Mike: [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to episode 18 of the How to Become a Personal Trainer Podcast. We are your hosts, Mike Vacanti.
Jordan: [00:00:10] And my name is Jordan Syatt. And in this episode, we sort of go all over the place, especially at the beginning…and a little bit towards the end, but we talk about a day in the life of a personal trainer — what you can expect if you want to be a coach, or even if you are coaching now, what you can expect, oftentimes, the first few years of especially your in-person coaching to look like.
Mike: [00:00:30] Enjoy.
Jordan: [00:00:40] What’s going on, Michael?
Mike: [00:00:41] Not much. How are you?
Jordan: [00:00:42] I’m good. We just got off your podcast, the inaugural episode of the Mike Vacanti Podcast. Is that what you’re calling it? Mike Vacanti Podcast?
Mike: [00:00:50] You just named it. That’s what we’re calling.
Jordan: [00:00:51] That’s what YOU named it 30 minutes ago!
Mike: [00:00:57] Yes.
Yes, I’m excited. I’m excited for that. So, thanks for being my first guest.
Jordan: [00:01:02] Yeah, absolutely.
Mike just surprised me. I thought we were doing this podcast that you’re listening to your right now and he was like, “welcome to the Mike Vacanti podcast. I’m here with Jordan Syatt.” I was like, “Oh, I guess we’re not doing the personal trainer podcast…”
Mike: [00:01:16] That’s one of the most fun things for me, FYI.
Jordan: [00:01:20] Surprising me?
Mike: [00:01:20] Just seeing you work on your toes like that. It’s really impressive.
How are you feeling?
Jordan: [00:01:30] Feel better than I did about an hour ago. I was really tired about an hour ago, pretty lethargic and I just feel that energy starting to kick in, which is great.
Mike: [00:01:39] That’s an extravertedness in you. 20 minutes of conversation and now you’re all hyped up.
Jordan: [00:01:45] That’s so true. It’s so funny, the more live Q & A’s I do, the more talking I do, the more interactions, more podcasts, the more hyped up I get.
Mike: [00:01:52] Yeah. Not to mention the more time –not to go to quarantine, and we’re not going to talk about this, but the more time kind of stuck in one small space, I feel like the, the more stir crazy.
Jordan: [00:02:06] Oh, absolutely.
Mike: [00:02:07] Especially if you’re by yourself.
Jordan: [00:02:08] Yeah, 100%.
Mike: [00:02:11] How’s the body feel?
Jordan: [00:02:13] Dude, body feels good. Workouts feel good. I feel like I’ve put on a significant amount of strength and a decent amount of muscle over this timeframe.
I’ve also put on a pretty significant amount of fat, as well.
Mike: [00:02:28] And guess what? That comes and goes.
Jordan: [00:02:30] It’s one of those things where I’ll never forget when I was a teenager and young, young twenties before I hired Martin Berkhan, and when I really learned about really understanding calories are king for fat loss, I just wanted to know what’s the secret of fat loss.
Literally, the whole reason I hired Martin was because my old wrestling coach was like, “this guy knows the secret.” And thinking back, I’m like, “well, why don’t you hire him?” He was early 30s and I was 19 or so, and I emptied my bank account to work with Martin. He was like, “this guy knows you’ve got to work with him.”
And I was just like, “okay, cool. So, I’ll do it.” But I remember just being like, what is the secret and just wanting nothing more to understand what is the key, the secret, the hidden gem that’s going to help someone lose fat for sure. And once you know it…I don’t really care about it anymore. Right? It’s like, I don’t care about maintaining a low body fat anymore.
When you don’t know how to do it, it seems like this amazing, mystical, magical thing that, “Oh, if I know how to do that, I’d do it all year ’round,” but once you know how to do it and you know, realistically, how simple — not easy, but simple — it is to lose body fat, it’s like, I’m totally fine carrying around 10 extra pounds of body fat, because if I ever want to lose it, it’s not that big of a deal.
Mike: [00:03:54] And not to mention everyone has a different level of body fat that they’re comfortable carrying around psychologically and physiologically. And so, if you’re up a few pounds, who cares?
Jordan: [00:04:08] How are you feeling?
Mike: [00:04:10] I feel great. Workouts are feeling really good. Things are looking up.
Jordan: [00:04:16] Oh Yeah, let’s go.
Mike: [00:04:24] So in this episode, we’re talking about a standard day in the life of a personal trainer.
Not what it looks like from an Instagram trainer or not what’s glamorized, but if you aren’t a personal trainer and decide you want to become a personal trainer, what does a day in the life actually look like?
Jordan: [00:04:48] Yeah, I think it’s very different than what most people expect, especially in the age of “Instagram trainers.”
Which that term really annoys me, mainly because people have called me that when they’re trying to insult me and I’m like, “you have no idea.”
Mike: [00:05:03] But you’re not.
Jordan: [00:05:04] I’m not, I understand. But I think a lot of people when they just find me, or they don’t know much about me, they just go, “Oh, he’s an Instagram or YouTube trainer.”
Mike: [00:05:14] Let’s actually put definitions on these things. I associate “Instagram trainer” as someone who, 1) has never trained in- person, 2) has an Instagram, we’ll say.
Jordan: [00:05:29] Gotta have an Instagram. Put “personal trainer” in the bio.
Mike: [00:05:33] 3) The audience comes from either, A) been in very good shape, B) being very good looking, C) both A and B, D) amassing an audience for some reason. But it’s generally a fitness enthusiast who gets a really big audience through their own physique, workouts, whatever you want to call it and realizes, “Oh, it’s 2020. Audience online means I can monetize it. And this is my job. I don’t have to go stand in line in the factory every single day.
Jordan: [00:06:16] Regardless of their knowledge on the topic, regardless of whether or not they’ve studied– I don’t care about certification, but whether or not they’ve actually spent time studying, researching, coaching people.
That’s the biggest thing: if you’ve never coached people in-person, that to me, I think, is the number one issue. More than getting a certification. Because you will learn more from coaching people in-person than you will in any other scenario, no matter what
Mike: [00:06:45] Yeah, we, we both see eye to eye on that.
And I always mention when this comes up, but I’m still gonna mention it — there are exceptions to the rule, AKA Mike Matthews, but the overwhelming majority of people aren’t going to self-teach, aren’t going to self-educate themselves to that level. Especially as quickly as you can working with a diverse population of clients.
Jordan: [00:07:10] Yeah. Makes total sense.
Mike: [00:07:12] Are we done with the fun portion of the episode? Are we into the all business?
Jordan: [00:07:16] Dude, I’m open to anything.
Mike: [00:07:18] Well, you only had to “P” it for the first one.
Jordan: [00:07:21] Ph, I’m just always “P-ing”it. You “J,” I “P.”
Mike: [00:07:26] It is a real good match. Jordan and my Myers-Briggs personality types match up as the perfect couple.
Jordan: [00:07:37] You know, if we were going to be a couple…
Mike: [00:07:41] If I was a woman…
They match up really well. And I assume that works well for friendships, as well.
Jordan: [00:07:51] And business relationships, too. Works out super well.
Mike: [00:07:55] Yeah. Jordan used to– I always found this really funny.
Jordan: [00:07:59] You gonna tell the story about calls?
Mike: [00:08:00] Yes! I love that you knew that’s where I was going.
It’s not even really a story, you just didn’t keep a calendar and so the way that you knew if you had a call or a podcast or something scheduled for a particular date or time is: when that time happened, if someone called you, you knew that you had to call at that time.
Jordan: [00:08:21] Yeah. If it was either on the hour or on the half hour, and I got a call coming in, I was like, “Oh, this is probably an appointment.”
And I did that up until probably halfway through 2017. And it’s so funny because people were like, “how are you so organized? How do you do everything?” I’m like, “I am not organized at all.” But, yeah, I remember because I would be coaching Gary and the tough part is the schedule can change on a dime, right?
So, it was like, “we’ll say, all right, work out at this time,” but for any number of reasons, it could be pushed forward half an hour, pushed back two hours, whatever it is. So, I’d sometimes have a missed call because, who knows, maybe the plane was delayed, whatever it was and they’d be like, “Hey, everything all right?” I’m like, “yeah, what’s going on?” They’re like, “we had a call scheduled.” I’m like, “oops, sorry. Yeah, let’s hop on now.”
But yeah, fortunately I got better at making a schedule so that I can help everyone else out in my life.
Mike: [00:09:18] But it just works really well having one person like schedules more and one person to be more flexible, having one person be more extroverted, one person be more introverted.
I can’t think back to the reason we’re on this, I can’t think of anything else to just shoot the shit on.
Jordan: [00:09:39] Well, you wanna talk about workouts at all?
Mike: [00:09:44] I don’t know. Do you want to talk about workouts at all?
Jordan: [00:09:46] Yeah, let’s talk about workouts.
Mike: [00:09:47] All right. I think I’m going to be deadlifting — I haven’t really deadlifted in many years, like seven.
Jordan: [00:09:58] Well, let’s talk about why.
Mike: [00:10:01] Because I was at New York Sports Club on the upper East side–
Jordan: [00:10:03] And this is seven years ago?
Mike: [00:10:07] Yeah. This was 2013.
Jordan: [00:10:09] Wow. It’s a legit seven years.
Mike: [00:10:10] And you know, I’ve done dumbbell RDL, single leg RDL…
Jordan: [00:10:16] But no barbell, heavy deadlifts.
Mike: [00:10:19] Exactly.
I was with Dick Talens, the co-founder of a great company called Fitocracy and we were deadlifting and we just kept adding weight to the bar and I was pulling conventional and I think the most I had deadlifted — I hadn’t deadlifted 405lbs at that time, so I think the most I’d deadlifted. was 385 or 395.
Jordan: [00:10:41] Wow, you made a big jump.
Mike: [00:10:42] Just kept adding weight
Jordan: [00:10:44] For a one rep max?
Mike: [00:10:45] 405 for 1. I don’t know if we went to 425 or maybe 435, and then I pulled 465 for a single rep with this crowd of people in the New York Sports Club gym. I’m wearing wrestling shoes and one of the ridiculous stringer cutoffs where your nipples are hanging out and I just looked like an idiot.
And I think I probably kept my lumbar spine solid — decent, we’ll say — but there wasn’t a lot of glute and hamstring activation in my deadlift. It was a lot of my erectors are just carrying the load and I was getting that weight up no matter what. A lot of upper back rounding. But it went up, felt good, it was great.
The next week, you know, I’d pulled 465 so I thought I could just pull 365 for reps without warming up. That seemed like it made sense. And just probably the worst snap up I’d ever had, where you can’t really walk for three or four days,
Jordan: [00:11:51] Did you feel it immediately? Like you just knew?
Mike: [00:11:53] Oh, immediately.
And then as the minutes and hours pass, progressively worse and worse and then I was bedridden for a few days. And yeah, just haven’t gone back to it since.
But I now have access to Structure, which is a gym that our friend Kevin owns and runs and no one is in there right now and so I’ve been fortunate recently to get workouts in there and I have deadlift aspirations.
I don’t even want to put this out there. I maybe have deadlift aspirations. We’ll see how the next month or two go.
Jordan: [00:12:29] You’ve got deadlift aspirations; you just don’t know where it’ll lead. But only good places.
Mike: [00:12:35] Yeah.
Jordan: [00:12:35] Just getting stronger with the deadlift. And you’re doing sumo. You’re going sumo now.
Mike: [00:12:39] Yeah, pulling sumo feels a lot better.
Jordan: [00:12:40] It looks good.
Mike: [00:12:43] So yeah, I feel good physically. It just feels good to be able to consistently work out.
Jordan: [00:12:50] Yeah. Yeah, it does.
Mike: [00:12:52] Which sucks for some, like, I had a client who emailed me last night who said — like, the most positive kid ever.
He’s like, “man, I’m getting tired of pushups.” Because he doesn’t have any equipment,
Jordan: [00:13:05] Yeah, which is the vast majority of people, unfortunately. They have nothing at home.
Mike: [00:13:10] But yeah, I feel good. Workouts are going good. Jordan’s got me on deadlifts.
Jordan: [00:13:16] Deadlifts, man. I’m feeling good. I haven’t deadlifted heavy– well, last year I worked up to 405 for two, but I mean, I haven’t really done a deadlift-focus since I was 24. Since I deadlifted over 500. I remember I put the bar down and I was like, “I’m done.” Like, “I’m not doing this anymore.”
Mike: [00:13:37] Really? Once you hit 4x, that was like, you didn’t have aspirations to continue to build on that strength?
Jordan: [00:13:46] No. Once I deadlifted four times my body weight, I was completely and utterly ready to retire from powerlifting. I was burned out. I still wanted to deadlift heavy and there are actually a number of videos of me super far down my Instagram doing 500 for three and– because what happened was after I had deadlifted four times my body weight, I was like, “I’m done with powerlifting,” and I had a period of uncertainty because I had powerlifted for the better part of the decade prior, and at that point in my life, I thought powerlifting was the best and only way to train.
I was like, “if you’re not lifting as heavy as you can with barbells–” and a lot of that came from training at Westside, Louie being like, “conjugate or die,” more or less, literally. Training at Cressey, which, they don’t think powerlifting is the only way, but they utilize powerlifting for a major portion of their athletes.
And it’s not like they’re doing one-rep maxes, but it’s all squats and deadlifts, relatively little bench press, but heavy lifting. That’s what I was around. And I was like, “this is what everyone needs to do.” And I still think people need to lift heavy, but I’m more openminded now and more understanding that it doesn’t always have to be a barbell.
Mike: [00:15:06] Minimal bench press at Cressey because baseball players?
Jordan: [00:15:09] Yeah, it’s all baseball players.
Mike: [00:15:10] Because Eric’s bench pressed a lot of weight.
Jordan: [00:15:13] Yeah, Eric’s bench pressed 365 at, I believe, 160 or 175 pounds. He’s a beast. He also deadlifted, I believe, close to 700, if not 700. I think he deadlifted 700 with the trap bar.
But yeah, he’s a beast. He comes from a powerlifting background as well. So, so much powerlifting influence, when I eventually retired, I was like, “what do I do?” Because anything I do in my mind, anything I do I felt was going to be wrong because it wasn’t powerlifting. It was just cognitive dissonance, this huge internal struggle I had.
Mike: [00:15:46] Well, so much of your identity had to have been tied so closely to–
Jordan: [00:15:52] And my business was built on powerlifting. My business was built on largely my deadlift and my strength to size ratio.
Mike: [00:16:02] Do you think it had more to do with the fact that your business was closely tied to it or that it was that 4x had been a goal for how many years?
Jordan: [00:16:14] For about 10 years.
Mike: [00:16:15] Yeah, so so much of the mission you were on was only that and then you got there.
Jordan: [00:16:19] That’s exactly right. It was one of those things where it’s like, that goal was supposed to be impossible. Very few people ever could ever even make that a possibility. Getting to 3x is what most people spend the majority of their lifting career trying to do.
So that goal was supposed to be impossible. So finally reaching it, there was the issue of, “okay, well, that’s done. Now what?” But then also the business side of it, like “if I stop powerlifting, is my business going to go down the drain?” Because everything I’ve built is based on powerlifting. I was mainly training people who wanted to be powerlifters, both men and women who wanted to be powerlifters.
Because that was at the beginning of women in powerlifting really getting a lot of attention. Now they have all-women powerlifting meets, which is amazing, but this is at the beginning when you go to powerlifting meet, maybe there were two or three women and it’s just progressively gotten bigger.
And there was also the component of, I had so much loyalty, and I still do, to Louie, specifically. Louie treated me like a son when I went out there, he paid for multiple meals every day, he paid for my Westside certification, he let me just come train there two times a day for several months at a time, I had a lot of loyalty and I felt that if I stopped powerlifting, then I was going to be disloyal to him. And that was a huge issue with me, as well.
So, what happened was when I stopped powerlifting, that was the first time in my life I ever didn’t feel motivated to train. Because I didn’t have that goal anymore. The overarching goal was gone. It was the first time I ever struggled with motivation to work out.
And so, then I actually went to jujitsu for a little bit. I joined Kenny Florian’s gym in Boston. He is an amazing fighter and world-class jujitsu athlete.
Mike: [00:18:01] What made you want to do at the first time? Wrestling background?
Jordan: [00:18:06] Yeah, wrestling background, I did jujitsu a couple times throughout high school, just like wrestlers just trying to cross-train a little bit and wanting to try other things. And I loved it. So then when I was done with powerlifting and I was super into MMA, I was like, “Oh, Kenny Florian’s, gym is pretty close by. A couple stops over on the train.”
So, I joined that gym, went there, almost beat a blue belt — who, realistically, thinking back now probably shouldn’t have been a blue belt — but either way, almost be to blue belt and I hired Mike Perry from Skill of Strength to do my programming, who also does my programming now.
And it was very interesting because he had me lifting really heavy. The first move of every day was super heavy. So, there’s videos of me deadlifting 500 for three, 495 for five, I think. And so, then my training started to transfer into a more all-encompassing approach, because after the heavy lifting then came a lot more kettlebells, body weight, explosive work, lateral — there’s no lateral movement in powerlifting. Everything is up and down. There’s just all sagittal plane. You don’t get any transverse plane, there’s only up and down, straight forward and back.
Mike: [00:19:26] There’s not a lot of lateral movement bodybuilding, either.
Jordan: [00:19:30] How much time can you spend in the gym, right?
Mike: [00:19:37] And it requires another goal, right? It requires really wanting to feel good and move well and athletically.
Jordan: [00:19:47] Yeah. So, deadlifting now again. Feeling good. I’m excited about getting stronger.
Taking time off from jujitsu. That’s the worst part about this for me is jujitsu, but it’s always cool be able to come back and always go back to lifting. Have something to go back to.
Mike: [00:20:02] Yeah. Physical practice, at the core of a day or of a week is just so important.
Jordan: [00:20:11] Oh my God, yeah.
Mike: [00:20:13] We can argue about lifting versus running, we can argue about certain types of yoga, we can argue about any of it, but any physical practice where you’re moving and sweating is just so important. And it sounds so obvious that I shouldn’t have to say it on a personal trainer podcast, but I have to remind myself of the importance of, even if I end up in a little rut where I’m training, maybe two or three days a week, doing something on those other days just makes me feel so much better.
Jordan: [00:20:43] That actually might be a good segue into the day in the life as a personal trainer. Because that’s something any in-person coach — and even online, if you get to a certain workload — it’s very easy to neglect your own workouts, speaking from personal experience.
And right now, I don’t think many, if any people, are coaching in-person on the floor for 12 hours a day, but that’s a reality for most coaches in their first two years.
Mike: [00:21:18] Not only because of the time spent, but it’s physically demanding, right? A lot of coaches are moving weights around, you’re cleaning up around the gym, you’re moving around, you’re on your feet, you’re coaching. And the schedule is sporadic and spread out throughout the day because the most popular times to train are before work and after work. So, early in the morning, late at night, you know, sometimes a session during lunch, a session or two. So, your day is split.
Jordan: [00:22:00] Yeah. When I was coaching, one thing that I would do when I was at one of my gyms in Boston is I’d go in and I’d train from 6-9, then I would have from like 9-10 to do my own thing, whether that was either a workout or make content on social media or do online client calls or go back to my place and make breakfast or whatever it was or eat, whatever it was or a million things you could do — or just screw around and just do nothing.
And then from about 11-1 or 2, there were usually some sessions in there. And then again from like 2-5 you have some time off to do whatever you want, and then from 5-8 or 9, sometimes 5-10, depending on where you are and who you’re working with, you’re going. It’s a very difficult day.
There’s no really defined hours, definitively. And depending on where you work and who you’re working with, either you have to find your clients or the gym will feed you clients, and then you have to deal with how much time you get with each client, right? Most clients will train maybe once or twice, maybe once or twice a week at most and if you get a full hour with them, you’re lucky. Two hours a week with a client is not much time at all.
That was one of the most disheartening things for me to learn when I first started coaching because I started coaching because I wanted to help people. It’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to coach them and they’re going to crush it.”
And it’s like, you’re with them for two hours out of however many hours are in the week. I don’t know, I can’t do that math. You know my math skills.
Mike: [00:23:44] 168.
Jordan: [00:23:44] There’s 168 hours in a week. Maybe that’s common knowledge. Either way, I did not know that.
Okay. 2 out of 168. That’s 166 hours. How’s that math? 166 hours in which they’re not with you. And this is actually where I think online coaching holds so much benefit because it allows you to be with them when you’re not with them. And that’s where I think the combination of in-person and online really is I think the best for especially at the beginning of your career.
Mike: [00:24:14] Yeah. But for people who are brand new to this, or considering getting into coaching, most coaching positions that you’ll be able to get are going to require you to wake up very early, they’re going to require you to have a flexible schedule during the day, meaning be available. It’s not just coaching, it might be selling, it might be a lot of cleaning, it might be helping with program design, depending on the type of gym that you’re at.
I was fortunate at Structure that we had shifts. And so, we had probably 30 hours blocked off and they were in shifts. It was semiprivate training.
Jordan: [00:25:06] That’s amazing.
That’s not always common.
Mike: [00:25:09] It’s not common whatsoever.
And so, you were either the morning shift or the evening shift or a lot of days both, but at least you had some mornings you could sleep in, you had some nights where you were off.
A lot of entry personal training jobs, or even personal train jobs at a lot of gyms are just all day, most days. And that requires you to be smart with your own food. That’s kinda where the “personal trainer with Tupperware” came from, because maybe you can go home for lunch if you’re close to the gym, but if you’re spending the whole day at the gym, you’re going to have to pack food for yourself.
Jordan: [00:25:54] And you’re not making a lot of money, so you’re not going to go out and buy it every day.
Mike: [00:25:57] Exactly. That’s exactly right. Especially if you’re trying to build and save, let alone break even.
Jordan: [00:26:03] What were your go to meals as a personal trainer on the floor?
Mike: [00:26:08] The normal ones. Chicken and sweet potatoes, beef and sweet potatoes, beef and brussel sprouts.
That was it.
Jordan: [00:26:20] And you cooked them on a Sunday or something?
Mike: [00:26:23] I’d do two meal preps a week and rely on shakes, rely on supplements. If we got samples at the gym, you’re just getting calories where you can, especially because you’re moving around so much. But if there’s extra protein bars, I don’t care what’s in it, I don’t care what the macros are, like, I’m eating that thing.
Jordan: [00:26:42] My go-to meal — I had a couple, but I’ve spoken about the Warrior Diet and Ori Hofmekler, and I’ve said I don’t really like that diet for many reasons, but one of the best things I took from that diet as a meal that he calls the “poor man’s meal,” which that realistically probably allowed me to save so many thousands of dollars it’s insane.
It’s oatmeal and eggs. I would get a huge thing of oatmeal. Just a massive, I don’t know the word for it, but just like a commercial size of oatmeal and eggs are so inexpensive. And I wouldn’t get the organic ones. I still don’t get the organic ones. I just get regular eggs and I’d put four to six eggs in a bowl of oatmeal and that was my breakfast every day.
Mike: [00:27:26] Oh, you put the eggs in the oatmeal? Interesting.
Jordan: [00:27:28] Yeah, so I’d cook the oatmeal so it was really hot and then I’d crack the eggs in the hot oatmeal and I’d cover the eggs with the hot oatmeal. And then the oatmeal would cook the eggs, but just enough so it was like drippy and yolk-y. And that was my breakfast every single day. And a lot of my lunches were oatmeal mixed with protein powder.
Mike: [00:27:46] Yup. Did a lot of that.
Jordan: [00:27:48] Yeah. And then dinner was usually some type of either ground beef with vegetables — some type of stir fry — ground beef, ground Turkey, ground chicken, chicken thighs, in those big packages, were very inexpensive.
Like, you get a huge, big package that would last you a week. I think it was less than 10 bucks. Those were pretty fatty. But yeah, that was the majority of my meals.
Mike: [00:28:19] You’re in a position that most people can’t stay in for an extended period of time.
Most people can’t, or don’t aspire to work at least that type of rigorous personal training job for decades. I know in my mind when I was coaching and I was again at a gym that was kind of luxury for the trainer, I still, in my mind, my goal was to get in a place where I had an online and in-person split and I could choose the amount of in-person coaching that I wanted to do. Because the zero felt like too little for me and a full load was too much. So just wanting to have control over that was the goal.
So, know that what we’re describing, the 4:30 AM wake ups and the eating out of Tupperware and the being kind of on-call to the gym all the time isn’t permanent. It’s what you’re doing to become a better coach, to meet people, to earn and save money, which is going to give you flexibility, to give you really good content ideas.
And it’s such a common, you know, “I don’t know what to post.” If you’re coaching people during the day, you’re going to know what to post, because the questions are just going to come. You’re going to see. The form corrections that you’re making, their exercise technique, that all translates into content very easily.
Jordan: [00:30:02] Yeah. Yeah.
Should I talk about the gym that I worked at in college? I’m not going to name it because it was not fun. Wasn’t good.
So many benefits from working at that gym. The people I met, the stuff I learned from the people I met, working pretty damn hard for not much.
So, the gym that I worked at, they didn’t pay coaches by the hour.
Mike: [00:30:32] Can you give numbers?
Jordan: [00:30:33] Yeah. They didn’t pay coaches by the hour. It was a salary job and it was $20,000 a year.
And it’s so funny, I had no concept of what was “good” or “bad.” What was high or low. I just remember them being like, “yeah, $20,000,” and I was like, “really?!?” They’re like, “yeah.” I was like, “amazing!”
I couldn’t believe that I was gonna be getting $20,000. I was so excited. And I loved personal training, I was like, “this is great!”
And I lived at my mom’s place, which was right down the street from this really amazing, like some of the best equipment in the world, gym. A very powerlifting-focused, strength, strong man, powerlifting, Olympic lifting focused gym.
So, $20,000 a year, and it was six days a week of working.
It was Monday through Saturday, and basically because it was salary you had to just be there all the time. There was no, like, you be there to meet your clients. You’re just always there. That was one of the requirements, you had to be there all the time.
And so, thinking back on it, it was a little ridiculous, but 1) you’re not just coaching. That was one of the biggest things that really irked me early on — and this isn’t just this gym, this has many gyms. It’s a lot of cleaning, wiping down equipment, putting weights away. It’s consults ,someone comes in, meet with them, sit down with them, talk with them. There’s a lot of inter-coach politics going on. Like, “well, this coach is doing this,” and coach is like, “well that coach is stupid. Don’t listen to that coach.” There’s just so much hearsay and talk and gossip between coaches and who’s doing the right thing, who’s doing the wrong thing?
And then the manager or the gym owner or whatever, they’re really going to try and hold you to the expectations of what they believe as a coach. So, in terms of trying to emphasize what they think is right, and even if you think it’s not right, a lot of times you have to do the thing that the boss is going to tell you to do.
I remember there was so much going on back in this time, around 2013-2014. This is when diaphragmatic breathing really started to become a thing, mainly popularized by Eric Cressey and from the PRI — Postural Restoration Institute.
Mike: [00:33:04] Real quick interjection, question — would you agree that diaphragmatic breathing probably got a little too popular in some circles for a period of time?
Jordan: [00:33:16] It got way too popular.
Mike: [00:33:17] Hang on. But is now underrated?
Jordan: [00:33:21] Ah, yes. Yup. Because in that time, the way that Brian Krahn calls it a “warmup porn,” right? In that time, designing the perfect warmup was what everyone wanted to do. And by the way, my first lead magnet to get people on my email list was, “how to design the perfect warmup” and no one signed up for it.
But that was the time in which learning every nuance of mobility and stability and everything. That was the most mind-boggling stuff to people. That’s when the FMS really became a thing, which I actually really enjoy the FMS, I think it does a lot of good stuff, but strength coaches started to act like physical therapists and it was a huge issue at the time.
And there were coaches who — I am not joking, this is not an exaggeration — for an entire workout would have their clients breathing. That’s it. And these were clients who, they wanted to come in, they wanted to lose 50 plus pounds, they just wanted to work out. And these coaches, at the instruction and at the demand of the person we’re working for is like, I don’t know, “you gotta have them breathe.”
It’s like, what in the hell are you doing? You need to get them moving, get them stretching, get them lifting weights, whatever it is. Obviously don’t push them to the point where they can’t, but if you’re having your client’s lie down on the ground and learn how to diaphragmatic breathe for 45 minutes, that’s not your job.
And I would always frame it from the perspective of, let me ask you this: “if your client came to you and said that their physical therapists put them on a strength and conditioning program, would you be happy about that?” And they were like, “no, of course not. That’s not their job.” I was like, “so what the hell are you doing?”
Why are you assessing this person’s posture? You don’t, you read a blog on this four days ago. You don’t know how to do it. So that was one of the hardest things, is having to do things that you either don’t believe are the right things to do — and this is any job, right? Any boss is gonna be like, “all right, well, you have to do it because you’re working here.”
And that was one of the major issues. I’d say probably the biggest benefit of having a salary-based coaching job and being there all day is I was basically required to find my own clients. So, if I didn’t want to find a client, I didn’t have to.
Mike: [00:35:38] Did you get paid per client on top of your salary?
Jordan: [00:35:43] No.
Mike: [00:35:45] Interesting.
Jordan: [00:35:46] It was just salary. A flat-rate salary.
Mike: [00:35:49] Was there any — and it wasn’t a training gym, meaning people could sign up and just go work out on their own?
Jordan: [00:35:57] Yes. Yep. There was a lot of issues with this gym.
Mike: [00:36:00] So where was the incentive?
Jordan: [00:36:02] There was none. That was it.
Mike: [00:36:04] But you genuinely wanted to be coaching people. Were there other trainers who would just like — we’re talking a little bit about politics, I actually think that can be one of the cons, it can also be one of the pros, is if you have good coworkers, the friendships that come out of that–
Jordan: [00:36:21] Yeah, like Adam Pine is one my best friends.
Mike: [00:36:23] The fun that you’ll have on slow days with other coaches, that interaction is awesome. But did other coaches — I’ve just never heard of a gym where you had to get your own clients, but you also weren’t incentivized to get your own clients.
Jordan: [00:36:45] That was the gym that I worked at. It was insane. But the best part for me in that situation was it gave me a tremendous amount of time to write articles and make content.
So that was a very interesting experience. But like you said, so much net-positive because of the people that I met, the things that I learned.
I think Ben Bruno’s the best example of this, or one of the best examples. Ben Bruno, I respect with every ounce of my being. He worked in-person at Mike Boyle’s facility for years, one of the best facilities in the world. And he’s so smart, so knowledgeable, such a great coach and he just worked day in, day out at least six days a week coaching people nonstop at Boyle’s facility until eventually he took what he’d built and the contacts he’d met and everything and moved to LA. And now he’s coaching Justin Timberlake and coaching Jessica Biel and coaching some of the most famous people in the world.
But people don’t see the 10 plus years of in-person coaching that came before that, they just see the people that he’s coaching now.
And they’re like, “well, how do I get that?” It’s like, the best — and we’ve said this so many times — the best way to really establish yourself as a great coach online, a great “Instagram” coach, if you want to call it whatever, great coach online, is to be a tremendous in-person coach.
Because people can smell it. I went on Mind Pump and that was one of the best discussions they had. They’re like, “we’ve had people on this podcast who have big audiences and they’re coaches, but when you start talking about programming or technique or whatever it is, they can’t hold a discussion because they don’t have the experience.” Not only the experience of studying it, but the experience of coaching people.
That’s one of the things that allows you to have a high-level discussion. And when I say high-level, I don’t mean use big words, I mean be able to examine a variety of different circumstances that will be presented to you over the course of working with so many people so you can analyze it and dissect it on a very individual basis.
Mike: [00:38:51] And to know what actually happens when you have a person doing a certain move. I actually think that’s probably where a lot of the type of content where you would do a few examples of a move incorrectly, and then you would show the correct form — I don’t think you would be able to make those without in-person coaching experience because you wouldn’t know, “Oh, they’re way up on their toe here.” “Oh, people really bounce like that?” “People really do a lateral raise like that?” You wouldn’t know the mistakes people make without that experience.
Jordan: [00:39:23] Absolutely. And you can see this. I see it on social media all the time. My messages are pretty consistent and similar because they’re just a few simple truths. And when you start to coach, you understand, you say the same things over and over and over and over, and the same things people need to hear in-person, they need to hear online. And I’ll say things and there’ll be people who’ll be like, “Oh, I can’t believe there are still people who think this.” Or “there are still people who make that mistake.”
That person has never coached anyone in person.
You know, the people who’ve actually coached people in-person. These are the same people who say, “well, I don’t, I don’t know what content to make” and/or “I don’t want to put out content that everyone knows.” Because if you’re actually coaching people, then you know, there are way more people that don’t know than do know, right?
There in way more people that don’t know about calorie deficit than do know. There are way more people that don’t know that rounding your lower back is bad in the deadlift than people who do know. There are way more people that don’t know that sugar isn’t inherently bad for you.
There are way more people that don’t know this stuff. It’s not common knowledge. If you think it’s common knowledge it’s because you’ve surrounded yourself with a very small community of people who make it appear to be common knowledge, but it’s not.
Mike: [00:40:37] Correct.
When someone becomes a personal trainer, they have this vision like, “okay, I’m super passionate about fitness. I want to make this my career. I really want to help people. I understand to become a great coach it’s the long run that matters. This isn’t gonna happen overnight. I’m committed to several years of coaching in-person because I really want to do this, but I also want to build up my online business while I’m coaching people in-person,” which is a great strategy.
What I think those individuals might not fully know yet is when you talk about how one of the great things about being at that gym was you could spend time writing articles and making content, you didn’t have four clear hours on your schedule with a nice quiet environment and a solid desk and chair and computer and ability to write it a “Seven Ways Whatever,” article.
You probably had 52 minutes after one client, but before you knew the owner was getting there and needed you to help him with the bathrooms or whatever. So, you’re like, I have 52 minutes. It’s a busy day so you kind of hide in the corner behind a map with your laptop and you’re in a weird position and it’s not the cleanest right next to you. And you’re like, “okay, but I gotta focus and zero in and bang this out.” I think that’s one of the biggest skills — is being able to use your breaks during the day productively to build your online business. Especially when you’re tired, you woke up at 4:45 that day, it’d be much more tempting to go chat up the new girl coach who just joined, but you have a goal that you’re trying to build this up.
I think that’s just a realization that’s important for people to make is it’s definitely possible, but it takes a lot of focus and it’s not easy and you need to be intentional about filling the gaps in your schedule.
Jordan: [00:42:48] I was waking up at 4:00 AM to get time writing.
If you go back and look at my tweets and Facebook posts from 2013-14-15, you’ll see the time that it was posted. And for example, every Friday there was a “Follow Friday” on Twitter. I think it’s still a hashtag, #FF. I would literally go through the 50 plus people on Twitter that I followed, who I loved; Eric Cressey, Mark Young, Westside Barbell, whatever it was and every single week I would tag every single one of them. And then you could only fit X number of people per tweet. So, I’d do like 15-20 tweets in a row every Friday at like 4-4:30 in the morning. It was like, “I gotta get it out of the way.” And I would do that with articles, I would do that with everything.
I very quickly realized if I stayed at the gym during my time off, then I would end up talking with coaches at the gym, wasting time talking about nonsense or getting in debates over what’s right. Diaphragmatic breathing, blah blah blah, whatever, stupid stuff. So, I had to go to Dunkin Donuts, bring my computer with me to Dunkin Donuts, do social media, write articles, whatever it was.
And if I needed to film, Adam Pine would film for me, which was amazing. I was super lucky that I was like, “yo, Adam, let’s go in the back room, let’s film, whatever.” In one of my videos there was a woman who didn’t even work at the gym. She was basically at the gym because one of the coaches at the gym, one of the guys there, they were seeing each other, but not really. It was odd, very weird relationship, but she would come in all the time and hang out all day.
And I was filming an ab video. It’s still on YouTube. I believe it’s called a “plank progression,” or something like that. And you’ll hear near the end of the video, her screaming, “Jordan! Jordan! Jordan!” Just because, number one, not many people were making content at the time and Adam was filming me and they didn’t know what was going on, but nothing is going to be perfect.
You’re going to be cramped up writing. If you look at my YouTube videos from when I was in college, the sound is terrible. It was in my college gym. It’s just, in the same way you are hopefully going to tell your future clients, “don’t worry about being perfect, just do what you can.” Same thing with this.
And understand pay is going to be bad, hours are going to be long, you’re going to get in a lot of disagreements with people. There’s a reason why personal training has one of the highest burnout rates out of any industry. Because you’re exhausted, you’re drained emotionally.
We should talk about this: coaching people is emotionally draining.
People don’t understand this. I’ll start by saying this: if I owned my own gym and I had coaches, which I don’t plan on it at all, but if I owned my own gym and I was in charge of coaches, I would not allow my coaches to coach for more than two hours in a row.
Two hours would be the max number of hours they could coach in a row before they needed at least an hour break. Because if you’re doing one on one coaching, there are some clients who they’re very easy to work with, they don’t talk that much, whatever. It’s just easy to work with. There are other clients, they’ll just drain you and drain you. And one hour with them is like 10 hours and sometimes after doing that, the last thing you want to do is get your own workout in. The last thing you want to do is anything else. It is very, very difficult.
Mike: [00:46:23] Yeah. And you don’t have control. When you have your own business, you have control over choosing your clients to an extent, whereas when you’re working at a gym, you don’t.
And so that person who is there for a workout, sure, and wants to get in shape, okay. But the biggest benefit they’re getting is they get someone to listen to them for an hour straight and you’re that person. And yeah, you’re completely right. I’m just thinking of myself and, and ways that I would handle that, which was I basically just required more recovery time on the backend, whether it was that night, whether it was getting sleep, whether it was taking time to myself on a weekend. But yes, that’s definitely something to think about. You’re not just counting sets and reps; you’re not even just giving them optimal guidance on what they’re doing.
It’s the psychological interaction with them that so many people need and benefit from.
Jordan: [00:47:30] There’s that famous meme where it’s like, “what my friends think I do, my parents like I do…” What you actually do is the picture of a psychologist where you have the patient lying on the couch and you’re just talking to them.
Mike: [00:47:42] True for some clients.
Jordan: [00:47:44] True for many clients. Not all, but many clients.
It’s an important part of all clients, though, in terms of the discussion aspect of it. It’s not just sets and reps.
Mike: [00:47:56] Of course. Okay, we’ll say true for all clients, but there’s a spectrum on how much a client needs you or what they put on you.
Jordan: [00:48:08] 100%.
And just like in online coaching, some clients, when they have a question, they’ll ask it, when they need to talk about something, they’ll do it, but it’ll be usually pretty rare. Whereas other clients, every day they’ll email you 2000 words and it will have nothing to do with what you’re doing.
And it’s like, that’s sometimes part of it,
Mike: [00:48:25] That’s definitely part of it.
Something that you and I have never talked about, I don’t think, that I actually believe to be true. I think a coach can, to an extent, control the average type of client or the average type of problem that their clients have based on the type of content they put out.
If someone is making content around eating disorders, they’re going to have clients with different needs than someone who’s just putting out aesthetics and muscle building content.
Jordan: [00:49:01] In the last five years I haven’t had a single bodybuilder ask to work with me. And that is not a coincidence.
I don’t look like a bodybuilder. I don’t talk about bodybuilding. I actively say no one cares if you have a six pack. Based on the content you put out, you will absolutely get people who are in line with what you want to talk about and who are not.
Unfortunately, that’s not how in-person works, especially when you’re just starting.
Mike: [00:49:34] Yes, that’s absolutely true.
Jordan: [00:49:36] You’ll get anyone and everyone and if the gym is telling you who to take, then you’ll take them. And if you need it, you’ll do it. And if you’re passionate about it, you’ll do it.
Mike: [00:49:44] Which is cool because it gives you a taste of everything.
Jordan: [00:49:46] Yeah. And you very quickly learn the phrase, “it depends.”
It seems like it’s the most cop out answer in nutrition and strength training, but the more you coach people, the more you understand “it depends” always holds true because there is never– you might, on a general, global scale say, “well, yeah, it’s always different on the individual.”
You really start to understand it is different based on the individual when you coach a hundred people. When you’ve coached your first hundred people, you will find– even though the solution, in terms of the program, might be similar in many ways, the movements you’ll use — you’ll use hip hinges, you’ll do a lot of pulling, do a lot of rows, you’ll do a lot of face pulls, you’ll do a lot of core work, glute activation — even though that stuff will be similar across the board, essentially, how you arrive there will often change dramatically.
And it could be arriving there via how you communicate with them, how you actually program them in terms of how you learn, how some people, generally, how oftentimes women will feel better from working out versus how men will feel better from working out. These are general generalities, but you notice the patterns.
How to progress someone who might be very overweight from starting to finish, how you communicate with them verbally, physically, where you work out with them in the gym. That’s one thing I never realized until I was coaching people in person.
I always found that when I started working with a brand-new client who had never come to the gym before, who might’ve had a lot of weight to lose and was very self-conscious. If I started coaching them in the middle of the floor, they would be super nervous. I sometimes had clients who had anxiety attacks.
So, I very quickly learned, “okay, we’re going to take them into the back corner of the gym, to a private room where no one can see them.” These are things that are not in a manual. It’s not in a certification. I’m actually really glad I thought about this, this is the stuff you only learn from coaching people and if you actually are paying attention as a coach and actively listening and being aware.
There is no certification that will tell you some people are going to be uncomfortable in the gym, you should take them in the back corner where no one is. You only learn that. And then from there, when you’re working online, someone comes to you, “I’ve never been in the gym before.” You could say, “Hey, listen, just in case you’re nervous going in that area, go in the backroom for the first month. Take the weights in there, whatever you need, put it in the corner and just do it there.” These are so important because what does this do? It leads to consistency.
If they go in there and they think someone’s looking at them weird, then they cancel their payment and they stop emailing you. That’s why in-person is the foundation of it all. Even though, realistically, I think in-person is way harder than online, it’s way harder, way more physically demanding, emotionally demanding, you learn so much about coaching in there that is far beyond sets and reps and technique.
Mike: [00:52:46] Yeah. Very well said. It ain’t even a certification. You gotta do it.
Jordan: [00:52:52] And you could also join our Fitness Business Mentorship if you want. In which, we talk about stuff like this. The actual, real good stuff.
Mike: [00:53:00] Yes, you may. Yes, you may. Mentorship’s going amazing.
What else should people know who might want to become a personal trainer?
Jordan: [00:53:12] I feel like I’ve spoken a lot. Do you have anything?
Mike: [00:53:15] That was rhetorical, so I was asking myself as well as you, Big J. Jordan and I recently have been making our names Big J and Big M when we order food during this time.
Jordan: [00:53:28] I had my first Chipotle burrito the other day.
Mike: [00:53:31] Yes, you did.
Jordan: [00:53:31] I’ve spoken poorly of Chipotle having not given them a fair shot. I’ve only had the bowls. I just always got the bowl; I never got the burrito. I’m a small guy, it’s easy to have too many calories for me. So, I was like, “all right, I’m just going to get the bowls.” The bowls suck. So, I had my first burrito, it was phenomenal.
And because of everything going on, you can’t really go in and wait in line and eat in there. So, you order online and you put your names on it. So, I put the names Big M and Big J on it.
Mike: [00:54:02] You know, what’s interesting? I did a, “is the Chipotle nutrition calculator accurate?” video, many years back.
It SEOs very well. I think it’s page one, if you type in “Chipotle nutrition.”
Jordan: [00:54:15] Really? That’s amazing.
Mike: [00:54:17] Mmhm. An article and a video. And the bowls, usually — because obviously it depends on who scooping and that specific location’s practices.
Jordan: [00:54:27] Their meat hand. How heavy is their meat hand?
Mike: [00:54:30] Exactly. Usually light, but the rice hand is often heavy and, in a bowl, it fits more food than a burrito. So, I wonder if, despite adding the tortilla, I wonder if a burrito could have been fewer calories for you because there’s so much less rice that can fit in there.
Jordan: [00:54:51] How many calories is the tortilla?
Mike: [00:54:54] The tortilla has 12 protein, 7 fat, and I think it’s like 50-60 carb. So, what is that? 300.
Jordan: [00:55:10] 300 calories?
Mike: [00:55:11] Yeah.
Jordan: [00:55:11] Yeah. So probably more in the burrito just because I would be shocked if I had 300 cals from rice.
Mike: [00:55:16] Yeah. But maybe the tortilla does something digestively for you.
Jordan: [00:55:23] It tastes better, that’s for sure. And actually digestively, it does feel better. Because I would always get diarrhea from the bowls. Haven’t from the two burritos yet. ,
Mike: [00:55:32] Part of that may be that for the entire duration of your life you’ve been eating what is known as the “optimal gut health diet” completely by accident.
I think we spoke about this a couple episodes ago. You were asking me about gut health and we talked about miso soup.
Jordan: [00:55:49] My memory is so bad. I don’t remember that conversation at all.
Mike: [00:55:52] You know what I actually think? We’re getting way off topic, but that’s okay.
I think similar to that day when we went down to Florida and put our phones away and just tried to be very present and just experience life, I wonder if being engaged in tasks on one’s phone leads to, I dunno like–
Jordan: [00:56:21] Memory loss?
Mike: [00:56:21] No, not memory loss, but reduced ability to form new memories.
Jordan: [00:56:28] Or because you’re doing so many things at once you don’t necessarily remember what’s going on.
Mike: [00:56:31] That’s what I mean. I don’t mean some kind of impairment in the brain; I just mean like–
Jordan: [00:56:36] Yeah, you can’t focus on 12 things at once and expect to remember all of them. That makes sense.
Mike: [00:56:42] And apparently these podcasts with me fall low on Jordan’s priority list. Just kidding.
Look, obviously the fitness industry and coaching clients has done so many incredible things for both of us. And the top of that list is the feeling of a client, really having a breakthrough and really making progress and really taking steps towards sustaining that progress. That feeling is the best. And that’s what I love most about my job. But it also has made us enough money to support us, it has done so many things.
If you feel drawn toward fitness as a profession, I think it makes a lot of sense to at least give it a shot, at least give coaching in-person a shot. And hopefully some of what we laid out here gave you expectations and give you a timeline in mind, right? You don’t need to be grinding at the gym for $20,000 a year for 100 hours a week for 40 years, but for a shorter amount of time, you can really learn a lot and gain a lot from that.
Jordan: [00:58:09] Yeah. One thing that’s important to remember here is — I had two college professors I liked. Out of all my college professors, I had two. One of them was Dr. Peterson, who I’m still in touch with pretty frequently because he was a real proponent of entrepreneurship and he liked what I was doing.
One of the things that he said that really hit home with me, he was like, “when I first started–” and this is the Dean of the school, he consults with the White House on many things, he’s very, very well-known and big in the public health world. He was like, “when I first started in my career, I hated 90% of the things that I did and enjoyed 10%. And as I progressed, then I hated 80% and enjoyed 20% and as I progressed, I hated 70% and enjoyed 30%”
He’s like, “now I love 90% of the things I do and hate 10% of things I do.” And he’s literally at the top of his career, the top of his field.
I love that for a number of reasons, number one being he still has to do stuff he hates. Even when he’s at the top of the top of the top, there’s still things he has to do that he hates.
Also understanding that a lot of people say, “if you love what you’ll do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” That’s nonsense. If you love what you do, working as hard as you possibly can will be worth it. And part of being a coach — here’s the thing about coaching: it’s very different to love working out than it is to love coaching people. Two very different things.
And this is what I see a lot of people who burn out deal with is, they got into personal training because they were like, “well, I love working out. So, I’ll just help other people do it. Because then I can be in the gym all day. That sounds great. I’m in the gym all day.” It’s not as great when being in the gym all day means wiping down equipment, re-racking weights that people left strewn all over the place, dealing with politics, all this other stuff.
If you love coaching people, it’s worth it. And you should give it a shot.
Just understand that when you first start, you’re the newbie, you’re the beginner. You’re not going to like a large portion of what is going on, but the people that I met when I first started coaching were the foundation of what has built my business today. The people that I met, what I learned from them, how I’ve progressed from them.
You get into an issue when either you quit too early and/or you stay in one place too long. If you stay at the one gym that you’re at forever, then there’s a ceiling. Wherever you are there’s always a ceiling, which is why you have to keep pushing yourself.
After several months working at that gym, my first gym that I really worked at out of college, I knew that I didn’t want to stay that forever and I gave myself a timeline by which I needed to quit. And I stuck to it.
It’s one of those things where it’s a very hard thing to do to either go off on your own or do something else, to go to another gym. And it’s important, I would say, to give yourself timelines. Realistic timelines, not four weeks. Six months, a year, two years, whatever, where you are required to take a step to progress yourself as a coach, progress your career, whatever it is, and follow it. And just understand throughout that timeline, there’ll be a lot of trial and error and struggling and questioning, but if you love coaching, it’s worth it.
Mike: [01:01:25] And with that, thank you very much for listening. Please leave a review. A five-star review would be amazing. And we hope you all have an outstanding day.
Jordan: [01:01:35] Talk to you soon.