Joe Cannon is an exercise physiologist, writer and consultant who resides in the Pennsylvania suburbs. In this Q&A series, he provides advice as to how trainers can be successful in the fitness industry as well as how to avoid pitfalls that can hinder their progress.
Q. What is your background in health and/or fitness?
A. I have an MS in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. I am certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association as a CSCS and NSCA-CPT. I teach/certify personal trainers and have written several books ranging in topics from personal training to dietary supplements. My newest book is 101 Personal Trainer Marketing Secrets. I also run a popular site for unbiased supplement reviews called Supplement-Geek.com. I’ve been self employed for over a decade.
Q. What do you feel is the one thing missing inside the world of personal training?
A. It may seem controversial, but I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on staying educated after getting certified. The world is full of certified trainers but today’s clients want a “qualified” trainer – someone who knows more than how to count reps. I understand that learning can be a challenge, especially when you may be training 10 clients per day. That is why I like and recommend audio books and podcasts. There are some great health books you can listen to on Audible.com and podcasts are free. There is an entire semester of exercise science – for free – at iTunes University (iTunes U). You can download this and listen to it as you drive to clients or workout. And of course, I can’t forget the importance of maintaining your certification, which means getting all of your continuing education hours from sites like this one!
Q. What is one thing you wish all personal trainers knew more about?
A. Given the popularity of high intensity workout, I wish all trainers were more familiar with exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis. This is basically muscle fiber death that is caused from working out too much. It’s often abbreviated as “rhabdo” and can lead to catastrophic problems, like kidney failure in extreme cases. I am shocked that this is often not taught in college and is not covered in most personal training textbooks. I have encountered a lot of people who have gotten rhabdo, many of which from just one workout. This inspired me to write my book, Rhabdo, to alert the public –and fitness trainers – to this very real phenomenon.
Q. What do you feel is the biggest mistake gym owners make?
A. Not having a formal emergency procedure in place and educating staff about it. When trainers ask me for pointers on how to prepare for job interviews, I often advise them to inquire about the club’s emergency procedures. My thinking is that this will help them stand out from the rest who don’t ask about this. Most people who do this report to back to me that gyms don’t have anything formally written down pertaining to emergencies. What they are often told to do is “call 9/11.” Well, what about after that? Health clubs without a formal/written emergency plan in place are not putting their members first.
Q. What are four things trainers can do to improve their chances of success?
A. This is a great question and very important. Unfortunately many trainers leave the industry after about five years, because very few people show them how to make a good living.
- The first thing trainers need to understand is who actually hires trainers the most. Surveys show that the person who is most likely going to hire a personal trainer is a woman, over the age of 40, who is a beginner. Focus all of your efforts on marketing to women over 40, especially to those who don’t work out regularly. What are their needs, goals, health issues and desires? If you learn about these individuals and what their needs are, you may find yourself with more clients than you can handle. Also, given that the U.S. is considered a society that is “growing older,” today’s clients need –and deserve – a trainer who is well versed in working with special populations. The emphasis in fitness training needs to shift away from weight loss and getting ripped and to helping people stay healthy throughout their lifespan.
- Another thing trainers can do is to not work with everybody who wants to hire them. Instead, I recommend that they try to become a specialist in certain areas. Then only work with clients who fit into these areas. This will help others perceive you as an expert in your field of study. For example, a few of things I specialize in include special populations (diabetes, etc.), sports nutrition and dietary supplements. Whatever areas of fitness/health you enjoy the most, devote all your efforts to learning as much as you can about them. Eventually others will seek you out as the expert in those areas. This will allow you to command a higher rate of compensation, which in turn will allow you to make more money while working fewer hours. When you get clients who fall outside your area of expertise, refer them on to other trainers who can help them best. By doing this, those other trainers will remember you forever! If they ever get clients they can’t handle, they will likely refer those people to you!
- For trainers who work in a gym, coordinate with the sales staff for when they are giving tours to perspective members. About 5 minutes into the tour, show up and offer to accompany them both during the tour. This gives you the opportunity to not only answer the perspective member’s fitness questions, but it also lets this perspective new member get to know you. If that new member gets a free training session, odds are they will pick you, because they just spent 20 minutes getting to know you and how smart you are.
- Lastly, I recommend that trainers seek out registered dietitians (RDs) and network with them. Dietitians have clients who need to exercise and trainers have clients who need to eat better. This is a win-win situation. If you Google “dietitian” along with your zip code, you can find RDs in your area. Look at their websites and find one or two you feel you mesh well with. Then call them up and offer to take them to lunch to see how you both can help each other expand your practices. One easy way to help each other out is to simply pass out the others business card to your respective clients. Do the same thing with massage therapists, too.
Q. What is one mistake you see self-employed trainers making?
A. Not having liability insurance. This is a must for self-employed trainers. Fortunately, it’s not too expensive to get. A few places to look to get a quote include: CPH insurance, AIG and K&K insurance. Along with your certification and CPR/AED cert, proof of insurance is also something you’ll be asked to present if you try to train people at locally-owned gyms and condos that have fitness centers.
Q. How else can trainers make money besides doing one-on-one training?
A. There are several ways! They could reach out to local business and do health and wellness lectures for the employees. Another idea is Amazon, which, via CreateSpace, makes it pretty easy to publish a book and make money from it. Virtual/online training is becoming very popular. I’m actually writing a review on it for my website right now that I hope to have posted in the near future. I myself am a big fan of blogging because it lets me reach the whole world, right from my home. So the bottom line is that there are alternatives out for those who are willing to invest the time.
Q. How can people learn more about you?