“Make sure you are more motivated about the fitness lifestyle than your potential clients are” says Michael Hermann To His Fellow Personal Trainers
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Michael Hermann. I’m a personal trainer & strength and conditioning coach with an entrepreneurial vision. My mission is to help people transform themselves – and I don’t just mean physically
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE FITNESS INDUSTRY?
The fitness industry was a natural progression for me, I was always very active and played a lot of sport when growing up (RL, cricket, martial arts, rugby, basketball, touch football and some extreme sports too). I got into the gym when I was 17 to help with strength and size for Rugby and fell in love with the iron game. When I finished school I was throwing up a few options of what I wanted to study and do – journalism, economics, and exercise science were a few options that came to mind. I then had a year off after school to think through my options. I decided to do my Cert 3 in Fitness through a company in Sydney that was formed by some ex-UNSW lecturers. The course was very revealing and I fell in love with the art and the science of exercise. I’ve since been involved with training athletes in a strength & conditioning capacity, training a large list of everyday clients and developing my own business which I’m extremely excited about.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE BIGGEST MISTAKES YOU MADE WHEN STARTING OUT?
There are a couple of big ones that come to mind:
1. Figuring out what I should specialise in (if anything) and having a comprehensive picture of what characterises my ideal clients. I admit, that at first when you’re inexperienced, you need exposure to a lot of different people to help you find your own feet and realise what your strengths and weaknesses are. But you cannot go on trying to be all things to all people – you won’t enjoy the job as much, you won’t stand out as much, and you won’t help as many people.
2.Thinking that training sessions were all I needed to focus on with clients and not spending as much time with nutrition, follow up, goal compliance and a more comprehensive look at a client’s lifestyle and problems. I’m continually adding more and more value to my services as I begin to see more and more needs and problems that are clearer to me now. Some little things like sending an email to a client once a week asking about how they are going with a goal can have a profound influence on your retention rates. Showing your clients that you actually care for them, their individual situation and needs are far better than having them feel like cash cows that just rock up for training each week. I wish I saw more Physios and other professionals do this – their retention rates would be a lot better – not to mention their results.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS YOUR CLIENTS FAIL TO HIT THEIR FITNESS GOALS?
There are many reasons but you could classify a lot of them into a few main areas:
- Social support is lacking – the main people a client could run into conflict with would-be partners and friends. If a partner is opposed to the client’s goals and sees themselves being made vulnerable and accountable by the other half trying to transform themselves in some facet, generally there will be conflict and greater struggles for the client. The existing group of friends the client has and their influence on the client’s state of being and their goals is profound. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you don’t believe me then add up the income of your 5 closest friends and divide it by 5 – you would be surprised how strikingly close it is to your income.
- Lack of Knowledge or misinformation – people may be looking in an area that is completely wrong for their situation or have no knowledge at all of what is required of them. They think that body transformation is all about training ‘hard’ or they read about intermittent fasting as being the ultimate answer for them and their nutritional scenario. One of the worst examples I see is the mentality that all is ok as long as someone is motivated or has someone else motivate them. It’s not enough to be just motivated – Jim Rohn had a good view on this, he said “You can be an idiot and be motivated. All your left with then is a motivated idiot”. Most trainers usually hear a client’s excuse for motivation and their lack thereof more than any other. The client thinks that motivation should come from a trainer or someone else (or even something else) outside of themselves. I wrote an article earlier this year called ‘Exercising Motivation’ that that is up on my website which addresses this whole topic. External motivation usually only works short term with people, but for long term results and ones that stick, a client must find their own motivation and drive or they will never achieve consistent long term results with their diet, training or anything else in life.
- Failing to follow a structured plan – many clients have been in the previous situation of not following a structured plan and merely going by feel – whether it is training in the gym or with their nutritional endeavours. Many have a tendency to gravitate back to old habits or get stuck trying to stick to something that once worked in the past but does not work for them in the present. The prevalence and bombardment of short term training plans and fad diets these days further exacerbates the problem. Society is heavily influenced by quick-fix marketing & mentalities in this era. As a consequence, many programs offer fake and unrealistic promises that lure masses of people geared towards instant gratification. As a result, less time is spent on teaching people the true and proper way and more time is spent cutting out the bad influences. The next point further substantiates this:
- Mindset and paradigm – People tend to hold onto an old mindset that didn’t work for them in the past (or only partially worked) and then simply try to apply that same mindset to a new trainer or situation. Einstein said that ‘the problems we face today can’t be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.’ It requires a reformed mindset to be a reformed person. Separating people from their misguided beliefs is harder than if you had to teach them everything from scratch. The biggest mindset issue with most is self-belief – people don’t believe in themselves enough. They put limits on their capabilities without even testing whether those limitations are actually true. People tell themselves stories that never actually happened. They say things like: “I will never be strong enough to lift that” or “I’m too weak” or “I’m fat and that’s why I feel bad”. In regards to the last excuse, did feeling bad actually happen? The person who says this may, in fact, be overweight, but did this cause them to feel bad or is it their framing of themselves and the story they tell themselves that gives rise to the idea of feeling bad?
This brings up another point about how people form pictures of themselves and their beliefs: most go by the philosophy of Have, Do, Be, for example, they say things like: “If only I Had a leaner body. Then I would eat, train and be able to do the things that a fitter person can. I would then Be happier with myself as a person”. The reverse of this attitude is what is really needed in order for these people to succeed. I.e. Be, Do, Have. If you decide that you want to Be a leaner person, you will Do what a leaner person does and Have the outcome and results of those efforts. For many, it’s a Self-fulfilling prophecy. If you say you will never be in great shape, you will produce the evidence to fit that belief. It’s sort of like people who read too heavily into their star signs in a magazine. They may read a section that says that they will be alone and without love this month. So they decide to sit on the couch sit on their hands and not interact or meet with anyone because they believe it is no use if their star sign says differently. Hence, they produce evidence to support their belief. This further re-enforces future beliefs of themselves and their love life potential and so the cycle repeats itself and strengthens. It is no different for someone with health & fitness goals that has the same mindset.
ANY TIPS / SUGGESTIONS FOR PEOPLE LOOKING TO GET INTO THE FITNESS INDUSTRY?
Yes, I have a few:
The first place to draw attention to is the title of who you are looking to be, and for many that title will be ‘Personal Trainer’ – this implies that the person most clients are looking for is someone whom they can relate to well on a personal level and also someone who can train and teach them to become a more physically capable human being whatever their goal might be. If the trainer lacks the ability to relate to people on a personal level and/or does not teach the client anything to progress them further with each training session, the trainer is most likely not cut out for the client.
Secondly, get good mentors and work under them (even if it is for free). I did this for years but the experience I had and what I learnt was so valuable. People can really see your effort and passion this way too. I see a lot of new promising trainers who have fallen through the cracks over the years and not pursued their coaching aspirations because they haven’t sort help and support from mentors. I also see a lot of new trainers coming straight into the industry with limited knowledge and experience and expecting to charge the same as more established trainers. Most of the time this doesn’t work out – your price is determined by your value (or perceived value put more correctly). I must admit that I failed at a few gyms before I found my feet. However, if you are passionate enough about this career then you will pick yourself back up and do what it takes to succeed. Remember that failure is an event and not a person, so don’t just give up on yourself – assess where you went wrong or where you need to put the work in and seek to rectify your mistakes.
Thirdly, get credentials. These should come from reputable providers that are education-based rather than fly-by-night, minimalist course providers. If the course seems too good to be true or minimally applicable, it probably is.
Another suggestion to aspiring trainers is to make sure you are more motivated about the fitness lifestyle than your potential clients are. Otherwise, you will never be able to understand them on their level or have the passion, drive or empathy to succeed.
My last suggestion is to make sure you don’t have an imbalance between the time spent on marketing & business developments, and the time spent growing technically & professionally as a trainer. The latter ensures you can get better and better results with people over time. The former helps you find and retain those people over time. Reading too many books on training and expecting the world to come flocking to your door isn’t a very promising mindset to have. Neither is getting multitudes to rock up for training and only finding that they are disappointed with the results. You need to have a good balance of both the entrepreneurial side and the technical side of your business and seek to master both.