Article length: 2,500 words
Reading time: 8-12 minutes
Summary: Six practical tips to live by for up and coming fitness professionals
I’ve been on the fence about writing this post. On one hand I feel obligated to help the upcoming generation in the fitness field. On the other it feels weird to give advice when I’m also young in the game. I’ve decided to write this article now because I still feel like a young fitness professional trying to figure it all out. I’m afraid in a few years I may be removed from the beginning grind and my advice will be disconnected.
At the risk of sounding conceited I believe I’m highly qualified to speak on this. Mainly because I’m still going through all of this myself. Secondly, because I don’t see many people my age in the fitness industry doing what MyoBrain is doing. While in undergrad I built a business from literally nothing. In two years we went from no following and income and now we’ve released two books (totaling over 2,000 copies sold), built our online clientele to 50-60 per month and recently starting traveling for nutrition seminars at gyms - all while obtaining a Master’s degree so I can finally be done with school. I don’t say this to stroke my own ego, but in hope it shows that anyone can do the same with the proper steps.
Yes, there are many people and companies more successful than us and we’re striving for more. But we’re off to a great start and I want to share the principles of who we’ve done so.
Before we dig in I need to describe what I think being a successful fitness professional means. All of the tips in this article will ultimately serve one of these goals.
My Definition of Success in Order of Importance
1) Most of the day is filled with work you enjoy doing
I find this to be of upmost importance. I don’t give a shit about making 200k a year if it means hating half of the waking hours. Everyone’s ultimate goal is to enjoy life. Making money is a part of enjoying life, but not at expense of hating 40-60 hours of the week.
2) Income is enough to sustain your preferred lifestyle
This range can be highly variable. If you’re anything like me this income is incredibly low. I’m a single young man and my favorite hobby costs $50/month. I’m not into expensive clothing. I don’t need a 60 inch TV. Hell, I don’t even own a couch. Others may be 30 years old with children and a mortgage. The point being, income is relative, more isn't better, enough is better. Beyond that, the extra income may meaning sacrificing rule #1 and not resulting in anymore happiness.
3) Having a positive impact on other people
Always number one priority in any profession.
4) Leaving your mark in the industry
There are thousands of people in the fitness industry. How are you going to make a difference?
Of course you’re free to define success however you’d like. The following are six tips and actionable steps to young fitness professionals. Enjoy!
Don’t be afraid to start
Nothing below matters if you don’t start. It’s incredibly common to be apprehensive about starting anything new. As a beginner you feel like there’s such a long hike to the top and unsure if it’s even possible.
Don’t think about how long the hike is, just take the first step. One of my favorite stories ever comes from Will Smith. He says, "You don’t set out to build a wall. You say I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid and soon you have a wall."
Even the biggest names and programs in the fitness industry started off with just an idea. They didn’t focus on how much work it would take to reach the top, they just started working everyday and realized their potential along the way.
It doesn’t matter what it is, just start.
Go to college. Volunteer at a local high-school or college to train athletes. Offer free personal training sessions. Start a blog. Start a YouTube channel. Work on an ebook. Contact local people/companies about interning with them. Contact online people/companies about interning. It doesn’t require any plan to act. When starting off any move is a step forward.
Also when starting, don’t compare yourself to the upper echelon of fitness professionals. They may serve as good role models, but not good comparisons. Most of them have decades of work under their belt. Don’t feel inferior because you aren’t where they are despite being 10 years younger.
You can’t fake passion. Be yourself
Every fitness professional must find their own voice.
If you aren’t the science type of guy then don’t pretend to be. Trying to be Eric Helms 2.0 if you’re nothing like him will be a disaster. Eric is successful because he enjoys reading the research, contributing to science and succinctly presenting it to the public. That’s who he is and he’s good at it.
The same can be said for Alan Aragon’s unique combination of wit and intelligence. Alan likely isn’t staying up late at night thinking of the next funny Paleo joke he can post to Facebook, he’s just being Alan and that’s why people like him.
Find specifically what you like in fitness and be that. If you’re a super formal guy/gal then corporate wellness may be perfect. If you’re into technology and do well with managing your own schedule then online is a good route.
The problem arises when people see a certain individual and try to be them. I don’t believe it’s in bad intention, but it hardly ever works out if they aren’t authentic. Don’t start a YouTube channel trying to be the next Matt Ogus, start a channel and do what you want to do.
PS: For the sake of the Internet do not make another full day of eating video. Joking (not really, stop those fucking videos), but knowing yourself and what you enjoy doing is key. You don’t have to write articles if you don’t like writing. You don’t have to be an online coach if you don’t like technology.
As I’m writing this article I’m not trying to write like anyone else. I’ll use short sentences when I want to. I’ll curse when I want to. I’ll capitalize whatever words I want to. I’ll switch from first-person to third-person when I want to. Because I’m being me.
Once you’ve found yourself it’s crucial to be consistent. The fitness field is incredibly saturated, especially as an entrepreneur. When starting off you can't take go MIA. You need to be working on something at all times. It can be as simple as a newsletter every two weeks.
Recently, people have had success with themed content. A good example being Darkside Strength with “Just the Tip Tuesday” as they release short videos every Tuesday take one mobility/injury problem and show how to correct it. They use social media every Tuesday to promote it and gives their following consistent information to look forward to.
The Barbell Shrugged podcast has released a podcast on Wednesday morning for as long as I can remember, I’d guess at least six months. Their following is so tuned into the Wednesday ritual that you can see people every Wednesday on Instagram taking photos of themselves watching the podcast drinking coffee.
Bryce Lewis from The Strength Athlete did a series on his Instagram called “Mobility Monday” with only 15 second videos and a short description.
It doesn’t need to be huge, just consistent, helpful and original.
It takes time to build that sort of following, but having consistency is a great way to do it. Consistency is more important than overall content in my opinion. As a writer, it’s better to release 2 articles every month of the year, then to have 20 articles over the course of 3 months and following it with 6 months of inactivity.
Invest in your education
Today there are endless ways to obtain more knowledge. If you’re serious about doing well you will invest your time, energy and money into education.
At the top of education is obtaining a college degree in your preferred fitness field. Although this isn’t required, it will most certainly give you the most job/career opportunities. Formal education is severely weak in the fitness industry. But this can be good news as you can set yourself apart as a dietitian vs nutritionist or doctor of physical therapy vs. personal trainer.
Outside and in addition to formal education the Internet is full with fitness information. The bad part is that 90 percent is straight garbage. I’d suggest mainly following science-based practitioners and maybe a handful of elite athletes/coaches who have extensive experience in a given field.
Oh yeah, and there are still these things called books that actually give people a full understanding of topics as oppose to a 500 word blog that scratches the surface at best. These quick hitter articles are fine for the general public to obtain some actionable steps, but not for a professional looking to fully understand concepts.
My Top Paid Monthly Education Investments
Alan Aragon Research Review - Nutrition, supplements and exercise research
Strong 360 - Powerlifting, CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting
Strength & Conditioning Research by Bret Contreras and Chris Beardsley
Sea Change by Zen Habits - Productivity, habit change and mindfulness
1-2 books per month
Total of $60/month
For $40/month I can accrue a wealth of information about every field that I’m interested in. Add in 1-2 books and at a total of $60/month I can obtain high-quality information without sifting through most of the BS online.
If you aren’t willing to spend $40-60/month on high-quality information then you probably don’t want to be successful in this field. Regardless of where you stand in your career you must be hungry for more information that allows you to improve your skills as a professional.
Be prepared to start off free
Whether it’s being an intern for a company you’d like to work for, writing blogs, online coaching, personal training. Don’t be afraid to start off free. It doesn’t mean you’re cheap and don’t have value. It means you’re invested long-term in building your self-brand. Proving to yourself and others that you’re worth getting paid for this.
If you’re looking to get into online coaching you can offer 2 free months to any client. If you do a good job, set a reasonable price and they have the finances then they’ll likely sign up. Worst case scenario is they don’t have the finances, but you still earned the experience of working with someone for two months. You communicated online, your wrote an exercise program, watched their technique via videos, etc. The more people you can work with the better professional you’ll be.
The tricky part is knowing when exactly is the right time to start charging. There is obviously no black and white answer here, but I will caution about staying free for too long. If it’s taking up 5-ish hours of your week, then no big deal, keep going for free and building up a following and rapport. If it’s taking 10+ hours of your week it’s time to start earning some cash.
Online isn’t for everyone
Online coaching is saturated as hell right now. I’m lucky I got into things two years ago when there wasn’t such a boom. Starting from scratch now is insanely hard. Seems like anyone who has done a powerlifting meet, bodybuilding show or simply has abs is an online coach. This makes standing out and reaching a large audience super hard.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from the online game, but please be cautious. Establishing a niche in the mess of the Internet is a lot of work for most people. Yes, you could get lucky by having a YouTube rant going viral or receive thousands of double-taps for your booty pics on Instagram, but for 99.9% of people that won’t happen. Even if that does happen, you’ll be relevant for a few years at best.
The reality is that very few people make a good living off of online consulting alone and the ones that do spent years prior working with people in a more traditional setting to build their self-brand.
If you wish to go the online route use it as an accessory. Don’t stop being a CrossFit coach, personal trainer or whatever your day job is. If you’re doing it correctly it shouldn’t take up a large amount of your time. It’s possible to maintain a full-time job and online work on the side. I started MyoBrain during my final year of undergrad while working 20/hrs per week as a personal trainer. Then continued to grow for 6 months while working full-time for an athletic department. For the past year we’ve grown to over 50 online clients while obtaining my Master’s degree. Is it easy? No. But that’s why I don’t recommend online work for most people.
I should have titled this section, “Grow some balls”, but I want the ladies to be invited as well. Much of the fitness industry is copy cat and regurgitation. When you’re starting off this is fine. You won’t have the high-quality content and using articles and videos from the big guns can actually help your audience learn.
But you must expand. I see so many people online trying to build something and all they do is share others work. Some will be real assholes and straight up steal article topics, programs and thoughts.
Starting off sharing others work is fine, but if you don’t expand and start creating content yourself then why would people even bother following you? If all you do is share Eric Helms videos then you provide no additional value than just following Helms.
Once you start creating content, don’t just copy other topics. There are enough articles on the Internet about how to start counting macros and why it’s not necessary to eat 6 times per day. As a good rule of thumb, if you don’t have anything new to say, don’t say anything at all. This is where reading non-fitness books can really help expand your thinking.
I hope you learned a thing or two. I’m always available to chat with anyone that needs specific guidance. Shoot me an email at MyoBrainCoaching@Gmail.com. A lot of these things I had to figure out the hard way and hopefully this article will expedite that process for you.
Other articles I recommend
Directions Towards A Career in Fitness by Alan Aragon