How to End the War and Help More Clients: Trainers Vs. Doctors and Therapists

Picture of Ashley Mak with title text reading "How to End the War and Help More Clients: Trainers Vs. Doctors and Therapists"

Mike (00:02):

My chiropractor told me high intensity training is dangerous. My therapist says deadlifts are bad. My doc told me I should run, but not lift weights. Ever heard something like this from a client? If you have, keep listening. Ashley Mak is a doctor of physical therapy who will tell you how to work with other health-care professionals to help your clients and grow your business. Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Driven Nutrition. If you’re struggling to develop a profitable retail program, you need to contact Jason Rule’s team at Driven. Driven puts customers first and provides a huge product line with some of the highest margins around. They’ll even provide training to help you grow your retail program. Curt Hendrickson of Iron Jungle CrossFit says Driven “has you, the affiliate owner in mind. Driven nutrition has some of the best support I have seen from any company we have partnered with.” To find out how to make more money with supplements, visit driven Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. This is Mike Warkentin and I’m here today with Ashley Mak. He’s a Certified Two-Brain Mentor and online fitness business owner. He holds a doctorate of physical therapy as well. You can find his business online at Hudson River Fitness and his other gig is Dragon Physical Therapy. He’s kind of right at the center of the Venn diagram, where all the worlds overlap. He’s going to tell you how you can work with other healthcare providers to create wins for everyone, the professional, the client, and you. All right. Welcome to Two-Brain Radio. Ashley Mak, how are you today?

Ashley (01:19):

I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me.

Mike (01:21):

Thanks for coming back. It’s always great to talk to you about stuff. We often talk about marketingand online training. This time we’re talking fitness, physical therapy and healthcare providers. I’m pumped to talk about this with you.

Ashley (01:32):

Same here. I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.

New Speaker (01:36):

You are like a Rosetta stone. I said, I called you a Venn diagram earlier. I’ll call you a Rosetta stone this time you speak all the languages. So let’s get right into it. And I want to know what came first for you. Was it physical therapy or fitness and when, and why did you add the other aspect of your life?

Ashley (01:51):

Yeah, so, here’s a short story about me. I mean, I was pretty much an athlete my entire life. I swam, did martial arts. I had the opportunity to swim in college, all because I was just like, I happen to be good at sports and I just wanted to do it. And it was the same thing from like a education career standpoint.

Ashley (02:11):

I really just more so stumbled upon physical therapy. It didn’t really truly understand what the profession was until I was actually in physical therapy school. So I already had my undergraduate, was in the process of finishing up my doctorate and I still didn’t really quite know what physical therapy was. And then I got my first physical therapy job and I got out, graduated 2012 and I was working and I was doing the typical work in the clinic, helping people recover from their back pain and everything, but I just wasn’t really challenged. I was always someone who, I’m not one to go out and look for challenges, but I get bored easily and I need something to push me. And I ended up stumbling upon say the fitness industry because I was just doing CrossFit mainsite workouts by myself at a typical big box gym just like many of us.

Ashley (02:58):

And, what was really cool was I got an opportunity to meet with a CrossFit gym owner who said, Hey, Ashley, do you want to get involved with fitness? And at the time I said, sure. And I didn’t really have that much of a reference point. So fitness came on afterwards from like a professional standpoint, but then as I got a little bit more ingrained people like Gray Cook in the strength and conditioning world. And like people like Kelly Starrett, like those were like, guys, those were the people who are really looked up to. And I said, OK, I think this is something that I like I want to get involved with. And then further on, I realized that both fitness and physical therapy, or even just rehab, they’re not mutually exclusive. And it was just really cool being able to see those similarities.

Ashley (03:38):

And it was just like it just made a lot more sense from a practical standpoint, a challenging standpoint, and to be able to put those two together.

Mike (03:46):

And you know, for me as a gym owner and fitness trainer, I did that first and I didn’t, I wasn’t as smart as you and couldn’t get a doctorate in physical therapy, but I knew it was a really cool aspect of a business. And I got tired of seeing our clients be told by care providers that they should stop doing something or working out was bad for them. So we got a physiotherapist from our membership to open a clinic in our city. And that was great because she did the workout. She knew the members, she knew what people were doing. She understood that we were taking care of people and it worked out really well.

Mike (04:15):

And it just, it becomes this really symbiotic relationship, but it hasn’t always been the case. Like, you know, Kelly Starrett, like you say, grinding the Grundle and all that. He did a really nice job of bridging the gap for a lot of people. But fitness trainers have often been at odds with healthcare professionals. Sometimes it’s from one side or the other, or both sides just having kind of a bad attitude toward the other because we’re scared of people taking our clients away. Like fitness trainers are often very protective and some of them step outside scope of practice because they don’t want a chiropractor to say, well, deadlifts are bad. But on the other side of it, some of the, you know, I’ve had a doctor who was morbidly obese and he’s trying to tell me about nutrition and that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Mike (04:54):

So there’s some different, interesting things that we’ve we see in these two worlds. So can you, have you seen this happen where fitness trainers and healthcare pros have been at odds like either as a coach, gym owner, mentor, or even as a care provider yourself?

Ashley (05:06):

For sure. I see this all the time. And, I want to premise that, like what got me involved with say like the fitness world particularly CrossFit, but when I first started off was the fact that what really called me out was saying that it was infinitely scalable. There were many different ways that you can get something done. And a really cool analogy that I read back in the day was it’s like, someone told a person that they weren’t allowed to deadlift, yet this person had a two year old that they picked up all the time and two year olds, I don’t have any children of my own, but I’m assuming like two year olds probably weigh like 30 ish pounds, I guess, but like a heavy medicine to pick it up. So for me, it was trying to look at, OK, well, what are the ways around this? And, I mean, as a PT, from a PT standpoint, working with clients who are interested in improving their fitness, I mean, I definitely try to make it a point to help strengthen the relationship that they have with their coaches. Like, that’s really my philosophy, but, um, I do see it a lot. Particularly one of the, I remember one of my clients, who came up to me and now I’m a physical therapist, right? So they come in and they said my doctor said I can’t deadlift because it hurts. It hurts my back. And, one of the challenging things is that I could have, I could have just been like, well, here’s all this research that says, deadlifting isn’t bad for your back, but what ends up happening is like, when you have these types of relationships, these types of conversations, where it’s like, you’re presented a fact and you try to provide other facts to really support that, you’re kind of just like pushing against a wall.

Ashley (06:41):

It was like every, fact that you say like, Oh, this is why I’m going to be better. Or this is why you should be able to do X, Y, and Z. It just creates an even bigger rift between both client, physical therapist, chiropractor, and even the trainer itself. And another thing was it was interesting because, and this was a couple of years back that I had a client say, Oh, well, my back is bothering me. And luckily, and the great thing was the fact that they came to me first and I was able to talk through this with them, which was really exciting, yet, even in the fitness industry, I think in some cases like doctors, physicians, their opinions, they’re talking from a higher place of authority. So in some cases, what they say has a bigger weight than what I would say. And I remember that conversation cause that client said, OK, well, I think I’m just going to go ahead and talk to a real doctor.

Ashley (07:40):

And I was like, Oh, OK. And then, and then I said, OK, well, that’s actually really interesting, cause I do have my doctorate. And I think one of the challenging things, especially as a therapist or even from a coaching standpoint, is that we are communicating with these clients in a much more intimate way because we’re seeing these clients multiple times a week for multiple hours. So we are developing the relationship. But yeah, I do believe that a large part of this odds is the fact that we’re just really more so misinformed. When we’re misinformed, the marketing is a little different too. And it’s really an aspect of verbiage and it’s like, yeah, it’s kind of like that turf war.

Mike (08:23):

There’s a similar thing that I think happens sometimes between kids fitness coaches and sports coaches, right? Because sports coaches are these usually male in a lot of cases, I think of the stereotypical, you know, male football coaches. I know everything about everything, including weightlifting and training and nutrition, and they know nothing except for plays and football, right. And there are female coaches that do the same thing, but that stereotypical gruff football coach, but there everyone is actually invested in the same thing, right? Every care provider and every sports coach wants success for the athlete or client or whatever. But there is that protectionism that shows up once in a while. So ee’re going to try and figure out, you know, from your perspective how we can kind of bridge that gap. So like,what are some ways you talked a little bit about this one client, what are some ways that you respond in situations to a client who’s maybe bounced, getting a second opinion from you against another healthcare professional. Has the way that you’ve changed your response, has that changed over time?

Ashley (09:17):

Oh, a hundred percent. It’s changed over time. I think it comes with knowledge, but then also maturity as well. I actually had the opportunity to actually get my doctorate at a much earlier stage of my life compared to other folks, I had the opportunity to join an accelerated program. So here I was graduate with my I’m not.

Mike (09:40):

Are you Doogie Hazard?

Ashley (09:40):

I’m not that smart. Close. But I H\had the opportunity to be able to matriculate and get this doctorate at a fairly young stage in my life. And at that point I was just that guy who was all about the facts. And I would literally just spit out knowledge.

Ashley (09:55):

And like you talked to any of my friends are like, Ashley has a crazy skill of rote memorization, like I just memorize facts left and right. And so when I first started, I would spend so much time just trying to convince these people like, listen, these are all the research studies on why you can do X, Y, and Z. And I really learned the hard way because those people actually didn’t, like they stopped coming to me. They stopped asking for my help because I wasn’t really providing a solution for them.

Mike (10:24):

You should never let facts get in the way of a good opinion.

Ashley (10:28):

Exactly. Yeah. And I think really the big part of it was the fact that I was so focused on trying to prove how smart I was and how right I was, that in the way that I was presenting it to these folks like these clients, it wasn’t put in the context of what was really the most interesting to them, really all that person wanted to do was to just get back into function and like live life healthily.

Ashley (10:55):

And so instead of me saying, well, your doctor, I used to say in my head, and maybe also passive aggressively in my phrasing while your doctor actually doesn’t have your best interests in mind, and all of a sudden, here’s this client who has a lack of clarity, right? Clarity is going to be the most important part of anything, whether it be communication or even just moving forward. Right. And if you don’t have that clarit, we become anxiety-ridden. It just gets really, really hard to figure out, well, what are the next steps? As time has gone by what was really, really great was the fact that I’ve learned that even, and this is what I’ve actually learned from a coaching perspective. So coaching human behavior modification, getting people to take action, which is very different compared to, OK, you come in, I’m going to go ahead and massage your back until your back feels better.

Ashley (11:43):

And going through the coaching process, I actually focused a lot more on listening. That’s really more my responses to anything especially presented to me is really just trying to take a look at it in a different perspective. So I am for sure wearing my physical therapy hat on being able to say, OK, well, the facts that they’re providing are true valid, well, what are the best ways, but then also, answering their questions with another question to just get a very big understanding, because if you don’t really quite understand what their challenge is or what their biggest fear is, or what’s stopping them, then for the most part, they probably don’t know what their challenge and their biggest thing is. So w get into these, these conversations. And also they’ll just say, like my doctor says, I can’t deadlift. And I’ll say, OK, well, tell me a little bit more about that.

Ashley (12:35):

Like, what does that mean? Like, are you able to pick up your kid or are you able to, like, I use deadlifting because it’s a very easy analogy, but this is something that you can apply to every, every sort of movement. And being able to just say, OK, yeah. Tell me a little bit more about that. Like what makes you feel this way? And then from there you can get a much better understanding and then once you can understand, you can then provide, OK, well, here are the facts, here are these like one to two soundbites things that would kind of support what the doctor is saying or, OK, I understand what the doctor is saying, this is a solution that we can work on to work around the problem. And that’s going to be really helpful to being able to come up with a solution that’s going to be the most beneficial to all parties, because it’s definitely not something where it’s like, you know, we’re all in the business of helping people. So if we’re busy fighting each other, then it takes away from our ability to help the folks that we were set up to serve.

Mike (13:38):

Yeah. We’re going to do a role play at the end where I’ll be a troubled client and I want to put it in practice where I’ll just make you tell me what you, how you would approach the situation. So people can get an understanding of how you would actually do it because especially newer fitness trainers, they’re certainly going to hear this and they’re going to need to know how to respond. So we’ll give them kind of your perspective on that. This kind of brings up, if you remember, when Chris Cooper, Two-Brain founder, has written about how he used to confront clients, when they would come and say, ah, I know I’m doing, I’m doing Orangetheory or I think it was a P90X at the time, when he would do this. And so they would say I’m doing that.

Mike (14:12):

Chris knows all the benefits of CrossFit and functional training stuff. So he would spew out all this stuff and say, OK, this is why our program’s better. And kind of like being defensive and trying to say, push that client out of their thing. And he realized, he said this many times now that was a huge mistake because what he really had there was a client who was already into high intensity training and was at some point going to get bored with the same DVDs over and over again, and needed something else. And all he needed to do was tell this client, you are already doing something great. When you get tired of that, come see me. And that rail was already greased right into his business. So it was a complete mindset shift instead of confronting and arguing and butting heads. It was like helping and trying to find out when this client gets bored

Mike (14:52):

Of this and need something else and needs a better program or a different program, who is that client going to go to? And the answer was Chris, when he changed the approach.

Ashley (14:59):

A hundred percent, I think where people have to, for something like that is it’s just like being able to have an opportunity and an understood pathway of what things could look like versus just getting to a stand still where you’re just hitting facts with facts or something like that. So really, really huge.

Mike (15:18):

And another thing that Chris also talking about is being at the center of a local ecosystem and, you know, reaching out to other care providers, right? So in some cases, if you build up relationships with care providers in advance, you are not going to have as many of these conversations because the care providers are going to start to know who you are, know that you’re legit, know that you have the best interests of clients in mind, and that you’re actually making that care provider’s job easier because you’re helping, you know, you’re helping with prehab, strengthening. You’re helping with accountability. I spoke to a chiropractor yesterday, just randomly actually. And he told me that, he’s like your wife does online nutrition. I said, yeah. Oh my God. He’s like, I have clients who are struggling with back pain and so forth because they’re just carrying too much weight. I need to talk to her about how she could help my clients. And I was like, we have clients who have other chiropractic issues, that would be great. And all of a sudden there’s a relationship springing out there. Right. And if those things can get built up ahead of time, let me ask you this. Have you ever had a gym owner approach you as a physical therapist and say, Hey, can we work together?

Ashley (16:19):

Yeah. And the cool thing is like back when I was in Hoboken, I definitely had a really great relationship with many of the gym owners there and really what the big focus on.

Ashley (16:30):

And even when they came in to me, I said, my job is to help you get back into doing the things that you love. I’m not here to have you join my gym. You’re already at an amazing gym already. Let’s get you back to working with your coach without any sort of limitation and to see the excitement in both the clients’ eyes and then also just discussing with the gym owners saying, Hey, your clients are going to be in good hands. Like they’re going to be back in no time. It’s really awesome.

Mike (16:55):

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Ashley (17:50):

In 2019, I officially stepped out from the coaching role. And when I got to that point, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. But the thing is like, I love Vietnamese noodles. Pho. Right. And one of the biggest things that I did was every single week, I would actually meet with a local business owner, particularly health care practitioners as well. And I would take it out for noodles. And just being like, Hey, like,what’s going on in your life. And just getting to know these folks, these practitioners, and just like understanding who they serve, who they want to help and like what their goals were. I got a lot of this from what we’ve learned in Two-Brain, especially with like the help first mindset, but another really great book that I got this wrong was Give and Take, which is a book written by Adam Grant.

Ashley (18:40):

It’s a really great book, was all about building relationships. And it was really cool because it just helped me understand. OK, well, what is it look like from a networking standpoint? And what was interesting is growing up, my mom would always tell me, Ashley, you got to network network network. I really didn’t know what that meant. Until I became a business owner and actually started having relationships with local business owners. So I would reach out to them. If I had the number, I would give them a call slash text or email them just saying, Hey, this is Ashley of Hudson River Fitness. I would love to just get together. Back then. And I was like, Hey, I would love to get noodles with ya, noodles and network. And I called it Pho with friends and it was really great. And, what ended up happening was we would go and meet up.

Ashley (19:25):

And I think whether it be coffee, face-to-face or via zoom, connecting over some shared interest where it’s like, Hey, we’re here to help people be healthy. It just allows the bridge to be lowered so people can start crossing that bridge. So I spent the majority of this time, probably close to two to three hours of just getting to know who this person is and what their interests are, what their goals were. And throughout this entire time, I was really just focusing on just trying to get a better grasp and looking at it as how can our clients benefit from their service and how can we help people more. And what was really great is at the end of the competition, we have this back and forth. And when we got to the, we ever get to the point where there really isn’t that much stuff to talk about, cause we kind of exchanged all our pleasantries, got to learn a little bit more about each other.

Ashley (20:19):

I would always finish up our conversation with, well, how can we help you? How can we help you? How can we help your clients? And I would just sit there and just be quiet to just learn about what they’re looking for and how we can help. And then that’s where the magic happens. Maybe at the time there might be nothing, but for the most part, a lot of times there’s going to be a lot of things that come about. Just like you said, Mike, the chiropractor we’re talking with the other day, he says, man, you have nutrition. And like, I know that a lot of my clients would benefit from some sort of nutrition weight loss program because of the fact that there is so much that we can do as chiropractors, physical therapists. Like when I see a patient or a client for back pain, I can see them for an hour.

Ashley (21:04):

But if you’re a CrossFit coach, if you’re a facility owner, you’re seeing them three to four times a week and they’re at a much higher stretch, like they’re going to you because it makes them feel better. We are really in essence that opportunity to just make that experience with you a lot better and vice versa. And from there, you go to see, it’s like when you ask them that question, you’ll start to see the thoughts percolating a little bit and you get to create something really, really amazing. Can I share a story?

Mike (21:35):

Please do.

Ashley (21:35):

So I started my physical therapy practice in 2014. It was cash only. I just didn’t really want to have a relationship with insurance, which is totally OK with me. But when people would call me up, I knew that my services were very specialized and it made no sense for me to try to take on everyone.

Ashley (21:57):

So what I would say is go to X, Y, and Z clinic down the street from me. They’re fantastic. And it was really cool because one I’d never met the owner of that clinic, but I’ve heard amazing things. And then a year, two, three years go by and I’ve been referring clients to this physical therapist, three years, roll by. I finally meet this physical therapist and I said, Hey, you don’t know who I am, but I’m Ashley. I’ve been sending people your way. And we like, then we really hit it off. We ended up getting lunch every couple of months. And it was just like a really beautiful relationship where we were able to have that communication left and right. And I think that’s going to be important, whether it be from physical therapist to physical therapist, or even just from trainer, fitness coach to physical therapist, chiropractor, any one of those professions.

Mike (22:43):

So would you just, when you started doing this, first of all, you got out of coaching so that’s one of things where you leveled up and found, carved out time in your schedule to grow your business. So you have to be able to do it. You can’t mop your floors, coach every class and lock the doors in the morning. You have to carve out time for growth activities, which is what you’re doing. But the second thing, how did you, how did you target these guys? So did you, was it cold calling, like just going through the yellow pages and finding different therapists, or did you go through clients and ask, Hey, who’s your doctor and, you know, can we set up a meeting or how did you, how would you recommend gym owners do that when they have the time?

Ashley (23:14):

Yeah. So I would definitely recommend first start off internally and see where your current clients are going, whether it be a massage therapist or a chiropractor or even a physical therapist. And what I really love is, we go off of looking at, even, just from say like an affinity marketing standpoint, where you’re being very direct and saying, Oh, this professional, they sound awesome. They’ve gotten you to the point where you can do toes-to-bar without any shoulder pain. I would love to meet that him or her or them. And

Ashley (23:46):

Then from there you get their contact information then yeah, I would definitely recommend calling. Calling is probably the most beneficial. If you’re going to call the office, there’s going to be an opportunity for you to be able to speak with them directly. And then if you can’t get ahold of them, send them an email too, with just saying reference, I know such and such client, and I would love to meet you and see how we can get connected, because I’ve heard amazing things.

Mike (24:11):

And I suppose there’s one step that I didn’t even say that would probably be the obvious one is if you have health care professionals in your membership, you probably talked to them right away first and say like, what, you know, what can we do? How can we work off of each other? And that would probably be a, you know, an easy one.

Mike (24:26):

I’m sure there are infinite numbers of doctors, massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, I’ve had at least every, you know, probably two or three of each of those at our gym over the years, finding those guys and connecting is probably a good way. And our clients at the gym loved nothing more than being able to go to a friend for a service because there’s already existing relationship. And that even went so far as when people are buying cars, it’s like we had a car dealer at the gym who was not going to screw them over. Same thing with like, Oh, that’s a friendly face, knows what I do in fitness. I’d like to get a massage from that person. So I guess, and that’s what you’re talking about. Affinity marketing, starting in that first loop, who’s closest to you then working your way out and eventually picking up the phone and just cold calling people. You could certainly do it. Have you ever just done that and just had some success and forged a great relationship from like a, just a random cold call to a pro?

Ashley (25:10):

Yeah. Actually like once or twice. And it was, that was the most nerve wracking part. It’s just the cold call. Because here I am calling them saying, well, do they even have time to speak with me? And all of a sudden they say, Oh, Hey, it’s so great to meet ya. And a lot of it is it’s still approaching a lot of these conversations with questions. That’s the big thing, whether it be, if you’re talking with a client about even just helping them overcome an injury or even talking to the professional, it’s just having questions. So then that way you get to know a little bit more, you get to understand a little bit more too.

Mike (25:47):

So you’re going doctor to doctor. So in some ways like, you know, you’re on a level playing field there, should the average quote, unquote, gym owner, should he or she feel intimidated about these conversations because you’re dealing with someone who has maybe more degrees and more schooling than you have. How should the average gym owner feel about this?

Ashley (26:03):

I can definitely see how it can be a little nerve wracking. Just because you’re speaking with someone who might have a couple of more degrees, but the reality is that they’re human as well. They’re human and they are really looking for what’s in the best interests of their clients. And what really separates say physical therapists and chiropractor. Like for us as healthcare practitioners, it’s like we’re focused on the rehab, and we’re looking at it as a spectrum. Fitness and wellness, rehabilitation. It’s all on a spectrum. It’s not one or the other. And there are limits to everyone it’s being able to understand, OK,

Ashley (26:44):

This is how far I’m gonna be taking my clients. And then you can take them the other way. So being able to just help bridge that gap, I would definitely recommend, if you are feeling a little nervous, just take a couple deep breaths before you even talk with them. And assume a couple of different power poses, which is gonna be really helpful too, because it’s just going to help you out with your confidence. But the reality is is that these practitioners, these doctors are really focused on making sure that the health of their patients, their clients are in the best position. And as long as you’re providing a comfortable environment for this doctor, this physical therapy, chiro, any one of those, provide a safe environment to help them feel more comfortable that they can send patients, their clients, your way, cause they know that they’re in good hands. Then the relationship is going to the, it’s going to be an amazing relationship.

Mike (27:37):

Yeah. And there’s a reality too. Like I’ve spoken to doctors specifically, some doctors who do CrossFit, and they’ve said they specialize in like taking you from almost dead back to kinda not dead. You know, like doctors often come in when there’s a problem. And they specialize in the significant problems where it’s like surgery, medication, you know, that kind of thing. They rarely see healthy clients, right. We’re not a preventative medicine kind of thing. For the most part, we’re kind of that reactive situation. And doctor training, so they don’t have a lot in the prevention realm and they have very little training in terms of physical fitness or nutrition. Right. They have some general understandings and they certainly know like, know how iron affects the body and things like that. But it’s like, I’ve never seen a client yet go to a doctor and have a doctor say, you need to lose 10 pounds and then actually provide a comprehensive, full plan to make that happen, including the accountability that’s needed.

Mike (28:27):

And that’s really a huge part for gym owners is to understand that you are, like you said, providing something that the doctor can’t and won’t provide because the knowledge isn’t there, the time isn’t there, it’s not part of their, it’s not a funded service to check in on clients and say, did you do the exercises I told you, so you’re actually kind of making their job easier in that way. So I guess when I realized that, those conversations became a whole lot less intimidating for me, because I had doctors who just said like, dude, I don’t know a thing about fitness, but if you break your arm, I can put that back together.

Ashley (28:58):

Yeah. It’s, you know, what I’ve noticed is that as the fitness and wellness and rehab industry start to evolve, there’s gonna be a lot of people who are talking about bridging the gap between rehabilitation and fitness and in the past, the old school way of thinking was all right, I am going to be that gap. Like Ashley Mak, doctor physical therapy is going to be the gap. That’s going, sorry, it’s going to be the bridge that’s connecting both rehab and fitness, but just like with everything else, it has to be a multi-angle approach. Just like when you’re trying to improve your health, it’s not just exercise, it’s exercise and nutrition. And it’s the same thing when it comes to improving your health from say like an orthopedic, say achiness standpoint, it’s not just going to be the sole responsibility of the orthopedist. It’s not going to be the sole responsibility of the physical therapist, chiro. It’s being able to have that symbiotic relationship and all of a sudden, we’re going to end up having way more healthy, like way more orthopedically healthy people, and also just healthier people in general because we’re having these folks work together.

Mike (30:09):

Talk about the exact steps to starting a relationship with a healthcare provider. So I guess the first thing you would do look inside your membership, find out who in your membership is a healthcare provider, if not, talk to you, some members find out who they see. And then from there you said, calling is the best, potentially follow up with an email. What else? And how do you nurture these relationships? Like, is it a question at that point of saying like, you know, just meet up for coffee or just, some of them are very busy. Like what do we do to kind of build and nurture? How often do we need to check in with these people? Is there, do we send them like a pile of business cards and resources or what do we do?

Ashley (30:45):

Yeah. So one of the biggest things is once you have that initial meeting, I love going into meetings, having grasped at least one tangible thing that I could use from that initial meeting. So say for example, it can be even just a preemptive, OK, let’s grab a cup of coffee, but let’s set up another follow up day to just talk more about any of the ideas that we discussed during our first initial meeting. So being able to have action steps that you can either take away yourself or having action steps that you can come up together with some sort of follow-up to be able to nurture that, what’s going to end up happening is early on in the conversation,

Ashley (31:26):

You’re going to get a better, a great understanding of whether or not you want to be able to have a continued relationship with this professional. Now, I would be lying to you if I said that every interaction I’ve had with a professional or health care professional was awesome. And I’m really good friends with them. But what that means is like with the people that you meet, the ones that you vibe the most and the ones that you feel like you would be able to help serve, and that would help benefit your clients. Being able to set a future date to get something in the books with them. It’s kind of like when we do goal sessions with clients, being able to sit down, discuss goals and how you can help them, but then set a follow up day three three-ish months from now. So then that way you can make sure that you’re able to have some sort of accountability, some sort of way that you know, that this relationship is going to be fruitful.

Mike (32:19):

Yeah. You know, I hate nothing more than having like one of those spitball sessions and you get to the end and someone’s like, did anyone write down any of those ideas? You’re just like, no, God, no one wrote anything down. You know, we have no steps. And then it’s just like, we kind of wasted that time. Like it was fun, you know, just throwing stuff against the wall, but now we have no idea what to do. So I guess in any kind of situation like that, it’s just good policy to like, make some notes, whether it’s mental or on your phone or on the napkin, write down good ideas and then follow up steps. Right. So, and I would go as far as put some timelines on that. So let’s say, you know, you’re talking to a health care professional and says it would really, really help me if I had some resources I could give my clients on weight loss, you know, simple tips and some of the programs you offer, OK, I’m gonna make a note of that. And I’m going to get this package, this two page printed thing, or a digital PDF to this client, to this healthcare provider in 10 days. And I’m going to get 50 of them. And that sounds to me like a specific timeline, because I know I’ll get you some resources at some point, probably not going to happen. Yeah. So I love that one, timelines and follow up. How often do you nag and I’ll use the word nag, but how often do you nag a healthcare provider? Like, you know, we talk about colleagues, sales calls calling six, seven, eight, 12 times will you call the same person, like four or five times to get a response and will people, will these healthcare providers respond to your calls?

Ashley (33:40):

Yeah. So one of the big things, it’s interesting because we live in a world where people don’t really answer their phone anymore. I’m one of those people who will answer every single number. Even when my phone says, Oh, this potentially could be spam. I’m like, well, it might not. So I’ll answer the phone. So I’ll end up calling, I’ll call, text and email. I’ll just keep doing it. And I would say, I probably do it every day for a week.

Ashley (34:07):

And if they don’t respond, it’s either they’re just way too busy. They have no interest. I personally wouldn’t get too caught up on that, especially if they don’t know who I am, I’m not gonna really take it personally that they don’t want to meet with me. And so I would, I would contact them on a daily basis. Have I had people who said, no, they don’t want to meet me. I don’t want to—I don’t want to toot my own horn. I don’t think people have have said that they don’t want to meet me for the most part, especially, saying, Hey, I would just love to get to know you a little bit more is, is definitely just a really great—it’s an opportunity. It’s very different. It would be very different if I approach to say, Hey, I want to try to get more clients from your service.

Ashley (34:49):

That’s a different conversation as compared to I would love to just learn more about your business. Because usually with like you ask me about my business, I’ll talk about it all day. And that’s a very big part of saying, Hey, I just want to learn all about you. And you’ll be really surprised about the folks who will end up speaking with you and wanting to tell you their life story and their goals of how they want to get people healthy.

Mike (35:13):

Have you ever had one of these conversations and then ended up with a care provider joining your gym?

Ashley (35:18):

Yes. I actually had one who actually signed up for private training with me because he said, listen, I don’t know that much about strength and conditioning. I kind of do stuff on my own, but I feel I would love to do some private training and all of a sudden, not only was he a private training client, but he was also a great referral source too. Cause I would say, it was really great relationship.

Mike (35:39):

So there’s a lot of different angles to this. So that’s the step there is making some notes, doing some follow up to build this relationship. Is there anything else, any other nurturing secrets to that relationship that we haven’t talked about yet?

Ashley (35:54):

I think the best kept secret is to spend more time getting to learn about them versus trying to convince them how smart you are. That’s that’s the big thing.

Mike (36:05):

So you’d probably want to go into those meetings, like spend some time on the website, do some Googling, do some, do a little bit of light stalking and figure out all, everything you can about this care provider and his or her clientele and then see what you can do. So that’s, those guys, those are some action steps for you right there that you can take, do some looking right around directly, do some cold calling. Nag repeatedly until you get in touch with someone. And once you do, do a meeting. At that meeting, take some notes. Write down some action items, write down follow-up dates and times, and then keep nurturing that relationship. And Ashley’s secret there is listen before you talk, do some research before you start explaining everything about how great you are. So here’s the thing. Let’s start with all this earlier. I just, well, let’s do a scenario. I’m your client and I’m going to come in with a problem and basically put you in a position where you can choose to go head to head with my health healthcare provider, or you can kind of talk out of it. So you want to work through that with me?

Ashley (37:04):

Yeah. We can do two different situations because I can say it like the situation for me, like coming from like being a PT and a coach, and then I can use it from the other standpoint where it could be just a person who is a coach and doesn’t have a PT, chiro, any of those other backgrounds.

Mike (37:19):

So let’s do the second one first. Let’s just have you—you’re just a coach. We’ve stripped away your doctorate and you know, all the other stuff that you’ve done to be a physical therapist. You’re a fitness coach. We’ll put it that way. Just like, all right, here we go. I’m your regular client I’ve been with you for, let’s say I dunno about a year or so. So we’ve got a pretty decent relationship, but it’s not a five year relationship. Ashley, you know, my therapist, I just saw my therapist. I’m super bummed out. I gotta cancel my membership, my therapist she’s told me that I shouldn’t do high intensity training anymore. It’s not good for me.

Ashley (37:55):

  1. So do you mind if I ask, like what about it did she say it wasn’t good for you?

Mike (38:02):

Well, she just said that like, there’s a lot of studies out there that have said that, you know, high intensity exercise can, has more injuries than normal styles of training. And like, I’m really worried about this cause I’ve been getting some great results, but I do have some, you know, some nagging shoulder stuff that I’ve been going to see her about, and she specifically pointed like kipping pull-ups and you know, some of the muscle-ups that we do and stuff that could be really damaging on the shoulder.

Ashley (38:24):

I’m really sorry that you’re in pain. I know that you’ve been dealing with some nagging shoulder injuries, but I’m really glad that you did go to a physical therapist because they’re really well versed in regards to how to your shoulder stronger and make it so that you don’t have to live with pain. What can be really challenging is their primary responsibility is to help you work on your shoulder. But the really great news is the fact that you have eight other joints of your body that we can actually work on. And so I’m not going to say that your physical therapist is wrong, but what I would be interested in seeing would be learning from your physical therapist. Well, what are the other options? What are the other opportunities that she thinks or that both of you think could be a really great way to help you make some progress? Because as you said before, you’ve been making some really great progress and that’s really exciting. And it’s really awesome as a coach to see that. I would just hate for you to just stop doing all this stuff because of the fact that you do have this injury.

Ashley (39:25):

So, when do you plan on seeing your physical therapist next?

Mike (39:30):

Next Thursday.

Ashley (39:30):

Oh, and today’s Tuesday. So, with that being the case, what I would recommend is, well, what about this? I would love to just get in touch with your physical therapist and just learn about the limitations that you have. And absolutely tell me a little bit more about your limitations and then we can certainly work around it. If your physical therapist is really concerned from an intensity standpoint, we can absolutely change this up. I see that you do come into class, which is great. Class is a really great opportunity to get that energy up. But another option that we could also do would be more on the personal training standpoint, both you and I can work together and we can have direct communication with your physical therapist. So then that way we can make sure that there is something a hundred percent for you. You don’t have to worry about putting yourself in position that would make your shoulder feel a little worse.

Mike (40:23):

So you would actually talk to my therapist, and sort this out so I can keep training?

Ashley (40:27):

I love to do that. And I think what would be best is the three of us should be on together because it just allows us to, you know, you’re the person of interest. So being able to focus primarily on you is going to be really helpful. Like I’m not here to say that I’m smarter, than what there’s a ton of research on high intensity workouts, but there’s a way for us to be able to work around it. And as you said, you’ve been making such amazing progress, working out with us.

Mike (40:54):

Yeah. I’ll end the script there. Cause like there’s just a few things that are worth pointing out is, you know, first you haven’t told that person that the therapist is wrong, you’ve offered a different opportunity where personal training, which is an upsell in reality, but it’s also better for the client in terms of personal attention. You’ve offered modifications and scaling, which is a great one. So it’s this person, OK. My shoulders, you know, not doing so great. Everything else can work. That’s fine. We can definitely stop doing that for the short term. You’ve offered to build that bridge between the—among all the people. So you’ve got everyone on one call and this is going to give you credibility with the healthcare provider, the healthcare provider is going to see that you’re invested in the client.

Mike (41:34):

The client knows that you are invested in his or her success. So you got a lot of good stuff going on here. And no one’s probably angry about this. I would guess, like if I was actually that client, I would be less inclined to cancel that membership. I would at least give you a chance to try and figure this out with the therapist.

Ashley (41:47):

A hundred percent. Yeah.

Mike (41:50):

So that’s just like, if you’re listening guys, check, go through the notes, the transcript. And you can see exactly all the different steps that Ashley’s hit there, where you have all these different ways that you are showing the client extreme care. You’re upgrading the service, if needed, modifications, all this different stuff. I’ll throw another one at you. You can handle this one as who you actually are with a little bit of extra physical training. I’ll give you a classic one that I don’t have to think about. Ah, dude. My doctor just told me that I hurt my back deadlifting in like yesterday’s class.

Ashley (42:19):

Oh man. I’m sorry that you hurt your back. So what did the doctor say in regards to, OK. You hurt your back doing deadlifts, but what’s the plan moving forward?

Mike (42:28):

Well, I just said that, you know, I did a workout and my back was sore the next day and he said it must’ve been the workout. So, you know, I think I just have to stop doing any sort of, you know, deadlifting or picking. I can’t pick things up anymore.

Ashley (42:40):

Oh. And why do you think that you can’t pick things up anymore because you have a sore back?

Mike (42:44):

Yeah. And just, you know, I can’t think of anything else that I did. So I figured it must have been that deadlift in that class, you know, it kinda just felt funny when I picked it up.

Ashley (42:52):

  1. And would you like to be able to get back into deadlifting or is this something that you want?

Mike (42:59):

Yeah, I love it.

Ashley (42:59):

  1. All right. Well, the good news is though, if it feels a little funky, it’s something that it’s not too big of a concern, but the good news is the fact that we can certainly work around it throughout this entire time. If your back is feeling sore and it’s not the greatest, the plan would be to not deadlift today, the good news is that like today’s workout. We have back squats planned. So, with how your back is feeling, I would definitely recommend not doing back squats. So we’re going to switch it out with a lunge or a step up, which is still going to allow you to fry your legs a little bit, but without loading up your back. Keep an eye on your back in regards to how it feels.

Ashley (43:39):

It seems that and correct me if I’m wrong. It seems as if the doctor provided little to no instruction in regards to what to do moving forward, he just said, this is kind of the situation.

Mike (43:48):

Yeah. I mean, he kind of said that just the deadlifts can be really bad for your back. And is that true?

Ashley (43:55):

In some cases it can. Yeah, because there’s a lot of things that happen. And the reality is that there are many different factors that are involved when it comes to back pain and it could have been the deadlifts yesterday, or it could also have been the fact that we are in a quarantine. You’ve been working from home for the past eight weeks. And you’ve been sitting on your couch, like you told me, and there are a lot of different factors involved. So, as a result, back, pain can be caused by many factors, sitting, lifting. And so what I would definitely recommend is let’s take break, from deadlifting, but I wouldn’t let it scare you from doing a lot of the things that you love doing. Cause you just told me that you love deadlifting and in life we’re going to have to pick things up from the floor. So let’s take a break from that. I think what could also be really helpful is here are a couple of stretches that can be really great from just a way to kind of loosen up your hamstrings, loosen up your hips. And then once you start to feel a little bit more comfortable, you feel a little bit better and you feel like you want to get back into doing deadlifting, I definitely recommend that we would start very slowly and get you back into something along the lines of maybe some individualized one-on-one or if you want to still continue on with class, we’re only probably going to start at about 50% of what you were looking at before.

Mike (45:17):

  1. So I’ll stop there again. We’ll just review some of the things you did there is, you know, you are basically set up if you were a hostile trainer to say, no deadlifting is not bad for your back. That doctor doesn’t know what he or she is talking about, but you didn’t get into that at all. You’re not confronting anyone. You’re not arguing. You’re also trying to get a little deeper because most doctors, at least in my interaction, they don’t ask a lot of probing questions. It’s basically like if you say I hurt my back after a workout, they’re going to say it was the workout. Whereas in reality, most of the times that I’ve hurt my own back it’s because I was sitting like a dumbass for a long time, as opposed to, and doing the stretching and not, you know, all those different things that I know.

Mike (45:53):

So you’re asking deeper questions because you have more time. You’re not confronting anyone. You’re giving them options again. So you offer personal training modifications, right? Just as any good coach should. And then you’re offering them some—this is important where some trainers step outside their scope of practice. They’re not there to diagnose and treat injuries. That’s not a personal trainer thing. That’s a care provider thing, but you’ve given them some stuff. Some like basic things, Oh, you know, let’s work on some hamstring stretches, things like that and give them some things that they can do, actionable stuff that will not make anything worse that might actually help. And then you’re asking them to kind of follow up and work with you to figure things out and move forward reintegrating and giving them some hope. Because the worst thing you can do is like, I remember I had a doctor tell me, you know, your back is in really rough shape.

Mike (46:36):

It’s horrible. And I was terrified. And I saw another doctor. He was like, that’s normal, don’t worry. You’re a 35-year-old guy. It’s fine. So all those different steps that you saw actually taking there guys, if you’re listening, take a look at that in the transcript again, make some notes on how you, cause that question, you’re going to get that question. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten that scenario. Like probably a dozen at least, you know, how about you?

Ashley (46:55):

All the time.

Mike (46:56):

So anyways, what you’ve done is you’ve just given this client all sorts of different ways out of this situation. And ultimately if a doctor, if this client is just adamant that my deadlift hurt my back and you’ve tried all these different things and that client leaves, nothing you can do about it. But what you’ve done is you’ve done everything that you can to give us different options. You’ll get less of this stuff if you have a client, if you have relationship with that care provider, right. I’m sure as you built up, as you became a hub of trainers or care providers in Hoboken, you probably got less of this stuff because people knew you were doing a good job. Your clients knew you were connected to people. You could probably prevent a lot of stuff by saying, Oh, you know, you have a small shoulder thing, go get that taken care of before it becomes an issue. Right. So did this network that you built start making changes in kind of your community that you could actually see?

Ashley (47:44):

Yeah. One of the cool things is that it allowed us to have really great partnerships and especially from say, even a promotional marketing standpoint, being able to say, we’re able to really say, this physical therapy clinic is really great cause they specialize in X, Y, and Z and vice versa. It led to actually a couple of different information sessions that these clinics can actually provide for the clients of our gym, to be able to say like, this is how we can help you.

Ashley (48:13):

And being able to share that knowledge and with the entire community, it just allowed us to have a much better way to communicate. And these clients who end up getting hurt, they’re able to come back a lot sooner because they know exactly what they’re gonna be able to get themselves into as compared to, I mean, a lot of these, if we were to go back and I’m looking at the aspects of these professionals are specialists, which means that when it’s outside the scope of their specialty, it’s kind of a no man’s land. It’s kind of like the wild West for them. Cause they’re not really quite sure. And because they know you, the trainer, the coach, the gym owner, who’s being able to provide this avenue to say, OK, when this person’s discharged from my care, they’re going to be in good hands.

Ashley (48:57):

One, that healthcare professional is going to be really happy and excited to discharge them. And then also two, they know they’re very, very confident that the client’s going to be really successful and it just continued. And they know that in the event that for fortunate reason that someone gets hurt at your gym, they know that you’re going to be able to have that linked together. So you can really just keep this symbiotic relationship going.

Mike (49:21):

As we sign off here, Ashley, do you have any final advice to help gym owners build relationships with healthcare providers?

Ashley (49:26):

I think one of the most important parts aside from ask more questions and just talk, and again, to know someone else is to build up your knowledge in your craft, in your skillset. So if you want to focus on addressing mobility, corrective exercises, or even just addressing muscular imbalances or postural stuff, there’s a lot of different certifications that are out there and don’t let the intimidation, or just the few interactions that you’ve had in the past with medical professionals stop you from getting these certifications and building up your knowledge because the more knowledge that you have, the better you’re gonna be able to serve your clients.

Ashley (50:04):

And I’ll tell you from a physical therapist standpoint, and if I meet a coach who wants to know about how to help their clients more, and they say, I love posture. I love building all this stuff. These are my certs. It really gets me excited because that really confirms that you, as the coach is really interested in helping them be healthier.

Ashley (50:28):

And that it’s looking at it as a relationship and a symbiotic relationship as compared to let me show you my certifications to show you how smart I am. And that I think that will be a really important piece to the puzzle because the more knowledge that you have, the more knowledge I have, the more that we can help these people.

Mike (50:48):

Ashley, you’ve put probably thousands of dollars on the table for trainers to build relationships with other care providers. You’ve also set them up to care for their clients to a greater degree. Thank you for sharing all that with us.

Ashley (51:00):

Thank you so much for having me. It was great.

Mike (51:02):

Anytime. We will have you back and thank you all for tuning into Two-Brain Radio. I’m Mike Warkentin, and that was Ashley Mak, our doctor of physical therapy and certified Two-Brain Mentor. I hope this episode helped you. If you need more help running your gym, we have a literal mountain of it at Two-Brain It’s right in the top nav bar. Not even going to try and list all the goodies on that page, but I can tell you that they will help you make more money and help more people. Go to, click on Free Tools at the top nav bar right now. No cathces, no gimmicks, just tons of free stuff that will help you. Thanks for tuning into Two-Brain Radio.


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