Personal trainers are not normal, a bold statement, before you start sending tweets and texts this is the reason why. I posted on FB yesterday the latest statistics from the Chief Medical Officer for England that showed that 75% of the population are overweight or obese. That leaves 25% of the population at a healthy weight. My guess is that most personal trainers fall into a healthy body composition range. I say body composition because I don’t think weight is that useful a measure; so this puts them in a minority straight away. But you now have to take this one step further and only 12% of the UK population are members of a gym. So it is reasonable to assume that this is the percentage of the population that enjoy exercise. Even if you don’t accept that premise, two thirds of the UK population fail to get sufficient activity for health. So whichever way you look at it the personal trainer is in a minority group.
The reason I highlight this is that most PT’s seem to overlook the fact that they are in a minority. They enjoy exercise and on the whole have a reasonably healthy diet; there are of course exceptions to every rule. If you want to be successful as a PT you need clients. A lot of PT’s think they will find these clients in a gym but as only 12% of the population are here that is not the best place to look. What makes this worse is that there are new PT’s being churned out by training companies every week so the number of PT’s is growing but the percentage using gyms has hardly changed in the past few years. This means that year on year you are competing for an ever diminishing amount of clients. The bottom line is PT’s need to adapt and start looking at the 75% who are overweight or obese.
If you are going to work in this market sector you need to know a few home truths. The first is that this 75% are unlikely to be found in the gym (again there will be the odd exception). Second you can forget all your FAD diets. This includes Carb back-loading, Paleo, low carb, intermittent fasting and any other diet that has little scientific evidence to support it or is pushed by so called “nutrition experts” in the leisure industry. In fact forget any diet altogether this also encompasses supplements of any description (especially protein shakes and so called ‘Fat burners’). The overweight 75% of the population don’t want to know about FAD diets and you will be doing well if you can get them to make just a few healthy changes to their diet. Next up you need to forget all your highly marketed exercise regimes this includes Zumba, kettlebells, metafit, HIIT and any other trendy regime being promoted by the leisure industry as a whole. Remember only 12% of the population join a gym, there is good reason for this. Going back to the general population two thirds aren’t active enough to be healthy so the likelihood of them starting one of your regimes is somewhere between slim (excuse the pun) and none existent. Even if you could convince them to start it is highly debatable how long they will continue. Again just look at gym membership sign ups in January, how many continue past March/April? The best you can achieve initially is to just get them more active.
How are you going to target this group?
From a marketing perspective, forget the gym. These people are more likely to be couch potatoes and home lovers. So you need to be using social media and be part of groups that are likely to contain these prospective clients. Remember you need to make sure your programme appeals to this group. So don’t talk about diet, talk about making meal time more interesting or not feeling hungry as often or being able to eat more or learning new cooking skills. So you need a programme that includes healthy eating advice, remember no FAD’s. Next you have to consider activity and this should include practical advice about how to get active. Talk about how it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and take up loads of time. Consider how it can be fitted into a busy lifestyle and how you can facilitate that transition. I know this doesn’t sound much like anything you covered when you trained as a PT but what you are doing here is laying foundations. My research into the treatment of male obesity found that this approach has quite a high buy-in. As these people become more active and start to see some tangible benefits they are more likely to engage in formal exercise. This in turn often leads to greater dietary change as they start to see the benefits.
The choice is yours – chase the minority or go for the bigger prize
I haven’t seen too much evidence of these types of outreach programmes that are more education based around nutrition and activity. So your choice is that you can continue trying to impose your minority views on the 12% of the population in the gym that may actually be interested or modify your views and get out and chase the 75% of the population that currently do very little. The bottom line is that if you can recruit less than 1% of this group you will make more money than you are ever likely to chasing the dwindling 12% that are in your gym.