It’s Two-Brain Radio. Here’s your host, Chris Cooper.
Do you pay for programming for your gym? Five years ago, this might have seemed like kind of an insane question because nobody paid for external programming in their gym. When one of the first systems to sell programming to microgyms, boxprogramming.com emerged, they faced feedback like that’s my job. I should be the one to program for my gym. If I’m not doing the programming, then what exactly am I selling? But now there are dozens, if not hundreds of different options for micro gyms to choose when they’re picking their programming. But the reality is that despite the celebrity endorsements from high level athletes, despite the different varieties and different names and flashy programs and different membership setups and class plans and all the other bonus stuff at the core, most programming options follow the same constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity work, some focus more on the intensity.
They can kill you worse than the others. Some focus more on the highly varied part, but all of them seem to follow about the same format. Enter an idea from Brooks DiFiore. A few years ago, Brooks and I were talking just before the pandemic and he had abnormally high adherence and retention rates in his gym. And I said, what is doing it? And he said, it’s our programming. And what Brooks revealed is that he programmed by avatar, meaning that he had three separate workout tracks that were tailored a little bit and communicated by the goal of the person in his group class. So that somebody who is seeking to lose weight would not only get great weight loss results, but they would also understand how this program worked for them. And that translation is key. As we found, when we were doing adherence and retention studies during COVID lockdowns, the gyms that communicated, here’s why you should want to do this today, did the best at adherence and retention. Breaking down your programming by avatars really helps with that communication. So Brooks is here today to talk about what is programming by avatars? How do you communicate the difference to the different avatars and how does that help your gym. Brooks. Welcome back to Two-Brain Radio, man.
Hey Chris, how are you, man? What’s going on.
Doing amazing. So pumped to have you here. Your energy is contagious, and I think everybody’s gonna wanna run a mile as soon as they hear this stuff.
I appreciate that. <laugh>
Why don’t we start with avatars. What are avatars?
Avatars are how you should look at almost every client that comes through your doors, right? So I think we look at avatars a lot of time from a business perspective, like who is the person that I want to attract to my business, right? When we actually get that right person in our business, then we start talking about, OK, well, who are the people that I’m helping? Right. We can generally break it down to like three categories, clients who want to lose weight clients who just want to get fitter and clients who want to become stronger or build muscle
That’s true. And I think like most people who run a gym would recognize that 90% of their clients probably fall into one of those three buckets. So how do you differentiate programming for those avatars? And maybe we’ll talk about like how you communicate that programming later. How does the programming look different?
I don’t think that the programming really looks that much different from what you would see in, you know, constantly varied high intensity, functional movement type of programming, right. It’s just really how we can relate that programming to each athlete. So like think of, you know, programming. And we like even just think back to, you know, crossfit.com, right? When they were publishing workouts, there was no real, like you would go on and there would be a workout there. I like, I don’t remember. I don’t believe there was like a warmup there. I don’t believe there was a cool down. I don’t know if they, I don’t believe they told you what the stimulus was or it was just kinda the workout and you go ahead and do it and you know, it’s going to get you fitter. Right. Then as gyms became more professional, we went into this space of, OK, well now we should really have warmups and cool downs and things like that.
Right. Then we took it even a step further and went into, OK, well, how about just fully blown session plans with timelines and coaches notes and scaling variations in everything that you need and a little bit of a stimulus, right? What’s the goal of the workout. Generally we can relate it to, you should finish in this amount of time, or you should complete this amount of reps. When I look at avatar briefs and you know what we do with programming, it’s all of that. It’s just now adding on this layer of, OK, how do you communicate why this workout is important to your clients? So if we look at it from a perspective of like hard skills versus soft skills, I think if you look at most programming out there, it’s very much on the hard coaching skills side, where it’s like, this is how you have to, this is how you should coach your class. This is how you should get through, you know, these are the technique progressions that we’re using. And then there’s a little bit of talk to your athletes about this and you know, what they should aim for. We just take it a step further and say like, this is how you can really relate this workout to each one of your clients.
So why is that so important if you’ve got a group of 12 people and you know, let’s say that they’re divided evenly into three different avatars. Why should your messaging be different for somebody who’s trying to lose weight instead of somebody who’s just trying to gain strength or generally get fit?
Because I think we have an obligation to our clients to give them the best service possible. Number one. And I think we’re doing them at disservice if we just say like, Hey, everybody who comes in your goal is to get 10 rounds in this workout. Right. And that might not be the case, you know, for somebody who wants to lose weight, I want them to get as much work done as possible so they get the biggest calorie burn possible. So I might say to somebody, Hey, there’s a barbell in here. Let’s just go a little bit lighter so you can continue to move at a consistent pace, maybe go unbroken, right. And get through as much work in this workout as possible. Someone who’s stronger, if it’s a light barbell and like their goal is to gain strength. It could just be as simple as saying like, Hey, obviously we want you to have a base of conditioning. That’s important. Right. But we can bias this workout a little bit more towards you just by increasing what is the RX weight here, right. Allowing you to take, you know, to go a little bit heavier. Maybe you don’t go as hard on the row or the run as the weight loss athlete does. Right. But that’ll fit your intentions of this workout a little bit better.
Can you give us an example of that? So let’s say that you’re running a class with, maybe you can give us a sample workout and just kind of walk us through how you would present it to each avatar differently.
Yeah. So, let’s say we have a workout that’s for time and it’s 25, 20 15, 10 of a cal bike and 12, 9, 6, 3 of a hang power snatch. When we’re standing in front of a whiteboard in a class, we’re going to brief the workout basically to our general fitness clients. Right. Because we can assume that for every, let’s just say we have 10 people in class, right. Five are probably gonna be more interested in, you know, just general fitness and you might have two and a half that are interested in weight loss two and a half are interested in gaining strength. Right. So we can, we can brief for the majority of the class at the whiteboard, and then we can use these avatar briefs for individual conversations with your clients. So think of it like a touchpoint, right? Just like you would in like giving everybody a cue in class. Like you wanna make sure that you go up to them and understand like, Hey, this is why you should be doing the workout. This is important for you. And this is how you can mold it to fit your goals a little bit more.
So let’s talk through delivery. So, one thing I don’t think that you’d wanna say is like, Hey, raise your hand if you are too fat.
And you’re trying to lose weight. How do you deliver that?
I think so there definitely needs to be some tact to it. Right. Where it’s like, you’re not going to say like, Hey Mary, we know you wanna lose 30 pounds. So this is how you’re going to go and execute this workout. Right. I mean, that would like absolutely horrifying for that client. Right. Which is why we use that general fitness brief for the actual, you know, front facing when we’re talking to everybody. And then we use those individual conversations for those clients. And I think it comes down to, you know, being a really good coach and knowing your clients and who they are and what their goals are.
So, you know, Brooks, I was driving past dairy queen last night, saw your car there. I really think we should be thinking hard about our avatar choice this morning. Not like that?
Well, not like that will depends if someone’s trying to get a little bit stronger and I feel like, I hope you got two ice cream cones. Right. You need those extra calories. <laugh> so it’s all case dependent. <laugh>
So the key is like really knowing each individual client though. So how do you, as the coach kind of keep track of what people’s goals are, who are in your class? Like, let’s say that you’re a part-time coach, you’re coaching at six and seven this morning. You have a kind of an idea of who’s gonna be there, but how do you know what their goals are?
So I think the first thing that comes down to is coaches really caring about the clients and wanting like generally wanting to help. Right. But there has to be something there, like a communication mechanism. So that 6:00 AM coach understands who is coming into their class and what that person is trying to achieve. So, at my gym, like what we do is anytime someone gets done with on-ramp, we essentially write a synopsis for that person and put it into our coach’s slack channel. Right. Saying, Hey, this is Chris, right. Chris is a super fit guy. He just wants to get a little bit stronger.
Right. Oh, it’s obviously not me that we’re talking about. <laugh> OK, good. Yeah.
He moves relatively well. Right. Has some experience, you know, has a, maybe a bad shoulder, a bum shoulder, knee, whatever it might be. Chris will be at the you know, the 6:00 AM class a lot of times. And oh, by the way, he’s going to do a powerlifting meet, like his goal is to do a powerlifting meet in six months. Right. Well, you have a ton of information there that will really allow you to make sure that you’re having a personalized conversation with your client every time they come into class. Right. I think the benefit of, you know, routine that we get like ourselves into and our clients is into is like the majority of the time you’re dealing with, as a coach, probably the same 12 to 20 people, depending on the class that you coach.
Right? So if you’re the 6:00 AM coach Monday, Wednesday, Friday, you can generally assume that the same 12 to 20 people are gonna be coming in and out of that class. Right? So if you have a gym of 150 people, you don’t necessarily have to worry about like knowing everybody’s specific goals and not everybody has a specific goal too, right? There’s some people who just want to come in, enjoy the workout, get fitter. They care about, I just need to complete this in this time, or I need to do, you know, X amount of rounds and reps. And like, those are the easy clients, right? Those are the ones that, you know, they’ll pretty much check a lot of the boxes for themselves, right? Avatar briefs really come into, into play when we have those outliers who we really, we wanna make sure they understand, like, this is the place for you to achieve your goals.
When things moved online, we saw that this was actually the thing that clients paid most attention to, less so than the workout more. Here’s why this is important for you today. Do you find that some gyms are using beyond RX that way still, like, are they texting the client before the class and saying, Hey, you should make it today. Here’s why?
I would hope that they, they would, right. I think, again, it comes down to really knowing your clients. And if you have a system in place where there is constant communication, you know, you’re checking in with them, whether it’s just through, you know, automated text messages and they start replying to you, like you should have those conversations. Right. A lot of times, for us within the first 90 days of somebody’s journey, we’re very, we try to be very specific about the workouts that we recommend somebody coming to. Right? So we do a good amount of not necessarily handholding, but just guiding, right. Saying, Hey, if this is your goal, this is what you should be. Like, these are the workouts you should be trying to bias your training towards. Right. Obviously, you know, just being general functional fitness.
If I have a client who wants to get in shape or needs to lose weight, I’m not gonna say like, Hey, come to only these classes that are more built for, you know, they’re gonna be longer workouts, more cardio focus. I’m still going to say like, Hey, let’s maybe get two of these in, and let’s also go to the opposite end of the spectrum and get one that’s going to be a little bit heavier. Cause we need you lifting those heavy weights. Cause that is important. Right. So we can build more lean muscle, which in turn will help us burn more fat just at rest. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> but we can still bias your training towards those longer workouts, which will give you that bigger calorie burn.
And so do you tell the client in advance, like here’s what’s coming up this week and so here are the days when you should plan to be here?
Yeah. So we release all of our workouts on Sundays at 5:00 PM. So you can go in, you can say, you know, if you wanted to cherry pick and be like, these are my favorite, like awesome. I don’t have a problem with ’em like, this makes you happy. And like, these are the workouts that you love and you’re gonna have a fantastic time in the gym every time you come in, cherry pick the hell out the workouts, like that’ll be great. Right. But we do it with the intent of, Hey, these, like, if you want to achieve this goal, these are the workouts that you really should be trying to get in here for.
How predictable is that schedule? I mean, is there like a longer workout every Thursday, for example, that people who are looking for fat loss should try to make, or do you communicate that individually to ’em depending on the week?
We try and communicate that to them individually, depending on the week. So we do have tags right? For our workouts. We’re like, Hey, this is more of a general fitness workout. This is more of a workout that’s gonna help you increase strength. This is gonna be more of a conditioning based workout. I think as time goes on and people get more familiar with the style of training that we do in the gym, they can kind of, you know, look at the workout itself and be like, OK, like this is the one that, you know, I know best fits my goals at the moment.
OK, man. I really think that’s brilliant. Now, obviously this takes a lot or a little bit more time for the coach, right? Like to implement a system like this, how much more time is a coach or the GM or the CSM spending per week.
It definitely time consuming. Right. But I think that, you know, we’ve really simplified the process over the past couple years because we can look at these avatar briefs and we could come up with a million different kind of like generalized briefs, but really there’s almost nine that we use as a baseline. Right. So if we look at OK, the type of client, the avatar that we have for clients, as far as, you know, conditioning, your weight loss, general fitness or increased strength, we can almost say that there’s three corresponding workouts, right? Where you have workouts again, that are better fitted for increasing strength, workouts that are better fitted for general, like would be a general fitness and then more that are going to be on that conditioning bias. Right? So what we have, we’ve created is essentially a grid with nine squares.
Like, Hey, if you have a conditioning workout and you’re talking to a weight loss avatar, this is how you do it. And you can go down the line and say, if you have a conditioning workout, you’re talking to a general fitness avatar. This is how you talk to them. If you have a conditioning workout, you know, a client who wants to increase strength, this is how you talk to them about it. So there’s for us, we’ve narrowed it down to basically nine generalized avatar briefs that your coaches can become very familiar with. And hopefully just be able to kind of regurgitate them just as time goes on and they become more familiar with them. But then the next layer again is not just using those generalized briefs. It’s OK. I know these so well that my focus can go back into that relationship with the client and knowing exactly what their specific goals are and then taking this a step further and relating those generalized briefs to that client’s specific goals.
I think the coaches who are listening to this and the gym owners who are, you know, really concerned about like virtuosity and quality and in coaching and value in their coaching practice, they’re gonna jump on this and say, yeah, this is super duper important. For pragmatic skeptics like me, how does this translate into better results for our business?
Yeah. So I think what it does, it creates trust and it shows the athletes that you really care because it creates a better connection with them. I think we’ve all had clients who come in and they’re like, why? Like, why am I doing this? Or like I don’t feel like I gotta workout in. Right. I think this especially happens with the newer athletes where we might have something that’s a little bit shorter or a little bit heavier, and they’re not exactly sure how to go heavy or like, they just don’t have the capacity to really put in like 80, 90% like in a short workout. So if we can talk to them about their goals and start relating the workouts to them a little bit more and be like, this is how you should execute it to your goals. It’s going to equate to longer retention and better results for your clients, which is going to in turn, move your business forward.
Yeah, that’s really, you know what, I love about beyond RX programming is it improves adherence because as soon as you tell somebody, here’s why this workout is important for your goals today, they are more likely to show up. And when you increase adherence, then you increase retention. And it’s really easy to track the numbers from one thing to the next. So as far as like improving retention, we all know that novelty can help. And that’s what most programming sell. But when you compound that with, like specific here is why this is relevant to you, the compounding effect provides greater retention than any programming that I’ve ever seen anywhere else ever. So congrats on that Brooks. What’s going on with beyond RX now, like give us some news.
So, obviously we’re continuing to do our monthly programming for our gyms. One of the things that we’ve done recently is, we’ve begun to essentially give every workout a name, not just necessarily for the fun of giving every workout a name. One, we want these workouts to be more relatable to clients. We want them to just recognize a workout that they’ve done in the past because they see the actual name of the workout. We’re doing this for mostly again, going back to that retention piece. Right. And because we wanna give clients more bright spots, right. When we think about the amount of workouts that we have in CrossFit, it’s almost infinite at this point, right. And when we start talking about, you know, benchmarks and testing pieces, how often do they really come up? And again, for clients who are just here for general fitness and want to get fitter, you know, testing a workout, you know, once a year, or, you know, maybe even twice a year that, you know, that’s fine. Like we wanted to give our clients more opportunities to see actual progress on a weekly basis. So one of the things we did was we just condensed our workouts down to about 200, right? With the idea of being that if you have a client who’s there for, you know, more than seven, eight months, they’re going to have the opportunities to really start coming in and seeing additional progress every single week, rather than having to wait on these benchmarks that come around every year, twice a year, whatever it might be.
I think that’s really important. I mean, one of the things that, really attracted me to CrossFit back in the day was these named workouts. But you see it, you see them less and less in programming now. Right?
You do see them less and less, you know, and, and I’m not sure, you know, it’s funny the named workouts, I don’t know. Greg’s like initial intent with naming the workouts, whether like he just, you know, enjoyed it. You wanted to honor somebody, you know, and a lot of them did become those benchmarks, you know? But when I look at, you know, benchmarks, a lot of them are just kind of arbitrary benchmarks. Like we just decided that these were benchmarks for whatever reason. I think there’s also a lot of power in like also naming every workout, not treating it like a benchmark, but we have clients who might come in and say like, man, I love that workout. Right. And that workout might be a become like their personal benchmark workout. Right. It might become the workout that they measure themselves by rather than us.
Cause, alright, so let’s take, Diane, right. As a benchmark, right. We’re saying handstand push-ups and deadlifts, right. How many of your clients can do handstand push-ups? Well, right. And how many of your clients feel good about themselves when they like really leave the gym from do like, from trying to do handstand pushups, right. For like, Hey, this is how you should measure yourself and you keep failing at it over, of course you’re gonna see progress. But if you’re just there to achieve a specific goal and get a little bit healthier, you don’t really care about doing handstand pushups. And every time you come in, you’re like, Hey, this is how we’re measuring yourself. And like, you’re like, I hate these. And I suck at ’em like, why am I here? Right. But if you just say to somebody like, Hey, this is named workout. And like, man, I love this workout. It’s like, well, that’s your personal benchmark. Then measure your progress by that. Now of course, we still want people to increase their capacity, right. Across various domains. We want them to get stronger. We want them to, you know, you know, be able to row a 5k faster. Those are all important things. Right. But some of them, we can allow them to make these determinations of like what workout is important to them on their own.
That’s great, man. I mean, there was definitely a dark side to those early named workouts. I remember, not Greg Glassman, but one of his very first CrossFit clients telling me about having anxiety attacks when they saw Fran come up on the board, because at the time, not only were they like the Fran champion of Greg Glassman’s gym, but they were also on crossfit.comas having like the world’s fastest Fran, you know? And so when it came up, this, this guy would like have a nervous breakdown about it.
Right. And you know, if we limit it to these workouts like Fran, like how much faster can somebody really get at Fran if they’ve been doing CrossFit for, you know, or functional fitness for four, five years. Right. There’s probably gonna be a point where it’s like, like I’m maxed out. Like I can’t go any faster, you know? And that’s fine. Right. But I’ve been doing this for 13, 14 years now. It’s like, but I can also just, I can look at these other workouts, like, man, I do really enjoy this workout. So maybe for the next three to four years, this is be one of the workouts that I measure myself against.
Got it. Yeah. That does, it is also discouraging when you see your number in one workout go down. Right. Especially if you used to be the gym champion at Murph and suddenly your Murph’s getting slower. So let’s just, let’s put beyond EX on a spectrum here of programming, right? So at one end, you’ve got like one on one personal training, custom programming for every single client. And at the other end, you’ve got big group classes that almost look like choreography, where everybody’s doing the exact same movement at the exact same time. There’s one coach leading 30 people. Where does beyond RX fall on that spectrum?
We are right in the middle of that spectrum. Right. So yes, it’ll be great for group class coaching, it will keep you very organized. It’ll keep you on a timeline. It’ll give your coaches all the resources they need to provide a great group class experience. I would say that it’s definitely not built for gyms who have, you know, that 30 person plus class, because again, we go into like really creating that personalized experience. Right. And wanting to connect with a client, like good luck trying to connect with a client. you know, as far as like their goals or with the avatar briefs and also trying to coach them in that, right. We look at our class and say like, OK, you know, in the past we said, we wanna have a touchpoint with everybody. Right. And again, that touchpoint might have been, you know, just something with technique, right.
Let’s make sure that we give somebody to focus on for this class. We transitioned to say, OK, we wanna make sure everybody has two basically categories of touchpoints. Right. We want them to have that technique piece that they’re working on. We also wanna make sure that everybody has that touchpoint of like, Hey, do you understand how you should be executing this workout? Now you can take the same exact programming and you can move it all the way over to the personal training spectrum. Right? Because you know, we have these avatar briefs built out for you. So you could look at the same group class workout, and really go into customizing it and explaining to your personal training client, why it is important that they be doing this.
Yeah. That is really interesting. And one skill that I know that Mike Watson who writes some of the avatar briefs, one skill that he and I developed way back, you know, 2005, when we opened catalyst, sometimes you would have 10 clients in a day. You’re working one on one with each one, and sometimes you’d be using the same workout for five of those clients, but you’d be describing it in a different way each time. Like, here’s why you’re doing this workout. Here’s how it’s gonna help you. And I didn’t think of it until you said it, but like you could easily translate beyond RX programming into one on one
You easily can. You know, and I think that, you know, a lot of gyms too, it’s like, we don’t look at our group class programming as what we should be doing for our personal training clients. But again, if we’re talking about, you know, providing the best service and value possible, not only for our clients, but for our coaches so that they can maximize, you know, their effective salary rate, right. Then using the group class programming is fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. Like somebody who’s coming in and doing personal training at your gym, you don’t need to write a separate workout from the group class workout. Like they’re not there because they don’t, some of them might not want you to be in a group. Right. But they said, they’re there cuz they probably don’t want to be in, in a group. Right. They don’t care what the workout is. You could still run the same. We have like, so in our gym we have people who will do the group class programming who are personal training clients and still post their scores into the group class track. Right. They feel like more a part of the community, but for whatever reason, classes just don’t fit their schedule. Right. Or they’re uncomfortable in a group or whatever it might be. Or they have more limitations that we have to take into consideration when training.
Yeah. That’s really interesting to note. And I think a lot of people who are trying to add personal training, that’s one barrier that they don’t understand. And so, you know, they think that they have to make the PT program significantly different. That does happen 10% of the time. But for 90% of people you can use the same program. The key is just customizing the message of about why they’re doing it, which is what beyond RX does.
It is what we do. Right. And I think there’s layers to that personalization of one on one training, right. Where somebody comes in, it’s like, OK, at a basic, what are you paying for? You’re paying for that one-on-one coaching and time right now, if we start to talk about, Hey, I’m going to write a customized program for somebody. Like, it’s not something that you’re doing within the hour of the personal training session. Like that might be something that you’re doing that takes hours outside of it. Right. So that should be a completely different price point than just your personal training. All
Right Brooks. Super helpful. Has always been, thank you. Where can people find out more about beyond RX?
So you can go to beyondrx.com, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial for either our tier one or our tier two levels of programming or tier one level programming is built for gyms who have a smaller staff and under 50 members, the tier two is gonna be for bigger staff. You need to streamline communications processes for and have an actual, like built out session plan. You can sign up for again, 30 day free trials for both. If you’re part of Two-Brain, right? you can access tier one for for free. You could also go to our Instagram beyond RX and our YouTube channel as well. We do daily videos on YouTube and we do a weekly live stream every Friday and YouTube channel is just, beyond our RX.
I really do think like this is the next and most necessary evolution in programming for micro gyms Brooks and, you’re spearheading that, man. Thank you. And we’ll see you at Two-Brain Summit.
Appreciate it. Looking forward to it.
Be sure to subscribe to Two-Brain Radio for more insight and advice. Now here’s Chris one more time.
Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.