrossFit treats me really, really well. I love the job I’m doing. I think it’s a very meaningful job and I think I can help a lot of people. We started Warm Up and Work Out and that’s starting to take off and doing well for my family. I bought a house. I surf, I live on the beach. I just had a second son last Tuesday on my birthday. So I have two kids who are awesome, well-adjusted kids. One of them is, I don’t know about the other one, he’s too young. Got a beautiful wife. Like, yeah, I’ve got a lot going for me, so, I’m pretty close to I can die now is what I’m trying to say, is that’s it. I’m done.
Chris (01:00:31):
Please don’t.
Pat (01:00:35):
I’m a good place.
Chris (01:00:37):
OK. So, getting to be Pat Barber, gimme three books or resources, training related or not, that people could study, to help get them toward their Perfect Day.
Pat (01:00:53):
Definitely the Harry Potter series. Gotta read that from start to finish, you know, rest in peace, Severus Snape. No, books–so I do mainly books on tape. That’s kinda my jam these days. I as, as silly as it was, I think “The Four-Hour Work Week” was a really cool book. And then “The Four-Hour Body” was also a really cool book. I look at those, though, as like these amazing, you know, sample size of one books, as more of just like entertainment and you know, what’s possible rather than like live your life by these tenets. So that, Tim Ferriss’ stuff, I think if you haven’t really, really dug into the original Glassman articles about the foundations of why we do what we do, like “Fitness in 100 Words” and CrossFit articles, the “Foundations” article, like you have to go back to those. They’re unbelievable. Like I’m not somebody who’s that passionate about reading about information and they’re just— they’re founded on such amazing principles and ideas. And then I was recently read the Mark Divine book, what was it called?
Chris (01:02:20):
“Warrior’s Fears”? “Warrior Mind’?
Pat (01:02:25):
It’s his first one. I think—”Unbeatable Mind.” That’s great. I mean, when I say I read it, I mean, I listened to it on tape, but those three books are awesome. I would highly suggest all three of those.
Chris (01:02:39):
My favorite part of that book is he obviously recorded it himself and there’s a few places in there where he screws up and corrects himself and then just keeps going. Love it.
Pat (01:02:50):
It’s so great. Like when he’s, cause you can hear his passion too, as he reads them, and you’re like, dude, this guy is pumped on what he does and what he did. And like it’s good.
Chris (01:03:01):
So, OK. So, I think that’s actually a great place to end it, Pat. I’m going to link to Warm Up and Work Out in the show notes. One piece of advice, if I’m a brand-new CrossFit trainer that you wish you could share with them all, what would it be?
Pat (01:03:12):
Brand-new CrossFit trainer–be open to being wrong and never think you figured it out. Always be learning.
Chris (01:03:22):
Love it. Thank you.
Announcer (01:03:24):
Next it’s Coach’s Confessional, where Chris shares his biggest mistakes in the fitness business. Learn from his sins. Here’s Chris again with another costly error.
Chris (01:03:39):
One of the things Pat Barber talked about in this interview was something that I’ve had to learn as a box owner more than as a coach. And that is when to remove a client and how to do it in the best possible way. There are different ways to remove staff, of course. And we’ll talk about that in another episode. But for right now, I want to identify when you know it’s time to remove a client. My fallback for all decisions is how will this affect the majority of my clientele? It’s more important to be consistent than it is to please one person. And so a few years ago when I was doing a little bit more personal training, and I had a client who I didn’t look forward to, and they would affect my mood all day and I’d be stressed about training them because I knew it would be, you know, a depressing experience.
Chris (01:04:23):
What I realized was that this was affecting how I coached everybody else. So for example, this person would come in at let’s say 11:00 a.m. on Tuesdays. I would dread that session so much that the people I trained on Monday weren’t getting my best possible coaching and the people that I trained on Tuesday weren’t getting my best. But after that session was over, you know, maybe Tuesday at noon, I would feel great. I’d be happy to be done with that client for the week. And so my coaching would improve for the rest of the week. The problem is that if one client is affecting the rest of the clients’ experience, you have to let them go. I didn’t want to because as a new box owner I needed the money. Let’s be frank. I thought that the more people I could train, the better. And I also thought that I could just handle it, that I could suck it up and that I could hide how I was feeling about this person.
Chris (01:05:14):
I also thought that the more clients I could fit in my day, the better. Now I know that’s not true. You can’t be tired going onto the coaching floor and if you are, you’re not going to keep everybody else. It’s not the best possible experience for them. There are other examples of when I’ve fired a client. One was a football player who didn’t want to train with my head coach, Charity, because she was a woman. There are some other examples too where I’ve had to let people go. So how do you do it? Well in some cases where the client has prepaid, so maybe they’ve paid for a full month of training or maybe they’ve paid for a certain number of sessions in advance, what I would offer to do is either refund them the money or transfer that credit to another gym in town. So for example, I would say, we’ve still got five sessions left, but I don’t think this is working out for either one of us. I would like to transfer your credit to another gym in town, I really recommend this gym. And of course you’re going to send them to a great gym. You’re not going to refer them to a bad gym. You’re going to contact that gym and say, hey, I think this person’s a better fit for you. Here are the challenges that I had. Are you interested? So you’re not trying to dump a problem client on a friend or even a competitor. What you are trying to do is give other people the opportunity to succeed where maybe you’re struggling. That’s option number one. Option number two is to say to the client, I really want what’s best for you. And so at the end of the month I would like you to try two other things to see if that can solve your problem. Now sometimes the client has friends in the community and you’ve realized, hey, I’ve got to prune this person out. You know, maybe they’re kind of a cancer or they’re causing all kinds of negativity. Let me tell you that the sooner you do this, the better. And the question that you have to ask yourself is, if I don’t intervene, if I let the situation just progress, is it going to fix itself on its own, or is it going to get progressively worse? And after you’ve had that talk with yourself, it becomes a lot easier to root out the problem right away. Trust me, you’re far better to just peel the bandage off quick, get rid of this person and move on from there. All growth is going to happen this way. You take a certain amount of steps forward and then you have one problem and you’re going to deal with that problem and then you’re going to move on. So you have to sometimes take a step back, prune the tree a little bit back to its trunk so that it can grow again from the right spot.
Chris (01:07:30):
If you fail to take care of these problems, you’re going to have rotten branches all over the place, and then when that branch has to be removed, it’s going to take a lot of other branches with it. Going back to my tree pruning days here. Another way that you can do it is if you’ve got a community leader and you think they’re going to take all their friends with them, is you can approach it with a consultation and so you’re going to do this Socratically. You’re going to ask them, are you having the best possible experience? Is this the best part of your day? Are you progressing towards your goals? How else can I help you get there? I know you have a contract, but if you’re not getting close to your goals, which is what I want for you is my client, I’m going to let you out of that contract so that you can pursue your goals somewhere else. Do you think there is somewhere else you’d like to do it? Great. And let them fire themselvesm basically. Barber uses a slightly different method where he just fails to coach them as well as his other clients. That scares me a little bit, but it works for him and he’s coached a lot of people in his life, so listen closely to that part of the podcast. The bottom line, though, is that if you identify a problem client, I want you to ask your coaching staff if they have seen the same problem, because a lot of the times the client is just reflecting what you’re putting on to them, and if you’re tired, if you’re cranky and you’re not giving that client the best experience, maybe they’re just reflecting the experience that you’re giving them. Ask your coaches, and if they have seen the same problem or if there is a gross violation of your rule, then you have to remove the client.
Chris (01:09:00):
The next piece, though, is just as important. After you remove this client, it’s really important that whatever rule the client broke, you put it into writing and you teach all of your other clients that this is the rule. A lot of the times people break rules not because they’re jerks, not because they don’t have common sense, but because you haven’t clearly explained where the line is for them and so of course they’re going to cross it. It’s just natural. Make sure that your clients know your rules, make sure that they’re presented in a way that makes sense, make sure that you’re consistent with applying those rules and make sure that there’s no gray area. If that’s the case and you’re 100% confident that it’s all on the client, then remove them as quickly as you possibly can. That’s it for this week. Next week we’re going to be talking about how to build a Legends program, something specifically for seniors and people who take care of them. We’re going to have Brian Alexander of Illumine CrossFit as well as Tyler Belanger of Ignite Gym on here and we’ll talk about brain WODs, we’ll talk about how to coach these people and how to build that program. Have a great week.

Chris Cooper delivers the best of the business world on Two-Brain Radio every Thursday.

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