Behind the Transformations Part 3: Turbulence Trainers on Inspiring Change

Over the past several days, Certified Turbulence Trainer Dani Woodrum has been sharing with us his interview with two Certified Turbulence Trainers both from Wisconsin home of the Green Bay Packers, who have won more championships — 13 — than any other team in National Football League history.

Jump back to Part 2 of  this expert interview series with Brent Neevel and the 2014 Certified Trainer of the Year  Lesa Gutenkunst to get some tips on the different type of exercise programs they do for their clients who are of all fitness levels.

You can hear the full interview here.

Daniel: We all know the power of nutrition. It’s perhaps even more important than exercising. What type of nutrition programs do you use with your contestants? How in depth do you go through nutrition for them during the contests? As a follow up, what have you found to be the biggest struggle for people in terms of nutrition, Lesa?

Lesa: This is a big one and when we sign people up — and even when they’re not in the transformation contests — we explain to them that nutrition is key. We really, really want them to follow some strict guidelines. I provide them with a meal plan. We ask them to eat six small meals during the day. We have them logging everything into my Fitness Pal or journaling it. We give them a guide where they eat every two to three hours, and explain to them the proper intake amount of water. I take their body weight, divide it by two and from that, how many ounces they should reach each day.

 We explain to them the importance of lean protein and how that helps them build and repair muscle tissues. We also explain to them about the healthy fats and the benefits behind the carbohydrates. One of the meal plans that is good to follow is the TT Simple Nutrition Meal Guide. If you don’t have one already, that’s another one to really look at. Some of those who are a little bit more advanced, I recommend the Eat. Stop. Eat. the Brad Pilon program.

Those who are struggling with their nutrition, I basically have a meal guide that I’ve created for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks and I sit down with them and go over it. Some of our eaters are very picky and we’re in the state of Wisconsin so we don’t have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables all the time so we really have to work with them. Others are on a gluten-free program because of certain issues.

But I also try to explain to them that no magic pill is going to change what’s happening to them. They have to learn how to eat properly, when to eat and what types of food to eat and that is when they will see differences. Going on these crash meal plans or these fad diets are just not going to work.

Daniel: Brent?

Brent: Lesa hit on all the big stuff. Primarily, it’s just a matter of education and getting them to understand what it is that should be the foundation of their diet, and looking at what they’re doing now and what we can focus on and improve upon. Some people do a very good job of addressing multiple factors at a time. For some folks, I say “hey, let’s focus on this one thing. We’re going to get that in and then we’re going to move onto the next thing.” So it really is kind of an individual process that way.

And just like Lesa said, there are people who — just like she started some people on a certain meal plan and others on other plans — it’s the same thing. We’re just looking to guide them to better habits because, in the long run, they have to have habits in order to stay successful. Everyone is going to require a little different approach so it’s just kind of a matter of starting them where it seems appropriate and then adjusting as you go.

Daniel: Do you guys have them keep a food log for you or anything like that?

Lesa: I do. They do that in My Fitness Pal and those that are very consistent and dedicated to logging in there, I have no worries. I look at it once a week. Others kind of fall off the wagon and I actually have them journal it and have them turn it into me once a week so I can see what they’re doing and see their progress.

Brent: We have a lot of people that use My Fitness Pal. Probably the majority of people use that and then we do have people that just log on paper. Typically, like Lesa said, the people who are really into it are more likely to use My Fitness Pal. If people are struggling more, we do kind of back it down and make it a little simpler with and paper, and just get them to get into that habit.

Daniel: It’s so much easier to motivate people in the beginning when things are just getting started and they have tons of motivation. However, after a couple of weeks, the motivation tends to drop — sometimes at a rapid pace. How do you keep your contestants motivated throughout the 12 weeks? In what ways do you help them stay excited and motivated?

Brent: I think that’s one of the most challenging parts of a 12-week contest versus a 4-week or a 6-week contest because it is a significant amount of time. People don’t think of it as that much time, but it’s three months. It’s a good quarter chunk of your year. What I found most effective is just to encourage them to think of this in the context of their larger goal. What are we trying to accomplish in the long run? And then think of this as a focused sprint within that larger race towards that goal, keeping their eyes on that long-term goal in the background, but thinking of this as a way to kind of spur that progress towards that dream in the long run. Again, it’s just a matter of keeping that communication. It all comes back to communication.

Lesa: One of the big things is during that weigh-in, that first initial weigh-in and measurement time, we start to talk about our goals and the goals that they want to accomplish during those 12 weeks. As we’re talking about them, I ask them to write their goals down so that it’s on a piece of paper and I explain to them to have SMART goals — simple, SMART goals that are measurable that they can achieve within these 12 weeks — and then I track them. So when they come in and I kind of see them feeling a little less motivated, I bring up things they mentioned in their goals: you mentioned that you want to become stronger and doing this type of exercise, so let’s just kind of motivate to get to that point. Let’s start to think about that goal so we can achieve it for the week.

That’s why I have those weekly turn-in sheets because I want to keep people motivated. If you keep their goals out in front of them and you keep reminding them of their goals, that’s going to motivate them. I have the pictures that I can pull up on my phone and say okay, this is where you started and your goal is to maybe lose a couple of inches so just keep in mind that we’re working towards that. The communication is so important and being in front of them, being there and showing them that you are supporting them every step of the way is huge. That will keep them driving forward.

I have daily little tips that I put on my board when people come in. I have a private fan page that I send some nice little information on every morning before I start my day. So the more lines of communication we can have to keep motivating them, they’re going to keep driving forward — and if you keep reminding them why they’re doing this, they’re going to keep trying really hard to get to that end point, to that goal.

Daniel: You guys keep bringing up communication which is huge. Outside of the gym, what is the most effective way to keep up with your clients? Is it Facebook? Is it text message? Is it email? Is it a phone call?

Brent and Lisa: All of the above.

Brent: Everybody’s different. I think Facebook is a huge tool because you can reach multiple people at the same time with a private group and get everybody some information. But people also need that one-on-one time to just know that yes, they are focused on my goal, too, and that they’re there for me. Sometime that’s just what they need to believe in themselves.

Lesa: Yeah, that’s so true. I have some people that aren’t on Facebook so I send out an email and I usually ask a question in each email so that it forces them to respond. Then I can work with them from there. The other thing that’s really cool is I stay very active in our community so every event that’s around our community, I’m at. So I run into my troopers a lot outside of the gym. When they see me they either put down the bowl of ice cream or they just go, “This is the first one I’ve had since my transformation,” but it’s kind of funny. So I try to be as involved as I can outside of the gym in every community event and I also do scheduled coffee meetings with them just to see where they’re at.

Daniel: It’s funny you mentioned that. Brittney and I were at Starbucks two days ago. We were sitting outside. We saw a client pull up and she saw us sitting out there and turned around. Clearly she was not getting a regular coffee.

Lesa: That’s so funny. Yeah, it’s a small community where I live so I’m everywhere and people are like oh, this is my first cocktail or you didn’t see me driving through that drive-thru.

Brent:  That’s awesome.

Daniel: What do you feel is the biggest TT tool, whether it’s workout related or accountability, that has helped get your contestants to place or win in numerous TT contests?

Lesa: It’s really all of the above. The workouts are phenomenal. Accountability is key. That’s really huge. The prize is always that nice little carrot like Brent has mentioned. We really work hard on trying to motivate our contestants and we really give them that support they need the whole entire time of the contest. The other thing that’s really key is really if you have a contestant that is struggling with their diet or trying to figure out their meal plan, I highly recommend the Simple Nutrition Plan that TT has. That has really helped kind of guide people through what they should be eating and how they should be eating. That’s a big key in my area, helping them with their nutrition.

Daniel: Brent, anything you want to add?

Brent: Certainly, I did mention the carrot of the prize earlier. That’s a big reason I think people are interested in checking it out. It just gives them something to focus on and in the larger context of their long term goal. It’s something to kind of distract them so they don’t get discouraged if they have a long journey. We do have people that are looking to lose a significant amount — 50, 60, 70, 100, or 150 pounds. That can seem like it’s never going to happen, so the focus on a shorter term thing for them to know that they can win something. They can feel accomplished without having to wait until they reach their ultimate dream goal. I think that’s a big thing.

Daniel: Right. You both have done several contests now. What would you say is the biggest lesson learned or the biggest tool that perhaps you didn’t use the first time around but you’re using now that has helped your contestants see great results? What’s the biggest thing that you’ve changed from the very first one to now?

Lesa: In the past, I wasn’t so diligent on using the carrot at the end like Brent and I were referring to earlier. After a couple of my contestants started placing and actually doing well and receiving the prize winnings at the end, I started putting it on their pictures. So I did a before and after and then I would add “Prize Winner of $1,000.” That really kind of takes an eye and focuses more on the money and then they look up at the pictures and the before and the afters.

So when you start putting that prize at the end, it makes them work harder, especially in some of our members that that extra money can pay for their membership. That actually has helped a lot. I’ve had two of my members that came to me off a Groupon and they kept finding other discounted offers and then when they joined the transformation contest and they received some award prizes, they said I can use this towards my membership and that actually has helped.

Brent: I think for me it’s a constant revision process. It’s exciting to even be on the call today because I’m actually making notes. It’s like I’m going to add this or add that. Just as we grow and as our businesses grow, too, it’s like you’re always looking for a better way to deal with the common issues we all deal with. Every time you make adjustments or you have a client with a situation you  haven’t dealt with before, you figure things out as you go. I make adjustments and now if that situation comes up again, I have that tool in my back pocket to better handle that.

I think it does come down to: you can never have enough accountability. That’s the biggest thing I think that I’ve continued to add as you go. And communication, just making sure that your communication is always open.

Daniel: Now let’s talk about the business side of things. How have you used your success in the TT contests to help your business grow? Certainly, you’ve been able to use these as sort of great testimonials and marketing tools I can imagine.

Brent: Yeah, absolutely. Just like Lesa said, once you have one person place in the contest, it just becomes an animal in and of itself. People are like, wait a minute; you mean I can win money for doing what I’m already doing? It just motivates them to do better and makes you decide to try harder. So once you get some of those amazing results — and it’s not just people in our transformation contests but certainly again with the fact that yeah, you can flash that so and so won $1,000. That does motivate people. Hey, maybe that’s the little extra thing they need to just push them over the hump.

Definitely, every time we have a transformation contest coming in, we’ll post those pictures on Facebook if the person’s okay with that and that gets people asking us questions. When’s the next contest? Can I do it? What do I have to do? How much does it cost? All those things, I mean it certainly does spur a lot of interest.

Lesa:  It does spur a lot of interest once you start having some winning contestants and you’re posting it up there, you’re putting them in your marketing tool bag, having their pictures advertised and having that association with that prize winning at the end. It really does help quite a bit.

As far as the testimonials, I actually have learned how to talk to my contestants and explain to them, you really need to kind of have your testimonials from the heart. In the past, some of my testimonials weren’t as polished and now each of our contestants have been doing much better on polishing their testimonials — and that has actually helped as far as a marketing tool goes because people see where they were and they become compassionate towards them. Some people might relate to this and just say okay, I want to sign up. I want to do that contest. Those are the things that really helped.

Daniel: I know there’s one going on right now. It just started. How many people do you guys have in this current one?

Brent: Off the top of my head, I have to look at my exact numbers but around 15 to 20 but I’m not positive on that.

Daniel: That’s fantastic.

Lesa: Yeah, I have 20 that are starting and what I’ve learned in the past is we start off with a large number but we would always by the time the end of the contest hits, we’re down almost 50% or even more. So there are people that do fall off, which is kind of hard.

Brent: Right.

Lesa: But lifestyle is one reason or personal reasons, or they just feel like they haven’t been as dedicated because 12 weeks is a commitment. That’s what I try to explain to them in the beginning. So we’ll see how we end up.

Daniel: This is a tough question because I know you’ve had so many incredible transformations. Lesa, we’ll start with you. What’s one transformation that has stood out the most to you?

Lesa: Yeah, this is a hard one. I actually have two. One is just recent, Gary Morgan. He actually won Men over 40 – $1,000 in this last contest. He came to me at 360 pounds. He’s a rather large guy. He did not put into his essay that he has Bell’s palsy. On top of that, his doctors had prescribed him over 26 different types of medication. He was taking a pill for everything, anywhere from diabetes to high blood pressure, just all kinds of things. He literally came in, seeing the sign and said, “I don’t want to take these pills anymore and my doctors want to prescribe me more and more. It’s making me feel terrible. I just don’t like it. I need to get off it. Can you help me?”

Getting to know him, hearing his story and watching his struggles, it just blew me out of the water really, really. It just hit my heart so hard that he wanted to do this. And this wasn’t the doctor’s order. He wanted to do this on his own. He wanted to feel good. He wanted to make that change. And he’s entering this one again because he still has another goal to hit. Now he’s almost off all his medications. His Bell’s palsy is getting so much better. He’s eating right, doing the right thing. He never touched his vegetables and fruits before and now he’s loving it. He got his wife to do it. His son is getting into it. Actually, his son who’s in college right now, wants to become a nutritionist and help people so he’s taking this to heart. His whole family has changed.

(See Gary’s transformation photo in Part 2 of this interview.)

The other person was Kim Miswald. She did a Transformation and won first place for women under 40. She’s a police officer in our area, extremely overweight. She was 230 pounds when she came and she says, I can’t do a foot pursuit that way I look. I need some help. She’s lost over 80 pounds and during the transformation contest, she lost over 70 pounds and she looks amazing. She is a recognized as one of the higher end police officers in our area.

Those two are very compelling stories, two very different lifestyles though and they did it. You become part of their lives and a part of their family and that’s what’s so great about this.

Daniel: That’s awesome. That just gave me some chill bumps.

Brent: Yeah, definitely. Sign me up. For me, this isn’t really actually a hard decision. Certainly there are plenty of people who I could recognize but there’s one that actually was kind of a crazy thing because there was a little issue with his entry. His entry didn’t get in appropriately but Wayne was one of my first-ever contestants that I had go through the program. In 12 weeks he lost 49 pounds and went on to lose 125 pounds in nine months.

Now he’s a fitness professional and actually fitness has become such a part of his life. He told me his diet was fast food, vending machines and on a good day, he’d maybe go into a restaurant. That has completely changed. He actually kind of strangely became the manager at a gym in my hometown which is 45 minutes from where he lives.

He’s become such a good friend of mine and his journey will always inspire me. He’s one of the handful of people that’s always on my — I’m going to cry — list where I can always go back if I’m having a rough day. I just think about those people, those core people that really put their effort into it and really changed their lives. That’s why we do what we do. I’m a softie, too.

Daniel: That’s what it’s all about, guys. Everyone on this call, yes, we’re in it for business. We’re in it to make money but it’s all about helping others and changing lives. Clearly, that’s what Brent and Lesa are doing and you guys are doing it as well. So keep inspiring and keep doing what you’re doing because you are making a big difference to the community. Whether you get recognition like you deserve or not, you’re making a big difference. Unfortunately we only have time for one more question. I’d like you guys to provide our trainers with three most important steps they can follow to ensure they give their contestants amazing results using the TT transformation contests.

Brent: I think it goes without saying that great workouts are a given, making sure that your workouts are designed appropriately and that they’re challenging clients at the level that they’re at. That’s kind of a given. I think it’s critical to make sure that the clients are maintaining focus, again coming back to the communication that we’ve talked about numerous times here and realizing that they need to have a proper mindset. The need to realize that it’s important to stay focused on the context within the scope of their long term goal and how this can just be a way to help them get there, a little bit of short term motivation, kind of a bench mark on the journey there.

Secondly, they need to be kind of helped through that process of improving their nutrition. We can’t stress the importance of that enough. Finding out where they’re starting at, what they can work on, seeing what their comfort level is as far as how much they’re willing to take on early on. Some people can really address a lot in the short term. Some people need to again like I talked about earlier, focus on one thing at a time.

Lastly, it’s just the encouragement throughout, assuring them it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to hit tough spots. You’re going to have obstacles. You just need to know that as long as do your best, you communicate with us if you’re struggling. We can help you through that process. As long as you stay strong there’s really not much that you can’t overcome.

Lesa: It’s like you mentioned, Daniel. We are fitness professionals. That is our role and as fitness professionals, our role is to help educate people because they look to us when they come in for that education. So educating them about their diet, it’s like Craig always says, you can’t out-train a bad diet. Diet is important, giving them a proper a diet plan.

Giving them support inside and outside of the gym is huge. It’s really critical to keep people motivated because you can view it inside the gym as much as you’re there but what happens when they leave you? They’re outside the gym. They still need that support. They usually need the support from their friends, their family or from you so it’s really important to stay connected with them. Be a part of their lives in one way or another.

Like Brent said, an awesome workout plan, definitely a workout plan is really important. But we also have to work within their fitness abilities and that means looking at their fitness levels. We don’t want to start them off on something that’s too hard and then discourage them and then they’ll never come back. So we’ve got to work on a fitness plan that works for them within their own abilities.

Keeping a positive attitude is really important. It’s hard. I’m up at 3:00 a.m.  and I don’t get done sometimes till like 10 p.m., depending on where I’m at —  if I’m at my corporate or if I’m at the gym. I have to treat each class as if it’s my very first class, keeping a positive attitude, keeping it going because when I get home, that’s when I can have whatever attitude I want. But in every class, there’s a new client coming in or the existing clients and they need to have that positive attitude.

Lastly, it’s like Craig always said, never ever give up. Encourage your clients to never give up. There may be up days, down days, days that they’re struggling. There might be something in their personal life but if you’re there encouraging them to never give up, getting to that next level, that will really help them. Again, they’re looking at us because we’re the professionals and we’re there to help mold them, guide them so that they can get into the next generation of their lives and stay healthy and fit. Education is so important.

Daniel:  Wow, guys, that is a great call. You both are doing huge things in Wisconsin and changing so many lives. I want to personally thank you for being a huge part of the TT team. You guys inspire me every single day. I follow you on Facebook and we’re always communicating via phone, email, or text. You both inspire Brittney and myself every day to keep pushing and work harder so I want to thank you for that.

Lesa:  Really awesome, Daniel. I’m so proud of where you and Brittney are. It’s been such a great journey to watch you guys and getting to know you guys more and more every year is just a new thing that’s magical. It’s great being a part of the TT team.

Daniel: Absolutely. Thank you.

Brent: Yeah, I agree. It’s the same thing. It’s been great to get to know you guys and I know TT has definitely changed my life. I don’t even know that I would be a trainer at all without it. So it’s certainly been a huge part of my life and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Daniel: We have to wrap it up unfortunately. But, if you’ve been on the fence about entering these contests and having some of your clients enter into the TT contest, hopefully Brent and Lesa have given you some great tools and that little push you need because it’s worth it — and it’s going to help your clients get better results and help your business out as well. We run them all the time, several a year. So be sure to check some more information about that and we will talk to you guys later. Thank you, Brent and Lesa!