It’s another special edition of Two-Brain Radio. With trainers around the world moving online as fast as they can, Two-Brain founder Chris Cooper talks to Eddie Lester of fitnessmentors.com to get his tips for the transition. Two-Brain’s new COVID page is now live with all the essential resources you need to get through this crisis. Visit TwoBrainbusiness.com and click COVID 19 at the top. And now, here’s Chris Cooper.
Eddie, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.
Hey Chris, thanks so much for having me.
It’s a real pleasure, man. A lot of gym owners right now are finding themselves doing more coaching, trying to figure out this new service of online coaching. And I’m really looking forward to the tips that you’re going to give us on how to transition.
Awesome. You know, it’s such a unique time and such a unique, we’ll say, situation that we’re all in and there’s so many people that are completely lost and I’ve been dealing with trainers on a daily basis, just really assisting them in adjusting and shifting to this immediate need, which is, you know, quite crucial for a lot of businesses.
OK, man. Well, let’s start with the story of fitnessmentors.com. How did that all come about?
Yeah, so really Fitness Mentors originated from really, it’s kind of a unique story because I’ve been a trainer for about 13, 14 years and in the beginning, I went to school the pretty much for personal training, knew I loved the fitness industry. Was working at an Equinox and actually was recruited to educate at a vocational level for personal trainers actually for National Academy of Sports Medicine, one of their programs at a vocational college. And I was actually a big part of developing their current, which they still use their 900-hour in class curriculum, delivered at vocational schools and really, you know, kind of, I always knew I loved teaching and teaching as a personal trainer, you know, you get that immediate feedback, you get that all that, the tracking of results and that rewarding sort of nature.
But what I realized is that I loved teaching people about personal training and how to be successful in it. And I had about five years at this vocational college that really allowed me to acquire skills of educating to a live classroom, developing curriculum, and really just helping people become successful personal trainers. And what I realized, and this was what, 2013, 2014, was that I was only able to help about the, you know, 15 to 20 people in my class every six months. And for me, I really, you know, I always knew that I wanted to help a lot of people be successful in life. And you know, my chosen career and niche and expertise was fitness. So I really decided to create a basically online vocation company for personal trainers. And that’s really where Fitness Mentors started was I was educating them to passing their basically NASM and ACE exams and, you know, cause that was what I was doing at the time and really, enjoyed that, knew all about it.
So developed curriculum to assist students online and passing those exams. And since then, over the last years or so, we’ve really grown to help personal trainers. And this is something very specific, basically help industry professionals, understand the needs or what they need to know and the skills they need to know to be successful as a personal trainer significantly beyond just passing a test, you know, being industry ready in the sense of business. And that’s something that we’ve really focused our curriculum and education on is yeah, you need to know all the sciences. You need to know how to train and the habit coaching, things like that. But really what I felt most important was I need to teach these trainers and, you know, entrepreneurs for private trainers and people even looking to open their own gyms, how to, we’ll say, succeed on the business side because so many trainers were getting into this and getting their certification and then being just completely lost as what they need to do to get clients what they need to do to retain clients, how to even generate a lead or even talk to people in that sense.
So really that’s been the main point of Fitness Mentors is to help personal trainers really succeed on the business side so that they can help more people. That’s really what I saw.
That’s really interesting. So, you know, most of the people listening to this podcast have worked in or own a bricks and mortar gym right now. And what they’re finding is that, you know, there’s two sides to a business. There’s operations and audience. They still got their audience, but the operations have just been, you know, taken away. They don’t have their own gym anymore. They don’t have their equipment anymore. So how do they start to make that pivot mentally first, Eddie?
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean really the one thing that I see as a kind of, well just anyone at helping someone achieve a goal in this time specific to the fitness industry is the first thing on a mindset standpoint is relinquish control. And it’s something that I feel is a really important first step because a lot of the people that I’m working with are so worried about delivering their service and how it’s going to look and these are people that have trained in person for, you know, decades, some of them. And, what I’m seeing is they have so much control one-on-one. They have so much control over everything that they do in person with this client. And the first thing that’s holding them back, and this is huge, it’s really holding them back, is the fact that think they need to have this perfect product that’s delivered online and they’re trying to control the exact same variables that they do in an in-person session.
So from a mind standpoint, we’re all going into this unknown territory relative to this event. And the first thing is just to understand that if you can relinquish control over what you used to do and how you used to control the session and those training variables, you can open yourself up to understanding that online training, the main goal is to help someone achieve a goal. And there’s thousands of possibilities in the way and the directions in which you do that. So that’s absolutely first thing as far as mindset goes, is relinquish control. And in that sense.
So that’s amazing. So, um, how do you make that mental pivot to really embrace the fact that like your existing tool kit has gone now you have to kind of use these new tools?
Yeah, so I mean it’s a commitment in the sense of, I mean, there’s a lot of different ways to approach this, but the most important thing for those gym owners out there that are really looking to quickly pick up an online training service in that sense is simplify, simplify, simplify.
Find the simplest way that you can continue to serve your customers, your members. And, you know, there’s so many options for training, how you do it, the specifics around that, which we really cover in an in-depth course on our site. But really the most important thing is you need to immediately connect and find out what your members need and then give them the simplest service that can be performed by you currently. And, you know, I don’t want to get too much into the weeds of how to do that. But making something that’s so simple that they can do it and, or you can provide it, I think it super important.
So what do you mean by the simplest service that you can provide?
So specifically, what do you have in your arsenal currently and you know, a lot of gym owners, if you have a staff that currently connect with or that connected with your members when in there, continue that process, how can you connect, but electronically? You know, the same group exercise classes that were being run at your gym or the group training, how can you most simply provide that, you know, a simple video call like this and create an invitation to all of the members to get them just continuing to exercise, you know, a lot of the trainers that I work with really think that that video is to be so much different or a multi, a group call is going to be so much different than doing it in person because of all those variables that you have. But really it’s the only thing I really think is different between a video call and the in-person session is really just the kinesthetic cues, of touch in a sense of, you know, like, sometimes with a trainer they’ll say, Hey, activate your lower traps.
And they’ll touch that specific area. But the verbal commands, the nonverbal communication as far as our language is still there. There’s so much that that actually continues through the video call and you know, that that’s just one thing as far as your group training that you immediately can pick up right back up on and keep your group training schedule. You know, if you have a group training schedule at your gym, look at that and transition to online if you, and to be honest, I believe depending on the exact legal nature of going into your gym, if you can still use your gym by yourself, obviously without anyone being there and record from that same classroom, that’s a potential option. Obviously some of your trainers managed to shift and do it from their garage or from home or park.
But you know the mobile device is a great way to connect with all of those members still.
- So where have you seen coaches and trainers fail to make this transition in the past? Like what have they screwed up? What should we be avoiding?
So, to be honest, the way that I see people fail most, and there’s a broad variety of failures, but really what I see is paralysis by analysis to be cliche. Which is they’re trying to think of the best way to go online. They’re trying to create this, you know, a program that’s going to give the people everything that they had in person and they’re comparing it to training in person and they might even, you know, spend, you know, weeks and weeks and months and months trying to build this program as an online training program.
And most people don’t get off the ground. An it’s so unique. Even the people that are committed to building their business and they’re going for, what they do is they end up, if they’re analyzing it too much and they’re trying to be a perfectionist and compare it to in person training, they’re trying to provide all that and they build a business for months and months and months without actually even training someone. And so the failure happens before you even start because, and that’s a unique situation, but literally 50% of people that are trying to get an online training are just virtual in anything is they’re trying to build something that is far beyond what they need to actually perform the task. And I really like to simplify online training in the sense of you are helping your members, your clients achieve a goal and then work backwards from there. And what best ways can you do that online? Don’t compare it to anything you did in person.
So again, simplify, choose the simplest method. Interesting. When a coach is used to coaching in person and they have to start coaching online, what new skills do they have to gain that they might not not already possess?
So a lot of the assistance with or that personal trainers provide is done through communication. And to be honest, every trainer that I’ve seen that works with clients currently has the skills to go or to move online. What they need, I think is to how to learn or learn how to effectively communicate online, if that makes sense. So communication is, is the most important skill for a virtual training business or a virtual gym, whatever you may want to call it. It’s really that point of taking the needs of the client, addressing them, but then communicating and holding them accountable.
And this even happens in my opinion, online, it needs to happen way more often than it ever did when you stepped into a training session and you checked in on them, you had your hour conversation with them as you went through your workout, and then you might’ve reached out to them once a week, you know, twice a week in between that. With online coaching and training, it’s what are they doing in the morning that can help them achieve their goals. What are they doing around midday that can help them achieve their goals? Are they doing we’ll say evening procedures to achieve their goals? And if you can increase communication effectively with that type of, we’ll say, schedule in connection that that provides a value that you can remain on your members’, on your clients’ minds constantly. And this is something that I’ve even had people going from my regular one on one training into online training is they’re actually finding themselves more successful because all of a sudden I’m on their back three times a day reminding them, Hey, like before you eat breakfast, you know what to eat for breakfast, right?
And to be honest, I do a lot of this through text messaging and utilizing text message softwares, I actually use one called offdaytrain.com. It’s an automated way that you can actually build this and it follows up with people in an automated way, sends them a once daily text message and then you actually put people into groups and send one text message as opposed to sending, you know, one individually so that really saves time right there. And to be honest, the read rate on text messages is in the 97th percentile. If you’re trying to communicate via email, those things get lost. I mean, I’m sure you know, I’m sure gym owners know that, you know, you might have a 20% read rate on emails regardless of the content. Even if you’re giving the best thing away, only 20 people are going to open it. So when you’re providing accountability and great communication via text message, it’s almost a guarantee that they’re going to see that, you’re going to remain on the top of their mind and they’re going to get towards their goals. So communication I think is one skill that that is crucial to succeeding virtually.
To get into the weeds on that a little bit. I’ve been in some coaching programs where the texts that I was getting from the coach were obviously not meant for me. You know, they’re talking about weight loss and my goal would be completely different. So where do you automate texts and where do you personally write a text?
What I should be clear on I guess from the last topic or what I mentioned was that the personalization of your communication is extremely, extremely important in the sense that you are talking to a human and that human expects via text you to be on the other side. And the more human to human you can keep your communication and even your automated text messages, the more success you will have. So and this does require a bit of extra time to make sure that it’s customized to the individual. But let’s say you have a training staff that has, you know, 20 clients apiece or a a group exercise classroom and you can hand off those tasks to those trainers and to have them effectively communicate with their clients. And you can group them into individual goals in a software.
So if you know that this person is in weight loss and so is this other person. So is this person and these other people are in a, you know, more of a hypertrophy, or muscle gain or performance or general health or whatever goals that they may have. You can actually group them and send out a direct, we’ll say text message with their name in it. Using some of the software cues to make it very specific to that individual. And the moment that you send out an automated text that doesn’t feel that personal is when someone might not continue to open your text messages as much. So, I’m glad you brought that up because it is so important to recognize the fact that it will require you to be as personal and human as possible and the personality that you have in person with your client, that needs to shine through your text as well. So be be yourself, be that person that they talk to, you know, one on one and have those sort of conversations and go back and forth a few times. And, you know, there is that offdaytrainer.com software is pivotal for that type of work.
All right, we’ll put a link to that in the show notes then. Thanks a lot for that Eddie. Let’s talk about client retention online. So, you know, gym owners are pivoting to this new service. It’s brand new to them. It’s also new to most of their clients. And right now the novelty factor is working in our favor. We can keep clients around because they’re looking at this thing like what is this? And the isolation factor is also helping because, you know, we don’t have daily habits anymore. It’s all back to square one. And so they’re looking for guidance. But historically, before the whole COVID tragedy crisis, what were trainers doing to keep clients around long term online?
Yeah. So, so once again, I mean it’s about creating a human experience. And when you think about online, it’s so easy to get disconnected from that cause so many—and to be honest, the internet kind of emerged as this sort of automated like machine-like feel and what I’m seeing the internet moving towards is being that personality and creating a personality of yourself in your communication, in your, we’ll say, branding online, kind of just in your overall approach. And really when we think about client retention online, it’s about that consistent human connection with the individual and when it comes to, I mean, one of the things that I recommended every single one of our trainers do is call every single one of their clients and say, how are you doing? You know, we talked about this on my podcast last week, but really, you know, connecting with them in a way that’s significantly beyond just like, Hey, I’m your trainer and let’s go achieve your fitness goals. But that one on one communication that you have in person, transitioning that sort of human approach to online is extremely pivotal. And that’s where I believe retention is, and also, you know, that real specific personality that you can create in that communication is super important.
So sticking with, you know, the tools that people are using right now, there is an emerging trend in mindset coaching, habit coaching, even sleep tracking. What should new online trainers be looking at instead of just I sell you programming and then encourage you to do it.
Yeah. So, this is where, and when you talked about earlier how you kind of talked about, I believe you were saying about the approach for online training and what I mentioned from earlier is that that you need to separate yourself from what you currently do in person is all of a sudden your a goal-achieving coach and you need to once again separate yourself from anything that you feel like you were in person to that client and now you become a, we’ll say, you increase the amount of [unintelligible] in the sense of, like you kind of mentioned. Yes, they work out with you. OK. A lot of people, a lot of trainers and, and you know, we’ll say group exercise instructors think on that sort of side of it. But when you’re online and you have access to them 24/seven respectfully and whatever hours that they’re focused on is you have the ability to increase your value as a coach by adding the, we’ll say, nutritional accountability, by adding the we’ll say sleep enhancing, coaching, we’ll say, by adding the habits that you teach them. And you know, when I think of coaching someone towards a goal, what do they need to do, they need to eat well, they need to sleep well, they need to exercise, and then they need to be mentally, we’ll say, sound towards continuing those habits.
And that’s really the way that I encourage breaking down just a goal and then applying that to online training is just how can you communicate that consistently with your clients? So you’re really opened up to so much more value you can add to the person’s life when you’re communicating with them. And that’s really what a lot of personal trainers getting to online training are kind of like, Oh, I needed to deliver the best exercise program. OK.
That is a really common, yeah.
And maybe I’ll give them a little bit of nutrition. But once again, that communication as an online coach is pivotal and that’s where with that communication, you have extra, we’ll say text messages or avenues to track other variables that help them achieve that goal. And when you kind of combine, when you really focus on the overall approach to the goal as opposed to the fitness elements that we’re all so used to in person, that’s where the success is really had.
Very interesting, Eddie. I think you made a couple of really big points there and I hope people were paying close attention and a couple of epiphanies about, you know, what is the nature of value in online coaching. I also think there’s an opportunity once you’ve, you know, learned these habits of constant communication, your gym reopens, that’s gonna make you a better coach there too. Let’s talk about audience building for a moment. Is it easier to acquire clients for online coaching than it is in person, or is it harder?
You know, it’s really the individual’s approach. So I mean, when we think about the, I mean there’s two different ways to think about this. When you think of audience online, we’re talking anyone in the world can participate in your online program. So when we think of the volume of people that you can connect with, significantly higher online. When we think of the people in your local area in your gym’s city or the city over, you’re limited to who they are, their locations, the convenience factor of your gym. There’s so many other things that apply to them choosing your gym and going in. So really do want to get into building the audience or just kind of talk about the difficulty there?
Yeah. Cultivating the audience.
So, online and that we’re really specific about ensuring through our program, through we call it our certified online personal trainer program, really focusing on providing the content towards your specific type of population that you want to work with.
And you know if you’re a niche specific gym, there’s never a better time right now than to start putting out niche specific content for that population online. Because the way that you really cultivate an audience is to provide a ton of free value and a ton of content that can immediately help people right away. And then what you’re doing is you’re building this sort of trust factor online with these people. And that right there opens you up to to we’ll say, create a potential customer and then offering, you know, low barriers to entry online services is a very easy thing to do. I have a program in our course that is focused on, Hey, we want you to pay 20 to 20 dollars, $25 for our one month we’ll say online challenge that focuses on something super niche specific.
So I have a program that I want you and one of the ones that I was pretty successful with recently and with our coaches as well our online coaches is a low back pain reduction challenge.
So just something super, super specific that like, Oh, like I’ve never done a low back pain, you know, recovery challenge and it’s basically challenges the people in your social network that you’re going to post on social media to join for $20. You know, you know, the back pain industry is multibillion dollar giant corporations trying to try to help people with back pain. But you’re coming out and you’re saying, I’m going to provide you the steps to reduce your low back pain and a 30-day program and I just want you to join for $20.
Just so that I can track everything and communicate with you and that sort of thing. I just want to provide this super low barrier entry offer. And what happens is, what people don’t realize is, I mean, to be honest, that sounds amazing to me. Like, Oh, I just want to do that. I’ll get a text message a once a day with a specific routine that to reduce low back pain and you can automate all that, and that’s why you can charge so little for it. But what you’re getting there is an immediate ability to build trust and build a personality, effective communication with someone and prove to them that your online services can be effective for their goals. And when we—I had a few trainers put this out, right when the coronavirus kind of started to started to close gyms and people were starting to not train in person and within, you know, two days we had anywhere from 20 to 40 signups from small social networks of these individual trainers. We’re talking two to 400, two to 500 friends on Facebook. A simple challenge like that all of a sudden for $20. Yeah, no way. Yeah, I’m absolutely gonna do it. Even if I don’t participate in it, it’s like it’s only $20. It’s a low barrier entry and there’s not a lot of risks, but what you’re getting is the opportunity to prove that an online service like this can really impact people and you’re getting a very warm lead to transition them into something like a monthly customized program that can help them with their specific goals.
Oh that’s really, really awesome Eddie. OK, cool. So, all right, this is going to be my final question cause I think you’ve done an amazing job of giving us like, you know, some really, really important and valuable stuff here. What’s the one thing that most people overlook when they’re, you know, changing from one-on-one delivery in person to online?
So, I mean, I’ve beat this to death and I could easily go that route, but I’m gonna try to try to give something different. But, it’s, I mean, once again, keep it simple. I mean, it’s really about when you think about how you’re going to deliver a program, get the client first. I mean, really, it’s just like an in person training. You need to adjust to the needs of what people have. So when we think about overlooking things, I feel like that’s a really, you’re looking into detail already just by thinking, you know, Oh, what did I miss? What did I miss? It’s really about that individual and connecting with them in a human way and then allowing that human nature that we all have to really do the work itself.
And you know, when we think about online personal trainers, online fitness coaches, we’re online coaches to every aspect that leads to their goal. And you know, when we think of overlooking specific parts of that, it’s don’t underestimate the nice and genuine person you are. The more that you can be yourself in every aspect of your delivery, in every aspect of your approach, and I say this for your trainers, I say this for the true nature of your gym. The more that you retain that feeling of I like that person or that your client’s saying, I like that person, the more you can retain those qualities online, the more successful you will be. And this is really that shift of the internet becoming, or we’ll say needing to provide people with a human experience.
And especially when people are locked in their homes, you know, or especially when people aren’t going outside, the ability to connect is very much overlooked in a way that if you really are sticking to who you are, your core values, in a way the love that you give everyone through your programs already and that sort of feeling of, you know, connection, that human connection, I think that’s the focus when, when you start to think about online training and maybe that could be overlooked because people are thinking, you know, I need to provide the best program or the best nutrition program or the best way to track a nutrition program or that sort of thing. I’d say focus on the human to human, focus on that, that really deep connection that we all feel, that’s one of the most things that might be overlooked in that sense.
I could see that being overlooked. Well, Eddie, thanks a lot for sharing your expertise here. You know, we’re all kind of learning as we go, but it certainly helps to have mentors like you and you know, FitnessMentors.com is where people can find you afterward. So thank you for joining and helping.
I did want to mention that we are, because of this situation and really, you know, setting, I mean, just the impact of it. We wanted to give people as many tools for free as possible to get started online. That’s something that’s that so pivotal. So we did set up a program, basically how to start an online section of our course for free. So if you guys are listening out there, you want a little bit of extra help, you want that, we’ll say guided step-by-step process.
You know, I want you guys to pull out your phones right now and text online trainer and that’s online space trainer to the number three, one, nine, nine, six. So if you’re looking at your phone and you just open up a new text message, you’re gonna type in three one nine, nine six in the number to and then online space trainer and that that’ll give you access. You’re just going to need to create an account and you’ll get free access to our, basically a section of our course that teaches you how to start and, you know, just provide the tools and the products and the understanding of getting that first step into virtual training.
That’s really generous of you, Eddie. Thank you. And we’ll put that link in the show notes too for people. So if you didn’t catch it or you’re, I guess you’re not driving anywhere right now, but if you’re listening to the podcast and you’re sweeping your floor and you didn’t catch that, it will be in the show notes. Thanks again Eddie. All the best to you, man.
Yeah, thanks Chris. I really appreciate it and have a good day.
This has been a special edition of Two-Brain Radio. Two-Brain business serves a global network of gyms, and we’ll be collecting and sharing the best strategies for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. To check out our page with essential resources, visit TwoBrainbusiness.com and click COVID 19 at the top.