10 Lessons in 10 Years…Damn, I’m getting old.

Ever since I began this journey, I’ve always believed I could get to this point. How cool it would be sitting here writing to all of you my “I’m-a-veteran-in-my-field-so-here-are-my-lessons-over-the-years” article.

 

The hard part was waiting for it to show up.

 

Once I decided what and who I wanted to be in this world and what I wanted to do, I knew change was imminent. What I didn’t know was exactly what it was going to take and how scary it was going to be.

 

The stats said that I had an 80% chance that I was going to quit within 5 years into the Personal Training biz. The cards were already stacked against me it seemed: I took my A.C.E.-CPT exam 4 times before finally passing it by 13 points, I had only 10 academic credits of Kinesiology courses under my belt; I was one of a few male minorities in the business in my area and with a University Studies degree in Sociology. 

 

And now many years later, bestowing the wisdom from all the great and not-so-great decisions I’ve made that got me to this point. Hopefully this inspires you to make mistakes worth making to get you to where you want to be in life.

 

Lesson #1-EMBRACE ADVERSITY

I learn best when I make mistakes. To me life lessons are the best way to navigate through life. Parent’s tell you not to put your hand over the stove, but let’s be real, sometimes you want to put your hand over the stove anyway to realize how hot it is for yourself. This is what my dad calls, “being hardheaded”.

 

Ultimately, I take that approach with my clients. I know I can’t keep them from doing what they want, but when they do what they want and it doesn’t go well we can then reflect on the experience and move forward. Being open and real with your own struggles allows you to empathize because you’ve “been there before”.

 Circa 2007: Before I became a trainer, I worked behind the desk. Fun Times.

 

Don’t worry about appearing to be perfect. Things like injuries and overindulging in food will happen. Life happens. It’s all about how you work through and around it. If you can do that for yourself, you will be better off helping the people around you.

Lesson #2-REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING

If you’re a crappy trainer, people are going to know about it. If you’re a great trainer, people are going to know about it too. Which one do you think would get more clients? You might think there’s not a lot of room for error. Everyone has the ability to learn and get better if they’re open to it. In my experience, the difference maker is who you are as a person.

 

You might not get the absolute best results on paper, but if you care enough about your people they’ll eventually want to stick with you for years.

Lesson #3- THERE’S A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ” I TRAIN PEOPLE TO HELP THEM GET BETTER” VS. ” I TRAIN PEOPLE TO GET PAID”

One of the biggest reasons why most trainers don’t make it past the 5 year mark is because they can’t make it work for them financially. Ultimately, their heart isn’t in the right place. I’ll admit this industry is not for the light-hearted. It certainly isn’t for those who are looking to live a lavish life, make a ton of cash and party every weekend.

 

You absolutely have to put your time, effort and energy into your clients well-being. “They don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care.”  Sure, Personal Trainer is a title and a lot of people can call themselves that if they want.

 

But to be a COACH is so much more than a certification or academic achievement.

Lesson #4- GET A MENTOR OR COACH THAT’S BEEN WHERE YOU WANT TO BE

Who didn’t have someone to look up to growing up. We may not realize it, but we have mentors all around us. You might consider a teacher you’ve had in school, a family member, friend or co-worker. No matter what we know, we’ve learned from someone who knows more and have had the experience.

 

For me, early on it was guys like Mike Robertson, Tony Gentilcore, Eric Cressey, Ben Bruno, Molly Galbraith; listening to The FitCast with Kevin Larrabee, Jonathan Fass and Leigh Peele (yeah, that far back). Even my first boss in the biz, Kristen Nesvacil when I started at the Rec at my alma mater was a huge influence.  

  

                        With Molly Galbraith after the Train Like A Girl 2 Seminar

 

                            Private Coaching Seminar with Mike Robertson at IFAST

 

On top of that, being able to see folks like these up front and speak to them in person was life changing. Having them tell me that I can email them and hold a conversation and ask questions really helped me along the way. I can only hope to contribute to the industry in a positive way like these Superstars.

Lesson #5- YOU HAVE TO WALK THE WALK

I’ve went back and forth with this for several years. At first, I believed you had to look the part to be a trainer.  But then I learned that looking the part was only the half of it. So I realized that you have to know your shit more than looking the part. Well…some people are influenced by what they see. If they can’t get past that part, they won’t give a shit if you’re a genius or not. If YOU don’t look like you take care of yourself, why would they think you can help them?

 

That being said, the phrase “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” applies here. You’re better off knowing your shit AND looking good while doing it. It makes you more marketable that way.

 

There are tons of trainers/coaches everywhere. In my town, there are over 100 licensed Personal Trainers. So, how else do you separate yourself from the pack?…

Lesson #6- “GET REALLY FUCKING GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO AND LET EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT IT”

A quote from Jon Goodman that I live and die by. I realized in this industry I have the autonomy to be creative and let my personality flourish. After all, people don’t buy personal training sessions, they invest their time in the person coaching them. It behoved me to learn not just from other coaches on how to help people…but learn from the people I coach. Talking to them about what their goals are; their fears going into training, their struggles. Learning what makes them tick. That’s when you get really start to separate yourself. Putting together programs is a big part of it. That’s the easy part. The hard part that I want to see trainers pay more attention to, is to put more of an effort into understanding their clients better mentally and emotionally.

Not everyone enjoys being yelled at, yet some do. Not everyone enjoys doing heavy squats and deadlifts, yet some look forward to it. Simply creating an open and trusting space for folks to talk about things and get if off their chest will make all the difference. From that point, they’ll be talking about how awesome you are to their friends and family at the dinner table.

Lesson #7- IF YOU’RE NOT GROWING, YOU’RE DYING

Continuing education is vital to staying alive in a forever growing industry. Fitness/Training as we know it today has only been around for 60+ years. With technology improving, so have methods to improve medicine and helping people live longer. Being on the cutting edge of fitness is not only smart…it’s the responsible thing to do.

 

                                                Me and The G.O.A.T.: Ed Coan

You don’t have to implement everything you learn right away. It’s easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater when you’ve had your mind blown when Ed Coan says your deadlifts look good, and then proceed to make everyone deadlift the way you do come Monday morning. Exercises are like tools in a tool box. Simply, use a movement to address a problem when it’s appropriate. You don’t need to scrap the whole program. Especially when it works and your clients enjoy the workouts (..of course they won’t tell you that while they’re doing it. They’re too busy cursing at you in their heads…or out loud :).

 

 

Lesson #8- PERSONAL TRAINING ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE

One-on-one at one point seemed like it was going out the door. Many of the top influencers in the industry were calling for the death of Personal Training and praising small group/semi-private training.

 

Is group training cost-effective for the client? Yes.

Is it time efficient for the coach? Yes.

Is it potentially more fun for both the client AND coach? It definitely can be.

 

Though, like exercises, there’s a time and a place for everything. Personally, I  thoroughly enjoy one-on-one private training. I love the person-to-person connection and have a better experience understanding on an individual level. More importantly, there’s just something about having a coach personalize EVERYTHING for you. From your program to your overall training experience. I can proudly say that I still stay connected with many of my TWD (Train With Donovan) clients. Mostly because I’ve invested the time and energy to each person that is invaluable.

 

In addition, schedules are more flexible. Typically in group, you have the accountability of maintaining a standing time. If people don’t show, they’re S.O.L. Which is a nice feature on it’s own. For me, I find more and more people WANTING individualized training. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because that’s the energy I put out or what. But if Personal Training died, it’s been revived.

Lesson #9- NEVER OFFER A SUPPLEMENT YOU HAVEN’T TRIED/RESEARCHED

This can be damaging. Maybe even a little dangerous. It’s real easy to buy into a supplement that is well marketed. That being said, it may not be what you’re looking for. It may not even be the same supplement as advertised as far as results are concerned. There’s a famous scene in the documentary “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” where Chris Bell (the director) creates his own supplement with the help of a few people by putting sugar in capsules. Slap a label on a bottle. Boom. Instant supplements.

 

This isn’t to scare you from taking supplements. If anything, it should drive you to DO YOUR RESEARCH!! I utilize the website Examine.com. A “fully independent…education company that looks at the research-nothing more, nothing less.” Pretty sweet right?

 

So, do you absolutely HAAAAVE to take a supplement before you offer it to your client? Absolutely not. In fact, it’s a bit overboard. The point is to have the mindset of educating yourself to better serve the people you’re working with. Even if you don’t have the answers, you should definitely have the resources to find them.

Lesson #10- ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Earlier I’ve talked about some of the obstacles that life has to offer. I’ll be lying to you if my job wasn’t in the top 3 things I care about. That isn’t uncommon. Lot’s of people would say their job is in the top 5 of most important things in their lives. For me, it’s more than what’s “important”. I facking love it.

 

When you believe in yourself you believe anything is POSSIBLE. You’ll want to learn more. You’ll fall in love with the process; when you get past a milestone or significant event, you’ll want to go back to work and get better. The idea of waking up everyday and getting better and euphoric. It’s the mindset that makes you great; before any action you take or words you speak. Everything starts with your thought process.

 

I leave you with this: Always be kind to yourself and to others. Strive for excellence in everything you do. Often what we think and say to ourselves is the deciding factor. You don’t do things to suck at it intentionally, right? So say to yourself what you CAN do and what you WILL do. It makes all the difference. And when you decide to help people reach their goals, they’ll benefit from it and you’ll have a lot more fun doing it too.

 

Here’s to the next 10 years.

 

Cheers.

The Key To Programming For Your Clients

This is the week of my 30th birthday, one of many milestones this year. This year will also be my 10th year as a trainer/coach. It’s amazing how long it’s been and I’m only getting better. While not many trainers can say that, I wanted to help change that with this video.

Most new trainers are kind of thrown into the wolves when it comes to starting off their careers in the field. The education usually stops when they graduate college. And let’s face it, there’s not really a degree in Personal Training. Personal Training is like shop class, you get good by getting your hands dirty.

 

With sooo many trainers out there, it’s not good enough to be seen and heard. You have to be good if not great at what you do. One slip up and your client can easily jump ship and onto the next one.


One of the biggest issues that newbies have is knowing how to program workouts for their clients. So, I address the issue in this video.

Please share with any and all new professionals as this concept will pretty much ensure long term success with getting great results and client retention.

 

5 Things I’ve Learned This Month: September

Adding more content to my website, I’m looking to make these posts monthly as I find reflecting to be very important in personal growth. So, without further ado here are 5 things I’ve taken away from this month from personal, professional, social, and all things random. Let’s have fun with this.

Whatever you feed will grow

When you feed certain things –your time, energy and focus– understand those things are going to be the priority in your life even if you didn’t intend it to be. Whether it be in conversations, training, at work or personal time, you will find yourself not as present in the moment. That or someone will call you out on it. It’s not a bad thing, but it is important to be aware of that. When you intend to get a lift in that day but your mind wanders to what you have to do afterwards or thinking about what transpired before, it’s hard to get shit done. My work schedule has taken a nose dive over the past couple weeks and I can honestly say I haven’t really been giving it my all when I’m there. As a result, clients have been cancelling or rescheduling sessions. Some are taking a “break”. For me this was a big wake-up call for me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in my life and see what areas are getting too much attention and areas that aren’t getting enough. Once I’ve been able to recognize the issue, I create an action plan to fix it. Balance is key, whatever that looks like for you it’s important to work on that. Now, I’ve gotten some clients back that haven’t been around for various reasons. I’m reaching out to those I haven’t heard from in a while and doing more reading and writing with the extra free time that I have. And working on communicating more/better with those that are important pieces in my life in making it work functioning better.

Recognize the different components in your life and make sure they’re all fed “property” to make your life better. I promise, you’ll have better relationships with others (and yourself), better training sessions, more productive at work (and enjoying it), and a happier life(style).

Sushi is LOADED with sodium

I’ve only been eating sushi for a few years and I’m glad I took the leap (the thought of raw fish for years wasn’t appealing. I decided to become an adult and try it. Even drink coffee!). However, it became apparent that sushi was high in sodium when I went to get a massage last week. I had sushi with the wife for lunch and went right to get a massage afterwards. Once I was done, Erica goes “did you have sushi earlier?? Your skin soaked up 2x more lotion than it normally does!” My jaw dropped. I had no idea it would make that big of a difference that fast. After looking it up, the sushi (rice) alone is 500mg of sodium…in a half cup which is the normal amount used in making 1 roll.

I had to have probably about 1 1/2 rolls =). Muahahahaha!!!!!

Why am I talking about this? Well for one I knew NFL Combine athletes would eat a ton of sushi before the combine so they could drink enough water and soak it into their muscles to keep them hydrated and therefore increase their work capacity. The opposite can be done when you don’t drink enough and can cramp up. In my profession, this was an important finding because I work with people that want to lose weight and look better naked. Well, they all know how important hydration is for not only athletic performance, but in how your body looks and how much water you’re going to hold when you consume a lot of it. Now I don’t know how many of you eat sushi that much on a regular basis, but the point is when it comes to body weight, sodium is a huge contributing factor in weight retention. HOWEVER…do not mistake sodium as a bad thing. Remember what I said earlier about how sodium helps keeps and draw in water into the muscle? Well, if you’re wanting to improve body composition, have better athletic performance/training sessions, you have to train harder and sometimes for longer periods of time to elicit muscle mass and strength gains. How much is too much? Well that’s different for everyone. What’s a lot for you might not be enough for me, etc.

Fat loss is about persistence and consistency

Since I’ve been training all summer to get my competition strength back I’ve changed my focus to gaining more muscle AND reducing body fat. You see, gaining muscle and losing fat aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. With that being said putting on muscle is not easy and neither is fat loss (espeically when with the more experience you have) which means both are going to take some time and and consistency to achieve this goal. Because there are so many factors in achieving fat loss (nutrition, exercise, sleeping habits, water intake, and stress management to name a few) the persistence of achieving lower body fat levels is the utmost important element.

 

Today at the end of a relatively light #okaybenchday sessh at the hub. After flirting with 300 on the bar last week, the body wanted a break. Went the bodybuilding route for the workout routine and felt really good. No more than 5 movements and a minimum of 6 reps for each set. #### Not going off of a strict program has really allowed me to feel my best and ultimately look my best. At 213 now (up 5 from the previous weeks) it’s been at least 3 years since I’ve been this shredded. No strict crazy diet. In fact, I was up north visiting my buddy Cabbage Patch Kevin in Naperthrill enjoying some drinks til 1:30 in the am after a hefty Italian dinner I enjoyed with his family. Part of getting great results is simply enjoying life and having some fun once in a while. I’m bout ready to get back on the platform though…in due time. #shredded #success #fitspo #consistency #livelife #havingfun #trainhard #trainsmart #eatwellmostofthetime #powerlifting #power #powerbuilding #bodybuilding #powerlifter #thick #gym #afathlete #selfconfidence #appreciatethejourney #dowork #hylete #hyletenation #trainhylete

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on

 

 

Conversely, it takes no time to increase your body fat levels when you neglect just about any of the previously mentioned factors OR if the method you chose is contraindicated or not helpful. Take running for instance. I love running for what it does for people: Improved athletic performance, general performance enhancement and heart health benefits, stress relief (endorphins/”runner’s high”), and a genuine love of running and competing. However, long-duration cardio such as running doesn’t build muscle. Building muscle is what raises your resting metabolism (how much energy you burn at rest) which is key for fat loss. So, while cardio isn’t a bad thing in general, it isn’t ideal for fat loss goals. It goes to show there IS a specific approach to fat loss and while you may need little tweaks here and there to individualize that approach, it’s paramount to be persistent in training to get stronger and building muscle. To make the best of your training, get outside and enjoy life Earlier this month I visited the St. Louis Children’s (City) Museum with my family. It’s always a great time there because it really makes me feel like a little kid crawling and climbing around that place. I also have a profound respect for the creativity and architecture. Check it in out this video!

 

It was pretty empty when we got there since they opened up an hour early and we were probably one of 5 cars in the lot. Once I got there and did some crawling around and running up and down the stairs, I had to pause for a moment and appreciate all the things I can do because of my persistence and consistency (there are those words again) to my training and mobility work. Some of the places at the museum are clearly made for kids. Not going to lie there are some situations where I thought I wasn’t going to make it.

I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic I am not claustrophobic….#someonepleasecall911 secall911

A photo posted by Donovan’s Personal Training (@train_with_donovan) on

 

 

At times like this it helps me to understand what all my hard work and focus in the gym can do besides help me make cool videos to put on instagram. For the past several years I’ve had clients tell me stories about all the times they’ve done something in the real world that can attribute their success to their training. Take my client Adriane for example. For years, she couldn’t ride her road bike without serious back pain. Goal number 1 was to get her able and functioning. This is an important step because when you have more function, you can do more things. Case in point, any fat loss or weight loss goals you have to be able to perform physically to achieve those goals. Bike riding is great for weight loss and since she enjoys it- it makes sense to get her healthy enough to make that happen and accomplish both getting back on the bike and improve body composition.

 

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“Kim Kardashian doesn’t provide much value and asks for a lot of money, why can’t I when I provide more value to people?”

I heard this knowledge bomb on the “Barbell Business” podcast this week and it totally caught my attention. It’s not easy asking folks for money knowing how hard times are for most people. Early in my career it was painful asking people to pay me for the service I provide. It still is at times. But then your bills don’t get paid and when you do charge people it ends up being overdue and therefore pressuring people in a way you didn’t want them to be in the first place. Reading that out loud it doesn’t make sense, right? I’m sure some of you out there feel the same way. It’s an honest and genuine feeling. I know if I won the lottery, I’d still use my skill and talents to help people become a better version of themselves. Perhaps it’s natural to think this way when you truly love what you do.

Though this quote really woke my ass up. I mean really…why should I feel guilty for placing a monetary value on a service I provide that could help thousands (maybe millions one day) of people in my lifetime when there are folks asking to be paid for being themselves on television? It’s crazy.

For me, the takeaway is this: get really fucking good at what you do and provide a service people will want. If they’re not interested in paying then perhaps they’re not ready and that’s okay. Problem is I want to help as many people as I can. But this year, my most successful year ever, those that are willing to invest in themselves are the best clients and get the best results and stick around the longest. Especially because they pay a premium price for training. Keeping that in mind forces me to continue to elevate my game for these people.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Look for next month’s edition!

Trainer Thought of The Day: 8/29/2016

If you’re new to the industry and you want to be a trainer/coach, but not sure where. Whether it be at a collegiate level, commercial level, or in the private sector, it’s important that you not only have your resume in check, but to make sure you have a “clean” image.

Go to google real quick and google your name. What pops up??

I just did and this is what showed up.
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Even the photos are professional photos taken of me or my lifting. Some are of my clients progress photos over the past couple of years.

 

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These days before they even look at your resume,  they’ll want to know who you REALLY are and how you’ll portray the business you plan to work for or the people who want to give you theirs.

End of the day, when you decide who you want to become the interwebs will take notice. In this industry you are your own business card. Be the business you’d want to be associated with.