Patrice Jones, of Fru Fit Affordable Fitness is a self employed personal trainer in the Howard County / Montgomery County Maryland areas. I wanted to interview her because she has a unique and inspiring story that brought her to the fitness world and because she has keen insights into how other personal trainers can be successful.
JC. What made you want to be a personal trainer?
PJ. *laughs* Now that's a LONG story:-) I'll try to give you the shorter version. After having my son in 2005, I gained a huge amount of weight. By 2007 I'd gone from 155 pounds to 210 pounds; from a size 10 to a size 20. I started walking, running and eventually strength training (or what I THOUGHT was strength training at the time:-) during my lunch hour at work. After about a year I lost over 60 pounds and was an avid runner; fitness became habitual for me for the first time ever in my life.
Then in 2009, a few things happened that would change my career path from HRIS Analyst to health and fitness professional. First were the recurring DVT's (blood clots of the leg) and Pulmonary Embolisms (blood clots of the lung). I was in and out of work for 6 months at a time.
Who would have thought the act of simply sitting could pose a deadly threat to some. It was found that I had a gene mutation that put me at high risk for recurring blood clots and would probably be on blood thinners for the rest of my life. I'd just returned to work after a blood clot episode when my 37-year-old brother died suddenly.
Well, what we THOUGHT was a ‘sudden' death', turned out to be a blood glucose spike of almost 1100. He was in the hospital for 6 weeks on life support until his passing. I made arrangements with my manager to take an extra half hour for lunch every day so I could visit him. Instead of driving, I ran 2 miles to and from the hospital daily. At that point, I began to understand what ‘no excuses' REALLY meant and how neglecting your body could be deadly.
My passion for health and fitness was beginning to blossom…
In the midst of it all, I joined the social media and opened a Facebook page. I'd never been a fan of social media prior to this point. I posted my workouts and healthy food tips daily. I was self-taught. I didn't take any courses or have a certification; I just read, researched and shared public healthy-living information with my Facebook community. I began to receive Facebook inbox messages requesting weight loss tips and dietary suggestions. One message, in particular, I received read:
” I have a purpose in this life. And I sincerely thank you for your concern and kindness. I'm inspired and motivated by your daily affirmations you are a blessing to me and I appreciate it!…” – (received June 1, 2010)
That was the day I typed my resignation email and stepped out on faith to pursue my passion!
JC. Who are you certified by?
PJ. My certification is with AAAI (American Aerobic Association International)
JC. When did you get certified?
PJ. I got certified in 2010.
JC. How long have you been a personal trainer?
PJ. I started personal training in 2009. At the time, I was not certified. My schedule was so hectic; at times I'd have 17 clients per day. I was insured and CPR/AED certified, but I had not been certified as a personal trainer. Until finally, I knew I had to make the time.
JC. How did you pick your business name?
PJ. It took me forever to figure out that Fru Fit Affordable Fitness would be my business name. I didn't want the name to sound like any other fitness company because I knew my mission was geared towards so much more than personal training. I wanted to use my mental, physiological and spiritual skill set to impact the world on a much greater scale.
My goal is and never was to be a ‘6-figure trainer'. I wanted to give healthy-living hope to those who had given up on ever living an abundantly healthy life. A lot of the health and fitness charitable work I've done has been in areas most people would be afraid to walk down the street at night.
I've personal trained and held free workouts in areas where being 400 pounds is the norm. Most people just want to be healthy and know that they DON'T have to settle for being overweight just because their morbidly obese or lack the funds for personal training. Some simply have no idea where to begin because they feel as if they're at the bottom of their journey.
Fru Fit Affordable Fitness represents frugal healthy living from the inside out for all.
JC. What do you like most about being personal training?
PJ. That's a tough question. I truly love what I do. There's not a day that goes by that I wish I was doing anything but helping others reach their goals!
I think seeing people push through major life events (i.e. divorce, death, financial distress, self-hatred, defeat, etc.).
At the end of the day, we are all ‘broken' in some aspect of our lives. Most people usually ‘kill' themselves trying to forget how broken they really are; hence, the food addictions and lack of exercise.
To actually see people push through their circumstances to just become better, feel better, look better and live a better life; that's AWESOME!!
JC. What do you like least about being a personal trainer?
PJ. The fact that I can't be in 1 billion places at once to help the world be healthy. It may sound weird, but it saddens me that I can't. So many people need us in so many places around the world!
JC. Who do you primarily work with as a trainer?
PJ. My client base is pretty vast. I've had men, women, and children as clients. I've trained clients with Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, Scoliosis, Kidney disease, Cancer, etc. My bootcamps literally have entire families; the grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter at times.
In the 4 years, I've been in this business, I've only had about 10 male clients. Most of my bootcampers and personal training clients have been women for the most part. I haven't really figured that part out yet 🙂
JC. Do you do more group classes or one-on-one training?
PJ. There's another long story behind that 🙂 I'll try to shorten it. I actually do more personal training than group classes. Something amazing happened. Unfortunately, I fell seriously ill a few times with blood clots. In my absence, my clients connected with each other and grouped themselves together based on their personal training schedules and location. They did this so I could train them upon my return, but also get the rest I needed. They never asked for a price adjustment; my clients are awesome! I love them so much!
Personal training groups range from 2 – 6 people at a time. Bootcamp classes have a 15 person minimum; we usually have 30-40 people.
JC. What is the biggest challenge you face with a group class?
PJ. There are none. As long as you are organized, prepared and remember to bring your personality to a group session, everything flows perfectly 🙂
JC. Do you ever work with just one client at a time?
PJ. Occasionally, if requested, I will. It's funny, most of my clients prefer group training or bootcamps because of the additional motivation those environments provide.
JC. Do they travel to you or you travel to them?
PJ. In the beginning, I traveled to my client's homes a lot. However, it became a bit pricey and didn't make good business sense. Most of my clients travel to me now; but, for those with special circumstances (i.e. young children), I travel to their homes, depending on the location.
JC. You also do grocery store tours. Can you discuss how you do this?
PJ. I offer grocery store tours as an option for PT clients, bootcamp clients and the general public…It is an add-on service to our PT clients or basic service to help ensure individuals will achieve their health and fitness goals beyond the gym.
The service includes a ‘pantry-raid', for those who choose that option. I go into the home and explain why certain ingredients or items are hindrances in their health and fitness journey. We go well beyond caloric intake. Unfortunately, some people simply don't know what they are eating.
During the 1.5-hour grocery tour session, I have the client walk through the aisles as if it was a normal shopping day. As they pick up the items, I explain why that item may or may not be a healthy food; offering a healthier alternative where necessary.
I also come with coupons in hand and ask their budget prior to the visit. Our fitness is affordable and we want the client to know healthy grocery shopping can be affordable as well.
JC. What supermarkets work best for your grocery torus?
PJ. I prefer Wegmans and Weiss grocery stores when the option is available. However, it is sometimes better to go to the client's favorite store when they may be starting a brand new journey. Sometimes stepping out of your comfort zone too far can feel like going ‘cold turkey' for some; we DEFINITELY try to avoid that. It is possible to be just a little uncomfortable AND healthy at the same time:)
JC. Have you ever worked in a gym?
PJ. I've trained in a gym as an independent trainer. (renting space). However, I've never worked in a gym. In my opinion, gyms collect quite a bit of your earnings. I'd much rather be self-employed.
JC. Do you remember your first client?
PJ. Absolutely, I remember her. Surprisingly, my first client was a size 6. Every opportunity I have, I thank her for entrusting me with her health and fitness journey. At the time, I was not certified and she was aware. But she told me that it didn't matter and she trusted I knew what I was doing because I'd done it myself. (referring to my own weight loss journey)
In retrospect, I wish I'd done more heavy strength training with her. We strength trained, however, knowing what I know now, we could have taken it up a notch or two.
JC. Ever had a client who drove you crazy?
PJ. *laughs* Ahhhhh yes. We call her the Fru-Fit problem child 🙂 She knows it though. We all laugh about it during group sessions. We are a family; the Fru Fit family. Every family has a few issues. That's the way I look at it.
She's actually been with me since I started in 2009.
No one is perfect. We, as trainers, have to look at the fact that these are people that are looking to change their LIVES with our help. That in itself is powerful!! There will be push-back, rebellion, frustration, slip-ups, and even failures. It is our job to maintain a top-notch level of professionalism and to provide them with what they need to succeed; no matter how many times.
If you get tired of ANY one client because you feel like they ‘drive you crazy', you're in the wrong business!
JC. What do you think is the biggest mistake you see personal trainers making?
PJ. As I mentioned, I'm not training out of a gym much anymore, however, I've seen some questionable behaviors:
- Eating, socializing and texting/talking during sessions
- Cursing at or around clients
- Omitting cardio from fitness programs of clients who clearly need it
- Inappropriate behavior between male/female client/trainer
JC. Any business advice for trainers?
PJ. Find your niche' in the market. Once you've identified your niche', build your business around that. The business is competitive, but if you stand out and stand strong in your purpose, the competition becomes irrelevant. I have a saying:
“Jillian Michaels could be training someone next to me in the same gym on the same day. I am Fru Fit; she is Jillian Michaels. We're in the same business. Our niche's are NOT the same.”
Also, never get comfortable in your ‘brand'. You are not Coca Cola. People remember Coca Cola because they are constantly faced with the logo. Once you've picked a business name, be proactive in getting your ‘brand' out to the masses. Never get excited about the money; be passionate about helping others reach their goals. THAT'S our purpose. Once you've focused on that, the financial piece will fall into place.
JC. Are there any quotes that motivate you?
PJ. My favorite quote is from Jillian Michaels… “Unless you puke, faint or die…KEEP GOING!!”
JC. How do you stay educated?
PJ. I haven't been to any seminars or classes lately; However, I do follow IDEA and NASM for the latest health and fitness updates, personal training tips and upcoming events. NASM and Bodybuilding.com have some of the BEST videos on YouTube demonstrating new and innovative exercises. It's always good to be able to introduce new exercises to your clients. Doing the same exercises can be boring; it's our job to make fitness exciting. Oh and of course, I visit your supplement website often for reviews because I get a TON of questions about supplements daily.
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