Update 4/9/21. For those just starting out as a personal trainer―or those who are not yet certified but desire guidance on their journey to be a trainer ―a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion is: “How do I find a mentor?” Those who usually ask this question are fitness entrepreneurs at heart, passionate about fitness, and desire to take their passion and run with it as far as they can. With that in mind, I’d like to share several ideas to help you find a mentor, and in doing so, help you to one day maybe become a mentor yourself. At the very least, I want to educate you on some things―mentor or not―to help you be the best personal trainer you can be.
What Is A Mentor?
The first thing people should think about is what they mean by a mentor. In other words, what is your definition of what a mentor is? Is it someone you periodically meet with one-on-one, who helps you find answers to your questions? While that’s probably the definition most people have, in this field it may also be the hardest to achieve, and here’s why:
1. Not everybody who is a personal trainer would make a good mentor.
2. Experienced personal trainers may not have the time to mentor others.
3. The fear factor: some personal trainers might not want to help people who could one day be their competition.
If your goal is to find someone who coaches you periodically, then one option could be to look for self-employed personal trainers in your area and contact them. You could Google “personal trainer and your zip code” or “personal trainer and your town” to find them.
Tip. Just don’t limit yourself to a mentor who does personal training. You might also want to find a “nutrition mentor” and a “business mentor,” for example. In other words, seek out experts who know about related areas to help you grow your business.
When you find those important people, they may help you for free or maybe they would be willing to help on a paid basis. Another option may be the barter system. In other words, they help you in exchange for some periodic volunteer work on your part (organize their office, revamp their website, etc.).
Tip. Another idea is to join the Small Business Association in your area. There may be personal trainers in the SBA who could serve as mentors.
Before you contact a potential mentor, first look at their website (they should have one) to see if they fit with what you want to accomplish as a trainer. In other words, if your goal is to work with older adults, a trainer who specializes in powerlifting may not be a good fit.
When you find someone who you think might be able to help you, rather than calling them and asking, “Can you be my mentor?” a better approach might be to see if they would be willing to let you take them to lunch from time to time to discuss how you can improve as a trainer. Explain that you've heard good things about them from others and thought that they would be the go-to person to help you achieve your goals.
Tip. If they agree to meet you for lunch, dress well go with specific questions you wan to address. Bring paper, pen and be ready to take notes because odds are you will be getting an education at this lunch meeting.
Can't Find A Mentor?
But, what if you can’t find someone who can be your personal training business mentor? Fortunately, there are a lot of options out there, if we are willing to expand our definition of what a mentor is. Let’s now discuss several ways that people can get coaching advice―right now―that doesn’t involve a lot of money or meeting one-on-one with someone on a regular basis.
A podcast is like an internet radio show. Right now there are millions of podcasts on virtually anything you want to know. And they are all free! Just go to the Google or Apple podcasts app and in the search box type the name of the subject you want to know more about, along with the word “podcast,” and they will show up.
Here are good podcast apps you can add to your smartphone
- Apple Podcasts
- Google Podcasts
You can listen from your phone or even download them to your iPod/mp3 player, and listen to them when you are on the treadmill or driving. The really cool thing is that most podcasts are usually updated regularly―some daily or weekly―and you can subscribe to them for free, so they will automatically be delivered to your phone or when you plug your iPod into your computer.
There are podcasts on fitness, medicine, nutrition, marketing—heck, there are even podcasts on how to make podcasts! Podcasts save you time learning because now you can learn something anywhere you are. Because of this, I have to say:
- If you are listening to music in the car―you’re wasting time.
- If you’re listening to music while working out―you’re wasting time.
I know these are strong words, but I really feel you should use these precious moments in life to maximize learning. In the words of Tony Robbins, take massive action to achieve your goals. Podcasts help you achieve this. There are only so many hours in the day. Make the most of them.
When I’m in my car, odds are, I’m listening to a podcast about something.
In my podcast, Joe Cannon Health, I talk about supplements, rhabdo, health, and wellness.
2. iTunes University
iTunes University is something Apple gives you for free. iTunes U, as it’s also called, has college courses on everything. For example, there are courses on exercise science and nutrition and anything else you want to know about. Again, it’s all free. Go get it! Are you a visual learner, then check out the Khan Academy. While most people know this for students who need math help, there are lessons on science too, something all personal trainers need to know.
3. XM Radio
If you have Sirius/XM radio installed in your car, tune the radio to channel 81 and you will have access to “Dr. Radio.” This station is composed of doctors from the NYU Langone Medical Center talking to the public about everything medical. They even have a nutrition show. This is the reason I keep XM radio in my car.
4. Reading Blogs
You probably found me because you were searching online for some topic . . . but I’m not the only person out there. Many personal trainers―as well as experts in other areas―have websites where they routinely blog about various issues. While some personal trainers blog only to get clients (which is a mistake if you ask me), I know there are a lot of others like me who blog to help other people, regardless of how it benefits us personally. Some blogs that I personally read include:
- SupplementClarity.com (shameless plug for my other website)
Start reading the blogs of those who have expertise in areas you are interested in. If you work in a gym, you can read blogs on your phone or tablet while on your lunch break or even while you wait for a client to show up at the gym.
5. Reading Books
Here's a shortlist of books to add to your reading list:
- Just Jump: The No-Fear Business Start-Up Guide for Health and Fitness Professionals
- The Entrepreneurial Nutritionist
- NSCA’s Essentials of Personal Training
See my resources page for many others.
6. Audio Books
In addition to podcasts, I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks, and the place with the largest selection in the world is Audible.com. They have books on business, motivation, fitness, marketing, nutrition, etc. Since they are owned by Amazon, many of the books there will also be on Audible. For someone like me who spends a lot of time driving, audiobooks let me turn my car into a “university on wheels,” as motivational speaker Brian Tracy once said in one of his audiobooks.
Have you ever considered taking a class at a local community college or community center? They are usually not too expensive and they let people, in just a few weeks, learn a new skill. The classes are usually taught by people who are established in their career, so they often have more than superficial knowledge on the topic and possess real-world skills.
For those who work during the day, community colleges usually offer night classes on marketing, investing, starting a business, website design, and public speaking, among others.
8. Membership Sites
A membership site is a website where people pay a monthly or yearly fee to have access to the teachings of those who run the site. There are membership sites for personal trainers where the people who run the sites educate personal trainers on how to get clients and make money. Members of these sites also probably have access to other members who they can bounce ideas off of and get feedback on what works and what doesn’t work.
While I am sure there are those who have gone through these programs and have become more successful, I would advise people to investigate the companies first before spending a lot of money upfront. Also, as an aside, never pay for any service with a debit card, because this gives the company direct access to your bank account. Use a credit card or PayPal instead.
9. Friends and Colleagues
Many years ago I decided to get a job as a personal trainer at a facility called the Healthplex Sports Club. I did this because the Healthplex -which was associated with a hospital network – had a reputation of hiring only the best personal trainers. I wanted to be a part of that group so I could learn from those other trainers. I stayed at “the Plex” for a few years, learning a lot and eventually becoming their Director of Wellness, before moving on to becoming self-employed.
Having told you this, let me ask you, are there any personal trainers who you work with, who you think are really good? If so, pay attention to them as they work with people in the gym. Listen to the words they use, taking notice of what you like and don’t like and try to grow from it.
Later when they are alone, don’t be afraid to ask them questions about what you observed. You could say something like, “I noticed when you were working with Mrs. Smith that you did X.” That was really smart. Where did you learn that?” Who knows, maybe they have been taking notice of what you do too. By reaching out to others in your field who you admire, you have the beginnings of a nice mastermind group.
What’s a mastermind group you ask? Keep reading . . .
10. Mastermind Groups
A mastermind group usually consists of 3–4 people who meet regularly to discuss things related to their common interest or business. Are there 2 or 3 people you know or work with who might want to get together every couple of weeks to discuss getting clients, making money, or starting a business, etc? If yes, reach out to them.
Mastermind groups are born out of the idea that nobody knows everything. In the mastermind group, each member will give an accounting of where they are in their business and where they want to get to eventually. They will share what works for them and what isn’t working.
The members of the mastermind group all share their insights to help each person in the group grow in their knowledge and skills faster. There may even be homework in the group as well. For example, it might be decided that each member might try a certain method of getting clients. When they meet again, they can share with the group what happened. This way, everybody can learn from what the others did.
One potential pitfall with some personal trainers is that not everybody is an entrepreneur. For some, it’s just a side job or a way to get a free gym membership. People like these would not be a good fit for the mastermind group. Because of this, only seek out those people who are passionate about the business and want to grow. In other words, find those people who want to stay in the fitness business long term. Those are the best people.
For those who don’t personally know anybody like this, you have a few options to find people:
- post for people on the Facebook pages of fitness certification organizations
- post in personal training-related Google+ pages
- post an ad on Craigslist
The neat thing about mastermind groups is that the members don’t have to meet in person. For people who live far apart or have schedule conflicts, meeting on Skype or Zoom every few weeks can be a great alternative.
So there you have it. I also do private one-on-one coaching with personal trainers on a variety of topics so if you want to set up a coaching call email me.
What do you think?
Love reading your articles and I am very happy I came across you . I am going to become a personal trainer and your knowledge gives me the incentive to be my very best in the fitness industry. Knowledge is power and being educated is key. I will purchase your books be cause you know what you are talking about.
Thank you again for sharing you knowledge.
Joe Cannon says
Hi Bronetta, thank you for saying that and I’m so glad you found my words helpful! I hope you enjoy my books too. Keep me posted on how you are doing as you get certified. Feel free to share my site with your friends too 🙂
Nicholas Perry says
Joe this has been the most idea sparking/information rich article on the topic of personal training and business I have ever read, would you like to go to lunch on me some time? 😉 On a serious note, this article actually helped me find a solution to a problem I have been having for two weeks, Thank you!!
Joe Cannon says
Nicholas, It looks like we are pretty far from each other but if you ever get to PA let me know. I’m really glad you found my post helpful 🙂
Nicholas Perry says
So who here reading this would like to start a MASTERMIND group? Contact is email@example.com I’ll respond quickly 🙂
Thank you so much for this article, it is just what I was looking for! I have been working as a personal trainer for the last 10 months in a big box gym. I want to grow my business and need direction. I’m really excited to research all the great ideas in your article!!! Thanks again!
Joe Cannon says
Gina, you are very welcome and I’m really glad I was able to help 🙂
I have been a personal trainer and nutrition counselor for 26 years. I am a 54 year old woman who loves my career. In these years, I have learned from myself and my clients about the different stages us women go through and how to eat and train at each stage in order to reach health and fitness goals. I would love to start my own mentoring business for new or male trainers, especially for women of all ages but especially over 40. Would you ever want to merge our experience and use my years of learning? I would love to be able to refer you to clients that you specialize in and have you refer me to women looking for an experienced female trainer. I have very different philosophies about exercise and nutrition than most trainers and because of that, I get the gift of seeing my women succeed. Thank you for your time!!! Foodprintforlife.com
Hi Deborah, sounds intriguing. Why don’t you email me and let’s chat so I can learn more? How’s that sound?
Paul Thomas says
Great article. Thanks to the internet, there are so many resources available today to help Personal Trainers grow their businesses – your site included!. They certainly weren’t available when I started my personal training business 20+ years ago. You made a great point about seeking advice from people with expertise in areas such as business, nutrition counseling and web design. As you well know, if you’re in business for yourself, you’re going to have to wear many hats.
Joe Cannon says
Paul, thanks and thats so true about business owners having to wear many hats. 🙂
shannon slattery says
Thank you for this excellent article. This information is needed for new people, like myself who will be entering the personal training business.
Joe Cannon says
Thanks Shannon, I really appreciate you saying that 🙂
Joe Cannon says
Dwayne, Thanks for the opportunity to do the audio interview! All personal trainers should listen to this – its about 40 minutes long – we discuss a LOT of stuff about the personal training industry.