... and why my business model is to take people from 1:1 and into groups, even though it loses me money
So this is another very honest and frank blog post that will almost certainly annoy other personal trainers and coaches and cause a bit of debate. From around 16 years in the fitness and rehab industry it is just my brutally honest opinion and what I have found from all of my experience.
This will be a really good article to read if you are looking for a change in your personal training or you are thinking of investing in a trainer or group training program. I will be bearing all and talking very honestly and bluntly from my experiences and from the experiences of my clients over the years.
1. Most "individual training programs" are not really that individual
So there are going to be a few controversial things in this email but this one is the one that will get me in the most trouble so I thought, I may as well get it out there early.
1:1 training is often marketed using words or phrases like bespoke, individual, your needs, specialised, tailored and/or anything else that helps us make you think that what you are getting is truly unique. In reality, the chances of you actually getting this are not really that high. There are a lot of trainers that use template programs that are slightly adjusted by just tweaking sets, reps and weights. In reality, most trainer don't know how to proper;y assess your fitness or ability levels to do this to any great degree anyway, so they couldn't do it even if they wanted to.
You think you are the only person who is receiving that "tailored" nutrition plan too? Sorry but all their other clients are probably getting the exact same one.
Now here is the thing, this is not necessarily a terrible thing. If the training plan is good, you are still gonna benefit from it. Same with the nutrition plan too. It is also important to say too that not all trainers do this, there are some exceptions who can properly assess your fitness, how you move and create bespoke plans accordingly.
So what am I really saying here then? Well it is pretty simple and it is this:
"If you do not have a current injury or specific needs in the form of a disability or condition then you will probably be coached just as well and just as specifically in a group training setting as you would be in a 1:1 personal training setting".
This is exactly what I tell my clients too in the consultation. If they have no injuries, if they have no specific condition that requires bespoke coaching and if they are confident enough to train in a group, then I always tell them to choose the groups, because I can coach them equally as well there as I can in the much more expensive 1:1 environment.
2. Group Training is way more cost effective
So my group training is a bit less than 1/3 of the price of my 1:1 training costs. On the current program, you even get the exact same nutrition resources and coaching strategy as all of my 1:1 clients, so if money is a bit of an issue, then it is a no-brainer.
All of my group training packages com in less than £15 per hour compared to £35 per hour for 1:1 training, The most cost effective packages are around £10-£12 per hour training in group sizes of no more than 8 people. For some trainer it will be even cheaper than that but be careful of going too cheap, because like most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
3. you still get a great coach but you also get loads of other people to keep you motivated
I'm gonna start this one with a bit of a revelation.
"As a trainer and coach, I do not know everything".
Now, for those of you who are amazed by my knowledge, skill and just general coolness on a daily basis, this will come as a shock to you. It is however very true. I may also not be the right person to really light a fire in someone that gets them to realise their potential. For me, this is what is probably the coolest thing about the group PT programs I run. I have realised that I don't have to know everything or motivate everyone.
Quite often the group can answer some questions better than me and sometimes provide the motivation a client needs to achieve their goals. So as the coach, my job is to create the environment, to create the support network and to provide the little push it needs to build and flourish and continue.
So in 1:1 personal training it is just me who is responsible for providing you with all the motivation you need, planning all the workouts, coaching you through the entire process and keeping you on track. In a group coaching program however, you still get all of that from me as the coach but you also get help and support from a load of others, people you can relate to who are facing similar challenges as you, your team mates who will help you push harder and be your own personal cheerleaders.
So for me it is very simple... "Why settle for one coach when you can 5, 6 or 7"?
4. fun, banter and teamwork
Our group coaching unwritten rules...
1. Leave your ego at the door
2. Be friendly to everyone
3. Help everyone out as much as you can
4. Only the coach is allowed to be sarcastic (just kidding)
5. Don't take yourself too seriously
6. Have fun!
This has helped us create an awesome atmosphere at Faster Fitness Solutions where everyone feels comfortable, takes the piss out of each other a little bit and has a whale of a time doing so. Having 2 young children means I am often flagging by 5.30pm. Feeling tired and bit sorry for myself, the group atmosphere really lifts me up though and gives the energy I need for the rest of the evening. The guys and girls on the program never fail to bring an awesome energy to the room which is hugely helpful for me as a coach and makes the sessions fly by.
This is without doubt, my favorite aspect of group coaching compared to 1:1 training. While i really do love building that close relationship with 1:1 clients, the group training programs are simply an awesome laugh. Always great fun and I am almost always absolutely buzzing, leaving the building at the end of the night. I am pretty sure that this is what my clients find the most valuable and keeps everyone coming back.
5. new friends
I am looking forward to the Christmas socials this year and really looking forward to the whole gym social I have planned in the new year. This really is an awesome opportunity for you to meet new people and make great new friends.
The type of training we do is hard, I am not going to lie and tell you it isn't. You see your team mates at their best and sometimes at their lowest. I tell you what though, you get to find out a lot about yourself doing this type of training as well as the people you are training with and for me... "Nothing helps you build bonds like the motivation you get from pushing yourself to your limits and having others in the group willing you on to do the same thing".
For those of you who have played team sports, you know exactly what I mean and for the guys and girls who haven't, they are discovering how cool a thing that can be.
...which have nothing to do with diet or exercise
So in this one I want to talk honestly and openly about a few things I have realised over the year or so having dealt with a few mental demons myself and having worked with and helped a lot of people with a variety of issues start to enjoy exercise again, get over some of their fears and improve their physical appearance.
So for this one, I am going to start with an admission which has been hard for me to admit to especially as it meant that over the past 12-14 years working as a fitness and exercise coach I have got it wrong, and I mean really fucking wrong. Sorry for swearing but I just wanted you to understand how shitty a job I have been doing and I have been thinking about this a lot for the last 6 months or so and it has taken me until now to write it down.
"So I am really sorry, mainly to all the past clients that I wasn't able to change, I used to think you were wrong but really it was probably my fault. I wasn't really getting it from your point of view and I really couldn't understand why you were unable to follow my advice with regards to exercise and nutrition etc."
That's really where I was going wrong, exercise and nutrition, when I now know that it has absolutely nothing to do with that at all so as promised that is the last I mention it in this article. So I will not be droning on about crappy boring stuff like
❌ Calorie counting
❌ HIIT Training
❌ Cardio V Weight Training
❌ Portion Control
❌Or cutting out certain types of foods
Instead, this is all about you, how we can help you stop the limiting beliefs that keep you from getting to where you want to be.
So here we go...
1. you place too much value the opinion of others
This has been a real break through for me and has taken me from a place where I was mentally struggling to now being in a pretty good place and ready for new challenges.
Social media is a nightmare for this but it has been around way before that. I see it much more training the ladies I train compared to the men, that's not me being sexist, its just what I have experienced over the past few years.
We tend to put way too much value in other people's opinion of us, when really what we should be focusing on how we feel about ourselves. Ladies, you have a tougher job than most guys because it is in-built in you to care for everyone other than yourselves and you worry a lot about what people will think if you put yourself first for a change.
Well! I am now here to tell you this: "Fuck em"! You deserve to be happy with yourself and you deserve to feel good about yourself, even if it does mean saying no to someone every once in a while and doing your own thing because that is what makes you happy.
This is another part of my job I have made a pigs ear of over the years. Instead of helping you do this, I have probably ended up putting you under more pressure by focusing on your weight loss or measurement results instead of helping you improve the way you feel about yourself.
Now I realise that this has to be my main priority and I need to get you focused on you more, by giving you the confidence in yourself to achieve more and do things for you.
I think my favourite ever movie quote epitomises this exactly.
2. You're focusing way too much on losing weight
This is something I am seeing a lot of, especially with the ladies I train at the moment. They are putting undue pressure on themselves by focusing only on what the tape measure or scales say. So here is my advice on this one, focus on how training and being fitter and stronger makes you feel, focus on how good you feel when you hit that deadlift PB or you get a new PB time in your fitness test, focus on being able to do things today that you couldn't do a few weeks or months ago.
"TRY TO ENJOY THE JOURNEY, DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE RESULTS RIGHT AWAY BECAUSE GETTING THE PROCESSES RIGHT MEANS THE OTHER STUFF TAKES CARE OF ITSELF".
I am also going to let you into a little secret the fitness industry doesn't really want you to know either, mainly because its not that sexy a notion and it doesn't really drive loads of sales. "It's not your weight that is the biggest indicator of poor health, it is your lack of movement or fitness". So you can absolutely be overweight and healthy as long as you are strong, and you feel good".
The real reason your trainer is not telling you that is because it doesn't get them more social media likes or one of those awesome before and after photos that everyone likes to see.
So as I said earlier, focus on the journey, celebrate every success, lift more, move faster and push yourself onto new boundaries and FFS try to enjoy it because your training and fitness regime should not ever be something that makes you feel worse about yourself than you already do.
3. you start dieting
Fact for you! Nobody ever got ripped in 28 days, nobody ever got a 6 pack doing nothing but an abs routine and hardly anyone has achieved long term weight loss on a diet.
So please stop looking for quick fixes, fast results and schemes that are marketed to get you this much weight loss in this amount of time. I have been guilty of this in the past myself and up until very recently have marketed programs on these promises.
In all honesty, its actually pretty simple to put a meal plan in place and a workout regime together that will get someone dropping a stone per month. The problem lies in that doing this will almost certainly result in short term success but unfortunately these programs are unsustainable and don't really fit in with life. The real kicker though, is that doing these over a long period of time, going from one scheme or quick fix to another gives you a pretty unhealthy relationship to food, makes you yo, yo in weight and usually leads to you getting fatter and more depressed.
So if you really want to make changes to your body shape by losing weight, then do it slowly, take your time and make small changes one by one that will add up to a better and healthier relationship with food and exercise.
So ban the word "DIET", eliminate it from your vocabulary and focus on the small things that you can enjoy and do consistently in order to create long term change.
4. You are too hard on yourself
OK folks, this one is a big one and something I have to talk people out of doing all the time. People on a fitness, weight loss or any other type of journey always give themselves a hard time if they make a mistake. I promise you now that if your goal is to lose weight and get in shape, AT SOME POINT ALONG THE WAY YOU WILL FUCK IT UP!
This could come in the form of a weekend bender followed by a 3am kebab and chips, followed by a whole day of hungover junk food. We have all been there and guess what, those days are probably still not over, it gonna happen again. The important thing in this situation is to not be too hard on yourself and use it as an excuse to give up. The truth is you are not perfect and neither is your coach. No diet or fitness regime should expect you be either. Yes us fitness gurus mess our stuff up sometimes too. So don't let it consume you, instead learn from it and maybe next time, try not to go so crazy with the hungover food perhaps.
Even if you do it all the same again don't worry, its in the past you cannot change it. So focus your thoughts back into the present and the future and getting to yourself back on track.
Listen! It takes 3-4 weeks for a change to start to feel natural part of your routine and around 6 months for that change to become a lifetime habit, so in that time you will make mistakes but don't give up. The important thing is that you give yourself time and be patient with yourself because real change does not happen over night.
5. You don't believe in yourself enough!
I have been a trainer and coach now for around 15 years. Over the past year or so I have learned a lot. I usually pride myself on being a quick learner but this one has take a while to sink in. You can probably tell from reading this that not only has it been written to help you get started stay on course with your fitness and weight loss efforts, it has also been a bit of therapy for me and a way of unburdening myself by admitting past mistakes and hopefully wiping my slate clean and starting again, better than before.
I have finally learnt that my role is not to provide you with weight loss information in the way of diet and exercise and to push you to lose weight, it is really to get you to feel good about yourself, to help you feel supported and ultimately to get you to believe in yourself as much as I believe in you.
So the phrase "I can't" is now banned from the gym or anywhere in my presence. That shit needs to be replace with "I can", "I will" or "I am gonna" and don't let anyone tell you differently.
Darren has over 10 years experience in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, sports injury therapist and most recently as an educator to other trainers. Originally from South Wales, he went to Liverpool University to study Sports Science and liked the city so much, he decided to stay. Since finishing his degree he set up a thriving personal training and injury rehab business which continues to this day. He has recently moved over to Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and has opened Faster Fitness Solutions, a multi-purpose training and rehabilitation facility located in the heart of the village.