Stronger Sundays

Dominate your fitness business with this weekly collection of strategies, tips, and tricks.
By trainers, for trainers.


Quote of the week:

"If you give the same exercise to five different individuals, you might have to coach it five different ways. … Don't try to make coaching one-size-fits-all."
                                                                                          - Eric Cressey on Twitter
Watch for this newsletter from the Personal Trainer Development Center each Sunday.

In this issue:

  1. Bakers vs. cooks
  2. The client from hell
  3. The cure for first-post jitters
  4. The problem with experts
1. Bakers vs. cooks - Alwyn Cosgrove

(Abridged and adapted with permission from this Instagram post.)

Baking is an exact science. A baker follows a recipe, using precise amounts of the correct ingredients. He puts that mixture into an oven set to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time. Without that precision, there’s no cake. Or at least not one you’d want to have on your birthday.

A cook walks into the kitchen and thinks, "Hmm, we have some carrots, onion, a little garlic, olive oil, and there's some leftover chicken. Let's see what I can come up with." Because she understands the principles of what makes food appetizing, she can come up with lots of ways to prepare it.

In training, most of your clients are bakers. They’ll respond best to precise, specific, structured workout plans.

But some will be cooks. They’ll respond better to a template-style program that allows some flexibility and autonomy, based on how they feel in the moment.  

The takeaway: Neither approach is better than the other. It just depends on which the client prefers, and how they respond.

However, I think everyone—trainers and clients alike—should occasionally return to a baker's approach. If you aren’t getting the results you want, you’ll probably do better with a recipe.

P.S. I got this idea from Dr. Andy Galpin, who was referring to nutrition. Obviously, I think it applies to training as well.

2. The client from hell

Some clients are neither bakers nor cooks. They’re the equivalent of the restaurant customer who sends every dish back to the kitchen.

"Negative clients don’t just make themselves miserable, for no apparent or logical reasons," writes Lisa Lewis, EdD, in this new PTDC article. "They make your job much harder than it should be, draining your motivation to train them."

The roots of their negativity are complex and deep. Some have been beating themselves up, and punishing everyone around them, for longer than you’ve been alive. The worst thing you can do is take it personally and respond in kind. The second-worst thing is to absorb it and let it grind you down.

The takeaway: "Negative patterns can be disrupted, challenged, and minimized," Lewis says. "You just have to understand it’s going to take time and practice."

Learn how to do it here:

--> How to Deal with a Negative Personal Training Client
3. The cure for first-post jitters - Alex Cartmill

I recently got a message from an Online Trainer Academy student who asked for feedback on his very first social media post. I want to share my response for anyone else who’s afraid to take that big step outside their comfort zone:

It’s like fitness. The hardest part is going from nothing to something. For a client who’s never done anything, the precise training program doesn’t matter nearly as much as how consistently they do it.

With your content, the form doesn’t matter as much as your consistency in producing and posting it. Find something you enjoy doing. Use it to provide value to the people you want to help, and to build your authority as a fitness expert. And stick with it.

The takeaway: Don’t worry about whether each individual post is "good" or "bad." Not yet. There’s plenty of time to refine it once you’re in the habit and have some feedback.

Go deeper: For more about getting started, you’ll want to bookmark this post by Jonathan Goodman:

--> How to Start a Fitness Blog: The Ultimate Guide

4. The problem with experts - Jonathan Goodman

You have no clue how good a trainer I was, or would be if I returned to it. Heck, you don’t actually know for sure if I ever trained anybody.

I have, of course. A lot of people. But if you were curious enough to check, how would you do it? How would you find my former clients or coworkers?

And yet, if I decided to open a gym tomorrow, and announced in emails and Facebook and Instagram posts that I’m now accepting clients, I could fill my client roster by the end of the day. Price would be irrelevant, and nobody would care that I haven’t trained a client in person since 2012.

My reputation as a training expert didn’t come from my clients. It came from the media. I contributed a workout to a book, was listed among of the "45 Smartest Trainers You May Not Know" (along with Dan John, Eric Cressey, and Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove), and wrote for sites like

How did they know I was an expert? Because of my relationships with other experts, which exploded when I launched the PTDC in 2011.

Which brings me to the secret about experts that nobody wants to admit: Few people know, objectively, if they have any actual expertise. And few people care.

Moreover, once you’re perceived as an expert in one thing, you can position yourself as an expert across any related discipline. In my case, it was fitness marketing and business development.

But it doesn’t have to be related at all, or even make sense. Why, for example, does anyone take health advice from celebrities? You wouldn’t go to a doctor for acting lessons or makeup tips.

My goal here isn’t to complain about a process I’ve benefited from. It’s to help you understand what the process is. We rarely use objective criteria to establish someone as an expert. We rely instead of some combination of ambition, visibility, self-promotion, and, most of the time, the endorsement of other people we consider experts.

If your goal is to become recognized as an expert, you have to accept that it depends more on relationships and reciprocity than knowledge and experience.

And if you’re already considered an expert, remember how you got there. No matter how good you are at what you do, the people who did the most to boost your signal didn’t have firsthand knowledge of your skill.  

**Thanks for reading. What to do next**

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