From Retail to Remote: A Guide for trainers and gym owners navigating COVID 19

// A gym owner’s guide to navigating COVID 19. With tips for trainers too

If one thing has become glaringly clear, it’s the fact that coaching from a distance is the new normal—whether that means coaching from a safe 10 yards away in a park or coaching someone miles away in their home while you are in yours. The COVID-19 virus pandemic is resulting in voluntary—and in some cases, forced—gym closures. Our entire industry is being called to adapt and adapt quickly. In response, we’ve created a gym owners’ guide to navigating COVID 19. 

We’ve heard similar questions from thousands of personal trainers and gym owners: How do you serve your clients when they can’t access your gym? How do you coach someone when you can’t physically be there with them? How do you weather the storm without potentially losing your business?

In an effort to support you, we’ve compiled a quickstart guide for making the transition from retail to remote with help from some of our friends and partners.

We hope this guide is a useful resource to help keep your business alive and healthy during this period of quarantine, shelter in place, and social distancing. But more than that, we aim to provide you with a base to build from. This isn’t just a short-term fix; it’s a foundation from which to build a thriving business with diverse income streams.

Shifting your retail coaching business to online

It’s important to frame our mental model in a way that leans away from simply providing remote programming for clients to do at home, and into the construct of an online business.

Long before COVID, many of our coaches built their business around the central idea that they can train clients from anywhere in the world. Their value proposition for clients: don’t limit your search for the perfect trainer by vicinity or location.

While helping these coaches scale from serving dozens to thousands of athletes, we’ve learned a few important lessons that apply to our current situation.

// Packaging & Positioning

The first sale you need to make during this crisis is to your existing clientele.

This topic is central to some of the most common questions we’re seeing right now. How do I package and price my remote services? Do I put gym dues on hold for my clientele? Will they continue paying me for remote training?

The good news is you have an audience that you know values training. They trust you as an expert. How you position and package your online training service can make all the difference in retaining your clients.

Positioning

Your clients associate you and your gym with providing a specific value. If you are a gym owner, that association may currently be “a place to train” or “access to equipment”. You have an opportunity and need to reframe that.

Position your remote training offering as a positive training experience, not just a short-term fix. If you position this as a short-term bridge, that’s all your clients will ever see it as. By doing so, you’ll drastically minimize your chances of retaining them for extended periods of time.

Equipment and space are not the only reasons your clients joined your gym. Programming is not the only reason they pay you for training.

Your clients are paying for progress. They pay to move closer to a goal they care about. To move closer to their ideal self.

As a gym owner or personal trainer, your job right now is to find new and novel ways to help your clients achieve progress.

Focus your messaging on other benefits like community, motivation, goal orientation, and accountability that you can provide with your online training solution. Think of creating a virtual gym atmosphere rather than simply a mechanism to deliver programming to your clients.

Keep this in mind with all of your communication with your clients: from your website, to social media, to email.

Below is an example created by our communications manager, Jenn. 

 

Serving our athletes/clients/members has always been about more than providing a means to train. We believe it is about more than getting you the sets and reps. It’s about building a sense of community, connection, accountability, and a trusted outlet where you can focus on one thing: achieving your goals. 

 Afterall, the gym is the place we go to clear our head, to de-stress, and to become our best self. 

During a time like this, it’s especially important that we find new ways for our members/clients/athletes to continue fulfilling those same needs. 

 The good news is that even without the fancy gym equipment or cutting-edge facility, we can still provide the same quality of coaching and leadership, only this time, it’s virtual.

We are excited to announce that we have chosen TrainHeroic as our online coaching solution in order to continue to provide our community of members a way to train. This opens up new opportunities for us, allowing our members to train on their own terms and when it works for them, with our expert guidance. For the foreseeable future, the virtual gym is the new way to train.

Even if we’re not able to physically be in the gym together, our community of connected athletes doesn’t have to fade away. Let’s get creative, be agile, and share ideas with each other as we navigate this unknown together, and we’ll come of it with a stronger community than ever before.

Packaging

You don’t offer a one-size-fits-all membership or in-person training solution. It’s important to think about your online business in the same way. Personalized programming or group classes? High-touch personal training or low-touch programs? The best answer is to offer your clients options.

A tried and true standard is a three-tier or “Good, Better, Best” model. Provide clients a low barrier entry point with options to scale.

 

Be mindful of “Leaders, Fillers, and Killers.” This model, pioneered by Simon Kutcher & Partners, works like this:

  • Leaders are the primary solutions customers are willing to pay for. Think programming and communication.
  • Fillers are included in a bundle, but not core to the value. Some clients will value them, but not everyone. Fillers are nice-to-haves. Think fully custom programming, FaceTime coaching, access to a community feed, etc.
  • Killers are add-ons that devalue the bundle in the buyer’s psychology. No one wants to pay for something they don’t need or won’t use. Think of killers as don’t-want-to-haves. An example might be adding in a Spotify playlist of your favorite Death Metal tracks to train to. 

 

A simple illustration of this standard is a value meal:

  • The sandwich or burger is the leader
  • The fries, side, or drink is the filler
  • Coffee or dessert would be killers. Most people do not want to pay for this, so fast food joints don’t bundle them

Putting these packaging principles into action

Our friends at Two-Brain Business put together an easy to use three-tier packaging recommendation for online training that we really like:

Price this level to be slightly more expensive than your most popular group rate. (During COVID: Offer it at the same rate they’re paying but make sure they know it’s a more expensive service.) 

Package:

  • Group programming.
  • 2x daily communication touch points.

Price this service about 33 % more than the base package. 

Package:

  • Group programming tailored to each individual client
  • 2x daily communication touch points.
  • Added nutrition planning or additional live coaching session

Price this level of service to be about twice as costly as the base package. 

Package:

  • Personalized programming 
  • 2x daily communication touch points.
  • Added nutrition planning or additional live coaching session
  • Regular online video goal reviews with stats (data) and nutrition plan updates

LEVEL 1

Price this level to be slightly more expensive than your most popular group rate. (During COVID: Offer it at the same rate they’re paying but make sure they know it’s a more expensive service.) 

Delivery: Group programming. 2x daily communication touch points. 

LEVEL 2

Price this service about 33 percent more than the base package. 

Delivery: Group programming tailored to each client individually, plus nutrition plans. 

LEVEL 3

Price this level of service to be about twice as costly as the base package. 

Delivery: Personalized programming and a personalized nutrition package, with regular online video goal reviews and nutrition plan updates. 

delivering continuous

value

Now that you’ve packaged your online training solution and sold your existing clients, it’s time to get to work retaining them for the long run. Coaching is a reccuring revenue business, and we are facing an unprecidentent shake-up of our industry. Those whothink long-term will make it in the long run. 

 

// Thinking beyond the sets and reps

The value you deliver to your clients may seem like it has changed. It hasn’t. You are not your gym. You are a coach. 

Communication

The real value your clients get from coaching is entirely on a human level. Motivation, direction, instruction, and feedback are all core to coaching. The context and medium have just changed. 

 

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Daily Interactions

Focus on daily interactions with your clients. It’s not enough to simply provide your clients with programming for the day and expect them to continue to pay for your services.

Go above and beyond their expectations. Provide them with clear direction, shoot a video of yourself prepping them for the day’s training, make time to meet on Skype or Zoom, do a live session together using Facebook Live or the FaceTime app. Take the time to interact with each client individually. Comment on their hard work, and shoot them over a video or a GIF to keep them accountable. 

Focus on the "why"

Focus on the WHY.  This tip again comes from our friends at Two-Brain. 

Remind your clients why they signed up for your gym or for training sessions with you in the first place. Drive home the point that now is not time to let off the gas on their training journey. “We don’t want you to lose the buffer of health and immunity we’ve built together.” 

Instead of just delivering a training session, walk your client through the reasoning you used to build it. Take the time to tell each client “here’s how today’s session is going to help you.” 

  • Example: to the sprinter: “I picked this workout to improve your ability to buffer lactic acid when your heart rate exceeds 165 BPM. Think about your final 100m while you’re doing it.” 
  • Example: to the Mom of three working remote and juggling her kids “This is the time where you’re gonna let it all hang out. I want you working so hard you forget about your entire day, if only for a moment.”

Pro tip: You can use the same rationale with multiple clients or the same training session with different rationale. 

  • To the new person: “Our goal today is to keep moving. It’s OK to slow down but try not to stop. I’d like you to record your split times each round and send them to me so we can analyze your performance. We’ll pick the next few workouts based on those results.” 
  • To the veteran: “My goal for you today is to see how localized fatigue affects your general performance. Instead of being limited by hitting a high HR, I want to see what happens when lactic acid builds up. So there’s a small mental component here too. To help, please try to do all of the squats unbroken, hit the first run hard, and keep all your other run times within 20 percent of your fastest time.” 
cultivate community

A huge value for many clients at your gym is the community. Community and competition help us assign purpose to our training. 

  • Create challenges (insert Erin’s burpee challenge) and online competitions to keep your community accountable and engaged. (something about leaderboards here). 
  • Be a good moderator. Some gyms just have tight-knit communities. You may drop them all into one feed and they just go nuts talking to one another. Other times, it takes some work to start the conversation. 
      • Ask specific questions to the group: what is your biggest struggle training at home and how are you managing it?
      • Solicit feedback: who liked today’s training session? What movements do you miss?

DAILY INTERACTIONS

It’s not enough to simply provide your clients with programming for the day and expect them to continue to pay for your services. Go above and beyond their expectations. Provide them with clear direction for the day’s work, shoot a video of yourself prepping them for the day’s training, make time to meet on Skype or Zoom, do a live session together using Facebook Live or a FaceTime app. Take the time to interact with each client individually. Comment on their hard work, and shoot them over a video or a GIF to keep them accountable. 

FOCUS ON THE “WHY”

This tip again comes from our friends at Two-Brain. 

  • Remind your clients why they signed up for your gym or for training sessions with you in the first place. Drive home the point that now is not time to let off the gas on their training journey. “We don’t want you to lose the buffer of health and immunity we’ve built together.” 
  • Instead of just delivering a training session, walk your client through the reasoning you used to build it. Take the time to tell each client “here’s how today’s session is going to help you.” 
    • To the sprinter: “I picked this workout to improve your ability to buffer lactic acid when your heart rate exceeds 165 BPM. Think about your final 100m while you’re doing it.” 
    • Example: to the Mom of three working remote and juggling her kids “This is the time where you’re gonna let it all hang out. I want you working so hard you forget about your entire day, if only for a moment.”

    Pro tip: You can use the same rationale with multiple clients or the same training session with different rationale.

    • To the new person: “Our goal today is to keep moving. It’s OK to slow down but try not to stop. I’d like you to record your split times each round and send them to me so we can analyze your performance. We’ll pick the next few workouts based on those results.” 
    • To the veteran: “My goal for you today is to see how localized fatigue affects your general performance. Instead of being limited by hitting a high HR, I want to see what happens when lactic acid builds up. So there’s a small mental component here too. To help, please try to do all of the squats unbroken, hit the first run hard, and keep all your other run times within 20 percent of your fastest time.” 

    CULTIVATE COMMUNITY

    A huge value for many clients at your gym is the community. Community and competition help us assign purpose to our training. 

    • Create challenges and online competitions to keep your community accountable and engaged. 
    • Be a good moderator. Some gyms just have tight-knit communities. You may drop them all into one feed and they just go nuts talking to one another. Other times, it takes some work to start the conversation. 
      • Ask specific questions to the group: what is your biggest struggle training at home and how are you managing it?
      • Solicit feedback: who liked today’s training session? What movements do you miss?

    TH Chat supports in-app text based messaging, reactions, GIFs, and video upload. 

    Programming

    While it’s not the only value you provide to your clients, we’d be kidding ourselves to say that programming isn’t a huge part of coaching. Programming is an art, and right now you might be feeling like Picasso without a paintbrush. 

    Quickly giving your clients and gym members something to keep them active and engaged is vital. We’ve added two free bodyweight programs to every TrainHeroic account to make this easier. The more difficult part is what comes next, and that’s where your creativity and instincts as a coach will shine. 

    The market is flooded with free bodyweight programs and solutions. From Instagram to the Nike Fit app, it seems endless. 

    These free solutions are workouts, not training. Developing at-home, low-no equipment PROGRAMS that actually are progressive and get results (vs just getting sweaty) is the differentatior you can provide.

    You have to provide 10x the value of the free solutions if you want to keep your clients. Your clientele hired you for results, and you have to deliver. 

    Now is the time to get creative with your programming. Especially if your clientele does not have access to a barbell. Here are some of the most creative solutions we’re seeing ournetwork of coaches deploy:

    Many of the gym owners in our Facebook group have mentioned they are loaning out equipment to their members, and we love the idea.

    It almost seems like a sin to let this equipment sit idle in an empty gym.

    Loaning your clients the equipment they need to train creates value in your customers’ eyes, allows you to program with more variance for them, and does wonders for building a lasting relationship. 

    Our friends at Power Athlete HQ, put together an amazing home gym hack using a $50 shopping list for any hardware store.

    Third Monkey, a Power Athlete team in the TrainHeroic marketplace, is completely programmed based on the equipment created with this list. This allows the team at PAHQ to progress and overload their athletes, driving maximal gains with a minimal investment in equipment. 

    From the #dogsquat challenge to the seemingly never-ending “Do 10, Give 10” challenges on social media, people are proving that necessity is the mother of invention.

    Gallon jugs, book-filled tote bags, cat litter bags, the list is endless. Be a source of creativity for your athletes and add programming notes to your training that list easy household items to sub for equipment they may not have. 

    Give your clients a shopping list. Keep the investment minimal, but work to help them build out home gym solutions.

    A couple kettlebells, some bands, and a set of dumbbells allow you to be far more varied in your programming.

    Giving your clients a simple shopping list takes out the guesswork on their end. 

    LOAN OUT EQUIPMENT

    Many of the gym owners in our Facebook group have mentioned they are loaning out equipment to their members, and we love the idea.

    It almost seems like a sin to let this equipment sit idle in an empty gym.

    Loaning your clients the equipment they need to train creates value in your customers’ eyes, allows you to program with more variance for them, and does wonders for building a lasting relationship. 

    GO PRIMAL

    Our friends at Power Athlete HQ, put together an amazing home gym hack using a $50 shopping list for any hardware store.

    Third Monkey, a Power Athlete team in the TrainHeroic marketplace, is completely programmed based on the equipment created with this list. This allows the team at PAHQ to progress and overload their athletes, driving maximal gains with a minimal investment in equipment. 

    JUST LIFT THINGS

    From the #dogsquat challenge to the seemingly never-ending “Do 10, Give 10” challenges on social media, people are proving that necessity is the mother of invention.

    Gallon jugs, book-filled tote bags, cat litter bags, the list is endless. Be a source of creativity for your athletes and add programming notes to your training that list easy household items to sub for equipment they may not have. 

    CREATE A SHOPPING LIST

    Give your clients a shopping list. Keep the investment minimal, but work to help them build out home gym solutions.

    A couple kettlebells, some bands, and a set of dumbbells allow you to be far more varied in your programming.

    Giving your clients a simple shopping list takes out the guesswork on their end. 

    TrainHeroic allows you to upload custom exercises and points of performance. Our most successful coaches build in detailed coaching notes and instruction for their remote clients.

    invest time building for the future

    With your gym closed, chances are you are adjusting your own schedule to a new normal. Use it to create a strong foundation for the future. Repurpose the time you normally spend on admin, cleaning, and the thousands of other duties that come with owning a gym.

    Director of TrainHeroic’s customer team and long-time self-proclaimed brand marketing nerd, DJ Horton, says “now is the time to build your brand through value delivery”.

    content is king

    Not all of us dream of being an “influencer.” In fact, if you’re like me, the word triggers a bit of Pavlovian onset nausea. But let’s stop and think about the word influencer. An influencer is simply someone who’s insights, thoughts, and actions influence behavioral change in others.

    Isn’t that pretty much what being a coach is?

    Your clients look to you for your expertise, and that hasn’t stopped. The pre-session chats and water cooler convos aren’t possible right now, but social media is a great replacement for the time-being.

    Great content balances educational value with entertainment. In other words, it’s more than just posting shirtless training videos and “squat shots” 🍑. 

    Share your expertise through engaging posts: video chats, whiteboard sessions, sliding cards with graphics, even the *occasional* inspirational quote all provide value to your audience.

    In the short term, this is another channel to keep your athletes engaged and build your gym community.

    In the long term, this is a great business move. Build your online community and take advantage of the fact that you can now coach people across the world. Dare I say, this may even be an opportunity for growth.

     

    Here are some quick tips from the TrainHeroic Marketing team to get you started:

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    be authentic

    Being authentic is vital. We’re all bombarded with content day in and day out. If it isn’t valuable, we push it aside or ignore it completley. Our radar for authenticity is a finley tuned machine at this point. 

    Think long and hard about what you are passionate about, and avoid the trap of trying to provide “something for everyone”. If you are an expert in training and passionate about outdoor sports, talk about that. Share your stories. Be specific. 

    be creative and (semi) polished

    Not everything you produce needs to look like it took a design team hours to create. Don’t let that fear or lack of skills stop you. 

    You also don’t want to use a crappy fonts and Microsoft Paint. There are thousands of tools out there for creating very clean and professional visuals.

    Adobe Spark & Canva are two that offer free resources with a simple drag and drop editor. They have thousands of templates that you can easily customize with your own images and copy. 

    be personal

    Speak directly to your audience. The same insights you are providing to your clients can be repurposed and delivered to a broader audience online.

    Get comfortable talking into a camera. It sucks for most of us, but when you get past the awkwardness, you’ll be just as comfortable as addressing the group of athletes you train in your gym.

    be consistent

    Post. Every. Day.

    You aren’t going to go viral overnight. Start by inviting your clients to follow your page, and over time you’ll build a following if you post valuable content consistently.

    Don't fall into the trap of imposter syndrome

    You don’t need the most alphabet soup after your name, the longest most impressive resume, or celebrity status to build a following.

    Don’t listen to the voice in your head when it says, “nobody is going to follow me, what do I know?” 

    Just offer up your expertise. You’ve worked your ass off for it. Thousands of hours studying, coaching, and reading have all made you an expert. 

    Do some research

    If you are new to social media for business, consider doing some research. It is NOT the same as running your own personal page.

    Timing your posts, understanding your audience’s behavior, and social media analytics are all probably new topics to you. We’ll continue to share insights with you, but also consider spending some time reading resources like these:

    BE AUTHENTIC

    Being authentic is vital. We’re all bombarded with content day in and day out. If it isn’t valuable, we push it aside or ignore it completley. Our radar for authenticity is a finley tuned machine at this point. 

    Think long and hard about what you are passionate about, and avoid the trap of trying to provide “something for everyone”. If you are an expert in training and passionate about outdoor sports, talk about that. Share your stories. Be specific. 

    BE CREATIVE AND (SEMI) POLISHED

    Not everything you produce needs to look like it took a design team hours to create. Don’t let that fear or lack of skills stop you. 

    You also don’t want to use a crappy fonts and Microsoft Paint. There are thousands of tools out there for creating very clean and professional visuals.

    Adobe Spark & Canva are two that offer free resources with a simple drag and drop editor. They have thousands of templates that you can easily customize with your own images and copy. 

    BE PERSONAL

    Speak directly to your audience. The same insights you are providing to your clients can be repurposed and delivered to a broader audience online.

    Get comfortable talking into a camera. It sucks for most of us, but when you get past the awkwardness, you’ll be just as comfortable as addressing the group of athletes you train in your gym.

    BE CONSISTENT

    Post. Every. Day.

    You aren’t going to go viral overnight. Start by inviting your clients to follow your page, and over time you’ll build a following if you post valuable content consistently.

    DON’T FALL INTO THE IMPOSTER SYNDROM TRAP

    You don’t need the most alphabet soup after your name, the longest most impressive resume, or celebrity status to build a following.

    Don’t listen to the voice in your head when it says, “nobody is going to follow me, what do I know?” 

    Just offer up your expertise. You’ve worked your ass off for it. Thousands of hours studying, coaching, and reading have all made you an expert. 

    DO SOME RESEARCH

    If you are new to social media for business, consider doing some research. It is NOT the same as running your own personal page.

    Timing your posts, understanding your audience’s behavior, and social media analytics are all probably new topics to you. We’ll continue to share insights with you, but also consider spending some time reading resources like these:

    Remember, creating this content isn’t about selling. It’s about providing value and building an audience. People want your insights & your opinion. Ask yourself, if I continue to post this type of content daily for several months, then stop, would anyone reach out to ask why?

    // What comes next?

    We’re busy developing solutions to help you grow and maintain a healthy online coaching business. To do this, we need to hear from you. What are your pain points? What challenges do you have? What are you doing that is working well? Join our Facebook group. Help us learn from you so that we can develop solutions to support your coaching business.

    We’re in this together.

    – Team TrainHeroic

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