Next Level

Jun 22, 2022

(originally posted in 2013)

To start the New Year off on a high and motivating note, our facility, California Fitness Academy had a great team meeting discussing ways to reach the next level.  Reaching the next level in the areas of training, communication, business and personal growth were the highlights of the meeting. 

I have seen an increase in training gyms around our local area.  From Crossfit gyms to personal training studios, I have seen an influx of fitness facilities pop up over the past few years.  Instead of worrying about these places taking clients and competing with us, I like to run our own race.  But in order to stay on top and continue to be the leaders in our community we must run hard and look for ways to reach the next level in our daily lives. 

The minute we get comfortable and lazy will be the day we start going the wrong direction.  My job as the owner and the leader is to create motivation and direction for our team to keep pushing to achieve the goal at hand. 


This is the business.  We got into the profession because we love training people.  The first thing I asked my team was to raise their hand if they LOVE, truly LOVE training people.  Everyone of course raised their hand.  I told them that if they don't love what they are doing, then they need to start working up another plan to find something they love doing. 

This profession is about exuding passion and desire each day we are training people.  To create an unbelievable experience, not just a good workout, but a training environment that is second to none here are 5 NEXT LEVEL points I brought up:

  1. Saying everyone's name 5 times in a training session.  If you have read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, he talks about how people love to hear their name.  This should become a genuine strategy to make the session experience high level.  With the increase in group training this becomes a difficult task. 
    But difficult does not mean impossible or unrealistic.  I have trained 40 people at one time where I have accomplished this goal.  You truly make a group experience personable by achieving this strategy.  By truly caring about each person you are training, saying their name will individualize the session and make them feel like they are getting attention. 
    The worse thing that can happen is a member leaving feeling like they didn't get personal attention during a training session.  Do this every session.

  2. Show up on time.  When I say “on time” that doesn't mean on time.  If the session starts at 10:00 am, you should be ready to go by 9:45 am.  Workout in hand, equipment ready to be used and your mind right!  You should be waiting for the members and greeting them as they enter the gym. 
    During sessions where there are more than 10 people, try your best to mingle with every person.  Even if it's for 1-2 minutes.  Ask them how they are feeling, how'd they slept last night and what they ate that day.  These questions will give you a better understanding of where they are coming from so if needed, you can modify the workout accordingly for that individual. 
    Ben Franklin said, “fail to plan, plan to fail.”  If you show up to a training session 5 minutes before it starts (I understand that it happens once in awhile), you will not be prepared to create energy and motivation in that particular training session. 

  3. Having progressions, regressions and modifications according to the individuals in the session.  Again, this is what we do.  Do not just have some generic workout without any modifications.  And don't just call out commands like, “Ok work on your form for this exercise”, while the majority of the group is performing the movement incorrectly. 
    This is a recipe for injury to members who are not yet ready for a particular exercise or conditioning drill.  Know your members and what they can and can't do.  If they are not proving perfect movement, simply regress them back to the basic movement.  You should be able to train 2 completely different fitness levels in a session due to your understanding of exercise progressions and regressions.  

  4. Be a coach, a motivator and an educator during the session.  Don't be the stereotypical personal trainer who sits Sally Jo on the bench press machine while you count her reps out for her. 
    Be a coach! 
    When I think of great coaches, I think of John Wooden, Bill Walsh, Tony Dungy and Nick Saban (of course there are many more).  If you want to be NEXT LEVEL in the training profession, become a coach.  During recovery periods during the workout, motivate and educate them. 
    Give them nutritional tips or personal growth strategies.  The training session goes from good to great.  It becomes an experience.  The individual leaves the gym feeling invigorated and inspired due to a smart workout program, motivational guidance and tactics they can use outside the session. 
    You now are changing their life, not just working them out. 

  5. Create the experience – Every time!  If training sessions are uninspiring and low energy we as fitness professionals did not do our job. 
    What will you do to make the next session high level? 
    What happens when you are tired or you feel demotivated, what will you do to snap out of it to create an awesome training session? 
    I see this too often where personal trainers are just going through the motions.  The coaching is poor, the energy is down and the entire training session is low level.  That trainer should be fired and ripped away from his or her job because he or she is not doing the job. 
    We get to train people for a living. 
    We get to change people's lives for a living. 
    We get to motivate for a living. 
    If this is not what you are doing, then simply find another job. 


Communication makes or breaks relationships, companies and friendships.  Being a business owner I have seen this first hand how good and/or bad communication affects people.  This is an ongoing trait that must be constantly worked on.
Here are the 5 points we talked about to get to the NEXT LEVEL in communication:

  1. Perception.  Not everyone hears the same thing. You have to be really careful how your words come out of your voice.  You can be speaking to 10 people and those 10 people can view what you are saying 10 different ways.  Always put yourself in the shoes of the person or people you are talking to. 
    How does what you need to communicate need to come out so that person understands the point of the conversation?  Some people need constructive positive criticism, while others need aggressive direction.  Knowing whom you are talking to and what type of person they are will give you a better understanding of how to communicate better. 

  2. Listen to yourself speak.  How does what you are trying to communicate actually sound?  Does it sound aggressive and pushy?  Does it sound loving and motivating?  Does it sound like you don't give a shit? 
    Your tone of voice matters. 
    Your level of voice matters.  And what words you accentuate matters.  Don't just do it one way.  Find ways so the person that is sitting in front of you will understand better.  Like I said, it's constant and this is a point that always needs attention. 

  3. Don't assume – ASK!  A good book to read is “The 4 Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.  One of the agreements he talks about is “Don't make assumptions”.  People that assume things are actually afraid to ask.  Good communication means asking when you might not be sure what was said. 
    We go to the old saying, “When in doubt, ask.”  Because when you are in doubt and you don't ask, you start assuming.  When you start assuming you can build a negative feeling or thought on something or someone that can be entirely false.  So if the communication was difficult to understand, don't be scared to simply ask for clarity. 

  4. Listen intently to others.  Good communication is about listening to others.  Just like the first point, about perception, now we are the ones sitting and listening to someone.  When you listen intently and let those words rumble around in your head, you will be more apt to understanding the comments being made. 
    If you don't understand, go back to number 3.  With this point, make sure to not put words into people's mouths.  If you hear one thing and say they said another, now you are miscommunicating the information.  It's like the game of telephone where a message can get construed based on what one person heard and by time that message gets to the last person it is a completely different message.  This is bad communication. 

  5. Different forms of communication.  Communication is not just about speaking.  Communication can be through eye contact, a handshake or hug, a text message, an email and so forth.  Being a fitness professional, the many ways we can communicate can really assist us to help our clients' get results. 
    When a training session is completed, look at your member in the eyes and tell them thank you and genuinely pat them on the back or shake their hand.  This communication will show him or her how much you care and that you support them in their fitness journey.

Fitness Business

Most personal trainers have no business savvy.  To most, it's more about learning the next new training method or finding a new exercise tool.  Well if no one knows about your business, you will never get to use those cool new things you learned. 
My first few years of owning a facility, I was a chicken with its head cut off.  I was a great coach and knew how to train people but I had limited business foundation and I quickly had to change this persona. 
If you want your business to hit the NEXT LEVEL, I recommend 5 strategies here:

  1. Read 1 fitness business article every day.  This strategy needs to be completed daily if you really want to see results.  What if you brushed your teeth just 2 times a week?  Your teeth would be pretty raunchy.  How about shower, 2 times a week, yuck! 
    It goes along the same lines with educating yourself.  If you want big time, NEXT LEVEL results you will be obsessed with reading fitness business material daily. Fitness is not just about learning fitness.
    You can find fitness business education from guys like Pat Rigsby, Bedros Keullian, Alwyn Cosgrove and Thomas Plummer. 
    Don't expect people to come knocking down your door if you don't have great marketing strategies.  Don't expect people to sign on the dotted line if your sales system is weak.  And don't expect your business to grow if you do not have an action plan in place.  Fitness professionals need constant education to stay up on their business so they can continue doing what they love, which is to train people. 

  2. Think like a business professional not a personal trainer.  I train some amazing business professionals.  In fact, a few in particular are mentors of mine and I am constantly picking their brain in regards to business.  These individuals are respected members of our community.  They have high character, extreme desire and determination, and always look sharp. 
    This is something our industry needs to improve upon.  I get that we can show up to the gym in our sweat pants and workout shirt but we need to clean this up.  Getting respect as a business professional, not just a personal trainer should be very important to you individually.  Show up to the gym looking clean, professional and respectful.  Wear matching clothes, tuck in your shirt most of the time and play the part. 
    You will gain respect from the business community, which will lead to more clients. 

  3. Communicate to your team and members.  Here we go with communication again. 
    Communicating wisely with your team and members is such an important part of building a solid community in your business.  Whether you own a business or you are a trainer in the business, constant communicating is critical.  The minute the line of communication is stopped, your culture can be affected.  Do not let gossip or assumptions run around the facility. 
    Create an open line of communication to make sure people understand each other.  This creates a close-knit, family atmosphere where people feel comfortable. 

  4. You are always marketing – not just at the gym.  What you do in the gym matters but what you do outside the gym really matters. 
    There is a quote from John Wooden that says, “Your character is what you do when no one is looking.” 
    Keep this in mind when you are away from your facility.  The idea is not to be perfect but to be respected.  If you are an owner, you are always representing your business. 
    Marketing is non-stop.  If you are a trainer, you are a piece of the business and how you act can positively or negatively affect the business.  Don't be the guy puking your guts out on the weekends and expect your clients to get results during the week. 
    It doesn't happen that way.  Having a social life is important but knowing to stay within your borders is necessary for NEXT LEVEL improvement. 

  5. HUSTLE!  Years of hustle are needed to build a solid business.  If you are not hustling every day to grow personally, professionally and spiritually then you need to ask yourself what you are doing.  We are so lucky to have such an awesome job and to work with awesome people. 
    If you want to make a living and if you want to be able to do this in your life, you must hustle all the time to create the success you want.  Reading 2 or 3 days a week and showing up to work on Monday without a plan will not lead you to a successful career.  You must have the thought, “When I am not working, someone else is and moving ahead of me.  I need to constantly push myself to reach my goals.” 

Personal Growth

Jim Rohn is a personal growth coach that I have studied over the years. 
He has a quote that states, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do your job.  When you work on your job you can make a living.  When you work on yourself you can make a fortune.” 

I posted this quote in my truck so I can read this every day because it made so much sense.  I consider myself a work alcoholic and I realized, with the help of Jim Rohn, that I needed to work on other areas in my life to improve.  It wasn't just about fitness.  I needed balance and it was so important that I make personal growth and improvement a priority in my life. 
Again, here are 5 strategies that can help you reach the NEXT LEVEL of personal growth:

  1. Spiritual strength.  How you decide to work on this strategy is completely up to you individually.  Everyone has their ways and if it works for you, great, keep doing it.  But your spiritual strength is your inner human spirit.  If that is weak, you will be weak. 
    Recently I embarked on a journey where I ran 300 miles in 4 ½ days.  This event went beyond my physical and mental capacities.  I found spiritual strength inside of me that turned out to be more powerful than my physical strength. 
    The human spirit is one of the strongest forms of humanity and spending time strengthening it will give you “wings”.  Your mindset will gain more optimism, your belief system will improve and your kindness will grow for others. 

  2. Accept the life roller coaster.  Life improvement is not some perfect linear progression.  If only it was that easy.  People who are willing to face their obstacles and who are resilient to get back up, when they have fallen, are the ones who will move ahead.  Life can kick you in the ass but accepting this ass kicking is the first step to personal improvement. 

  3. Be smart financially.  This is definitely a tactic I am working on to this day.  Money does not buy happiness but having financial independency is a major goal of mine.  I want to have money to do the things I enjoy and so I can help people who are less fortunate than I am. 
    I must create a financial strategy that goes in line with my goals. 
    I told my team to always ask two questions before buying something:
    1) Why?  Mr. Logic should enter your head when you are purchasing things.  If Mr. Logic gives you any doubt, be disciplined not to make the purchase.  Disciplined spending is a simple but hard to do strategy so you need to focus on it. 
    2) Can I pay with cash?  This was a piece of advice given to me by my CPA.  Except for a house or car purchase, you need to ask this question.  You do not want short-term debt to pile up.  It's a recipe for financial doldrum.  

  4. Reminders.  Inspire, Discipline, Motivated to Live, Determined and Limitless are actual tattoos on my body to keep me reminded of how I want to live.  I don't recommend this tactic but it's my way of staying in the game, all the time.  I also put notes up in my truck, at work and in my house to always put positive messages in my head. 
    Like #2, life is a roller coaster and the more optimism I can create, the more likely I am to stay on path to achieving my goals.  People who are looking for the NEXT LEVEL are continually writing down their thoughts and then creating the action to get the job done.   

  5. Read 1 book a month.
    Here are a few books to start with:
    The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn,
    How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie,
    Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill  
    Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy

    To repeat the quote from Jim Rohn, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do your job…”  If you are focused on personal growth and you are always looking for the NEXT LEVEL, it will come.  Your goals will get accomplished, your relationships will grow stronger and your life will truly get better.

Justin Levine, Owner- California Fitness Academy

Justin has been in the fitness industry for over 15 years.  His passion for fitness exudes daily as he inspires others to live a healthy and fit lifestyle. CFA has trained and coached hundreds of individuals, everyone from young athletes, professional and college athletes, and general fitness enthusiasts.  Justin has a motivating approach to coaching people and helping them accomplish their fitness and lifestyle goals.  His attitude is energetic and enthusiastic and he loves what he gets to do everyday.