“They laughed when I said I’d grow my fitness business online but now, they ask for my advice…” | Exercise.com
The look on my boss’s face, standing right there in the middle of the gym… totally, absolutely priceless.

That sheepish grin.

That little “you got me” shrug of his wide, thickly-muscled shoulders.

He hesitated, eyes glancing down and then quickly back up, before mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like, “You win. How’d you do it?”

I leaned forward, fighting back a full canines smile. “What’s that?” I pretended to rub my ears. “What’d you say? Come again?”

His voice rose. “‘How’d you do it?'” He cleared this throat. “I said ‘how’d you get so good at online training—”

I interrupted him. “No, the first part. What’d you say for the first part?”

He sighed, rolling his eyes up to gaze at the ceiling. I watched his face closely and with no small degree of amusement, wondering which would fail first, his pride, or the sprinkler pipe currently lodging the 8-lb medicine ball an overzealous strongman/madman/circus performer had thrown skyward, and which now precariously tottered above us like a long-forgotten Damoclean sword. Funny the things you see if you just look closely at the very same things you see every day.

He blew the air out slowly through his lips and met my eye. “Okay, you win. I’ll admit it. Now, really. How’d you do it? How’d you make online training work? You hardly even have any followers on Instagram.”

I laughed, letting my teeth show. “No need to insult me. You’re the one asking me for help now, right?”

He grimaced ruefully but then smiled graciously. “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry. Please tell me what you did.”

He was a decent and fair all-around guy, I will give him that. A pretty darn good mentor and gym owner too, I know that from personal experience, as both one of his long-time personal trainers and someone who works out in his gym.

Walking side-by-side with him along the turf and sled area, I began to gear up for my proclamation, extending a hand like I was a preacher. “Okay, so it’s like this.” I stopped, almost tripping over a scattered stack of 45-lb plates that one of our lovely and conscientious members had left out for us so we could get a few extra reps in for the day. Instinctively, we both reached down at almost the same time and came so close to bumping heads that we both drew back up, but then bent again, scooped the weights back up and I continued.

“I had no clue what I was doing, to be honest.”

He looked sharply over at me, maybe testing my features to see if I was kidding.

“I’m serious. I had no clue.” I met his eye. “But I was willing to work hard. I mean, you’ve seen me here in the gym.”

He nodded. He knew what hard work was too. Do one of our high volume 100-rep front squat workouts and you’ll know what we mean real quick.

I continued. “So I just hustled and worked and screwed up a lot of stuff at first, but then, little by little, the small wins started to add up.”

“What did you do?”

“I just began to approach people who couldn’t afford to train with me in-person or who didn’t have the time to train with me in-person and I asked them if I could create a monthly workout plan for them for $100/month. Simple, really.”

I paused, deciding to be fully transparent with him. He looked so earnest. “I mean, I tested out some different prices with different people too, you know. Depending on what they needed and what they could afford. For James—”

“The high school baseball whiz kid?” He frowned. “I thought he moved away.”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “He did move away, but we kept in touch.”

His face lightened, nodding at me in appreciation. “And you are still training him. He’s just not coming into the gym anymore.”

“Yep. He wanted some specialized throwing drills, and some other special distance coaching stuff—the ability to message me questions and send me videos so I can critique his form—so I charged him $250/month, but I know he’s serious about trying to get a D-1 scholarship, and more importantly, so are his parents, so they are happy to pay.”

His eyes glimmered. “Amazing.”

I took that as a good sign so I continued. “And then Anna Armstrong—”

“The big-time CFO? I never see her in here anymore either. Don’t tell me she moved away.”

I shook my head. “No, she just has such a hectic schedule, and she’s on the road a lot, so she wanted some consistency in her training, even if her schedule and workout location is all over the place.”

“And so now you are training her online…” he marveled, shaking his head. “And here I would have just let her continue to pay the small monthly gym membership fee, and wrote her off to doing any personal training because she’s too busy.”

I interrupted. “And that’s not even the best part…”

“Let me guess.” He grimaced. “You’re some kind of online training expert now and you’re going to turn in your two-week notice, start your own gym, put me out of business—”

I lifted a hand, laughing. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, easy there. I’m going to do nothing of the sort.” I stopped, waggled an eyebrow and then winked. “Not anytime soon anyway.” The look on his face was so relieved, so thankful, it made me feel a little more endeared to him, in that moment, I’m not going to lie. Hurriedly, I continued, wanting to speak over the sudden rush of strange emotions—this was the guy that had convinced me to be a trainer, after all. “Actually, I—”

I paused, meeting his eye, and uncertain about how to continue.

“What?” he said. “Spit it out.”

I took a deep breath. “I was actually hoping we could work together on some of this online training stuff, roll it out for the whole gym. For all the trainers.” My voice rose. I was getting excited, but I didn’t care. “Mobile workout logging apps, custom-branded with our logo, online training groups, specialized workout plans that we can deliver to clients on the apps, a trainer hierarchy so we can set everyone up and work together, and—”

“Really?” He appeared taken aback. “You would do that? For us? That’s a really big undertaking. I knew you were a smart guy, but I didn’t know you were like an online tech whiz like that.”

“Well…” I paused, seriously debating how long I could string along his notions of me as some kind of Internet boy genius, but then quickly decided to come clean. It wouldn’t be long before I was outed as the guy that couldn’t even get our front desk printer to work, anyway. “Okay, so honestly, I was telling you the truth earlier: I don’t really have any special online skillset. But…”

“Yes?” He leaned forward. No kidding, he actually leaned forward, his face serious and intent.

“I know a guy.” I shrugged, nonchalant. “Well, really a team of people. They take care of all the online software stuff and we just do what we’re good at — training clients.”

He perched forward, and I thought he was either going to power clean and press me over his head or force me to teach the Grecco Grappling for Grannies class again—off the top of my head, I’m not sure which would be worse.

But he didn’t do either of those things.

He just simply said, “Tell me more.”

So I did.