Two Important Types of Training You Didn't Expect to Deliver at Your Gym

I knew it all when I was 25.

I opened a gym that was going to take over the world. There was literally zero chance I could fail, or make a mistake for that matter. How could I not crush it? I had an MBA, after all.

Oh how fantastically naive I was.

Twelve years have passed. Twelve quick years that featured both successful and failed objectives around the gym, employees coming and going for a variety of reasons, and a series of metaphorical kicks in the teeth that led to 186 blog posts just like this one.

This week I want to share two more lessons learned along the way. While these both fall far outside of the “kick-in-the-teeth” category, they have resurfaced on my radar on more than one occasion this week, leaving them fresh in my mind. Both will serve as valuable takeaways for those of you who’ve yet to encounter these inevitable certainties of gym ownership in the performance training space.

Let’s discuss the training you didn’t realize you’d be delivering…

1. We train parents, and it has nothing to do with the weight room.

I used to joke that my time spent running a gym catering to young athletes has been a crash course in “how not to parent your kids.” I’ve since come to learn that it wasn’t a joke. The kids we train may not arrive with the work ethic we desire, but that is usually more of a lagging indicator of the tone set by parents than it is of an athlete’s actual potential in the gym.

Turns out we can begin dramatically improving the potential of a kid even before handing him an individualized training program. We do this by outlining some strongly suggested rules for engaging with our business. At some point during each athlete’s first day with us, these two things are made clear to the athlete, in front of a parent:

  • If you’re old enough to carry around your own cell phone, you’re old enough to schedule your own training sessions.

  • If you have concerns about the direction of your program, or any pain you may feel during the training process, YOU tell us immediately, not your dad via telephone during the ride home from the gym.

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Long story short, we’re trying to build proactive athletes who take ownership of the training process and learn to engage effectively with adults. They can either embrace these guidelines and flourish, or they can stay the course, and likely struggle to find a place to play at the next level when the coach at the local university is turned off by the feeling that he’s recruiting a helicopter dad more than an athlete that can contribute to his program.

If we train a kid to minimize his dad’s role right in front of him on the first day, we (usually) find that the dad voluntarily takes a step back in handling each of the logistics along the way.

On a similar note…

2. We owe it to our young athletes to keep them accountable to more than just training.

I’d imagine you opened your gym with the intention of “making an impact,” right?

Well I can say with certainty that I’ve made a lasting impact on a high school athlete named Ben. This impact had nothing to do with his squat technique or cleaning up his lunge pattern.

I helped Ben by telling him that I would no longer tolerate scheduling emails that did not take proper grammar or punctuation into consideration. I explained that I want to see an acceptable greeting in the opening of his messages, and a removal of all acronyms that only make sense to teenagers who spend their days firing off 400 texts.

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Instead of:

“i’m coming at 3 today to lift. TTYS”

I now receive:

“Good morning, Pete. I’d like to train today after school. I expect to arrive around 3:00pm. Please let me know if this will not work on your end.

Talk soon, Ben.”

I initially felt like a curmudgeon while delivering this message. I then realized I’d just fast-tracked a life skill that will likely help Ben get into college, land future jobs, and function as a productive adult. Someday he will score a spot on a college roster in a great program, and I’ll be able to take comfort in knowing that he did so by carrying himself as a mature adult during the recruiting process. I’ll also be the guy celebrating his commitment to said academic/athletic program on our company’s social media platforms because I’m a greedy opportunist.

Kidding, sort of..


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