Exhausted. Elated. Proud.
I felt them all while standing in the middle of my own personal training studio at 5pm after training for 24 straight hours. I was with the people who are closest to me in my life. I had just finished training a group of in shape trainers from another fitness outfit and my emotions were running high. We had just raised $37,000, sponsoring well over 110 surgeries for a non profit that does free surgeries for those who can’t afford them. A very nobel cause and one I gladly support.
But there was only one thought that ran through my head, “this is why you do this.” See, It hasn't been the easiest professional route for me to get to where I am today. The challenges have been heavy and have seemed to increase the more visible I have become. But I still hold close to my chest that “this” is what I was put here to do.
It was 13 years ago this month that I made the decision to jump into the fitness industry. And just like the majority of my career, my initial taste was unconventional. Allow me to briefly explain how this came about. Out of high school I was a 140lbs weakling. I couldn’t bench press water and sure as hell couldn’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag with scissors in my hands. But I wanted to change that, so I started working out. I saw dramatic changes and instantly became hooked.
Fast forward a few years when a young lady I worked with at a retail store asked the infamous question, “what do you want to do with yourself?" meaning what do you want to do for a living. I answered with the prototypical answer, “something in sports,” to her reply, “ you should major in Kinesiology.” Kinesiology? Bewildered I went home and looked it up to see what the requirements were, then I made that my major. Off to the races we go.
Fast forward a year or so to when my mother suggests something that would alter my world. She asked me what I thought about personal training. At the time I was against it, I had watched the trainers at the gym and did not have any interest in being one of them. Nevertheless, my mother is convincing and told me if I wanted to do it that she would buy my first certification. Ok, game time!
Like a fine tooth comb, I went trough the certification meticulously absorbing the information as best I could. In August 2004, I tested and passed my first certification exam. Now I am ready to take on the fitness world. But I need a job and I get it in the most unlike of places, Las Vegas.
My cousin and I had made a trip to Las Vegas a few weeks before I became certified and I had met a woman there, who happened to be from Lexington. She called me out for carrying a Kentucky Wildcat bag and so we struck up conversation. My cousin being as brash as he is, nudged me to ask for the girls phone number so we could meet when I got back to Lexington. I called and called and never heard anything from her but one day I see her in the gym and she has a personal trainer shirt on. I quickly approach her at the water fountain and tell her that I had passed my certification and was ready to get started. She was in desperate need of trainers and directed me to talk with her boss. I did and started there after.
I spent two years working in the “Mecca” of fitness, Gold’s Gym before realizing I had more to offer than just training. I wanted to educate trainers as well. The Gold’s Gym franchise that I was working for had just acquired three gyms in Louisville, 70 miles up the road. My regional manager, who was as convincing and borderline on manipulative, asked me to go evaluate the trainer staffs at the three locations. So I held a meeting to meet them all and explain expectations.
I realized during that meeting that most of them were not going to make it or be cut out to be a trainer and relayed this information back to him with the intention of wishing me luck. He then asked me the question that changed my life, “what are you going to do about it?” What am I going to do about it? I am a personal trainer, not in management and not an owner. But i was ambitious and took the bull by the horns and developed a plan. I called a certification company and worked out a deal on their certification materials and schedule a weekly meeting every Saturday morning in Louisville with these trainers. I was going to teach them how to train and certify them at the same time. Oh and by the way, I did this for free.
After a few months others caught wind of what I was doing and decided to give me a promotion and let me run the entire personal training department but the catch was, I had no job description and no direction, I had to do it myself. So I did. That was a grand decision and one I will never regret.
I spent six years traveling the country, hiring and developing thousands of trainers, opening 25 plus gyms and speaking all over. My position was unique in the industry and unique to anyone else because I built the position myself and by myself. When LA Fitness purchased us in 2012 they wanted me to come do for them what I had done for Urban Active. They offered me $200,000 a year to do it, well over what I was making for UA. I said no. I also left their organization with no money and without training a client in nearly seven years. I had to go back into everyday training of clients and start all over. But I was happy to do so.
A huge smile came over me on that Sunday after we raised $37,000. As I laid, exhausted on my couch in the office looking at the check and the number on it, I remember thinking once again, “this is why you are here.” And it is. I’ve won awards. I have written books. I have influenced thousands of trainers. I have ran a $35 million personal training department. I have been in the New York Times and have been globally recognized as a personal trainer. But none of that compares to the feeling of the effect I feel I have had on the community, the people and the charities that we work with.
If I had to define my time in the fitness industry in one or two words I would have to say resilance and charity to describe my career. This road hasn’t always been easy. There have been times where I have wanted to quick. There have been times where I didn’t make any money and I struggled to pay my bills, there have also been times where I have been on top of the world. The road hasn’t been paved but I feel I have paved the way for others to come along and do this a lot better than I have. And I hope they do, the world needs it.
Yours in Fitness,