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The Minefield that is Professional Development in Fitness

professional development

While reflecting back on my first full year of blogging, I was reminded again just the other day why I started writing in the first place. Many of you do not remember a time before the internet, but if you wanted to learn a thing you had to go to a library, take a class, find a mentor, etc. Today, if you Google, “How to blah blah blah,” you will find tens of thousands of sources.

Here’s the problem; a lot of them are crap. I remember hiring people with no sales experience and then would train them up. Now more and more I find that when I hire someone new, I have to de-educate them from some sales podcast they listened to. Back to the story:

So this young guy comes in and wants a job as a personal trainer. He had one of those off-brand certifications that are kind of hit-or-miss. I personally earned my ACE cert forever ago, but I can tell you that some of the very best people I have ever worked with started with a no-name cert. Personally I am a big believer in evaluating a person and not just the letters after their name. Generally, I will not disqualify someone for lacking a degree. However, it doesn’t always work out. 

This person has been training for three years and was putting me through a small workout as part of his interview process. He was instructing me on how to perform an exercise in such a way that absolutely would have had treacherous results for my rotator cuff. So I stopped him and tried to give some essential advice on how to improve his coaching of this exercise, because someone is going to get injured otherwise.

I kind of was expecting a, “Thank you for the guidance.” But instead I received a, “Listen, this is what I do for a living.” When I pressed him on why he thought this was an OK way to coach this movement, he finally told me he had learned it by watching a fitness expert on YouTube. I won’t name the YouTuber of course, but I can tell you all that simply because someone is attractive and charming does not mean they make for a great source of trustworthy information. 

So where do you start then? The first thing I recommend is to take a big step back from fitness specifically and build on sales fundamentals. Everything in life is a sale. I have to sell my kids on why they go to bed at 9 p.m. and not 11 p.m. I have to sell my wife on why she should stay married to me and not chase that super-hot guy Chaz down at Planet Fitness. (Screw you Chaz! I was hot too back in the ’90s before old age and Cheez-its!)

If any of you have read my other blogs, you know that I’m completely bought into the whole, “If I have seen further, it is only because I stood on the shoulders of the greats before me” thing. You should absolutely start by reading and studying the lessons from the sales greats before us. Begin with the foundational books from Napoleon Hill and Zig Ziglar. Then move on to some of the modern sales titans like Jeffrey Gitomer and Jeb Blount. The lessons you will learn in their collective works will be paramount to manifesting success in your life. Not just at work, but in everything you do. Trust me; no one gets worse at selling from learning from the tried-and-true experts. 

FUN RELATED OPINION: If I’ve read one autobiography then I’ve read a hundred. My favorite so far is Martha Stewart’s: Just Desserts: The Unauthorized Biography. Unexpected I am sure, but totally worth the read. She was a badass well before she ever met Snoop. 

The fitness industry is growing rapidly, and we are all scrambling for sources we can trust. The very best advice I can give to you is if you intend to have a fulfilling fitness career and not just one of repeating someone else’s scripts for a living, is to build a strong foundation first by looking outside of our industry and learn from universally recognized pros that transcend industry.

Let me leave you with this. Don’t just seek short cuts, seek betterment. Success isn’t a happy accident my friends.

Jason R. Stowell

Jason R. Stowell is recognized as one of the highest-grossing sales performers over the last 25 years in the health and wellness industry. As an award-winning leader, Jason provides strategic planning, talent management and expert-level sales training through his Empowered Fitness Sales System workshops and industry-leading sales presentations at conferences internationally. Connect with him now on LinkedIn here

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