Hanging On: An Independent Trainer’s COVID-19 Response

I am writing this piece in response to the MindBody article in the coaches-only newsletter. There were aspects of MindBody’s actions that I could understand, and agreed with many points put out in the follow-up by Breaking Muscle. Ultimately, I do not agree with any third-party vendor having control over a business’ revenue and business practices.


Breaking Muscle offered practical advice and I will add my own insights. Within are some insights or support with my experiences and what I am doing as a completely self-employed independent trainer who is trying to hang on with you in an already vapid and unjustly hyper-competitive industry.



My Briefing, My Clients, How I Pivoted

I have been working in the health and fitness industry for 20 years. With that, I have had to hold a variety of roles, work with a diverse range of populations, work in some unruly settings, and have had to creatively yet critically think on my feet for a variety of letdowns that came from relying too heavily on others in the industry or who were trying to capitalize on this market.


Don’t get me wrong, I have had some good experiences as well, but I am an independent trainer by choice for a reason. Needless to say, the reasons for much of my frustrations in this space have also set me up for a greater capacity to pivot in situations like we are all experiencing on different levels.


Over the years I have dabbled with distance coaching, online and virtual training in conjunction with using an extensive array of tools that kept coming out that were to improve these methods, take payments, provide scheduling, and so on.


I have been sadly disappointed in many of my trials as the time and cost did not match up for myself, or my clients. I did not have the time to learn someone else’s way of running my business, and I quickly learned that my clients didn’t have the time or interest to learn new technologies on top of all of their other real-life responsibilities.


Again, don’t get me wrong as there are some useful technologies and apps for online and virtual training, but I have learned and have kept my current in-person clients during this time, by meeting them where they are at and keeping things as simple as possible for them.


My clients are now primarily professionals and those working in corporate environments. These are all people who use communication and scheduling tools like Gmail or Outlook, WebEx, Citrix, Skype, and Google Hangouts.


Ask your clients what they use and you figure it out if you haven’t ever experienced these programs. For payments, PayPal is one of the most secure, easy-to-use, quick responding, customer-focused companies I have used. I will also bet that a simple secure bank e-transfer for payments is also something your clients have used. Setup a Zoho or Freshbooks account, send invoices from there and manage things on your end that way.


Did I mention all of the above are free to you? Up to a certain limit of course but the charges are small.


I am not and never have been a fan of online coaching solely (just sending workouts) without getting to interact with my clients even once per week live. This is why in this time I have chosen to keep things interactive in live virtual coaching sessions.



It hurts my heart a little to make some coaching sacrifices that require hands-on and 360 views, but look at the big picture, suck it up, and realize that this type of training will only make you a better coach as it requires a lot of patience, stoicism, learning new verbal cues, and have some fun with it.


Your clients probably really need your kick adversity and challenges in the ass energy right now. This is one of the best times to really use your empathy and compassion skills and truly show up as the caring coaches you all are.


The support is more important right now than PR’s and aesthetic goals. These are also aspects that we know can help you bring more people on board with you because emotion sells and we are now selling hope, and not just health, fitness and performance.


While I value the power of us all coming together, I have learned that it is important to not have to rely on anyone or anything for my own life and livelihood.


Be agile and prepared. I want this for you too and hopefully, a synopsis of my experiences will help you do the same. Know and do what works first for you, then your client (yes that is in the right order), and stay on your path.


Please do know that when I say these things, I don’t mean losing your growth mindset and not connecting with others, just do your own life and business analysis first and find out what you really need instead of just taking people’s advice. Only you really know what you need to succeed in your business. Okay, and your immediate stakeholders and advisers.


I am happy to share with you a few people and resources directly related to this business market that might help you out during this time but there are many others. It simply depends on finding what’s right for you:


  • Precision Nutrition is offering its ProCoach for 90 days free
  • Jon Goodman (PTDC) is offering his online training challenge and resources free right now
  • Jason Grossman is offering a free virtual PT kit
  • Trainerize is offering free services and supports


I would like to add that a great idea if you have the budget for it, is to buy some small training bulk items from Amazon and package your virtual services with some equipment. I have done this in the past and it worked well and know of a local gym here who is doing this currently.


I have personally had success during this time in helping clients move as much as possible while not losing revenue by keeping my hourly prices the same but breaking it into two 30-minute sessions 4 times per week instead of 2 one-hour sessions per week.


This helps keep clients maintain exercise habits that we know they are probably not motivated enough to do on their own right now, and have also had some success by including some of my client’s kids into their one-hour sessions as an option.


Things That Have Low ROI

During this time what I am about to write may produce different results, but much of what is being perpetuated as fitness business saviors, is more of a drain on your time, money, efforts, and credibility after this is over.


I know this from close friends or through my own experiences. Free anything right now is probably not the best solution. As was mentioned in the follow-up article to the MindBody COVID-19 response, there is enough free stuff out there and your knowledge and time are worth more than that. Research has supported that tactic costs you more than it makes you.


Using T&A won’t help you in your prospecting for non-pornographic related clients. Hey, if that is where you want to take things that is up to you but just be careful and really think it through.


Tactics of using too many novelty exercises won’t work. I think we all know that the majority of people we are especially trying to reach right now can barely even lunge or do an elevated push up properly.


Don’t spend too much time on creating all of these new social accounts, use the ones you have and re-hash, have perfect geo-tagging, SEO and such. Social media management or being an influencer is a full-time job and can make you even more stressed or angry when you have to scope through it all and learn what is out there and what works.


I also know that very often this route only appears to be lucrative to the people putting in all of that work.


We Are All in This Together

MindBody’s actions were understandable as they too need to protect their business but I must say that I don’t agree with a third-party service having control over anyone’s revenue and business practices.


Hopefully, my ramblings during this time have given you some encouragement or maybe insight that you need to always be sure you have the majority control over your life and business, and that I have provided some useable knowledge and resources to help you get through this.


Know that there is another side to this and many people and businesses, big or small, will have to face the music of their actions during this time. We have one of the best jobs that we all clearly are genuinely passionate about, and while many of us are fighting for a lot of the same things right now, we don’t have to be each other’s nemesis – there are still billions of people left in this world that need our help and we can’t reach them and help them alone.


Feel free to reach out to me through Twitter or Instagram if this proved helpful. The links are next to my byline at the beginning of this article.