What Training Businesses Should Have Learned From Shopping Malls

Ah, shopping malls.

They once were the place where you could meet up with your friends.

It was a place where you could get some new swag, get your nails done, have a soft pretzel, Christmas shop, eat lunch; hang out, watch a movie at the attached movie theater, etc.

Shopping malls, in other words, were the shit.

These days they’re looking more and more like a scene for the next season of Stranger Things with portals randomly appearing in front of Orange Julius. Kiiiiiiiinda creepy.

Starcourt Mall (Stranger Things, Season 3)

Sounds a lot like what’s going on right now with gyms and training businesses, eh?

To quote a scene out of the Matrix, ” everything that has a beginning and an end”.

Sounds grim I know. Though from this side of the fence, that simply means you must adapt to survive. The key is to also start sooner than later. Fortunately, the nature of the fitness business pushes you towards finding other ways to acquire clients.

Courtesy of The Matrix Revolutions

Like the many shops in malls everywhere, training business fail. Only catering to walk-in customers places you in a box (not the Crossfit kind).

Much like training centers and coaches, many already rely on person-to-person business interaction. Sometimes on an hourly basis.

This is where providing services online comes in.

Recently, I shopped at a local grocery store and they announced they’re providing curbside service and more recently, online ordering. It sounds like something everyone should be doing, but they’re not.

Understandably, the “old school” business owners looked at online services as a hassle and not as personal. Which in many cases is true. However, what is true is not always correct.

Being different and holding on to what’s old can simply leave you behind. You simply must do what it takes to stay in the game. Even if that means you have to get out of your comfort zone with how you’ve done things in the past.

As they say: “it’s not too late to teach an old dog new tricks”.

]As a trainer and a coach, I am my own business. This gives me a lot of freedom, yet a lot of responsibility. The truth of the matter is, not everyone is ready to take on that kind of heat.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have coached clients online over the last 10 years plus. As you can imagine, it’s serving me and others who do online coaching well. The clients I currently have can easily transition to getting the same quality programming…with a different workout view.

That being said, the most important lesson out of all what is going on right now is simply this:

Dig the well BEFORE you’re thirsty.

I recall the week before everything was about to shut down, I was already being asked: “what are we going to do moving forward”? Of course, I already had this online coaching system setup.

All I had to do was explain how they can pay. How they’re getting their workouts. From that point on, it’s simply business as usual.

I’ve even begun doing Skype/ZOOM sessions with my clients to add to my services. I can’t believe how fun and easy it is. However, none of that would be so simple if I hadn’t dug that well ahead of time.

The Take-Away

Become more customer-focused.

Do what you can to give your clients the best experience when working with you. Yes, the fitness industry is different from a retail store.

However, when a client wants to continue their progress all the while their situation changes, your value as a coach/trainer is based on your ability to adjust and adapt to the circumstances.

If you’re able to come out of this alive, begin building other ways to provide services to your clients/members all at the same time when things are good.

If you’re interested in getting coaching and getting yourself set up for when you can get back out into the wild, fill out the questionnaire below.

My very first Podcast Interview!

What’s up y’all!

Obviously I don’t post much, but when I do, you know it’s something you SHOULD read.

Well today, there’s not much to read. However, there’s plenty to listen to.

Recently I was interviewed on the A News You Can Use Podcast that “highlights black-owned businesses, events, services, music, and products.”

I talk about how I came to be as a business owner and Personal Trainer. We discuss how to monetize your business and a bunch of other knowledge bombs that can help move you forward. This is a syndicated Podcast that will reach across the country and overseas.


I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. Give it a listen for over 2 1/2 hours of great digestible content. Perfect for a plane ride or commute to work!


Looking The Part ABSOLUTELY Matters

Anyone who tells you different hasn’t been in the industry long, at all or is just ignorant to human nature. As people we gravitate to the things that relate to us. Whether it is a goal that we have set for ourselves to how we choose the people we hang out with or the job we have that supports the kind of lifestyle we want to have.


In the fitness field looking the part matters. Reading this there might be some scrunched up eyebrows and frowns, but in truth that’s a very very general statement.


Way back when, I had a coworker who was a tall guy. Built like a lineman who no longer played football. Because. He was.


Smart as hell too. At the time he was getting his masters in Exercise Science, had 2 kids and worked part time as a trainer with a full-time job elsewhere. Sure he didn’t workout much, but did what he could given he also had bad knees from his old glory days as a starting lineman.


A member at the gym sheepishly says to me close by “I wouldn’t want him as a trainer. He doesn’t even look like a trainer!”


Was it a bit of a rude statement? Yes.


Were they right? Yes.


Because to them, he was not an example of someone who would understand HOW to get to where they wanted to be.


If you’re an aspiring Powerlifter, you’re naturally going to want to seek out someone who is proficient in coaching Powerlifting. More than that, you’ll likely want someone who has been/currently is a Powerlifter. Same thing with a wrestling coach or a perhaps a golf coach.


In the world of Personal Training, the general population want to look and feel better. They want to hire people that has experience doing this. It seems like it’d be that simple


Though we have to be real about this fact: In a lineup of fitness coaches, if you were to choose one based off of how a coach looked, from how they dressed to level of their physical fitness, you’d choose the one the looks the MOST “fit”. By that I mean they pass the eye test; with no regard for whether or not you think they’d be a total asshole or has a PH.D. in BroScience.


         This is a real thing, folks


Again, we tend to gravitate towards the people whom we can relate to whether or not we can currently fit in or want to be associated with them so we can eventually fit in. Remember back in high school when you sat at the same table with friends who were just like you? You probably see this at work too.

You probably get along with coworkers who have kids because you have kids.

Or dogs.

Or a Siamese fighting fish.


                       Majestic, aren’t they??


As a trainer, when you begin to understand this it becomes all the more important to work on yourself as a marketing tool. More important than that, you’ll need to know WHO you want to market to.


Because being physically FIT doesn’t mean you’re going to get all the clients you can handle. In my experience watching the evolution of the fitness industry, more and more people are wanting to work with people that either look like them or look similar to where they want to be. I know it doesn’t sound any different from what I’ve been saying so I’ll explain further.


My coworker, the former football player, had a good amount of clients who were built like HIM. Today we call his body type “the dad bod”; a bit softer, not too muscular, beer belly, relatively small legs in comparison to the rest of the body. You get the idea.


These guys gravitate towards him because that’s where he was at the time. So his clients felt like he UNDERSTOOD them where they were at. Which is the underlying key here:




Lot’s of coaches and trainers think they can get by with their “looks” but the fact of the matter is if you have no personality or show that you care about your clients they’ll eventually leave because of that. It’s that simple.


I had a client who told me to my face that my “body was made of granite” and that I “looked like a superhero”…while standing next to his wife.


Was he scared? No. Was I physically intimidating? Sure.


And yet we spent to years training together because I knew how to connect with him other than me standing there looking pretty.


I know people who have changed their lives through fitness and very soon became a fit pro themselves because they felt compelled to help others once they had a breakthrough. It didn’t matter whether or not they were actual good movement coaches or that they looked like they lost a lot of body fat.


The basic level of training they got was good enough for their clients right away because there were people who knew their history of struggle. These trainers could have been 20, 30, 40lbs overweight. To their demographic, they were the perfect coach. They wanted someone who didn’t make them feel like they were being “judged”.


Now there are plenty of coaches who look physically “fit” and have clients who don’t look like them and have great success. This happens because once the trainer got to know who their client is as a person, a human being, they didn’t pose as a threat.


As a coach, if you’re seen as a threat, you won’t be approached by someone who could benefit from your resources and knowledge. So, “looking the part” is more than wearing clothing that makes you look like a greek god or being able to lift massive amounts of weight.


In the 21st Century, you must have a digital look or image that is favorable to your audience. What you do, what you say, who you support. This all factors in how you look to people. Like training, consistency is key.


End of the day, knowing yourself. Being true to yourself and being able to connect with whoever you’re coaching is what makes a successful coach. So don’t just rest your  “looking the part” idea to get ahead in the fitness business.


Focus on BEING the part.

How To Ace Your Internship

2016 showed there roughly 300k “trainers and aerobic instructors “in the U.S. alone, with a projected 30k increase in 10 years. That’s a lot. Needless to say, the market is spread thin thus allows for a better opportunity for someone to pick just about any trainer they want. Which leads me to make this very important statement:

We as trainers should be grateful to have clients. They don’t HAVE to work with you. They can easily decide to work with someone else.

Let that sink in for a minute.

The moment you let up or decide to become less invested in your own professional development is reason number 300,000 and 1 for them to move on.

If you’re reading this and looking to get a great start in the fitness biz, you’re already ahead of the curve. The best way to start your training career is to follow those before you and forge your own path standing on the shoulders of giants.

For me, I was fortunate enough to be thrown in the wolves; crawled through 500 yards of crap and come out on the other side squeaky clean (Shawshank Redemption anyone?). But I didn’t do it alone.

Back in 2007, I heard of guys like Mike Robertson, Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey & Tony Gentilcore (The CSP version). I trained a lot of women so I began learning a lot from women in the field as well as Molly Galbraith and the badass ladies at Girls Gone Strong. I was a sponge that soaked everything I read and watched and I’m glad I did.

One thing I could have benefited from was having an internship. For me, I knew I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t put in the hours training real people. Who knows how better I’d be if I had an internship at a world-class facility like CSP, Defranco’s Gym or Results Fitness.

Sometimes when you’re applying for an internship at different gyms you don’t always know what is expected of you. So I wanted to get some insight from some of the best for all the noobs of what some of the best gyms around are expecting of YOU.


Tony Gentilcore (CORE), Mike Robertson (RTS & I-FAST) and Chad Hobbs (Crossfit Bloomington-Normal & The Bloomington-Normal Athlete Factory) weigh-in.


What Are The Benefits of an Internship?

Tony GentilcoreHow else is one going to figure out if this industry is right for them? I liken an internship to an “ooch,” which is a phrase I learned when I read the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. An ooch is an experiment or a way to test a hypothesis.

– Do I really like working with a wide variety of people?

– Can I see myself training/coaching people on the gym floor as a career and not just a hobby?

– Am I cool with wearing sweatpants or shorts to work everyday?

An internship allows for a brief period of getting one’s toes wet and helps them figure out if this is really something they enjoy doing? I mean, if you accept a job out of the gate and two weeks in you’d rather be jumping into a live volcano that sucks.

Imagine one, five, ten, or an entire adult lifespan of feeling that way towards your job.

An internship, hopefully, will prevent that from happening.


Mike Robertson– “Probably the biggest benefit of an internship is having the ability to take what you’ve learned over the course of your collegiate career and really get mentored in the process of coaching. It’s different when you have to go in and teach somebody. It’s an art and a science to what we do; trying to get people to do what you want whether it’s coaching and cueing of an exercise or what they need to do outside the gym.”


Chad Hobbs– The benefits of an internship are endless given the intern applies themselves and emerges themselves into learning as much as possible (both good and bad) with their time at a facility. Questions are paramount, usually, if an intern is eager to truly learn no question will ever go unanswered.


What do Gyms Expect of the Interns as they start?

TG- When I was at Cressey Sports Performance we tried very hard not to put too much weight into someone’s resume.

A piece of paper doesn’t speak to someone’s work ethic, willingness to learn, openness to new ideas and ways of doing things, ability to follow direction and take constructive criticism, initiative, or whether or not they’re just an uppity jerk who thinks they know it all already.

We gravitated towards people who wanted to learn, showed up on time, and could be a team player.

It’s as simple as that.

I think most gyms are looking for that.


MR- As far as expectations go, it’s basic stuff. We want somebody that wants to be a pro; show up early, dress appropriately, ask great questions which is such a huge portion. Having the curiosity. We want people that are curious and ask questions respectfully.

So on one side, it’s about being professional, to asking great questions and constantly learning more about what it is we’re doing.


CH- This varies. It is up to the gym to lay out their guidelines for the intern to follow. A clear understanding of conduct, punctuality, and standards should be followed.


Where and how do you look for interns; what makes them stand out?

TG- Recommendations help. If another colleague of ours reached out to us and said “so and so is an amazing human being and would make an awesome intern” and then personally vouched for him or her, that would almost be a guarantee we’d take them on as an intern.

Outside of that, at CSP, 95% of the interns were/are taken on via the internship application process.

First and foremost, the first “layer” or “test” is whether or not people can FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

– Do they send in all the requested material by the end date?

– Do they send in all the requested material period?

– Can they write well? When you have dozens if not hundreds of applicants, first impressions matter. If you misspell someone’s name, write in the wrong facility on your application, can’t differentiate between you’re/your, and/or it’s readily apparent there was zero effort put into the cover letter, then it doesn’t matter if you graduated Magna Cum Laude, have every certification under the sun or read Supertraining to orphaned kittens on a weekly basis, you’re likely not going to be considered.

As far as what makes interns standout?

The ability to make connections with people. Knowing the x’s and o’s of program design and how to break down deadlift technique are splendid skills to have. However, the ability to connect to people, talk, and develop relationships is often what separates the masses.


MR- As far as finding them, the biggest thing is to find them through the internet. We have a fairly decent presence, but reaching out to local colleges; can you be on site. It comes back to meet the expectations. If they can’t they’ll probably stand out in a negative way.


CH– Interns apply through their universities most of the time. Resumes are great but I look for the in-person interview as the standard if someone will be joining us. They have to be personable without that you are not fit to coach at this facility.


What should interns do to get the most out of their internship?

TG – Show up, smile, ask questions, train with the staff, fail, fail again, be open.


MR- I would say to strive to constantly not only meet but exceed expectations. It’s not enough to just show up. Ask questions about things that aren’t clear to you. You need to constantly be a sponge; constantly taking notes after every session as to what you saw that day, which drives the next round of questions. Constantly evaluating yourself as a coach, as a practitioner to see what’s working. The failures are what drives us. Going through those with either your mentor or on your own is what makes us better as coaches.


CH- Ask Questions


How did you develop the process at your facility and has it changed?

TG- Well, in terms of CSP all I can speak to are to the years I was there (2007-2015). We kinda winged it to be honest. Our first intern was Brian St. Pierre (of Precision Nutrition fame), who just kinda showed up one day to say hi and it turned into him interning for us.

He was then eventually hired.

As our notoriety grew, so did the interest in people wanting to intern with us and learn.

When I left we had more or less three intern classes per year (four months) that entailed a pretty detailed onboarding process (rules, expectations, etc), weekly staff meeting, and consistent one-on-one “check-ins” with staff to discuss strengths/weaknesses/favorite He-Man characters.

I believe now there’s an even more extensive curriculum – exercise library required reading the material, in addition to weekly in-services, interpretive dance-offs, etc.

I think the establishments that do internships well are constantly evolving the process…tweaking this, changing that, it’s never a set thing and there’s a consistent pattern of honing the systems involved. And while I was kidding, I think interpretive dance-offs should become a staple…;o)


MR- When it started, it was just Bill and I. You used to just come in and chat with us. Now, we’re not the only people here so we have a way for you to come and speak to our interns and bring up topics for you to talk about and then teach us those topics you bring up. The changes are constant. We have a document of things you need to go through which spans across 16 pages now that came out of necessity. For instance, we had a kid who swore he didn’t smell after he worked out and didn’t shower. We said ‘no, you need to go home and shower before you get back on the floor.’  

We had another kid that would show up at start time and would proceed to go into the bathroom and comb his hair for 30 minutes. So all these things are now expectations that we weren’t clear enough on. We have documented these expectations so that way we have a clear understanding and therefore making our business consistent and smooth, and I feel like that is what has helped us evolve over the years.


CH- It is in the process of changing. We need a comprehensive online “packet” to feed to the interns that cover all expectations, standards and coaching ed. This is a current project.  

What’s great about interviewing these pros I have a profound respect for, is seeing the similarities in their answers. Here are the key takeaways from the write up:

  • Be a professional- this is about showing up on time [read: early], dressing appropriately and not coming to work smelling like a wet dog.
  • Be coachable- are you the type of person that can follow directions well? Great gyms have their brand and own way of doing things. You as an intern are going to be an extension of their gym. Learning how they do things and following their direction is a really great way to solidify your spot on their roster.
  • Always ask questions- gym owners love an inquisitive mind. If you can show that you care about what’s going on around you by asking questions and taking notes, you’ll stand out amongst the group of others trying to get a job.
  • Immerse yourself in the process of learning- learning is indeed a process: Learn under a mentor. Go home and read. Come back with what you learned. Discuss. Repeat


If you’re new to the game, go straight to the top and learn from the best. We are standing on the shoulders of giants. The more you know, the better you become to help serve your clients and give them the results they need and deserve. Best of luck. Go get em, rookie.

My First Magazine Published Article!!!

Yes. It’s finally happened. I’m a published writer! I started this website so I can get used to writing more. My one of my mentors,  Tony Gentilcore, has been saying for years “in order to get better at writing, you have to…write. A lot.” Over the years I’ve used my social media to get used to writing content every week for the last 10 years.

You might ask how I did I get this gig? You might not like the answer. Long story short, I emailed and called the owner. We had a chat at the gym. And I asked her to be in her magazine and she agreed. I swear that was it.

I sent her the piece I had pre-written. Kept it clean and simple to keep the barrier of entry low so most reading would get it. Sure enough it made the cut (with no edits by the way which was low-key amazing). Anyways, here’s the article below with the link embedded at the bottom. Enjoy!

What is the Best Program You Should Follow? Written by Donovan Muldrow, ACE-CPT

“The best program is the one you’re not on.”

Most definitely a quote to live by and probably one of the least sexiest answers to a very common question. That means whatever you’re currently doing will eventually stagnate, and you’ll need to move on to the next best thing. Often times, thanks to the over-saturation of programs and plans out there, it’s real easy to get impatient when results don’t come around “fast enough” and jump to into a class that one of your girlfriends joined recently and can’t stop talking about it. Of course, if things are heading in the wrong direction completely (injuries, loss of energy, increase in body fat, etc.), we need to scrap that plan and find one that works. More often than not, you have to wait until that plan has ended in completion. It’s the only way to know if the plan worked or not. So, how do we know the plan isn’t working? Well there are some dead giveaways:


If the program doesn’t peak your interest: It doesn’t make sense to be on a plan you don’t want to be on. This is life. You should go about it in a way that you can enjoy which keeps you coming back for more. It promotes consistency, and consistency is the X-factor to get you results.


If you feel more tired than energized from the program: You should feel better not worse after your workout. Going hard for 45 minutes plus is not effective. There are other implications to consider, like lack of nutrition or sleep. Outside of that, if you’re too whipped from the body bar class you just took to do other things that need to get done, that’ll become a problem. You don’t have to go hardcore to get a good training effect in. You should leave the session energized and ready to do anything and everything you need to continue your day.


So, make sure to be honest with yourself or your coach/instructor. If nothing is going right — strength, weight management, body composition — there needs to be an exploration on both sides about what to do moving forward. Make a change. Implement that change. Trust the process. Focus on the positives, and navigate through the challenges. Move forward. Always.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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?…


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.


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 :).




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.


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.


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.



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.





“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.

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.




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.