Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year's Resolutions Into Long-Term Success

Ty Krueger - Blog

Andrew: 00:02 – Welcome back to Two-Brain Radio. On today’s episode, Chris Cooper is talking with Ty Krueger of the Behavior Change Collective. Ty’s a board-certified behavior analyst and gym owner. He and Chris talk about behavioral analysis to help gym clients make positive changes. If you want to know how to build personal connections to sustain motivation when the novelty of a new fitness program wears off, this is the show for you. Here’s Chris Cooper talking to Ty Krueger about behavior change.

Chris: 00:23 – At this time of year, we encounter clients looking to make sweeping changes to their life, but most fail and that means canceled gym memberships and unfulfilled clients and lost revenue. Why? Ty and Hilary Krueger at the Behavior Change Collective join us today to talk about why most resolutions fail and what gym owners and coaches can do to help their clients succeed. Ty, welcome to Two-Brain Radio.

Ty: 00:48 – Hey Chris, I’m so stoked to be here. Thanks for having me.

Chris: 00:52 – Oh man. I’ve been looking forward to this for months. Can you tell us what led you to the science of behavioral therapy and then opening a gym?

Ty: 01:00 – Yeah. It doesn’t quite seem like a linear thing. But they are connected. So, growing up my parents worked really hard to provide the best education for me. And I think the one thing that I always knew as getting older—because I wanted to help people, and helping people was the main thing. But I also was extremely motivated myself by doing well and as my mom likes to say having the nicest car in the Walgreens parking lot, which belonged in my mind to the pharmacist. So I set out to be a pharmacist, premed in college. But you know, college ended up slapping me back in the face when I realized that physics and calculus weren’t necessarily my strong suits, but people were, and I absolutely loved people and I was fascinated by the psychology of them. I also grew up having a sister with some developmental disabilities and a mom who was a special-education teacher.

Ty: 01:52 – So it made sense to me that I would look into some sort of educational psychology or special education. And fortunately when I was at St. Cloud State University where I was doing my undergraduate, I was there to play football, but there also happened to be an applied behavioral analysis program and a graduate program at that. So I took a few classes learning about the science of behavior, BF Skinner, Pavlov and all that good stuff. And I realized that hey, this is a really excellent blend of science and psychology. They use data to make decisions. And it also happens that we had an internship site with a local elementary school where I got in as a graduate assistant and started helping with some work they were doing with some autistic students. And from there I absolutely fell in love and I saw the change between these kids in the science that they were being applied to it.

Ty: 02:45 – So I went on and got my master’s degree there from St. Cloud State. And then for the record, I am now still driving a Prius. So it’s definitely not the nicest car in the parking lot, but you know, the gas mileage is great and a van load of kids in between. But to be honest, Chris, I couldn’t be happier. So the way that I transitioned into CrossFit was after I graduated, I ended up moving to Milwaukee with my wife Hilary, and she was pregnant with our first daughter Sloan. And I decided that I’d maybe let myself slide a little bit after college football and I’ll never forget. One day I was working in the inner city in Milwaukee doing some in-home therapy with an amazing mom and her young son, she pinched my cheeks and she goes, you putting on some of that sympathy weight for your wife?

Ty: 03:29 – I see she’s pregnant. Well, needless to say, I left immediately, went to the closest YMCA and signed up. CrossFit was something that a few of my friends were doing at the time. And that was in 2007. And so, you know, I heard about it, went to and I started doing the workouts in the Y, got kicked out about two weeks later for slamming bars and doing handstand push-ups against their mirrors. And then I found the newest CrossFit gym in the city, which was Badger CrossFit. So, fast forward about five years later, you know, we had been doing CrossFit competitively, competed at regionals. And you know, was really looking for the next thing and my good friend and best friend Derek, who’s now my business partner, and I were watching some playoff football and you know, we just kept kicking around the idea of opening a gym ourselves just because, you know, we really wanted to serve the population up here.

Ty: 04:20 – Well, Hilary was pregnant again this time with our son, our third child. And if you know her at all, she’s all about action and not just talk. So she’s like, all right guys, let’s fricking do it. So that night we registered, we got the application in and got the LLC. And then we got our friend who was a realtor connected a few days later we were looking at spots, threw down some money. A few weeks later we announced the birth of our buildout of Packerland CrossFit. And then the next day, the morning, March 4th, we actually announced the birth of our son Callan. So now it’s just 17 months later of opening a gym. Last month we just checked, we have 110 members, we’re bursting at the seams and we’re currently looking for new spaces and not only two years in, it’s been a wild ride, Two-Brain has been a huge part of it. And that’s really the story of how a dude who studies human behavior and now owns a CrossFit gym.

Chris: 05:14 – That’s amazing, Ty. And you know, you’re definitely one of the best, most deserving owners out there. I just want to back up one second. Can you share with people like what is the difference between applied behavior analysis and like psychology?

Ty: 05:29 – Yeah, most definitely. So applied behavioral analysis tends to study the individual. And so it’s a science, it’s a single-subject design type psychology meaning that we’re going to look at one person and their environment and how is the environment, how can we affect the environment, how can that environment change their behavior moving forward versus group psychology, which would typically use like a control group and experimental group and look for changes those two groups. So ABA or applied behavioral analysis focuses on that person, whereas the rest of psychology tends to focus on groups of people.

Chris: 06:07 – Okay. That’s amazing. I just wanted to kind of get that in there because you know, the next step that we’re going to take in the rest of this interview is going to be about how your background will actually help gym owners. And I wanted to make it clear that we’re not talking about like a psychoanalyst here. We’re talking about somebody that studies human behavior with the intent to change it. So Ty, how does that background help you change the behaviors of your clients in your gym?

Ty: 06:36 – Well, when we take that approach of the individual and we take it into the gym, everything changes, in my opinion because it really allows us to treat every single member as an individual right from the start. So, we do this by meeting with them during what we call the No-Sweat Intro and having them take that time to really just talk, and this is before any service is being sold to them. This is before anything is being prescribed to them, but during this meeting we’re asking questions about their goals. We’re asking about their fitness history, but most importantly we’re asking about their life. We genuinely want to know about their family, where do they work? What are their names of their pets? What are their preferences, what do they do outside of the gym, and anything else that they value in their life. It’s really our goal during that initial conversation to build the start of that personal relationship that we will then carry through the rest of their time with us. Because I mean, yeah, Chris, you and I are both fitness coaches. That’s why we started this. That’s why we are so passionate to continue to live in this space. But fitness is really how we deliver, but it’s really a relationship in which that fitness gets delivered, in which results then take form because we may think we’re in the fitness business when in reality we’re in the relationship business.

Chris: 07:53 – Oh that those are words to live by in this industry, man. Thanks. Give us an example of like how that information comes into play later. What do you do with the pest name?

Ty: 08:05 – Yeah, for example. So what we are looking to do with them is to build that personal relationship and that connection and when people tend to have details remembered about them, about their life, it’s going to be a lot easier for them to really relate to us and for us to relate to them. And so if I know that they have children, for example, I have three children myself, that’ll be something that we can then talk about and then we can relate to. And that piece then can turn into their motivator or as like we like to call their “why” later on, which is a huge, huge, huge part for goal setting.

Chris: 08:41 – Okay man, that’s really awesome. So let’s zoom out here. You know, this time of the year people are making resolutions, they’re joining gyms. People are seeing an uptick in their membership, but every new client that comes in the door has this kind of like aura of skepticism. Like are they really going to be able to make a change? Right? So why do big resolutions like this usually fail for people?

Ty: 09:03 – Well, I like to then ask myself a question. So when we have a resolution or a goal that tends to fail, we ask, is this a can’t do or is this a won’t do? And when I ask that question, it really helps me frame how I’m going to help that person. Because if the answer is I can’t do, well then the goal that we set is far too large. They may need to reevaluate the goal itself. We might be missing some prerequisite skills or some steps that we may have missed along the development of that goal. Or we may need to, you know, just fully recalibrate and go back a little step. Now, if the answer is a won’t do, we’re talking about motivation, and when we have motivation issues, that’s where we come back to that why and an understanding that we need a stronger motivator or a stronger reason for them to commit to something that’s not easy. Getting started with fitness is a challenge for a lot of folks. And so it needs a pretty big why most likely to get the ball rolling.

Chris: 10:01 – And so you’re trying to uncover that why in your No-Sweat Intro or later in the goal-review process, too.

Ty: 10:06 – 100%. That’s really the main thing. So by establishing that personal relationship with people, it allows them to open up a little bit. And sometimes people don’t know what their why is. You know, they may come in and say, oh, I want to lose weight, but they don’t really know why they want to lose weight, you know, and having it just be because someone else told me to is not good enough. It needs to be internal and it really needs to connect to their soul. So why do you need to lose weight? Well, I want to lose weight to fit into a dress. Well why do you want to fit into this dress? I want to fit into this dress look nice for pictures. What kind of pictures are you talking about? Oh, we have our family pictures coming up for Christmas cards and I really want to look into that nice dress. All right, now we have a tangible, very concrete goal of looking nice in the dress for our Christmas cards. And that is only really accomplished through having that conversation and building that relationship with them.

Chris: 10:55 – And I noticed that you asked why over and over and over there and until you kinda got deep enough that the question was really answered. You know, is that a trick that gym owners can maybe use in their No-Sweat Intros and goal reviews?

Ty: 11:09 – Yeah, I think it’s a phenomenal one. And you know, we took it from some of our other friends, but we call it the seven layers deep. And so it’s a challenge sometimes to ask why seven times, but give it a shot and you’re going to be really, really surprised of how specific and how concrete you can find those reasons because a single surface-level why typically is not going to be personalized enough or strong enough to really motivate that intense behavioral change that we’re looking for from fitness.

Chris: 11:42 – Really interesting, Ty. So, that’s like the won’t do, what about the can’t do? Going back to that, somebody comes in and they say, Ty, I need to lose 30 pounds by spring break.

Ty: 11:54 – Yeah. So 30 pounds by spring break obviously is a massive goal for any coaches out there that are looking. So if we just say, oh we just need to lose this weight or you know, someone else comes in and oh I need to, I want to qualify for the CrossFit Games. Well I mean those are great goals and I think we always want to let them know that it’s an awesome goal. Like, hey, I think that’s a great goal. Now that could be six to 12 months down the road. Well let’s talk about something that can get you there. And it’s something that we can actually focus on that’s smaller, breaking it down for the immediate future. And a lot of times when I’m looking at goals, I don’t want to have to focus on a goal that’s objective in measurement in sense that like if we start just with losing the weight, that weight isn’t in their control, what is in their control could be coming to the gym three times a week for the first two months. And so we want to focus on something that’s more action oriented and in their control and something that I can measure and have them then focus on that specific broken-down step. So a lot of times it’s attendance. A lot of times it might just be focusing on some nutritional guidelines or focusing on some reporting and it’s those types of things that we can measure to get the ball rolling that I can then personally reinforce with them to get things going in the right direction.

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Chris: 14:16 – Okay. I think you said something really important there because a lot of us just take for granted that the client will make that mindset pivot on their own between I want to lose 30 pounds and I need to show up at the gym every, you know, three times a week or whatever, but they don’t. So if I’m a client sitting in front of you, how do you make that pivot in my mind?

Ty: 14:37 – So the important thing is like I think you just said Chris, it’s the why is important. Okay, I want to lose the 30 pounds. And we kind of talked about how to get even deeper than that, but the why doesn’t necessarily tell us what. And so those whats need to then be the goals. And so it’s our job as the coach to map that out in the client’s journey. And so it starts really simple and it needs to be something that we know they can accomplish. I know you can get here during these days, what times work best for you and not just taking for granted that they’re going to pick a time that works best for them. Let’s talk about their schedule. Remember we had already had the conversation with them about their kids. When do they drop the kids off from school? Okay, 8:15? Perfect. You should be able to make the 8:30 class. I’d love to see you here at 8:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And then we make that happen. And so by really, really leading them in and taking all the guesswork and all of the variables out of it as the coach, I feel like that is one of your most important jobs, to get those clients rolling and then naturally they’ll start to contact those other reinforcers down the line.

Chris: 15:41 – Yeah, I agree Ty. I really think that’s part of coaching. You know, coaching isn’t showing up and teaching movement. It’s really digging so deep that you’re helping people change their behaviors. So let’s say that I sign up, right? And what are the first steps that I take in your gym and how do you kind of keep me on track? Because when I meet you the first time, I mean you’re a motivating dude, right? Take my money. You know, what happens in two days or three days when that novelty wears off?

Ty: 16:07 – Yeah. So that’s where there’s two pieces really for reinforcement. We talk about—let’s bring back in the science of behavior here because that’s what we’re talking about. There’s two things that tend to motivate people, and the first one is to gain access to preferred things. And so for me as a coach, you know, I try to use my personality and I try to use that relationship that we built to then reinforce them by having interaction with them, by praising them, by texting them, by celebrating them maybe on my social media and making it a big deal that they’re showing up multiple times. Now, the other thing that tends to motivate people and their behavior is to avoid pain, right? To avoid the painful situation. And so as a coach, it’s also my job to provide that accountability. If you said you were going to be here and we agreed upon your why and you’ve already paid me to be here, so then you’re not showing up.

Ty: 16:56 – Well, it’s my job to hold you accountable. I need to be the one that reaches out to you. I need to text you personally, right? Not a Facebook message, not an email. It’s a text message. Hey, saw that you didn’t come in for that Wednesday class that we talked about. You know, what’s going on. Is there anything that’s going on in your personal life? Are you feeling well? And really reaching out and at first I think that was as a coach tough for me because I was like, I don’t want to bother these people. But then the more that I did that, the more thank-yous I got from these clients letting them know that like, hey, because you’ve texted me and because you reached out to me, I didn’t want to let you down as the coach. And so I showed up that next day even though I didn’t want to because I wanted to avoid letting you down. And so either one of those two pieces can definitely play into your favor, but it definitely needs to also come from a place of genuine relationship and that’s where we have to keep in touch with those clients.

Chris: 17:48 – That’s great man. I really don’t think like knowledge is the problem anymore for clients. Like people know in general how to lose weight. I really think that more and more our job is accountability, but luckily more and more we have tools to do that. Would you say just, you know, being exposed to the 500 gym owners in the Two-Brain family, would you say that you guys do more follow-ups with clients than most gyms?

Ty: 18:12 – Well, you know, Chris, it was interesting because as this podcast daily is being recorded today, I got your email about goal reviews and I think that’s something that, you know, full of vulnerability here, we need to do a better job at, and it’s not to say that we don’t do them, but I think we do a really awesome job of getting people going and staying with them as they’re contacting that natural reinforcement and natural contingencies. But then later on, I think we need to continuously do better at monitoring their progress, at sitting down on those 90-day whatever it is that you have set up with them and then reevaluating their progress. It’s really nice to be up front with them and for your sales process to get those people contacted right away. But it tends to be those people who have been with us for a year or so that we’re going to need to continue to improve our systems on.

Chris: 19:04 – Okay man. So for the gyms out there who aren’t doing quarterly goal reviews with their clients, and this is the majority of gyms, man, you’re not alone there. How can they bring those topics, you know, those levers back into the conversation when they see the client in a personal-training session or in a group class.

Ty: 19:22 – So I think it’s something that once we can get that meeting done and get it on the books, that’s the number one. Right? And that’s your job as a coach. It’s my job to find a time that works for both of us. And then after that, it’s really the same question. It comes back to, you know, are we having success and if we’re having success, then we’re going to celebrate. Then we’re going to talk about it. Then we’re going to maybe do it on social media. We’re going to tell everybody that we know about it. If we’re not having success or if we want to have more success, well then we got to get back to brainstorming and we need to get back to is it the can’t do or the is it the won’t do, all right. Do we have to reevaluate some motivation and figure out the why again or is it mainly a systems thing where it’s a what. Are we not coming enough? Do we need to add on some personal training? Do we need to add on some nutrition? And I think that, you know, regardless of sales, that alone is really going to help your clients stick around because now they understand that hey, you really care and you’re here to help them reach whatever goal it is and they’re not just going to be forgotten about because the three new shiny members walked in the door behind them.

Chris: 20:32 – I think that’s crazy important. And actually, you know, I’m going to throw you a curve ball here cause I know that you just gained 34 clients over a span of about 10 days. How do you maintain all this one-on-one relationship building when you’ve got such a huge influx of new members?

Ty: 20:47 – Well Chris, I’ll tell you the one thing it starts with and it’s 80-hour work weeks, you know, it’s a lot of work. And so Derek and I took every single one of those members and we sat them down and we did a one-on-one No-Sweat Intro/goal-review session with them. From there we had each and every one of them do at least one if not two or three personal-training sessions with us. And we start every single client at our gym with personal training. And so our fundamentals typically is five sessions long. So every new member that we have is five sessions. Now for these ones, we didn’t have the time or capacity to do five with each and every one of them, but we thought it was important to at least to do one because coming back to the relationship piece, yeah I can fix your snatch technique and I can teach you how to jerk and that’s going to be done in the session.

Ty: 21:37 – And that’s going to be what you perceive is going on really. But what I’m focused on as the coach is building a relationship with you one-on-one and I think that is the one thing that Eric and I are so passionate about and Hilary is just as good at it with following up with clients who haven’t been there for a little bit as our CSM now. And it’s that piece that’s going to keep them around and it’s that piece that we truly, truly find ourselves excelling in right now and continuing to focus on. So that’s the main piece.

Chris: 22:10 – All right. I know it would have been tempting—so all these clients came from another gym that closed. It would have been tempting to just say here’s a group of 34 clients and treat them as one big mass of new members. So what made you guys say, no, no, these are the 34 individuals. They’re all going to go through our process instead of just treating this like the winning lottery ticket, you know?

Ty: 22:34 – Yeah. I would say, well you know, Greg Strauch at Two-Brain has been one of the main reasons, is that he wouldn’t have let us get away with that. So there’s our accountability piece, but we also had done that in the past. We had, when we first opened, we had three members, so a smaller scale, but three members come over from another program that had closed down and they were a CrossFit-style program and we brought all three in together. Well two of them were outgoing and a little bit more advanced from an athletic perspective. They picked it up quick and they’re still members to this day, seed members see clients at that, two of our best clients. But the other one we lost and I always think about her because we brought all three of them at the same time and she was a little bit behind, she was a little bit more introverted, a little bit more shy, wasn’t as athletic, but you know what?

Ty: 23:21 – She lives in the area and now is getting personal training at another gym. And if I would have taken that same approach as we had done with these 35, I’m pretty sure we could have helped her as well and we wouldn’t have had that loss. So we had a micro scale, which we were very fortunate of. We have the accountability of the group, but then also our basic principles of treating every single person as an and celebrating them and working with them through their own personal challenges and successes is why we did it the way we did it despite only sleeping for a few hours a night.

Chris: 23:56 – I like how you said that client got lost because I mean, nobody really quits a gym, right. The gym loses them, and a lot of gyms have been actually lost along the way because they missed that lesson. So, Ty, tell us what the Behavior Change Collective is all about.

Ty: 24:15 – Yeah. So shifting gears a little bit. So after—I was a clinical director of an autism treatment center for about five years and had been practicing as a board-certified behavior analyst. A BCBA for short, which is the certification that allows you to practice applied behavioral analysis or ABA. So I’d done that in the autism field for almost a decade and I had really found that there was a lot of parents who maybe their children wasn’t diagnosed with autism but still struggled with behavior and still struggled with challenging behavior, especially in the home or in the school. And so me working as a private practitioner in the center, I was feeling I was losing a lot of touch and not helping as many kids or getting as much reach as we would like. And so we started the Behavior Change Collective to help those people and to help those parents.

Ty: 25:06 – And we started it as a free Facebook page where we were just going live every week talking about different things about behavioral analysis, talking about lessons from our own life, from our own children. And we ended up seeing that it resonated hugely with a lot of people. And so over the course of about a month, you know, we got from zero to nearly 500 followers. And then, you know, approaching a thousand now. And so we found that there’s a huge need for this. And so I ended up leaving the clinic and going full time at the gym and then also additionally going full time into this venture. So what we currently do is we work one-on-one with parents online, via Zoom or via Skype, whatever they need to do, and we work them through the individual challenges that they’re having in their home. Additionally, I do work with some schools in the local area here to help them with any issues or things that they may need as well.

Chris: 26:02 – That’s great, man. I mean, I really like that you’re able to do this online now too. You know, a lot of listeners know that we have a program called Ignite Gym in Sioux Saint Marie. But you know, it’s mostly hands-on working with students in schools. So what’s the response been to the Behavior Change Collective so far, Ty?

Ty: 26:22 Man, it’s been phenomenal. And I absolutely—I will have to give Ignite Gym and you, Chris, a lot of credit for this because as you know, I came up and visited you guys about a year ago and you have a phenomenal program there. And this was one of the main reasons I wanted to actually open my gym because I wanted to continue to help kids but do it in my own way. I didn’t want to just do it through common applied behavioral analysis principles or kinda, you know, just working through that. I wanted to incorporate fitness. I wanted to incorporate lifestyle change. I wanted to incorporate the whole family. And so that response has been tremendous. We actually had just dripped a little bit of information on starting our own therapeutic fitness group here in Green Bay and over about 24 hours we had about 170 sign up on our email list. So I would say that, you know, for any gym that’s out there that’s looking to do this kind of work or if you’re motivated to do it, you know, reach out to Chris, reach out to me. You know, we know that this is a huge need and it’s going to really bring some impactful things to the lives of a lot of families.

Chris: 27:26 – That’s awesome, Ty. So I’m gonna put the link in the show notes, but where can people read more about the Behavior Change Collective?

Ty: 27:32 – So you can find us right now, you send us a personal email at That’s the easiest way to get ahold of us. You can also find us on Instagram and Facebook at Behavior Change Collective and currently we’re working on our landing page for the actual website should be done hopefully within the next month here. And so in the new year, we’ll link that to you guys, too.

Chris: 27:56 – Awesome, man. Okay. Parting shot. If you’re going to give a gym owner three things that they can do to improve the behavior of their clients and improve retention and revenue at their gym, what would those three things be?

Ty: 28:11 – Okay, so the first one that I would say is find that why define the why and use that, like we talked about with the seven layers deep or any sort of way that you can, but once you can get to that why you’re going to have all the currency that you need to keep them motivated. The second piece is encourage them to tell everyone around them about that why. And so now that also builds in accountability systems, not only with you as the coach, which you know you’re going to do, right? But it builds it in with their entire friend social groups. So really encourage them to enlist the rest of their people and their support structure around them. And then finally you need to track the progress and then you got to celebrate that progress with them or either course correct. So when you work through that stuff, you’re going to have to go through and you know, that’ll be individualistic to each person, but as you get through it, that’s going to be those three main things that you’re gonna need to do.

Chris: 29:06 – Fantastic, Ty. Hey man, thanks for giving us a half hour today. I’m going to say this was a very, very valuable podcast episode for listeners.

Ty: 29:14 – Well, thank you Chris for having me and thanks for everyone for listening, guys. Really, really appreciate it.

Andrew: 29:21 – Thank you for listening to another edition of Two-Brain Radio. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave us a rating or review. We really appreciate that. To find out how a mentor can help you add $5,000 in revenue to your gym, book a free call at

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