Thomas Plummer


A Fresh Perspective on the Fitness Industry

Why CrossFit matters... and what it has to do to stay relevant in the coming years

CrossFit changed the rules of the modern fitness business. Love them or rage against them, the training gym game changed when Greg Glassman and his team of fitness insurgents reinvented the rules.

Greg Glassman created CrossFit in 2000, although it seems it has been around for decades longer. It would be hard to calculate just how many traditional training gurus railed against the concept of CrossFit when his idea was introduced back in the day. The sad part of the story is that Glassman was lost in the debate. His contribution to the industry as a creative genius and marketer, as well as a wild free thinker about training methodology, were often overshadowed by the negativity thrown at him by those challenged by his approach and take no prisoners demeanor.

There aren’t as many impact players in the history of fitness as you might imagine. Joe Gold created not only Gold’s, but World’s Gym as well. His legacy literally reinvented everything we did for 20 years as a business. Jack LaLanne made fitness popular and something everyone could do through his television show. Arthur Jones invented Nautilus and the commercial gym never looked the same again. Neal Spruce was a pioneer in nutrition and created not only the most successful commercial nutrition applications in the industry but NASM as well. Mike Grondahl almost went broke and in an act of desperation, and brilliant marketing, he created Planet Fitness and the low-priced business concept. And even Arnold turned the need to be big into a commercial proposition that drove people to the gyms in big waves.

Some of these people aren’t well known in the industry, but all of them have changed the way we do business, think about training, and relate to the public we serve.  The common denominator in this group is that everyone on this list was viewed as extremely controversial at the time and was debated by his peers as either the answer to everyone’s problem or thought to be the anti-Christ who would bring down humanity due to his idea of what fitness should be.

Greg Glassman belongs on this list. His genius is that he created a marketing company that reinvented modern fitness as we know it. Group training existed prior to CrossFit, but he made it the centerpiece in about 9000 gyms. No one had built a community in fitness prior to his arrival and no one debunked the idea of traditional circuit training like he did. He created a cult-like player in the industry, and as those on the list above, he was admired and hated at the same time for his work.

The hardest issue for a company such as CrossFit, and Glassman, is how do you stay relevant in an industry that eats micro gyms like a CrossFitter throwing down turkey legs at a Paleo buffet?

Most trends in the fitness industry, which we call micro trends, last for about 12-15 years. These trends have a long, slow build, followed by a quick rise to the top, a hot period, and then a fast fade. Aerobics, tanning, Curves and a number of other fitness phenomenons all lived and died by the trend line. Evolution is the constant and you either let your creation evolve or you watch it die because of failure to adapt and change to meet the current needs of the market.

Aerobics had a long slow build in the 1980s, followed by a quick rise and hot period in the late 80s and early 90s, and then it was gone around 1993 only to be reborn in about 1999 as group exercise driven by kickboxing and next generation group fitness. Even now group exercise has faded again and is slowly being replaced by group training in most gyms. The star can shine brightly, but eventually it does have to burnout.

Most evolution in the fitness industry is driven from the bottom up these days. This means that the gym owners, the trainers and the people in direct contact with the buying public modify their products as the market dictates. If your life and everything in it is put into your own training business, then you are forced to adapt and modify the model or the bills simply can’t be paid. Corporate people are often left out of this direct consumer contact making it difficult to feel and react what the consumer is feeling today and what his needs will be tomorrow.

The exception to this rule is Starbucks. Howard Shultz came back into the company he created, went out into the stores and talked to the customers and returned the company into the profit zone. He didn’t do it by living in the past and trying to recreate or hang on to the glory days; he did it by reinventing the business around the original product, which is a strong cup of good coffee. He allowed the business to move forward in time and Starbucks now even has units that serve beer and wine.

On the other hand, in my opinion, Curves failed to evolve their original circuit product and the consumer simply moved on to newer and shinier toys. Many corporate people stumble because they know their product no longer works, but they have no idea where to go next. This seems to be the case with Gold’s and 24-Hour Fitness these days. How do you let those giant companies evolve and where should they be positioned to take advantage of the future? Evolution is constant and only the strongest and the ones willing to adapt become sustainable over time.

CrossFit had the long slow build. They had the quick rise. And now they are in the middle of the hot stage. The goal of any business owner is to stay there for as long as they can without succumbing to the quick plunge into fitness history. How can CrossFit stay relevant for another 14 years?

There are three things CrossFit could do to maintain their image as a dynamic force in worldwide fitness over the next decade:

1.     Support the training methodology with a business platform. CrossFit is a marketing company that sells licenses. Eventually, many of the people so passionate about CrossFit, and who want to make a living out of their box, will fail without business direction. Why let them fail? Why not embrace the fact that the coach who operates this box has evolved and wants to make a decent living out of owning and operating his own gym? The community may have all the answers to training questions, but most don’t have the have the answer when it comes to building a financially successful box that is sustainable over time. There are thousand of master trainers in the CrossFit system, and their next generation coaches are often some of the best in the world, but there aren’t many master level business people in the organization yet, but that will come ultimately and the more experienced box owners will figure out how to get the education and support they need to live their dream on their own terms.

There are a small number of CrossFits that make really good money, but most don’t. A typical 6,000 square foot training can do over a million a year these days, a number that isn’t really part of the CrossFit culture yet, but easily could be. Remember, Glassman was right in the first place. Group training is a good tool, but the coaches need other ways to charge and serve their clientele over time and if corporate doesn’t lead, it will happen anyway. Evolution occurs with or without leadership and do you want to be the person creating it or the person reacting to it?

2.     Help the younger; more inexperienced trainers keep their clients safer over time. There is probably no one more passionate about fitness and training than a coach with three months of fitness experience who just came home from his first CrossFit certification. This person is on fire and wants to share the newly acquired knowledge with everyone. The problem is that new coaches who just learned complex movement patterns might need some more seasoning themselves before he or she can supervise a room full of people doing a complex exercise, such as a power clean, whenever that group is tired and getting a little sloppy.

I would not change the community approach to posting workouts. It is fun and keeps the community banded together. It would be nice to see a recommend list of workouts for newer coaches focused on the skills they have today, not the ones they will have in the future. Injuries hurt everyone in the brand, even minor ones, and it is the perception of injuries that can ruin any good training gym, whether they are true or not. Control the perception. I don’t think CrossFit is any place as dangerous as the press sometimes fixates on, but it would help to control the perception instead of letting someone else control the conversation.

3.     Offer marketing support, such as a stronger national ad campaign, for a fee, to control the national image more. In marketing, you either control your own image, or the marketplace fills in the void and makes up its own stories.  Once you become a national brand, the marketplace can take over your image if you don’t work hard to control it. You can survive being the anti-gym, but in a small marketplace, such as the world of fitness where only 17% of the people in this country belong to gyms, your image over time dictates your place in this market. If you don’t play, the consumer makes up his own story about you and often that is bad. Greg Glassman has a compelling story to tell. Some of his first generation writings on the concept of CrossFit are some of the best marketing and most solid ideas of fitness I have ever seen in the industry, but why not let the story evolve and keep leading from the front?

What do all of these things mean taken together? Glassman created one of the most innovative fitness companies in the history of the industry. His distractors fight over the training methodology neglecting the fact that he changed the fitness world more than most of them combined ever will.

But this brilliant idea needs finished. It is important to all of us in the business that CrossFit grows and evolves to its true potential. No matter what success CrossFit corporate has had during their first 14 years, and it has been significant, they could even be more wildly successful if the boxes ever live up to their revenue potential. Owners that make money will stay on the organization longer and pay longer. These owners will spend a lot more money on education and even more on continued certification over time. Owners that make money stay loyal to the brand. Those that struggle look for other solutions and are willing to leave the brand for any solution that keeps them in business and living that dream of doing fitness for a living.

CrossFit matters to us all. Glassman was right and should be given so much more credit for his creation than he has been recognized for in the industry. It will be interesting to see how he lets it evolve into next generation CrossFit and how the story will end. 

Breaking the hourly addiction

Getting paid by the hour sounds so logical when you are a fitness professional. You show up to work, do your training thing, get paid for the time and go home. If you work for someone, this method of compensation makes sense. If you work for yourself, however, getting paid by the hour is the least effective thing you can do in business to generate revenue for yourself and for your team.

The problem with hourly pay is that there are a whole bunch of negatives that kill this method. Here are just a few to think about in your business:

·      There is always going to be a monetary perceived ceiling per hour you can charge; either in your mind or in the client’s head

·      The client always immediately finds an equivalent rate in his head comparing you to what he pays others in his life that provide anytime of service

·      You can only work so many hours per week; therefore, you can only earn so much before you top out your income over time.

·      Selling yourself by the hour always brings the discussion down to money instead of how you can help the client. Why is help in our world just limited to one hour at a time? Why is fitness sold per hour and not per solution to a problem? For example, a client asks for weight loss over time and we turn around and sell him an hour of our time. He asked for a solution to a long-term problem and we came back to him with an hourly fee.

Let’s say a trainer can charge $100 per hour in her market. In the trainer’s world, this amount is often a lot of money, especially since we all currently believe that the idea is to try and charge as much as you can per hour worked, which is also proves to be an ineffective way to charge anyone that we will discuss later. The trainer says, “I am going to push my rate up to $100 and go for it; the most I have ever charged anyone.”

Since this is a lot of money to the trainer, his ability to ask for this money is always weak. It takes a mature money person to stand in someone’s face and ask for the most money you have ever earned and most trainers, especially the younger ones in the field, stumble here.

Understand that trainers usually get into the field because they are internally driven people who love helping others. It is a strange comparison, but trainers are often the social workers of the fitness industry. Social workers are often good people who dedicate their lives, often for extremely low pay, to helping others in need. Many trainers love helping and training so much that they too will help others for free if necessary. This intrinsic drive is admirable in a trainer, but it doesn’t feed the kids or pay the rent.

The client on the other hand, who often has either direct or indirect knowledge of what trainers in your area get paid, compares your rate to others in your field in that area. You should be the highest priced trainer in your area, but there are limits to how far you can push this concept. Money people that are our training clients understand better than you often do that the higher the rate someone charges, the higher perception of service and quality goes with it. This thought is a direct contradiction for trainers who often feel they have to continually make deals or charge the least in their market to work and often the hardest lesson to learn by any trainer in the business.

Where we fail, however, and where there is a serious disconnect, is that what we ask for doesn’t usually match the circumstances of the sale. For example, your client wants to hire an attorney. The $50 per hour attorney usually matches the rate he charges. Bad suit, small office, no assistant, poor location and little experience are all the signs of a $50 an hour attorney. On the other hand, the $250 hour attorney completely matches the rate. He or she has the big office, assistants, is often part of a bigger firm, offices that are in the best part of town and all the trappings, experience and poise it takes to charge the highest rate in town.

Our trainer, however, is trying to charge the highest rate he can or the market will bear, but is doing it in the same context that all the other cheap guys live in. Our hero wants the most money, but he is dressed the same, usually badly, works along side the low priced guys, doesn’t understand added value or building value for his client and simply tries to charge a little more, but does nothing else to support the context that he is worth more. Remember, it isn’t always what you know; it is how you deliver that knowledge that makes you money.

In the world of attorneys, the range between the lowest and the highest hourly can exist because the differentiation is so apparent. In our world, the gap between high and low that the client will accept is often much smaller because there is often no perceived differences between the players. Your priced is based upon you learning that perception of quality is the real separator in the client’s head in most business transactions.

Another problem with charging by the hour is that the client always immediately compares your rate to other professionals in his life and we often fare badly in that comparison. If you charge a $100 per hour, and the client’s chiropractor only charges $65 per visit, you are now being compared to a medical professional. In the client’s head, you are charging more than a medical professional on his team. We can survive this comparison, but our delivery system, which includes our support materials for the client, how we dress and act professionally, where we train the client, the support services we offer along with our training, such as nutrition, and all the other small details that make up our product along with the actual training, has to be so much more distinctive and offered at a much higher level than any other trainer we are competing against.

The need for having a life also works against you charging hourly for your services. Yes, you can work six days a week. Yes, you can work splits so you can be there in the morning and come back in the evening for those later clients. And yes, you can train clients for 40 hours or more per week. The question is how long can you do this, and most importantly, how long can you do this well?

Your ability to maintain this level of training over a long period of time is almost impossible. We find that the average trainer lasts less than eight years before he or she burns and crashes and trying to maintain this type of schedule is the prime reason trainers fade away young.

There are several issues involved here. First of all, your ability to work past this hour limit will put a max on the money you can make. If you can only work 32 sessions per week, then your money ceiling is now 32 times your hourly rate minus your cost of servicing that client. Trainers who want to make more money simply keep trying to gain more clients and work more hours, but realistically, at some point you will have to take a nap, eat, see your kids, visit your soon to be ex-spouse or simply sit somewhere for a few hours with friends and decompress. Whether you admit it or not, there is always going to be a limit to the hours you can work, and therefore, the money you can make.

The second issue is that the more hours you train clients, the more ineffective you become. There will be those of you who read this who adamantly deny this and swear, probably at me, that every session you ever offer is the best you can do and every client gets your best every time you’re on the floor. The passion is appreciated, but sit quietly and ask yourself if that is indeed true? Are you really giving your best every session, every week, every month, year after year or are you giving it about 80 percent of what little energy and passion you have left after five years of split shifts, 2000 meals out of plastic bowls, clients in foul moods, late nights with friends and the fact that you just haven’t had five consecutive days off since summer vacation in grade school?

Training for a living, despite what your relatives and friends think, is extremely difficult with a full load of clients. You have to remember that every client is there to take a little of your energy home with them that day and no trainer, no matter how good, is capable of sustaining that level of commitment year after year without rest, decent food and a chance to stay fresh and excited.

The answer to all of this is to move from hourly to solution-based client sales and there are several ways to get this done.

First of all, you can switch from one-on-one training as your primary tool and start with small group training with up to four in a group. Your return per hour goes up, the clients get better results over time due to the group dynamic, and most importantly, you can work fewer hours each week and make more money. You also gain the advantage of shifting the focus away from you and to the group making your job easier and more sustainable over time.

The key to getting started with this is to switch from per session charges to charging per month with a 12-month commitment (at least three months if you are nervous to try this). For example, instead of charging $60 per session, or 10@ $500, which would be a typical charging system for a trainer in the one-on-one world, you could switch to $259 a month for 12 months for five visits per month or $359 a month for 12 months for unlimited access defined as 12 sessions per month with guided workouts for the off days included (You write the workouts but the clients do them on their on the off days).

You set times on a schedule and the client books the times best for him. The client does not have to bring a friend or fill the slots; he simply goes to your scheduler and books as needed. Remember that the average client will train about 9.6 times per month so you win by accumulating a large receivable base of client money owed to you and the client wins by being able to train when he wants in a group setting with motivated people along side.

If you don’t want to do it this way, you can simply sell a solution to a problem. For example, a client starts with you and wants to lose some weight and get healthier. It doesn’t make sense for this client to now buy a five pack of sessions, and it is worse if you discount your services to sell him more sessions at a lower rate.

Using the $50 rate from above based upon the session package, you could sell this client a three-month complete rebuilding program for only $549 per month for three months, which includes 8-12 sessions per month done in a group setting, full nutrition support and needed supplements, a workout journal and a tee shirt. This is just a model and what you charge and what you add is up to you, but the key point is you make more money selling the client a solution to his problem rather than trying to just sell sessions and packages.

The goal is to net 40% on everything you do, but the long-term move is to build a system where you get paid for what you know, not just the hours you are willing to work each week. You’re already doing the work, you just aren’t getting paid for it well enough.

It was time for a rewrite

The industry has changed dramatically since my first book, Making Money in the Fitness Business was first released in 1999. Since that era, the big box mainstream gym has faded and the trainer, and the training-centric business model, has risen to dominate the field. This new revision, titled Making Even More Money in the Fitness Business, represents our entire business system used by gyms in over 30 countries around the world.

The original book was a combination of a true labor of love and true arrogance. Everything I thought I knew was in that book and it represented to me a giant step forward from the past failures of the fitness industry toward a system where a dedicated owner could learn to make money ethically and professionally without hurting or failing the client. 

The original book sold about 100,000 copies, which surpassed all my other books combined. It was, however, time to move ahead and the book simply had to be revised to represent the market today and how business is done today. The revised book, which will be published the first week of March by Healthy Learning and Jim Petersen and his dedicated staff, covers over 400 pages of how to get it done in today's market. Very little of the original book exists and it is a revision only in theory. The first seven chapters are new and old chapters were thrown out and replaced by current information you can use to make money today in a tough and competitive fitness market.

The following is the introduction from the new book, which gives you a taste of what changed and why. The new version will be on sale through Healthy Learning, on Amazon and through the National Fitness Business Alliance around March 10. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did writing it.

Introduction to Making More Money in the Fitness Business

When this book was first written back in 1999, it represented everything I really knew about fitness at the time. When I first started in the industry, much of what we did was really all about the owner and little if anything to do with the client. Sales techniques were predatory, the equipment was worthless, few people working in the industry at the time really knew anything about fitness and getting results for clients and the national image of what we did was horrible. There were still pockets of knowledge out there that resided in the small physical physique gyms scattered around the country, but the few who understood fitness were buried beneath the hundreds that wanted to exploit the member for everything he owned.

I grew up in fitness in the era of high-pressured sales. We lived, breathed and failed by learning to sell. The national chains at the time were nothing but repositories of old sales guys who could slam down a dozen a day and then do it again tomorrow. No one thought about, or cared about, the client, who quickly failed in this system and left. Why care? In those days, the member was easily replaceable and the competition was light. Sell, sell and sell again.

This is also a system that I learned to hate quickly. The clients then, as they do now, suffered from being overweight, out of shape and miserable in their personal lives and were looking for us to help them achieve a new level of success. We didn’t have the tools, but there were a few of us that tried anyway. Books were scarce and the ones you could find were based upon personal experience and ideas with no research or real information to back up the claims and techniques in the books or magazines.

The best thing about this old information was that it predated the bodybuilders. Almost everything you read in those days, which was the late 70s and early 80s, was based upon a holistic, full body approach to fitness. You lifted heavy a couple days a week and put a lot of heavy metal up over you head as often as you good. You lifted heavy, lifted often, worked your full body and amazingly it worked for our clients.

At about this same period of time fitness changed and changed for the worse. The 80s were a decade of fixed plane equipment and the first generation of workout people who chased isolation for the muscle as well as the emergence of the national chains and the end of anyone getting any help unless you paid a trainer to work you out six days a week. This was also the advent of the bodybuilder, which for better and worse chartered a course for the industry that lasted until just the last few years. We went for show in those days and bigger the better, but we also created a generation of false expectations and worthless training knowledge that still permeates the mindset even today.

My absolute distaste for the early fitness industry still burns my lips today. We lied to the client to get him into the gym and then failed him once he was there. We chased image over health and failed to do any research that would have advanced the industry by several decades. The industry was for all practical purposes saved at the turn of this new century by the rise of the functional training mindset and by solid research that pointed the way. Some of the early functional pioneers, such as Vern Gambetta, Gary Gray, Jim Petersen, Cedric Bryant, Mike Clark, Al Vermeil and a few others set the tone for a new generation of trainers and training information. This first wave led to the second and the gurus of change who set the world on fire, such as Mark Verstegen, Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Dan John, and Carlos Santana then led again to today’s best, such as Alwyn and Rachael Cosgrove, Todd Durkin, Greg Rose and Pavel Tsatsouline, who have combined to create an new generation of educated professionals that are quickly changing every concept we ever thought to be true in the industry. For once, we had tools that worked and that were validated by educated people who could and would test all the nonsense we had carried for over five decades.

My mission then, as it still is today, was to change the fitness industry from an image of nasty sales techniques and failed information to one where the client got what he paid for and could trust the gym and the owner he chose to help him fulfill his goals. One workshop, one gym at a time, one owner until the consumer could look at what we did and trust us instead of fearing us as he did back in the day of the pressured sale in an office.

Writing this first book was a labor of love. It was my chance to spread the word that you could make money in this business and you could do it ethically and professionally and not at the expense of hurting the people who trusted you with their money. There were later books in this long series on the business of fitness, but each new title was only added after I felt I had something new to say and while I enjoyed the writing process in each and every one, this first one was always my baby that started it all.

At the time this book was written, it seemed so fresh and needed in the industry, but as with everything in the fitness world, time diminishes returns and what was once at the edge of the field and pushing beyond any accepted boundary at the time, became dated and no longer the source of vital information that could help an owner understand and master the business side of the fitness industry.

My entire life has been spent going forward. I like living in the “now” and as I have told thousands of clients, you can’t change your past and the mistakes you have made so let’s talk about today and what you are going to differently starting tomorrow. Looking backward has never been productive for me, and nor for you, and once something is done in my life I let it be and keep moving towards tomorrow.

Being an author, however, is a little like having your own personal time machine; just one call from my publisher, Jim Petersen, who said, “This book is getting dated. How about doing a revised edition?” led to me firing up the time machine and heading back to 1999. Once a book is finished there is no going back for me and I truthfully haven’t looked through the first edition of this book more than a handful of times in the 14 years since I wrote it.

Picking it up again left me with two impressions. First of all, the material was right for the decade it was written, but it is not very close to how an owner has to think or work to be successful in a market that has changed so dramatically in so few years. Secondly, I was pleasantly surprised that there were still some fundamental truths in the book that have endured over time. For instance, building a receivable base is still a fundamental rule that can’t be changed even today, short-term debt still can kill a business and customer service still is an essential.

The failings of the original book today, however, were glaring. When this book was first published, there were no low-priced gyms, no training gyms that mattered, trainers were at best clipboard cowboys, and the chains that ruled that era have since faded to almost oblivion. Most importantly, back in the day in 1999, competition in most markets was at best moderate, meaning that most gyms could safely operate with little or no competition and the tools of the years that preceded 1999 going back to the 1950s, the era when the gym business started to first rise, were still somewhat valid.

In 1999, gym owners were still pressuring sales in offices, still just selling access to equipment through an inexpensive membership, and still using price-driven marketing to get leads. All of these concepts, by the way, have totally failed in today’s market including the idea that you can be the lowest bidder in the market and simply rent equipment to a consumer who will be gone in a few months.

There is an important rule in the fitness business that no one recognizes, but most everyone is affected by at some time or another. This rule is the 10-year rule and it states that few concepts in fitness will be sustainable for a 10-year period. Every new idea in fitness has pretty much the same curve of growth, but you as the creator or eventual leader get to choose your own ending. For example, in the 1980s aerobics started a long, slow growth period, got hot and rose to the pinnacle of need, quickly declined in the early 90s and then completely disappeared for about a decade.

This pattern is true of most concepts in the fitness industry, and it is also why you constantly need to look at what you own and what you’re doing and reinvent. This is also why consultants who write books need to go back and question every concept in their older books and ask if that idea is still relevant and would it work today?

We see the this pattern of long, slow grow, followed by a hot, “must-have-it-now” pattern, the quick decline and then oblivion in everything we do and in the real world too. Starbucks stumbled until its founder stepped back in and reinvented the company. Apple stumbled until Steve Jobs came back and set it again on its original course and only the future knows if that company can continue to amaze after the death of Jobs.

Great companies in the industry, such as Gold’s Gym and World’s, were the rulers of their decades, yet the companies sold and somewhat faded from their once true glory. Gold’s Gym was probably the most recognizable fitness name on the planet for several decades, but again, it is a lot easier to get to be number one than stay number one over time. Can these great names be reinvented by their current management and follow the path of Starbucks or will they fade and become just another former success story in the history of the industry?

The difference between long-term sustainable success and oblivion is evolution. Howard Schultz let Starbucks evolve, but only by remaining true to its roots. This sounds contradictory, but under his second generation direction, the company changed to meet the needs of its continually evolving customer base while never forgetting that it was, and always will be, about the coffee and the experience.

In the fitness business, creators of new concepts tend to sit on the past and cling to original methods and ideas. This list is long, but how many chains and franchises have you seen rise, become hot, and then fade away over a decade or so because the consumer and market simply grew past the original concept. Curves was a brilliant idea at the time, but a decade or two later and the concept became archaic and a hard sell in the market as the total number of units they operated continued to decline for a number of years. Their method of training, based upon a simple circuit concept, was right at the time when it was founded, but compared to the advent of functional training and how the proven methods of training, even for the older woman, has evolved can this business model be sustained into the future? Everything has to evolve or it dies and businesses, even wildly successful ones such as the original Curves franchise model, eventually reach a stage where you grow or fade.

When this introduction was written there were also a number of other companies that were nearing that vital period where either they evolved into next generation or begin the long slow march to obscurity. Once you reach that pinnacle position of being really hot after the long, slow build, how long can you truly stay hot?

There is another position between hot and the big fall and that is where you operate as a long-term dependable company that keeps its product fresh, service great and always is moving itself ahead. Starbucks is over 40 years old, but its stores and concepts seem fresh and as if it was a brand new company. Sears is in the fight now to remain relevant. Montgomery Wards disappeared. Almost all of the Curves imitators failed and disappeared. Reinvention is life and whether you grow or you die in the fitness world is driven by your response to  the rapid pace of increasing knowledge, better educated employees, such as the trainers and a much more sophisticated client who all are pushing the gym owner to grow and adapt or face being ignored and fail.

It will be interesting in the near future to see if companies such as CrossFit, Planet Fitness, Les Mills, Gold’s, LA Fitness and the rest of the current big names, or programming giants such as Zumba, will continue to evolve and stay relevant or become a victim of the 10-year rule and start that quick slide to where they are rarely discussed and are no longer relevant in the business world of fitness.

Obviously, the first edition of this book was a victim of the 10-year rule and needed reinvention to stay relevant for a next generation of fitness business owners. The business model I have advocated all these years, and that has been quite successful for thousands of owners, needed tweaked and we started the process almost a decade ago. This book now represents all that we know today about running a successful gym as well as validating some of the original concepts that were slightly ahead of the curve.

One of the basic tenets I have always believed in is that going for heavy volume, meaning chasing an endless supply of new clients each month to replace the ones you burned up was not sustainable over time. The concept was right, but it was also wrong in that it was introduced too early in the market, and going after a higher-return-client-served was the right idea, but it was hard to sell in the industry when the volume guys were still writing the big sales. In other words, it was the right idea, but we didn’t have the tools we needed to get it done back in 1999. But that has changed, and now is the time to recognize this principle. And most importantly, owners are listening now because of all the things that have failed in the last 20 years, nothing is more earth shattering than the failure of the volume based business model.

The missing ingredient all these years was the training component of the business. It seems absurd now, but working people out for money has been a small part of the industry for over 60 years. We have done nothing since the inception of the industry over 65 years ago, no matter how this is argued, except sell a membership to a person who pays each month to a gym so he can access, or in other words rent, the gym’s equipment.

The statistic that validates this has been constant for several decades. In a typical, mainstream fitness center, whether independent or chain, only about 5 percent of the membership work with a trainer on a regular schedule on an annual basis. If you are math challenged, look at it this way; in this gym, 95 percent of the membership gets no help whatsoever and practice some form of do-it-yourself fitness usually regulated to going around a circuit of set equipment that has been proven a hundred different ways not to get the person into shape over time.

The evolutionary key, and the premise behind the revision of this book, is that the industry cannot last as a rental company for equipment, even at $10 per month. We have to move from a volume approach, where the member is expendable and irrelevant over time, to a training-centric business model where we have to chase the maximum results, for the maximum number of clients, in the shortest period of time, and keep our clients for as long as we can in a hyper-competitive market place.


This revision contains our complete business model to make this happen for you and your business and it doesn’t matter if you own a big box mainstream gym or small training gym on the corner. Everything you need to be financially successful for the coming decades is here, proven by thousands of clients over a 30-year period. We now have the tools, we now have the education, and for the first time, we now have the clients willing to support a system designed to help them succeed.

There is one thing you have to understand if you want to make the fitness business your life’s work. We exist to change lives. We exist to help people who struggle with health and fitness get better. We exist to make a difference in our communities and with the people who trust us with their money. We can do all of this and still make more than enough money to take care of our lives and our families. If you are in fitness because you want to make a difference, then this book is for you.

Chase your passion through fitness

Thomas Plummer

March 2014

If you're a hammer, everything is a nail

We often fail in sales because we often end up attempting to sell something to the client that he really doesn’t care about buying. What we sell is often what we do and how we do it; but what the client really wants to buy is a solution to a problem. This solution is defined as the expected outcome of doing business with you over time.

For example, one of the oldest examples used in so many sales workshops is the drill. Very few people go to Lowes to buy a drill because they need a drill. You go to Lowes and buy a drill because you need a hole somewhere.  We have all heard this old story, but very few people take the time to understand what it really means and how the relationship between the buyer and seller can break down.

The sales guy is excited to talk about the features of the drill including the power, attachments, case, cord and battery. The buyer just wants to know if this is the right drill to hang 20 pictures in his house. The buyer and seller have a hard time connecting, and the sale might be lost, because each one has a different expectation in the encounter.

The same is true in the fitness world. We often lose potential clients because what we attempt to sell is now what the client came into your gym to buy. Clients come to a gym for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to buy a solution to a problem.

My pants don’t fit I join a gym. I am getting divorced I join a gym. I am going to be in a wedding so I join a gym. In the first example, the problem is the pants and the solution he wants to buy is getting rid of a few pounds. In the divorced example, someone is now single and has to get back out in the dating world and needs the self-confidence to do it and in the wedding scenario, the problem is looking good for the woman in a sleeveless dress. They all have a problem and all are looking to you for the solution.

Do any of these people really care how you get this done? If I hire you to build custom cabinets in my house, do I care if you use a Black and Decker drill or a Makita or do I just really care about you being a master cabinetmaker that does good work for a fair price?

Inefficient salespeople, and the industry is full of them, spend all their time in a sales encounter talking about the tools they will use to get you in shape. In the mainstream boxes, we talk about the number of classes, the number of trainers, the total amount of cardio and even the total amount of weights we have. These sales people spend all their time telling you what the gym owns and very little of how you are going to get where you want to go.

Training gyms are in many ways worse because the people doing sales there spend so much time talking about how they train, their training theories and belief systems, the initials they have collected behind their names and the latest certifications they have amassed. In other words, we talk about drills, doors and tools and very little about the expected outcome of the application of these tools, which are beautiful cabinets in my kitchen.

The worse offenders in the training world are the new weekend wonders that get those new certifications in one or two days and are now masters of their training methodology. Remember that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail and after one weekend with good instructors and 60 other converts, everything come Monday is going to get nailed because you, and only you, now know the only right way to train.

Becoming a master coach is more about having a full toolbox (not referring to the many trainers who are considered by their friends and family as one tool short in their tool box) and being able to use the right tool to solve the problem at hand rather than forcing everyone to fit into your narrowly defined window of expertise.

If you want to sell effectively, which means nothing more than helping the people who came to see you get what they really want, then you have to change your mindset. We have to move from selling what we do and how we do it to selling what we can do for you.

Spend time really talking to your clients about these three points. This does, by the way, work in almost any business where there is a client and a salesperson trying to sell something to that client:

1.     Where is the client today? What is his starting point? Why is he here? What is working for him and what isn’t working? Assess what he is doing and acknowledge that even walking the dog is more than most of America does on a daily basis.

2.     Where does he want to go and when does he want to get there? In other words, what is his expected outcome of working with you? Is it reasonable and is it something he can commit at least two days a week chasing. Purists, you need to walk it back a little. Unless you are a professional fitness person, or in that hardcore group that represents such a small portion of the people in this country, you cannot expect someone to commit to a gym more than 2-3 days a week. Two times is a lot for someone who has family, a tough career and any type of life. Yes, I agree that fitness should be the centerpiece of his life, but maybe two times a week is just all he has and maybe all he will every have so live with it.

3.     Project him out for 30/60/90 days. Show him what he can achieve during these time frames and help him see that the effort he will put in can get him to these points. You don’t have to be crazy accurate, but at least build a plan showing where he is now, where he wants to be, how he is going to get there and the benchmarks along the way.

You have noticed that the tools we use just aren’t that important to him. What is important is that you have spent time with him, understand his goal, know what his expected outcome is and most importantly, have laid out a 90 plan of attack to get it done.

Be proud of what you have learned and be proud of whatever organization you support, but also be aware that the client is less concerned where you spent last weekend getting down and dirty and cares much more about what you can do for him and if you are the one he can trust to help him reach his goal.

A prayer for those who care

The holidays should be a time of reflection, but we are often too busy with family, friends and work still undone to sit and think about the year and what we accomplished. This is also a time to be grateful for who you are and what you do for a living. What you do looks so easy from the outside and yet is so hard from within. You are responsible not only for your own well being, but you also have to take care of so many other people who look to you as a guide and coach. What you do matters and if you do this for a living somewhere you were given some special talents to accomplish the difficult tasks each day.

People who live within the fitness world often gain a sense of spirituality that they don’t always think about or discuss with friends over the occasional glass, but the perfect workout with friends could easily be viewed as a spiritual event that brings you closer to a universal truth. Fitness is motion and motion is life as life was intended to be. It doesn’t matter who or how you worship to most people, but it does matter that you are on a path that constantly leads you to seek a higher power in the universe.

The touch of spiritualty that someone living within fitness often feels comes from the ability to take what you know and do and change someone else’s life. Because of you, other people are better, and by any definition, of any religion, when you leave the world a better place due to your presence you have gained an understanding of the spiritual side of the universe.

What you choose to do for work in your life should matter to other people and what you do should make a difference in the universe. This is a prayer written for all of you that get up every day at the first light of dawn, kiss the family goodbye and then set out to help people who struggle in their lives reach goals and find happiness through simply feeling better about themselves.

An open prayer to the universe


Allow me the knowledge and the power to change lives and help those who trust me with their lives find the happiness that comes from the simple pleasure of being a healthier person


Guide me to always do the right thing with the people who seek my help and to keep my ego and personal agendas out of my teaching


Help me always remember that small steps are important and any change is valuable in someone’s life if that change is a positive step forward


Please help me remain patient and nurturing for the people who fail on their journey


Grant me the means to keep doing the right things and to be able to support and protect my family through the dedication to my dream


Please help me be a friend and guide to those around me who are also on the same path and are seeking the same goals in life


At the end of each day please grant me the knowledge that what I did made a difference and everyone I touched left a better person because of my efforts


And at the end of my days, please grant me the privilege of looking back and knowing that my life made a difference and I did not waste the talents given to me by the universe.

Take a few days off; you earned it. Sit quietly and think about the good you did this year, the people you helped and the lives you changed. There is a new year coming and 2014 will bring many more people into your world. Your job is very simple: you exist to change lives and no one does it better than you.

“Happy Everything,” and thank you for the friendship and support over the years.

The burnt out lie we tell ourselves

There comes a point in many careers where you get up, hit the shower and find yourself leaning face against the wall with hot water running down your neck for an extra 10 minutes stalling to face the inevitable day at work. Unless you have a shower buddy in there with you, this is the day you need to consider quitting whatever you call work or a career because you are longer going to be any good at what you’re doing for a living. You are also wasting a day of your life, destined to be repeated, for as long as you continue to let yourself shower in misery, which eventually results in the loss of the most important asset you own…your life.

The mistake is that you should have never allowed yourself to get to that point in your life. How and when did you lose your passion for what you do for a living, if you ever had it, and how did you ever let the world take it away from you? Worse, if the work you are doing isn’t important to you then why are you still doing it? Lost minutes in the shower often lead to lost years trapped doing work that is meaningless. Your life’s work defines you in so many ways, yet choosing work that forces you to find ways to avoid it drains you of your best years and most creative energy. You are not the work you do, but you often live your life by the quality of the work you choose.

Here are five questions you need to ask yourself if you are the person in the shower:

1.     Are you living your dream or someone else’s? We too often end up doing work that is part of someone else’s dream. You find a spouse, the spouse has a good job in that area and you then take a job that isn’t firing your passion, but it keeps you fed. You spend a few years doing this and your dreams vanish to be replaced with someone else’s, and if you lose that person, you now are often too late to reach back and rekindle that passion that excited you and your dreams earlier in your life.

There are very few people who can’t live their dream almost anywhere, but your first realization has to be that what you are doing is not what you were meant to do. Of course you have to make money out of whatever you do, but you can’t change lives when you are the person that needs taken care of in life. So the first question really asks whether the job you are avoiding was your choice, or did you commit to something that allows someone else to live his or her dreams while yours are lost?

2.     Are you in a job you should have never taken? You would not be the first person who spends years preparing for a career that turns out to be a bust. And there are still many more people who take what appears to be a dream job and then find that it just isn’t what it seemed to be from the outside, but these people refuse to leave due to pride or embarrassment and end up equally trapped doing work that never delivered on its promise.

If you picked badly, run away now. Admit the mistake and move on now. Pack up your bags and move on now, or at least as soon as you can get other work that moves your career ahead. Remember, every job, certification or course should only have one purpose, and that is to move you closer to your dream. If isn’t doesn’t move you forward, then don’t do it.

3.     If not this, what else would you do? This is my favorite and also the most common complaint. Owners or senior people rack up years doing what they wanted to do and then mentally just quit. You can almost tell the exact day it happens. The first thing you hear is, “This would be a great job if it wasn’t for those f%^&*ing clients.” Or “I can’t deal with another person in my face bitching about the same old thing.” The second indicator is that their business begins to immediately fade. The place is dirty, the paint is outdated, the staff is undertrained, if trained at all, and finding the owner actually in the business working would take Sherlock Holmes.

The question is now what will you do? If you worked this business for years, what else would you do or could you do to make the same amount of money? Walking away only means you will again become trapped in yet another business, and this time it will happen sooner. You forgot how to work and you forgot the pleasure work is supposed to give you.

This is sort of like the old married guy who is forever in love with a super model in the catalogue. He dreams of her, buys her pictures and has a secret crush on her for years, but he never learned the most important thing; your dream is someone else’s pain in the ass. The point of this is that if you don’t learn to find a way to make yourself happy in the business you own now, then running away to another business will never change that failure; it just perpetuates your being miserable somewhere else doing something else.

4.     Can you find a different way to get it done? This is really part of the question above. The burnout of an owner or senior manager is often the failure of his management style. If you do the same thing everyday for 20 years you will hate it, but who said you have to do the same thing for 20 years. There are too many owners that cling to the images of the past. “You can’t teach me anything new, I was making money doing this way 20 years ago.”

Yes, you were wildly successful 20 years ago, but how is that working for you now? Everything changes in the world. Businesses come, businesses go. Technology changes daily. The consumer changes, grows and becomes more sophisticated. The market you are in changes too with new competition we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. Yet there you stand, too cheap to paint the place and too lazy to sit down and reinvent your business.

Your business didn’t fail you, you failed it and it is amazing that people who are making a lot of money seldom ever complain about being burned out.

5.     What have you done to reinvent yourself in the last year? We all used to be somebody and back in the day I am sure you were the master of all you surveyed, but what have you learned today?

Part of burnt out is that our tool kits start to deteriorate. Ten years ago you were a master salesperson, but now those pressure tactics just make potential clients laugh and walk out. Fifteen years ago you used to be a master trainer, but now there are workshops that teach more in three days then you have learned in those last 15 years. You fail because you cling to glory days instead of admitting you don’t have one clue left in how to do things anymore and that the world has past your lazy ass by.

The perfect example of being trapped by former glory is the 40-year-old trainer who learned how to train during the bodybuilding craze. His solution to every training situation is the application of technology that is older than he is and isn’t every coming back, but to let go of this he would have to attend a workshop and admit that he needs to start all over again and reinvent himself.

Sometimes letting go of something is the most powerful move you can make. Remember that life is about going forward, not living back in the day when we were all young, beautiful, smart and rich, at least in our heads.

People fail to change because the perceived risk is too high so they cling to everything that fails and then here comes that perception of burnout. What you’re doing isn’t working anymore, but you won’t change because what you might do might not work. This circular thought leads to a person freezing in place and while we might call it burnout to be nice, it is really just a nice way of saying you are going to avoid your problems until they take your business down.

If you are in the trapped, burned-out avoidance crew, sit down and spend a few hours with someone who cares and ask why? You will find that there is fine line between being a crispy piece of toast and a productive passionate person totally laser focused into making money and changing lives, and in kicking a few assess a long the way. Come on, get your ass out of the shower, it’s time to go live the dream.

How marketing works

Retro marketing built this industry, but electronic marketing will build its future. Websites, blogs, social media and almost all other forms of electronic marketing change faster it would be possible to keep up with in a book. The coupon sites, for example, were a rage for about a year or two and then died. Writing about how to design a coupon would have been an exercise in futility since that form of marketing cam and went before the paragraph could be written.

Keeping that in mind, we are going to focus on the theories you need to master that can be applied to any form of social media or electronic marketing that might arise in your future. Understand the rules and any version of the game you play will be easier.

The most important lesson you can possibly learn about electronic marketing can be expressed in another basic rule:

Hits, looks, likes and number of views mean nothing if you can’t monetize it

It is easy to get caught up in the grand game of social media, for example, where you sit in a bar and brag about the number of likes you have on your social media site. There can be great gamesmanship involved here but these numbers mean nothing if you can’t figure out a way to turn those likes into money. The ultimate goal of all marketing is to create interest, which attracts leads, which come to the gym, who become members and who pay you money for the results you will help him get. If this sequence doesn’t end with the getting paid part, then it was inefficient marketing that proved to be a waste of your time.

Here is the entire theory of electronic marketing in one simple chart:

Create content…develop your own community…gain influence by having a community…$$$$$

Creating content

People love to learn, be challenged, be entertained and most importantly, people like to hangout with a lot of like-minded folks interested in the same things. All electronic marketing, and especially social media, requires you to supply an endless stream of content. Posting content on almost a daily basis gets people to your sites, and getting people to your sites regularly begins to build the community, or as the powerful writer Seth Godin refers to them, your tribe.

Content doesn’t always have to stem from you. You can repost other’s writings, find a tidbit in a magazine, recommend a book or video and a thousand other things that keep people coming to your sites each and every day. If you post a new post a short informative tip on your blog three times a week, people become trained to go to your site during a break during their day. They will follow you because you are giving them information that somehow challenges their mind or entertains them and if you do this consistently you will eventually end up with a lot of people who care about what you say and now belong to your community. There is also a rule of marketing for this thought:

You have to become the source on a specific topic

You can become the weight loss expert, the sports performance for kids expert, the overall fitness expert in your small town, the body weight training guru or just about any other niche you could imagine. You become the source, or the filter, which gathers information for his tribe and then posts the stuff daily that your tribe needs to see based upon you being the master of that niche.

If you own a mainstream gym, your goal is to build a site for your business, but you as the owner should also have a site where you become the local expert on everything fitness. This gets you invited to speak at local groups, quoted in the newspaper as needed as a fitness source, and eventually drives people to your business because who knows fitness in this town better than you do, and that is proven by the last 300 post you have made on your sites.

There are rules for content and here are just a few:

You can challenge thought, but you should never insult, be mean or put down someone by name. If you disagree with someone, disagree with class and style and state both sides before making the position for your point.

Never post personal stuff. This includes not posting pictures of your kids, unless it relates to your fitness mission, your dogs, your family vacation, you drunk on a beach in Mexico, you and the buds in a bar or anything that might even vaguely distract the tribe from believing you are the source.

It is hugely important to note that a decade from now everyone who will ever consider hiring you or doing business with you will immediately pop your name into a search engine and also go to all the social media sites of the age. What do you want them to see, and remember that anything posted never, ever disappears from the web completely? Many younger people in the industry cry that this is unfair and their sites are their own private business. This is true, except for the fact that any person in any civilized country in the world can see whatever you post, except for anyone in China, and nothing is truly private on the web. Post often, but post with the one thought that you are trying to improve your personal brand, not kill it.

Never repost without giving credit, but always repost with a comment as to why you think this is important for your community.

Post something fresh at least six days a week.

Use pictures and videos several times a week

Remember that every post either enhances your brand, or hurts your brand. There is little in between.

Post and answer the comments as best you can each day. If the community is working, you will start to see interaction and response to what you are writing. Don’t wait a week to answer. If you post something controversial and expect comments, be there to answer and redirect the issue if needed.

Consider hiring someone to manage all of your media. This can be done for as little as a few hundred a month or as much as several thousand or more. The bigger you are, and the bigger you want to be, means you may need help posting daily and gathering the material for the posts.

The community

The content gathers the tribe. The community gathers around someone that pushes their mental buttons and keeps them challenged. Content and community are both in fact one big circle. You feed content; the community feeds back and around it goes again. The goal is to build a significantly sized group of people that follow what you do and what you write because you are the true source in whatever niche you choose to exploit.

The size of the community will vary from site to site and from niche to niche. One person might be a failure with 30,000 likes on his social media site, while another person might be wildly successful with 500 friends on his social media. Don’t overestimate the need to build the largest community you can in your market. For example, a small training gym in a suburban area that has 500 followers on his site is doing quite well and that is enough to eventually start to turn that number into guests and memberships.

Building influence

Once you establish your community you now have influence, but what to do with this new power? Think of influence as power to move the herd.

For example, you’re a small country and you declare war on the neighboring country. You summon your army and five drunks show up with a few shovels and a club. This is going to be a short war and it will end badly for you and your army. But let’s say you are a bigger country and you now want your loyal subjects to gather. You notice that you have 30,000 likes on your social media page and you want to sell your first e-book for $1.99 just to test the waters. Your community of 30,000 likes is far more likely to give you back sales versus the army of five. Put another way, when an army of like-minded individuals band together, whoever is leading that army has influence to make change, both monetarily and through driving change in your industry or niche.


You have content in place that changes daily. You have built your community of followers. Your community represents a large enough segment in your niche where you can alter thought and drive change.

You are now ready to monetize the process.

There are rules to this of course. Here are a few tips when it comes to going after the money:

Do not, and this means DO NOT, try and sell anyone anything until you have at least provided content for six months. Stated differently, build your community slowly without asking anything of them.

Once you starting asking for something, only do it once out of every 7-10 days. Don’t pound your tribe daily. Give, give, give for a week or so and then ask for that e-book sale. Give, give, give and then sell that trial membership. Build slowly and sell even more slowly.

Occasionally give something away free just for being part of the tribe. At least once a month, give everyone who follows you a free something, which is usually some short PDF tip sheet or informational piece. Create one of these a month and recycle each one the following year. You want, you want, but you also need to give a little to your followers.

Here is an example of monetizing a social media site. This gym had 1,400 members at the time and also had about 900 followers on its social media site. This tribe of 900 was a mix of members in the gym along with other people in the community that followed often due to the health and fitness tips that were posted daily along with the videos that showed workouts you could do at home.

The gym’s manager ran a post after about six months of gathering the tribe that said, “Post a video on this site in the next 30 minutes of you doing a burpee anywhere on the island and if you are a member of the gym you will receive 30 days of training valued at $300 for you and 30 days for your guest. Nonmembers, if you post you will get 30 days free to the gym, which includes a full training package for you too.”

The gym received 38 posts in 30 minutes. Out of the 38, 21 were members and the gym gave away 21 months of training and 21 guest months to the members to use with a friend. Remember the part from above where you need to reward the tribe with something free now and then. The other 17 posts were guests for a free trial month. In other words, this gym generated 38 guests in 30 minutes at no cost. Also consider that this gym uses primarily group training and another body in the groups doesn’t really cost the gym more money to service.

Another example from this gym was the use of the community, and the influence with this community, at generating revenue for the gym. The manager went to the local sporting goods store and asked the manager there if he would run a special just for the members of the gym, which is only about a half mile from the store.

The manager agreed since he had to do nothing. The sale was set for Friday from noon to three. All members of the gym would get 30 percent off shoes if they presented their membership cards. On Thursday night, the gym’s manager sent out a social media post stating: “special flash sale just for our members. Go to Freddie’s sporting goods from noon to three tomorrow and get 30 percent off any shoe in the store by just presenting your membership care.” The store sold 78 pairs of shoes. The gym’s tribe was rewarded for their loyalty and support. Most importantly, the gym’s manager could now ask $500 to run the sale again since he had proven he has the influence to drive customers to the store. Everyone wins and the community grows since friends refer friends who don’t want to be left out of these great special offers.

This formula as stated above applies to all electronic media since the basic progression is always going to be the same. Marketing electronically isn’t hard if you have a plan and if you realize that everything has to lead to the ability to capitalize on your influence at the end of the day.

Living in balance is so last century

Living in balance is so last century. If you want to reach the edge of your ability universe, sometimes you just have to let go of your routine life and surge.

I used to teach living a life in balance as part of the fundamental beliefs everyone should have in their life, along with such one-line wisdom as, “never wear a tie,” or “never hang out with idiots.” In fact, it wasn’t too many years ago I was still ending our workshops with a few minutes of final inspiration on seeking complete balance in everything you do illustrated by tossing a chair upside down on a table representing the four pillars of a balanced life: personal development and family, a sense of community, creating wealth in your life and the search for faith.

Living a life in balance means you stay grounded in these principles and honor each one as equal never letting one become more important than another. The belief is that if you move too far out of balance the universe will correct. Play too much golf and you lose your business. Do too much business and the family fades away. Spend your life focusing on nothing but money and you become poor in everything else. This concept is still true and you can achieve a quality life living this way, but the theory is also incomplete and won’t stand alone if you want to rise above being the average human being who lives, eats, dies and leaves nothing of value or no lives changed.

Looking back, I have to say that I was right on the concept of balance as the foundational concept, but I was wrong in believing that simply living a life in balance is all you need to achieve a life worth living. I have come to realize, through my own life and talking to so many I respect who live at a higher level, that if you want to accomplish anything of true substance in your life, and live up to your talent, you have to be in a constant rotation between a life in balance and a life driven by an intense surge and focus chasing something wildly important to you.

All this means is that once in a while, you need to move out of balance and surge spending a few weeks, months or even years laser locked on chasing your passion. Surging means you move out of balance and into a single dimension where all that is important for that dedicated period of time is accomplishing the goal. Once the goal is achieved, you back off and move back into balance taking time to heal your soul, grow your mind and recharge for the next power surge that will again move you ahead.

The idea of a dedicated surge is that your mind can only really handle a relatively few things at a time and if you want to achieve something of importance you need to jettison as many things as you can that will distract you from the energy and brain power you need to get things done. For most people, this means you move out of a broad based balance of floodlight into a narrow laser beam targeted at the eye of the needle with room for only your major goal and two or three other things of importance to pass through.

For example, let’s say you want to create a new business. As of today, you are that well balanced person who goes to work everyday, workouts, coaches his son’s games, is active in the community, golfs with his friends and pretty much lives the perfect life nicely balanced between everything that is important. But if you want that business, something has to go.

Opening a business, or writing a book, starting a new career, or focusing on a major personal challenge, such as training for a race, all require your undivided attention, especially if the business, book, career or race will be done at the highest level of your ability and talent. Remember the old adage, if it is worth giving up a second of your life to do, then it is worth overdoing. In other words, never, ever commit to anything if you aren’t willing to do it at a mind-blowing, full assault, take no prisoners intensity or you are just wasting your life and other people’s time.

If you commit, then surge and put everything you have into the goal, but keep in mind that you now have to move out of balance and into the laser light. In the example above, you may need to back off on the friends for a few months, quit coaching, set aside other projects that could eat up valuable brain wattage, and cut all external energy down to taking care of the family, keeping your job and eating. Sleeping of course, it totally out of the question if the quest is pure and the energy is focused.

Most of us settle into a steady state of balance as our default mode. We get fat and happy doing what we do and the routine becomes our balance. The surge is where your energy for life is derived from and everyone needs to find something in their life that drives them bat shit insane for at least a few weeks each year just to keep the mind sharp and the accomplishments in life at a higher level.

Remember your passion and remember that living in balance for too long leads to a mediocre life. Mediocrity is for unimaginative, the weak, the boring and the soulless, but passion is for the select few willing to get crazy once in awhile and surge. I feel it coming for you now; it’s time to surge my friends.

The layers of life

You will find times you need advice in your life, but I have come to believe you’ll find few people who are older than you are who are willing, or able, to give you the help and guidance you need and seek. As a seeker as most of you are who read my writings, meaning one who spends his life looking for the answers to life’s many riddles, this lack of available guidance will frustrate many of you as it has me through the years, but there is a legitimate reason so many older people in your life will not be able to give you any valid answers concerning the problems you will face.

The primary reason older people may not seem willing to help is that much of their experience is generational and simply won’t apply to what you face. Having someone tell you how a job or relationship works today based upon an experience from 40 years ago usually doesn’t work well. The culture of 40 years ago was different as to how people behaved, acted and thought in society and their experiences were far removed from what you will experience as an adult today.

Yes, there are consistencies that must be maintained in life, such as how you treat others, or the personal ethics you must always maintain. Not hurting others due to your actions, not living up to your personal word, personal responsibility for your everything you do or developing a strong work ethic are examples of ideas that transfer well from generation to generation and should be honored. But there are other ideas that don’t transfer from one generation to another, such as views on marriage, discrimination as to sex or race, or how women should be treated today versus how they have been treated by older generations.

My unique experience, of being older, but working with so many hundreds of younger people through so many years as a personal mentor and coach, gave me an advantage when it came to guiding another generation, one few other people can lay claim to in their life. My thoughts had to constantly evolve so I would always be able to help those who needed it, but it was also personally important to me to always be the one who fought to understand the difference between those things I hold sacred, such as no discrimination in my life, and those ideas that are transient and need to evolve or be eliminated in my life.

Perhaps the strongest representation of the difference between those in this generation and the generations that make up the older people in your life, such as your parents or grandparents, is how you will mature through your chosen work. How your grandparents, or even your parents, approached work and their careers is different than how your generation will seek to live and work.

Back in the day of your grandparents, lives were culturally predetermined in many ways and everyone passed through most of the same layers of life. You went to high school, or if you were one of the lucky few, you went off to college, you left school, and then you started on your chosen career. This career was often your life’s work, whether you wished it to be or not, and you would usually stay with this career until you retired in your mid-50s, and then you spent your alleged golden years waiting to die, which usually happened about six years or so after retirement.

There were exceptions to this rule of course. There were many people from that generation who would drift from job to job always with the thought that the next one would be the big one where the big money or big opportunity came. Most of these people were eventually disappointed by each choice, but few realized there were no perfect jobs that would save them or that the failure they endured in each choice they made was their own fault, and not the fault of their current boss or company.

There were also many people from that era who would survive retirement, but over time the brave individuals who would think deeply about such things realized retiring so young was senseless and living a life where you were active, involved and useful was far more important than how much golf you could play or cards you could play.

The layers of life will be different for this generation and the options you have in life are far greater than those who have gone before you. Having even a simple model to think about might help your journey and help you understand that what worked for past generations may not work for you, leaving you to discover your own path in life.

Remember, no one has to experience these in any set order, and you might be the person who finds your own way in life by skipping a layer, but knowing these layers are out there and part of a typical person’s life experience will hopefully help you make better decisions for yourself.

  • * Your 20s: This should be the time period where you explore your passion and try on lots of different jobs, experiences and relationships. There is no need to decide too early what you want to do with your life and the more of life’s experiences you have in your 20s, the easier it will be later to create a life based upon doing what you are truly passionate about. Read, try different types of work; travel as much as you can, maybe live in a few big cities, but most importantly, take chances and try things. The only failure you should ever think about at this stage of your life is not that you tried something and didn’t like it, but that you were too scared to try something new at all. Failure isn’t an experience that didn’t work for you, but rather the fact that you were too scared to try the experience and missed something in your life that might have mattered.
  • * Your 30s: This should be the time in your life where you declare your passion and begin to create a career based upon following what you love. Dedicate yourself to being the best at what you choose. Perhaps the best advice I ever received was to learn more about one thing than anyone else and you will never be poor or out of work. It was good advice then, and I think it still is, and I hope you find your one thing and then commit to being the best at it you can be.
  • * Your 40s: This is the decade of your life where you become the master of what you choose to do. These is the age where you now have the experience and maturity to take the passion from your earlier years and start to create wealth, with the goal of becoming that expert or master at something you love. The maturity of these years allows you to fully grasp the depth of your work and your life. It is a sad fact, however, that many people who don’t identify their passion by these years will often struggle for the rest of their life. You don’t want to the person still looking for something to do, and blaming others for your failure, when you are in your 40s. Commit to your passion and commit to the quality of life you create for yourself.
  • * Your 50s: This should be your wealth building years, although you might find that this can happen at any time in your life when you are working hard on your dream. There will be many people in their 20s who create wealth through the delivery of a good idea, and there will also be others who will find it later through the long, slow process of experience and maturity. Either way is right, as long as it is your way.
  • These are also the years where your actions and the way you live will determine the quality of the rest of your life. Each decade should lead to a bigger goal, and that goal is to live healthy by making choices that ensure no matter how many years you live, you will always live as an active participant in life and not as someone regulated to watch life slip away due to bad choices. Eat healthy, exercise everyday of your life, avoid the thieves of life, such as drugs and smoking, and build yourself into a person that just gets better with age rather than one who fades away decades earlier than he should havd from not being smart enough to take care of yourself.
  • * Your 60s: These are the years where you should be guiding others and paying back the universe for the success you have achieved. The most important way to do this is by helping others through your money and through giving your time. Pay back for all you will be given, and share your good fortune always with others. This is also a time where you enjoy the achievements of your life.
  • * Your 70s: This is when you start life all over again. This is the age where you can do those crazy things you didn’t get to earlier. Remember, you can’t have everything you want in life, but you can have anything you want. Some experiences or goals in life will have to be set aside to accomplish the ones you want most, but later you can revisit these other not yet forgotten passions that were slightly less important at the time compared to your big dreams.
  • Your 70s can be the years where you live the great adventure, write the book you always wanted, take guitar lessons, learn to play a sport or just pack up everything and ride the trains of Europe. Life is not over when you are 70; it’s just a time in your life of rejuvenation and another start on the next adventure. Remember again that the quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your health and wellness. How you eat, live and workout when you are younger lays the foundation for the quality of your years later. You can be 70 and be 90 physically and mentally, or you can be 70 and be 50 forever in your body and spirit if you take care of yourself. Choose life, and choose to get more life out of your years for as long as you can.

All finding your passion means is find something that is important to you, something that has the potential to keep you in money during your life, and something that keeps you from being trapped doing work that is meaningless or boring. Passion is finding something you want to willingly give your undivided attention every day and the hours spent involved with what you love seem to be the best hours of your life. I found this in my own life through writing, reading, fitness and photography as hobbies and through my love of business as a way to keep myself fed.

I have been a business consultant and coach for 37 years, and I can truthfully say I never worked a day in my life. Every day I was able to get up and do what I wanted, help someone who needed my guidance and direction, and through these things was able to make enough money to do the things important to me without ever being dependent on anyone else financially. I hope everyone who reads this will find this passion in your own life, and I hope you always find a way to live within yourself.

Always Remember Where You Came From In This Business

No one has accomplished anything in life or in business without help from someone else. At some point, and probably when you most needed it, someone was most likely there with a kind word; a few dollars or some much needed advice.

In the fitness industry, we mostly ignore our history and in many cases actually deny who we have been and where we came from since so many of the accepted "leaders” in our business or nothing more than first generation crooks.

Attend any of the secondary tradeshows and you will always find the old guy in the overdone suit with a posse of young guys in cheaper versions making the rounds. This old guy used to be someone, once had a chain of health clubs but sold them all off to the next big chain, and now has a few left that feeds his ego.

What we forget here is that this legend in his own mind also sold thousands of high-pressure memberships, provided no customer service, treated members badly and lived for the gross sales number. He used to be someone all right, but in the worst possible way you can be remembered in this industry: as a thief and as an unethical person who raped and pillaged his way through a 30 year career.

But we do have legends in this industry who are a noble part of our history and who we do indeed owe a debt of gratitude. Modern fitness just didn’t originate after an infomercial in the 60s. We have roots and people who opened the door for us and who made fitness a viable business in today’s competitive world, especially if you are a person in love with everything training. We exist in the business of training simply because someone else was brave enough to go first.

One of those pioneers that we should remember is Dave Draper, the original "Blond Bomber” whose popularity and early training methods not only made working out and lifting weights cool in the 1960s, but who also opened the door for the first generation of the modern training gym. He arrived in California in the 60s and soon became a fixture at the old Muscle Beach Gym. He won the Mr. New Jersey before leaving the east and then Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe and later ended up on the Beverly Hillbillies and The Monkeys. He was first and made weightlifting desirable to the public due to his amazing beach boy looks and gentle personality.

His workout partners of that generation, such as Bill Pearl, Joe Gold and Armand Tanny, were the crossover guys; the ones who were schooled in the old ways of heavy lifting and were soon to invent what became the modern bodybuilder. As Dave noted: "The magic didn’t come from the pharmacist; it came from the soul, the era, the history in the making, the presence of un-compromised originality yet to be imitated.”

As bodybuilding became a culture of drug-induced size, Dave left the competitive aspects of the sport and has pretty much done his own thing his own way every since. The most important thing to remember, however, is that Dave was a pioneer as a fitness guru and that he was also a pioneer in the commercial gym business. Dave not only made you want to be like him in his youthful days at the beach, but eventually he opened a gym and then dedicated the rest of his life to becoming the ultimate trainer and mentor.

Dave, and a few of the other guys who took the high road out of a sport that was tracking badly, opened gyms in the late 70s and 80s. These were the first guys who commercially tried to combine their passion for lifetime fitness with a business venture that provided a safe and educated training environment. Bill Pearl, Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold all opened gyms in the purest sense of the word: the concern was how to spread the passion they all shared about fitness and the early healthy lifestyle.

There were already commercial gyms in the country prior to the 70s explosion, but even in the late 50s the lowlifes were already in the business, replacing guys like Johnny Johnson, who had a chain of ethical gyms before anyone could even spell it. Dave and his generation of beach purists literally invented much of what we consider to be modern lifting techniques and then built the equipment to get it done. Visit any gym in that era and every piece of equipment was lovingly handmade by someone who had an early vision of how the body worked and how it should be trained. 

We talk a lot today about the fitness lifestyle, but consider how easy it is to live and pursue that way of living in the modern world? Dave and the guys from his era invented modern equipment, modern training techniques, influenced modern nutritional science and brought out the first commercial supplements and also brought forward the heavy lifting techniques from the old strongmen that have once again been found to be the essence of strength even today. 

The renaissance we see today in the fitness world where we are returning to the simple belief of seeking what works is the second major paradigm shift in our history following that of making it cool to the general public in Dave’s early days. We started in the 60s with heavy front squats, holistic training methods focusing on total fitness, and eating big and healthy; and now over 50 years later we are returning to those same basic elements that created fitness and achieved results in the first generation.

Dave Draper is still today the role model for the modern trainer. He is ethical and moral, a purist when it comes to fitness, still training and writing at the age of 70 and still willing to learn and practice new methods for getting clients results. He is also still willing to share and spends hours online guiding anyone who is seeking answers to the age-old training questions.

Dave was the first of the big names and maybe the best of his generation, but what makes him a legend worth remembering is that his work and passion is why many of us can make a living doing what we loved. He went first and proved it could be done and we should be forever grateful for that courage.

Thomas Plummer

30 years of the right information at the right time. When was the last time you spent a few days working on your business getting new ideas?

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