Leadership in Fitness

Trainers should practice empathy, learn about what the client’s dreams and goals are, dig deeper, and find their real why.

Photography by Jeffrey Perez, Oahu, Hawaii

Photography by Jeffrey Perez, Oahu, Hawaii

To accumulate enough Continuing Education Credits to renew my ACE certification, I try to attend two conferences per year. In 2018 I attended IDEA PTI Eastern Conference as well as the NSCA Personal Trainers Conference in Baltimore. After attending three days filled with lectures and hands-on demonstrations I decided to write up a few blogs/posts/articles on what I learned and what appears to be trending in the industry this year.

In March I left Vermont and the incoming snowstorm to fly to DCA for the annual IDEA PTI Eastern Conference being held in Alexandria, VA. I woke up at 6:45 each morning to head to the conference center where I listened to talks and participated in workshops put on by some of the biggest names in the fitness industry.

I got to learn from the same people that I follow on Facebook and Instagram and ask them questions and pick their brains to figure out just how they did it. They shared their tips and tricks and I left the conference on Sunday afternoon loaded with new information and new exercises to share with my clients at home.

The first article in this series will focus on the importance and the definition of leadership.

What Is a Leader?

Write down what leadership means to you and what qualities you feel a good leader has.

  • Are you embodying those qualities?
  • What could you improve on?
  • Are you letting your thoughts and words limit yourself from getting to where you want to go?

While I was at the conference and listening to these experts talk about what makes a good leader, I couldn’t help but realize they were describing the owner of the club I work at. I feel lucky to have a person I can talk to every day that I feel is a great role model.

This is also someone from whom I can learn essential skills that are required to succeed in the fitness industry. Not everybody can say the same, but definitely try to find a person you can learn from and that inspires you.

Meet People Where They Are

Practice empathy, learn about what the client’s dreams and goals are, dig deeper, and find their real why. See the world from your client’s perspective and try to understand their needs and emotions.

In your initial meeting, ask what they have done in the past and how it made them feel. As they say, there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth; when it comes to creating a lasting relationship and retaining your clients, listening to them is twice as important as thinking about what you’re going to respond with next.

  • What did and didn’t work for them?
  • What did they enjoy and even more importantly, what did they hate doing?

Things they’ve experienced in the past can have a big impact on their present and future. Once their “why” is defined, remind them of their mission, keep them motivated, and encourage them to repeat it to themselves throughout the day so that they’re not only making good decisions while training but while they’re on their own as well.

Dream Bigger

Believe in yourself, realize that you have more potential than you can even fathom at this point in time, and be the spark in somebody else’s life; if you’re not making someone else’s life better, you’re wasting your time.

Even though Todd Durkin wasn’t at IDEA East, he’s one of my favorite people to turn to when I need motivation, inspiration, and positive energy. I highly recommend signing up for his emails and checking out The WOW Book. He gives out daily tasks that encourage you to hustle, discover your life’s purpose, and always be grateful. He also has a list of the Top 41 Tips for Success in the Fitness Field which includes his 90 Day Wonders tip—every 90 days write down and answer the following questions:

  1. What have you accomplished in the last 90 days?
  2. What are your present challenges, issues, or obstacles?
  3. What are your goals for the next 90 days?

Jonathan Goodman (also wasn’t at IDEA but definitely deserves a follow) is another fitness mogul who tries to share as much free information as possible. His emails offer great advice and on his website The Personal Trainer Development Center he posts the best fitness articles of the week every Sunday.

The articles range from strength training and body image to being a better coach and how to get more clients. The PTDC used to put on a conference in Toronto where I was actually inspired by presenter Lisa Simone Richards to start writing on a larger scale in order to share what I know with more people.

Be Decisive

No decision is always a bad decision. Instead, make a recommendation.

Today I actually just received an email from Jon Goodman that encouraged the reader to make a bad plan. At least you’re doing something in the moment and you can make corrections as you go rather than remaining stagnant and doing nothing.

There’s a book that I read in the past, and while I can’t remember the name, I specifically remember it saying something along the lines of “Just hit send.” I also work in the ski industry and a big motivational line we use is send it! To me this means even if it’s not 100% perfect, go with it. Get it out there before somebody else steals your ski line, or writes your article, or gains a new client before you do.

In an article posted by Team Tony they wrote, “When you make a decision and every bit of you is committed to it, it’s amazing what mountains you can move. When you commit to a decision–I mean really commit to it–you are essentially saying to the world, ‘This is how it will be.’ If you find something that you are passionate and excited about and add decisiveness, you can make anything happen.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your leadership skills, some of the speakers recommended the following books and podcasts: