In this interview, I speak with Teresa Giordano, a personal trainer in Annapolis Maryland. Teresa has been a self-employed trainer for over 10 years, works out of her house and is the author of 2 books. She shares her insights and experiences, including her personal struggles with fibromyalgia, to help trainers be better at what they do.
JC. Where do you work?
TG. I own a The Power of Fitness, a private personal training studio that was built on our home property, separate from my home, 13 years ago.
JC. How long have you been self-employed?
TG. I've self-employed for 27 years. Before becoming a trainer, I previously owned a very successful cleaning business. The Power of Fitness is about to celebrate 15 years in business.
JC. Since you work out of your home, do you have any problems with your neighbors and parking, etc.?
JC. What certifications do you have?
I have several certifications, all of which from AAAI/ISMA. I have certs in personal training, total body strength and conditioning, group training, weight management consultant, pre and postnatal, and Mat Pilates.
JC. Has anybody ever asked you “who are you certified by?”
TG. Yes, often new clients will ask.
TG. Honestly, I think they just want to hear “a specific name” and when they come into the studio they often will see my certs hanging and be happy with what they see.
JC. Did you ever work in a gym?
TG. No, In the beginning, I went to clients homes, traveling with free weights, balls, and bands and did outdoor training at the park
JC. What was the hardest part about starting your own business?
TG. The hardest part was taking the challenge and knowing the financial risk with building my own studio and knowing I had so many big-box gyms around me to compete with, however, I've been self-employed and ran the show since I was 23 years old and I know that I would never give up.
JC. How did you pick your business name?
TG. The Power of Fitness is a Testament of what I believe living a healthy active lifestyle can do. I am proof of that and I'm honored to teach others to do the same.
JC. How do you get your clients? Do you advertise, word of mouth, etc?
TG. 100% of my clients are word of mouth. In the beginning, my advertising consisted of passing out cards to strangers and offering a free session to get them started, and thankfully it worked!
I started at the very beginning with a “loyalty gift” to clients who train with me consistently. On their anniversary date, they get a FREE session. This tells them how much I appreciate them as well as inspires them to TALK ABOUT ME in a good way. Again, the best advertising I can do.
JC. What kinds of advertising do you think trainers should avoid?
TG. In this current time, with all the social media, I believe the newspaper is a waste of time and money.
JC. What’s been the best marketing thing you’ve done?
TG. I would have to repeat what I said above, “gifting” a free session at every anniversary, offering a $25 coupon to current clients for all referrals.
JC. What do you wish trainers knew about the personal training business?
TG. I believe that embracing & befriending and learning from the best rather than feeling threatened by other trainers, is the best approach. I truly NEVER stop learning and find that I enjoy my chosen career more by being respectful and aware of the knowledge that is all around me.
JC. What's the hardest part about being a trainer?
TG. I would say “owning” and being the sole person keeping my doors open, during slow seasons, constantly finding ways to reach out and keep myself busy and my reputation alive and healthy.
JC. Who is your typical client – man, woman, beginner, athlete?
TG. I have attracted many senior citizens over the years, but right now my youngest is 17 and my oldest is 83. My typical client is a working mom who has difficulty making time for herself and comes to me because she is forced to once she is in a package of sessions. They appreciate me very much because I also help them with diet and creating meals for the family. I have a few men who are an average age of 50-70.
JC. You've said that the day you got fibromyalgia “changed your life.” Any tips for people who also deal with fibromyalgia?
TG. Well … I would say the day I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia my life changed because I realized at that moment “only me can fix this”, and I choose to NOT be highly medicated and succumb to the pain as so many do.
It made me stronger, it helped me find the strength and zest for life that I didn't know I had, allowing me to help others and become more creative and willing to make changes that were necessary.
I still have pain, inflammation and live with it daily, but I can say that I am still living life to the fullest, laughing and making a statement in the world. I've learned to listen to my body and do what it asks of me.
JC. Do you get a lot of clients with fibromyalgia?
TG. Over the past 15 years, I've had 4 to 5 who've had it. Most of them are in so much pain that by the time they come to me and are medicated, it's very hard to get them to see beyond life as is.
“If” they are willing to change the diets incorporate some light exercise such as swimming and walking to start AND know that they will sore in the beginning… then we usually work well together.
What do you think trainers need to know about working with clients who have fibromyalgia?
Be gentle, go slow, eliminate sugar, gluten, and dairy and stress – and learn to relax more and get better sleep. There are a few supplements as well that I found helpful but I do believe supplements are a personal choice.
JC. What supplements helped your fibromyalgia?
TG. I’ve had good experience with the following supplements:
- Ultra 40 – a calf liver B vitamin that I believe helps with energy.
- Magnesium – I take every night before bed and soak in Epsom salt hot bath every night helps bring down any inflammation.
- VItamin D – in winter I take 1000 a day.
TG. My inspiration to write my 2 cookbooks started a long time ago. I have always enjoyed cooking, but being in the health and fitness field I found myself trying to tweak old favorite recipes as well as create new ones. When I wrote my second book, I focused more on “quick fix and healthy” because my time is so limited.
As I worked with clients trying to detour them from stopping at fast-food chains on the way home from a busy day, I found myself sharing recipes of mine on a daily basis. So, the cookbooks were an expression and extension of who I am, and the reality that it is possible to eat healthy, regardless of how busy you are.
JC. How do you sell your books?
TG. Mostly in my studio, and at my workshops. I also take them to my local healing-wellness centers which are owned by friends and they let me know when they are sold. I've tried a few small grocery store chains such as trader Joes and Wholefoods, but they have high restrictions on what they sell.
JC. What was the hardest part about writing a book?
TG. I would say page one! Honestly, I have all the thoughts in my head but actually putting them in words and creating something that would be appreciated and used on a regular basis is hard.
I know from my Facebook page that many people have been playing in the kitchen and creating new healthy meals for their family right from my cookbooks and that makes me happy!
JC. What is the best /most useful thing you learned after you became a personal trainer – that was not covered in the textbooks?
TG. You can't treat every client the same. You should never have a generic workout that you use with clients. I make notes on folders during the first few sessions with new clients so that I have a better understanding of their bodies, their energy, and their weaknesses. They NEVER tell you everything. It just comes up in conversation as we are training.
JC. How do you stay educated?
TG. Of course, I attend the annual AAAI-ISMA recert seminar. I attend local lectures that pertain to my interests, such as nutrition and supplements, and I host at least one workshop each year, inviting local wellness educators, healers, and specialists such as chiropractors, acupuncturists. and of course, organize my days filled with beneficial information.
JC. Can you talk more about these local seminars you host?
TG. The two biggest seminars were highly advertised through local newspapers, flyers to local health and wellness-related businesses, and word of mouth — as well as in the newsletter of the location that I have the seminar at.
They are always open to public, except one was a minimal fee to attend to help cover the expenses, liability insurance that is necessary, the fee to rent space, food etc.
I also hired vendors who were health-related – local farmers, a juice bar, healthy snacks, etc. A few much smaller scale workshops were advertised through flyers and word of mouth, with a fee to help cover the lecture expense of those who traveled from out of state.
JC. Who is your PT liability insurance through?
TG. My personal trainer liability insurance is through the C.M Meiers Company. I pay for extended coverage to protect my personal home.
JC. Do you remember your very first client?
TG. Yes, I certainly do! I adore her and she is still with me!! 🙂 She along with 2 friends trained with me in a small group training hour for 5 years and we all became great friends.
JC. Ever meet a client that was difficult? How did you handle that person?
TG. Yes, but thankfully only a few in the beginning years and I simply didn't renew their package, explaining that we weren't a good fit, but always offering them other trainers info to continue their journey.
JC. Any embarrassing moments with clients?
TG.Not anything that I would consider a big deal. I once had a mishap on my schedule and two clients showed up at the same time, who both graciously offered to work out together so I didn't feel bad. My clients are amazing!!
TG. Yes. Keep your business and personal lives separate. Have guidelines about respecting your home environment and be sure to have the proper Liability coverage.
JC. What resources do you recommend for trainers?
TG. I have always been a reader, however, I do still believe my best “learning time” is through my friends and colleagues who are experts and /or professional athletes. I make sure that I stay in contact with all of them.