Several years ago, while we were warming up, a client asked me “are you always this happy?” I replied, “yes, because this is the easiest part of my day”. Being in the gym with clients is why I became a personal trainer. Of course, it’s the best part of the day! The hard parts are the bits you don’t get to see. Things like puzzling over QuickBooks or hours in front my computer scheduling social media posts are not why I became a personal trainer. But since I work for myself, they come with the package. Being in the gym is where I get to be the teacher I always thought I would be.


Now, as I look back on ten years of Thrive Personal Fitness, I know a lot more about being a good coach, how to run a business and how to live mindfully than I did in 2009. I think the lessons I’ve learned can be helpful to you on your fitness journey. I also think they can ben helpful if you’re thinking of changing career paths like I did.

Know your boundaries

When you start a business, everyone will ask you for everything. It’s so easy run yourself ragged trying to be everything to everyone and to give to every cause or participate in every health fair. The truth is, as Jen Sincero says, “you can’t do anything if you’re trying to do everything”. I wasn’t clear on my mission and my values when I started so I jumped at every opportunity anyone wanted to give me. I did a lot of work and gave a lot of time that didn’t pay off in building a profitable business.

I knew my why was to teach but I had to get clear on who and what I wanted to teach. Once I got a clearer sense of my values and mission, I stopped saying yes to every client, every appointment and every donation request. I was able to give more mindful yes’s and kinder no’s. I was happier, my clients were more successful and my business blossomed.

You can’t do it all on your own.

It took a few years to realize I needed help. In the beginning, we did everything ourselves. Thankfully I chose to marry someone with a good eye for color palates, who knows how to build websites and how to take great photos. That gave me a solid start. But getting clients, avoiding tax issues and supporting a growing business can’t stay a DIY enterprise for long.

The first place I had to ask for help was learning how to become a great personal trainer and coach. When you get your certification it’s a little like learning how to read. You get the alphabet and how to sound out some letters but no one is teaching you how to write good sentences or paragraphs. I had the vocabulary but I needed someone to teach me how to put it all together. So, I got mentoring and assistance from a couple online who had been running a profitable gym for years. I invested in additional certifications and training in how to be a great coach, not just a personal trainer counting your reps. I learned the most valuable secret to success there is: great coaches have coaches.

As my skills increased, so did my business. That meant I needed professionals for the things I didn’t know how to do well (taxes) or that took a lot of time to do well (website support and maintenance). Knowing the value of my time and the value of other’s expertise freed me up to do the things that I do well and kept me focused on why I became a personal trainer.

Keep your eyes on your own paper.

It is so easy to get caught up in the comparison trap. At first, I looked to other trainers in my area (“the competition”) to try to understand what I should be doing next in terms of marketing and offerings. I worried about who was offering a new boot camp or if someone’s tagline sounded a little too much like mine. I once got so worried that someone would confuse a new business with a very similar name to mine that I wasted hundreds of dollars on a trademark application that a professional (see the previous tip) could have told me would never go through.

Then I realized that success wasn’t I pie so I really wasn’t competing with anyone but myself. I also understood that no one else was me. The reason I was attracting so many other NPR loving book nerds is because I am an NPR loving book nerd. No one else can give you tea recommendations, teach proper tofu roasting technique and break down a kettlebell swing the way I do. If those things matter to you and our personalities mesh, I win. But if they don’t, I don’t lose by helping you find someone who is the right fit for you. There is no one right way to be a personal trainer or one right path for a fitness journey. So, you do you, I’ll do me and we’ll all be better for it.

Don’t force it.

I’ll admit it, I’m a control freak. I think it’s part of being an Upholder. It’s only in the last few years that I have learned to relax a little and trust in the uncertainty. Not that I’ve given up planning and goals setting! I still plan but I also have learned to accept that things will not go according to plan on a regular basis. When that happens, I need to act from the moment, not from the emotion of the plan I made three weeks ago. It’s also about keeping my energy focused on what I can control. I can plan to write so many words a day but I can’t control a power outage, a distress call from my mom or writer’s block. I can change how feel about and react to the situation and give myself the grace to say good enough.

Every time I try to force the outcome with worry or micromanaging it never works out. When I lay a good foundation, trust the process and believe in the outcome it always seems to work out in my favor. Even my own body likes it better now that I’ve stopped trying to manage my macros, focus on 80% full and stay away from things, like dairy, that make me feel like crap.


My training and coaching style have evolved over the last ten years. But why I became a personal trainer as always been about teaching. When I started it was more about how to do a squat and eat your veggies. These things are still very much a part of what I do but they are the gateway to the life skills and mindset work that produce the best results for my clients. The workout brings us together but the education, support and community are what keep my clients coming back to the gym to build happier, healthier and bigger lives

I’ll be celebrating the tenth anniversary of Thrive Personal Fitness in the gym next week but I don’t get to see all of you on a weekly basis. That why I want you to join me for a virtual party and webinar on September 25 at 7 pm to commemorate the occasion. Get you FREE invitation here. And thank you for letting me do what I love every day.

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