I remember when I was young enough to know everything.
I was 100% sure that my way was the ONLY way. I thought that MY experience should be the same as everyone else. I knew that what I liked was what others would like, too.
I opened my gym thinking dozens of local powerlifters would want coaching. They did not.
My first website was dark and scary. I thought all the hardcore athletes in town would want to do CrossFit. They did not.
I tried to attract local firefighters by criticizing P90X–which they were all doing at the firehouse. I thought they’d see the light because of my infallible logic and science. They did not.
Eventually, I got tired of making bad guesses about what other people wanted, and started asking them. I’ve refined the technique now, and we teach it in the Incubator: which questions to ask your coaches, clients and spouse to find out what they REALLY want from you.
Most of us opened a gym because we wanted to coach. A year later, we might have wanted something else. But we made guesses about our clients based mostly on what WE wanted, or what worked for US.
I like training in a group. Many of my clients don’t. That’s fine.
Some people prefer a private introduction to CrossFit. Some people do not. That’s fine.
The answer depends on the client. And that’s why so many real experts in ANY field, when asked a question, will answer with, “That depends…”
The only ones who are ever absolutely sure that their opinion is correct to the exclusion of everything else are the newcomers. The evangelists for one training style, or one business “best practice” are usually the newcomers. They’re also usually the loudest, because they’re so assured of their conviction that they’re comfortable shouting it from the rooftops.
Data? Not necessary. Experience? That takes too long.
A sure sign of maturity–as a coach, a parent or even a mentor–is the willingness to consider that all options COULD be right, depending on the situation.
Our job–as coach, parent and mentor–is to compare the starting point of our clients against the “gold standard”, and see what fits.
My gym does around $240k per year in Personal Training. Every client starts 1:1, because we’re selective about our clientele and, frankly, we can afford to slow our intake process.
A gym owner in Manitoba, Canada called me yesterday. She has a waiting list (rightly so!) Some of those people would prefer a 1:1 intake. Some don’t want (or need) it. Forcing 20 personal training sessions on those folks is counterproductive.
Establishing a set of “industry best practices” is my passion. That means careful (and very expensive) collection of data from a broad sample set (we have the largest in the industry.) In 2018, that will mean a total investment of close to two million dollars on my part–because it’s the right thing to do. And no one else is going to do it.
But even with ALL that data, we’ll never make a blind prescription to any client, because we’re not the same.
Your clients trust you to make the best prescription for them–not just give them the same prescription as everyone else in your gym. You can lean on science to make those decisions. There are reams of data supporting or contradicting the best and worst methods in fitness.
My clients trust me to do the same. My experience and context are merely the lenses through which I view REAL data about what’s working in the gym industry. I hate “opinion” given without that base of data and sold as truth, just like I hate the “super weight loss shake” zealots who want to sell crap in my city.
One final story about the power of asking people what’s right for them, instead of making assumptions:
A year into owning Catalyst, I thought a key staff member was close to leaving. I’d heard a rumor that he was going to open his own gym, as I had done in 2005. I called my partners in a panic. One said, “Have you asked him?”
That was 2006.
He’s coaching the 7pm group at Catalyst tonight.
Guessing doesn’t work. The fitness world has lots of data; your job is to translate it. The business of fitness is mostly lacking data; most can’t afford to collect it (or simply don’t want to.) We are. But in the absence of data, the most important question you can ask is, “What do you want NOW?”