I just finished another great interview with Functional Aging expert, Dan Ritchie, who’s also going to be a guest speaker at this year’s 5th annual Turbulence Training Summit this June in San Diego. Click here to listen to my full interview with Dan or read the transcript of our interview below.
Craig: Hey this is Craig Ballantyne from Turbulence Training, here with another amazing Certified Turbulence Trainer call and this one is so timely because it’s with Dan Ritchie who’s going to be a speaker at the Turbulence Training Summit this June in San Diego. Now Dan, welcome to the call.
Dan: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Craig: Yeah. You’ve had a great run here, you were the PFP Magazine 2014 Personal Trainer of the Year. I get that magazine. I loved all the tips that you’ve had in there and you’ve really had an amazing run with your Functional Aging Institute, which we’ll talk about in a second. Because you are a leader in exercise programing schools for adults but you worked for everybody, from Division 1 athletes to special population. You worked in a hospital for a while. Is that correct?
Dan: Yeah, I worked at hospitals, universities, large big box gyms. You name it, I’ve probably experienced it.
Craig: When did do you guys go and open own personal training studio? When you did that, did you cater to the functional aging group already or did you just move to that over time?
Dan: Yeah, we opened Miracles Fitness, our first location, in 2007. Our passion, our focus has always been the boomer and senior clients so we really were focused in kind of the 55+. I tell people we market and target essentially 55 to 60-year old women and that allows us to get people from about 45 to 75.
Craig: If you market to women, what’s your split between men and women?
Dan: We’re 75% female and 25% male.
Craig: Okay great. You guys opened your gym and went right to that marketplace?
Dan: Yeah. Absolutely. In fact, I think we almost over-communicated that message because within about six months, we had people under 50 calling us, begging to join. When you let somebody in at 48, we’re like absolutely, we let any adults in. But I think we had over-messaged the 55+ market. The people under 50 thought they weren’t allowed. And that’s been our focus from day one.
Craig: What words do you use and what words are not allowed? Do you use “boomer” ever in conversation, marketing or newsletters or is that something that you don’t use? What do you use then?
Dan: Yeah. I don’t use the word boomer when I’m talking to boomers typically. Most boomers don’t necessarily like to be labelled a boomer just like most people don’t like to be labelled Gen X or millennial. People don’t necessarily want to be labelled. So we try to in our messages, just make sure they’re communicating the values that baby boomers have so when a baby boomer sees the message, they connect with it and go this fitness place gets me; they understand what I value.
There’s no communication of “Hey, we’re for baby boomers or seniors.” We don’t necessarily even use age in our ads but the age of the people in the marketing messages, the messages themselves, boomers identify with. That has just come from studying some of the demographics and looking at what appeals to baby boomers. It’s not six-pack abs, skinny jeans and torch the fat and some of those kinds of things that we use for the younger market.
Craig: What is it then?
Dan: What we have found overwhelmingly is the most successful, especially for women, is just talking about quality of life and kind of living the life of your dreams as an empty nester. So we try to communicate things that relate to family values, being a grandmother because that’s a very strong value for a lot of women in their 50’s and 60’s. So we communicate things like playing with their grandchildren, taking that trip to Disney World and not being the old tired grandparent that’s on a trip, playing golf, playing tennis, going to Europe, taking that trip of a lifetime with your spouse. We communicate things that people in their late 50’s are starting to aspire to. Those are things that they know they want to do maybe this year, next year or even five years from now, and they see how fitness is important. Nobody wants to be that old, tired, boring grandparent and so we use a lot of those messages in terms of the values that we communicate.
Craig: That’s fantastic. It’s funny that nobody want to label themselves a “baby boomer” but they probably love to label themselves “grandmother” or “grandfather,” wouldn’t they?
Dan: Right. In fact, I think they’re almost more excited about that stage of life than they were being parents because now it’s sort of like I get to do the fun stuff. I get to take the grandkids to Disney and I don’t have to worry about what it’s costing me, whereas when they were a parent, it was just kind of a pain, I’ve got to take the kids to Disney. Well, now it’s just fun. I can go spoil the grandkids and then when I bring them back, drop them off at their parents and I can go relax and take it easy.
So they really get kind of the best of both worlds. They get to enjoy the kids this time around, love them but they don’t have to worry about the discipline, the responsibility and all the challenges that come with parenting. The grandparents of my kids are baby boomers. It’s a cool thing for us to be able to experience and see our kids enjoy their grandparents and their grandparents spoil on them. So those are strong messages
Then there are some people that they just want to do things for themselves. They want to take amazing bucket list trips to Antarctica, Galapagos Islands. We’ve had clients go to Patagonia. We’ve had clients bike across France, which I didn’t even know was something that people did but apparently if you want to go to chalet to castle to chalet to castle, you can do that riding across the French countryside. Well you’ve got to have some level of fitness in your 60s to be able to enjoy that. There are some people that, “Hey, we’re leaving the grandkids at home. We’re going to France and we’re going to have the trip of a lifetime.”
Craig: Yeah. It’s really funny. There’s a book called Humans of New York and this guy took all these photos of people. He has this Facebook page and he has 11 or 12 million fans. He posts pictures of New York, just people on the streets and a little bit of their story. The other day he posted a kid sitting in must’ve been Penn Station. The kid is sitting on a gym bag, eating I think it was Pringles chips, there were chips all over the ground and the photographer asked him, “Where are you going?” He goes, “Grandma and grandpa’s.” Then he goes, “Okay, what do you in grandma and grandpa’s?” and the kid has this hilarious look on his face and his answer was, “Whatever I want.” It was perfect because you know exactly that the kid is just like, “I’ve got to get to grandma and grandpa’s so I can have more chips.”
Dan: He’s getting warmed up. He’s getting warmed with the tube of Pringles. That sounds exactly right. We learned a few years ago we can’t bother even fighting that our kids are going to go to their grandparents and they’re going to eat donuts for breakfast and cake for dinner and then when they come home we’re going to have to detox them for a couple days.
Craig: Yeah, that’s funny. All right, so Dan you’re also the president of the Functional Aging institute which we’re proud to have at the TT Summit. As you mentioned, you’re the co-owner of Miracles Fitness and that’s where you guys do one-on-one and small group training. We’ll talk about how you guys separate that. You’ve spoken at tons of events, ETSM, Fitness Summit. You’ve been on CBS news in your area. Then is it the weekend after the TT Summit that you’re hosting a Functional Aging Summit?
Dan: Yes, the following weekend in Phoenix so June 12th and 13th. We’re having our first annual Functional Aging Summit. To my knowledge, never really seen an event like this in the fitness industry.
Craig: In what way?
Dan: Well, we’re focusing on two things – training the mature clients so technique for improving balance, power, strength, even looking at barefoot function in older adults, but then also the other side of the coin in terms of how do I attract these clients, how do I market to them, how do I retain them and how do I sell to boomers and seniors because sales and marketing is a little bit different. I would say over the last 15 years, I‘ve never seen an event like this at any fitness conference, any small fitness event.
The American Society on Aging and the National Council on Aging have huge annual conferences on aging and it’s all focused on Medicare, hip fractures, our aging society, even death and dying and funeral business. It’s very aging-focused. And then the fitness industry might have a session or a track or two on senior fitness but I have not seen a fitness event that’s just focused on personal training and fitness businesses focused on this market. So we’re really excited to have that event for the first time ever and we hope it becomes an annual event.
Craig: Well, I’m sure it will. So you guys are doing training and marketing. How are you splitting that up over the weekend?
Dan: So we’re really balancing it up each day. We’ve got some experts coming in like Dr. Debra Rose who wrote the book Fallproof! and came out with that in about 2004. It really was a landmark book on balance training for older clients because prior to that, we were starting to see such a rise in hip fractures, fall-related injuries, deaths due to falls. It’s the number one cause of accidental deaths of the people over the age of 65. In fact, car accident is number one until you turn 65 and then you’re more likely to die of a fall. So she is speaking. She’s talking about balance training, how we can improve balance coordination.
Then we’ve got people like Bedros Keuilian coming in and talking about how to market to the affluent client. The affluent client by and large is someone who’s a baby boomer, 50 to 68 years old, and what you have to do to convince these people to spend $500, $600, $800 a month with you. So we’re really balancing people like that back and forth. We’ve got some marketing experts coming in and we’ve got some training experts coming in like Dr. Emily Splichal of Evidence-Based Fitness Academy. She’s coming in to talk about barefoot training and if we look at somebody’s foot and their foundation from the ground up, how do we approach balance, function, movement, walking and all those things.
So we really try to pair the two back and forth because by and large we see too many fitness events where you come away with 30 new tricks to train someone and not one tactic to get a new client so you’re a better trainer that still has no clients. Or you can go to an event where there’s all kinds of marketing but if you don’t know how to train boomers and seniors, you might get them as clients but you’re going to wind up hurting them, frustrating them or not getting them good results. So we’ve really tried to blend both those worlds and we think we’ve put together a great lineup for that.
Craig: And how are you going to do that over the weekend? Are you going to have training in the morning and marketing in the afternoon? How is that going to work?
Dan: It’s really spread out each day. Some sessions are going to be focused on training techniques and then some will be focused on business marketing and sales tactics. Each day has an even balance of each. Cody and I will also be speaking and sharing some highlights from our business in terms of what’s working right now to get new clients. So it really will be a 50/50 mix.
One of the days, I think the morning is all committed to training techniques and how you actually work with clients and then the afternoon is all focused on marketing and sales. Then I think on Saturday, it’s literally just a mix. We go back and forth from how you train clients to how you market for clients. We even have a little bit of online stuff from Shawna Kaminski. She’s going to share a little bit of how you train clients online and build an online clientele as well.
Craig: Very nice. Now let’s talk about training the mature client. You guys do one-on-one and small group. Tell us why you guys stick to those and not boot camp stuff. Then also tell us what you do and what you don’t do.
Dan: Great question. We love the small group training model. We absolutely think it works really, really well for baby boomers and even the generation older than them, so people 68 and up. By and large, it works for about 80% to 90% of those clients. So if we can at all possible, we put them in the small group training.
Every once in a while, we have clients coming to us who have just too many issues, whether it’s cardiovascular disease, they’ve had a recent stroke, they’ve just got tremendous balance issues or maybe they’ve had multiple joint replacements and they’re in a lot of pain where we really realize this is going to be a detriment to the group as a whole and we really need to train this person one-on-one at least for a month, sometimes six months or more to get them ready to assimilate to a group.
That’s really what we kind of save one-on-one training for. Sure, every once in a while we have somebody walk in off the street and they just absolutely insist on one-on-one training. I jokingly will tell people look, if you don’t like people, you absolutely do not like other people then you’ll probably want to work with us one-on-one. But most baby boomers and seniors actually like other people and they tend to want to be social. So they tend to pick the small group personal training.
We do groups as big as six. I know some facilities go as large as eight. We found six is just the sweet spot for us in terms of our facility layout, our facility size. The amount of dumbbells, medicine balls and resistance bands we have works well with six so that has been a great number for us.
Boot camp, I think, can be successful with this age group if you’re really careful and you kind of screen your people well. I’ve seen some people have great success. It’s just something our facility doesn’t really allow. We don’t have the space for a group larger than six. We also get a lot of clients over the age of 60 so boot camp gets problematic for us because we do have a lot of clients with knee pain, shoulder issues, hip replacements and a variety of things. So when you get to 12 or 14 clients, all with a variety of issues, it just becomes a challenge for the trainer. So we’ve stuck to the model of six and no more than that.
There are times in our facility when we’ll actually be training 10 or 12 clients at the same time. In fact, this particular model is so interesting. On Monday this week, I had to train a small group training session which was five clients because my four other full-time trainers were all busy training clients. We had I think 12 clients all training at the same time at 1:30 in the afternoon which historically is a very slow time in a fitness studio.
So it has worked very well for us doing both small group and one-on-one. At our one location, we’re about 55% small group, 45% one-on-one and then at our new location, we’re probably 75% small group and 25% one-on-one and that’s really where we want to be.
Craig: I talked a lot about this with Alwyn Cosgrove and in the body transformation world in that small group training and boot camp training, one of the benefits is that people tend to get better results. Do you also find that with your small group training and your population?
Dan: I would say yes and no to that. I say yes in that I find for a lot of our clients, they get better results in that they push a little bit harder because they have other people to kind of compare themselves to. It’s real easy as a 65-year old to think oh I’m here working out; I’m doing a pretty good job. You line up against another 65-year old who’s doing twice what you are and all of a sudden you realize I can work a lot harder. In fact, we see a lot of our 55-year olds really get pushed by 60, 65 and 70-year olds. If you hop in a workout, Craig, with a 75-year old who has no quit in him and is just doing everything, all of a sudden you’re working a lot harder because you’re like my goodness, this guy’s older than my dad and he is destroying me. So we see that happen.
What I will say why for some people one-on-one still works better is because at our facility, we have people that simply need one-on-one because they have knee pain or they have multiple joint replacements and they really need the one-on-one attention. If we put them in a group, they would tend to either fall behind, not feel like they were able to keep up and so it’d kind of be discouraging to them.
So for us, I kind of think it’s both. I think the group mentality works really well for people that don’t have specific individual health issues but because we do cater to the older market, we get a lot of people with those issues. They need the one-on-one and for them, the one-on-one works better. Our ultimate goal for them is to get them in the small group so that they can begin to work with the group and then get those added benefits of hey, I can do a little bit more than I thought.
We see that a lot, especially with people over 60. Once they start to realize hey, I can do a lot more than I thought and they see their peers doing more than they would expect, they start to do more than even the trainer can get out of them, right? It’s just sort of human psychology. We tend to think we’re a little bit better than we are like I’m doing pretty good until you have somebody 10 or 20 years older than you showing you up. All of a sudden, you realize hey, I’ve got to push a little bit harder.
Craig: Yeah, that’s true. There’s a competitive nature inside all of us and I don’t think it goes away even when you’re training at that age. Dan, how the heck did you become a leader in the fitness and aging field and why did you get a PhD?
Dan: Why did I get a PhD? That’s a great question. I started out as a college strength coach and it took me about a year to realize Division 1 athletes had way bigger egos than I wanted to deal with. So I moved on from that and decided I needed to finish my Master’s degree. While I was finishing my Master’s degree, I started training at your typical big box gym, 4,000 members, racquet ball club, tennis club, basketball, swimming, everything. Personal training was barely even a blip.
I fell in love with training the over-50 athlete there. We had a lot of them. We had a lot of them. We had tremendous golfers. We had water skiers, downhill skiers, cross-country skiers, people that were outdoor enthusiasts and still active in life. I just fell in love with these clients over 50. I had a 72-year old client whose fitness goal was to tie his own shoes. He was a 7-handicap golfer which I will never be. I would love to be a 7-handicap golfer. But he couldn’t tee up a golf ball or get the ball out of the hole because he literally had no mobility in his knees and hips. He’d had four knee replacements and just had no range of motion left.
After a month of training him, he comes in one day and he says, “Hey Dan, check out my shoes.” I say this is weird, a 72-year old guy asking me to check out his shoes. I literally never had a guy that age ask me to check out his shoes. It wasn’t his shoes. It was his shoelaces and he had tied them himself. By the time I looked back up and caught his eyes, I realized there were tears in his eyes and now there were tears in my eyes. I’m this 25-year old tough guy and realized hey, this is amazing. I don’t care if I ever help anybody lose another pound. If I can help more people like this guy, I can really impact lives. All he wanted to do was play golf and play golf consistently and not be embarrassed that he couldn’t tee up a golf ball and reach down to get the ball out of the hole.
That really inspired me to come to Purdue and spend five years studying fitness and aging. I said I wanted to become an expert in this and I want to learn everything there is to learn in terms of how we train balance, coordination, power, functional strength, range of motion and mobility. I’d lost interest in the whole weight loss thing and fitness vanity thing and just got excited about changing lives.
So I came to Purdue and that’s where I met Cody Sipes, my business partner. The two of us just dove into the research and began research studies ourselves on balance training and power training and just realized by and large this population is really being ignored by the fitness industry and before we even finished our PhDs, we opened our own studios, began to speak around the world and it just opened a lot of doors for us. We realized that this was just something the fitness industry was ignoring and we started to get more and more opportunities.
People that said five years earlier well, you can’t have a successful business catering to seniors started to realize not only can you have a successful business but it’s fairly economy-proof because if you remember, we opened in 2007. The economy collapsed in 2008 and we survived. We didn’t go away. In fact, we grew in 2008. We grew again in 2009. We grew again in 2010. In fact when the banks began to look at us, they said how on earth are you guys achieving this growth rate during this economy? We said well, we’re not worried about what the economy is doing because we’re focused on baby boomers and seniors who have a lot of economic stability because it’s where the wealth is.
Honestly, the PFP Trainer of the Year, Craig, to me was a big recognition that the fitness industry has finally gotten it. The fitness industry has finally said fitness for boomers and seniors made sense. They finally acknowledged what we were doing and for me to win that award I think is sign that the fitness industry is waking up to what Cody and I have said is the sleeping giant that has been at our door for ten years and that’s this huge aging boom in our country and really globally that the fitness industry for far too long has been ignoring.
So both of us have PhDs. We’re both published. We’ve both spent a lot of time researching what kinds of exercises impact aging because it’s not just older people should strength train, it’s not just older people should work out. It’s a lot more complex than that.
Craig: Yeah. So the boomer and senior market is here to stay and unique as you said. When do you think it’s going to be at the peak of the people entering that age group and the number of people sticking around another ten years or so at least?
Dan: Well, those studying the longevity economy, Craig, actually predict it’s going to continue to grow over the next 30 years, which is pretty staggering to think. Anybody listening to this call, we’re essentially talking about your entire career is going to continue to grow. The oldest baby boomers are turning 68 and obviously there’s a tremendous number of what we would call traditional seniors who are older than them, the 69 and up. The youngest baby boomers are just turning 50 this year and they’re not going anywhere. They’re going to be around strong for 30 more years for sure. Then of course you have the Gen X population coming up behind them.
So when you look at the aging statistics and the number of people that there are to be viable clients over the age of 65, over the age of 55 for the next 30 years, it’s just staggering. In fact, right now economists are calling the longevity economy, the economy in the US that’s 50+ is the third biggest economy in the world. Only the US total economy and China is bigger. So when people jokingly say to me Dan, it’s nice in your senior fitness niche, I just sort of pause and I say that niche happens to be the third largest economy in the world. So it’s not a small opportunity and it’s not going away in ten years. It’s here to stay for the next 25 to 30 years.
Craig: Wow, that is incredible, the stat that it’s bigger than Japan’s economy. Obviously, that’s why you founded and launched the Aging Institute to help people out. Tell us more about the certification.
Dan: Cody and I for years said trainers, especially to train older clients, are just unprepared by the industry. You can’t just go grab a personal training certification and just start training people over 50. We were a little bit disillusioned with the fitness industry and the certification industry. You know now there’s an explosion of certifications and so it’s confusing for the boomer and senior client who they should work with.
We decided in 2013 it’s time we released everything that we’ve been studying, everything we’ve been researching and everything we’ve experimented with over 2,000 clients. We have seen what works, what doesn’t work. We’ve had some clients that hey, that didn’t work for their knee replacement but it worked for somebody else. We put all that together in what we call the Functional Aging Specialist and put our functional aging training philosophy into our certification.
We looked at what a lot of the other companies were doing out there and said what’s a fair price, what’s a fair value, what’s a fair amount of content but in the end what we really said was we want to give people what our trainers have at our facility so that we know if somebody walks in and they have cardiovascular disease, they have a knee replacement and they have shoulder pain that this trainer is prepared to give them a great workout that’s going to impact their life and make them a client probably for years to come because the thing with baby boomers is they don’t sign up for a six-month weight loss program, lose the weight and then not need you anymore. In fact a year from now, they need you more than ever because now I’m 61 and I feel better, I might feel like I did when I was 50 and I want to stay with you.
So we put this certification together to equip trainers to train people for life-changing results so that they’re clients for 5, 10, 15 years. Our real vision and mission is that we have trainers impacting anywhere from 500 to 1,000 client-lives over their career. We have impacted over 2,000 people here in our community and we know our average trainer can impact 500 to 1,000 lives over their career. So if we can certify 10,000 trainers over the next five years, we can impact 10 million lives and that gets pretty exciting to us.
So the specialist really is designed for someone with some fitness knowledge but you don’t have to have a degree. We’re two PhDs but we wrote it at the level that the average person with some fitness knowledge can go through it, understand it and begin to apply the principles and we want it to be something that people can start using with their clients literally tomorrow. So they learn some of the techniques and they go hmm, I’m going to try this with Doris tomorrow and they immediately start to see the impact.
Craig: That’s really interesting because Alwyn Cosgrove and I were talking about how you keep a client who is 35 or 40 who has lost all the weight and his entire business is now based around turning people into athletes but it’s so much easier when people are just aging and they get new issues to deal with so even if you do help them do their shoelaces, he’s got a lot of other things that you can help him with. Unfortunately for him, he’s naturally going to deteriorate no matter how well you do with the individual. So it really is a self-fulfilling virtuous cycle in that it’s really great for a trainer’s business. That’s for sure.
Dan: Yeah. It absolutely is. We have a 75-year old client who always says, “I feel better now than I did at 65. This is the reverse of the way it should be.” Well, is he going to quit? Absolutely not. He’s stuck training with us for as long as he physically can, which is what we want. We’re going to help him live an amazing life at his age.
Craig: Absolutely. You guys have the science behind Functional Aging. Tell us more about the research, about why a person who has experience training 40-year olds can’t just go train 60-year olds.
Dan: That’s a great question. There’s a lot of research now coming out about strength training and I think for 40-year olds, we can do strength training, we can do a lot of metabolic training, a lot of high intense stuff for losing weight but the science is really showing that strength training does not translate to functional life outcomes for older adults. So I think we make the mistake when we think well, we just need to train them like young people. We just need to get them stronger. If we just get them stronger, work them hard, get them fitter that will translate to their everyday lives.
The research overwhelmingly is showing that that’s simply not the case. It’s a little bit more complex than that. We need to have three-dimensional functional movement. We need to have some balance components. We need to have some motor-sensory components. We need to train vestibular functions, somatosensory functions and visual function. As we age, we start to flip in our senses. Our vision is not quite as good. Our vestibular feedback is not quite as good. Our inner sense in terms of how fast we’re moving is not quite as good. Our sensation, our feet do not have the same sensation when we’re 60 as when we’re 40 as when we’re 20. So we can retrain those systems and have to address those in the training as well.
So it just has to be a little bit more thought out, a little bit more complex and we have to be thinking about what the 60-year old client really wants to achieve. That’s the other mistake a lot of trainers make. They just think well, I’ll train them like the 40-year old because they just want to be fit and lose weight when the 60-year old client never said anything to you about losing weight. They said they want to take the grandkids to Disney world and have a grand time. Nowhere in that sentence was weight loss and we’re training them with this high intense metabolic conditioning. They’re not enjoying it. In fact, they’re hating you as a trainer and there’s a disconnect because what they said was they want to go to Disney World and enjoy it, which means they just need to move a little bit better, have a little bit more energy, a little bit more stamina and endurance. They may need to lose some weight but they might not. That might not be their goal. That might not be their concern.
Sometimes as trainers, we just need to flip off that switch of what most 40-year old clients look for. A 60-year old client might be looking for something completely different. They just want to get out of bed without hurting in the morning and not being stiff. They want to have a little bit more energy. They want to get a little bit of their strength back from maybe ten years ago. They’re not looking to be super fit. They might not even mind about dropping 10 or 20 pounds. That a lot of times is where there’s a disconnect. Trainers just think well, I’ll just train them like I train my 40-year old clients, just maybe a little kinder and gentler and their whole focus is off. Their whole goal mentality is off. They’re not even meeting the needs or desires of their client.
Then it certainly gets more complex when you start to deal with 60-year olds and their medical conditions because if you get someone with two knee replacements or one knee replacement and one knee that needs to be replaced, well now you have to rethink your whole program. Jump squats are out. Burpees are out. Mountain climbers is out. High impact stuff is out. All of sudden you’re like wow, half of my program is out; what do I do? You need to have a whole array of things that you can do that’s going to make that client feel great when they leave, not beat up and not in more pain. Because if the client’s in more pain, they’re going to tend to quit pretty quickly and that, I think, is one of the mistakes that some trainers have made in this population. Why they haven’t realized they’re great clients for years to come is because they’ve hurt them or they’ve exacerbated their conditions and so they quit, whereas if you address their conditions and make them feel better, they’ll never quit. In fact, they’ll love you and they’ll stay with you. They’ll refer clients to you and they won’t complain about your price.
Craig: Absolutely. I’ve read some research as to when you actually lose weight when you’re older, sometimes it can be detrimental to your mortality in that sometimes people who lose weight actually end up passing away sooner. So that’s very debatable as to how much weight old people need to lose. I see that there are so many disparancies between training younger and older people that you just went into there. That’s really important.
What else can you tell us in terms of the big reasons why the mature market is a career game-changer? You talked a lot about what we’re going to see, the value of it, how many people and how it’s not going to peak for a long, long time. So what else can you say to this marketplace?
Dan: Just besides the longevity economy steps that I went over, the big thing for us is really the passion about these clients. The reason for me it has been a career game-changer is it’s really exciting when you have people and they say, “Two years ago, I fell and I thought that was it for me. I never dreamed that I would get to go Europe again.” Her definition of “is it for me” is I’m not going to get to go to Europe again. Life is over for me as I know it if I can’t go to Europe again. Within a year of training with us, she went to Europe and had the time of her life.
So when you hear those kinds of stories, that’s the kind of thing that just makes me well up and realize this is why we do what we do and is why my trainers get excited about what we do. It’s far more gratifying than that person who lost ten pounds when they have trouble losing ten pounds because for her, she thought her life as she knew it was over and we dramatically changed that, like the guy who couldn’t tie his own shoes and now he can and he’s about to cry over that kind of thing. Those kinds of things to me are real career-changers.
And the unique thing I think about baby boomers that sometimes people take for granted is they tend to be a very loyal generation. They will stick with you if you’re getting them great results. We’ve had some clients for eight years now. When you think about that, you start to look at how much money they have spent with our business over eight years, it’s staggering. You’re just sort of wow, I can’t believe they’ve continue to trust us for eight years.
But the reality is we give them great services. We’re changing their lives. We’re giving them great results and so when you’re building your business on a client that’s going to stay for year after year after year after year, it’s a whole lot easier than if you’re just churning clients in and out every 6 to 12 months on a weight loss program that if you get them results, they don’t need you anymore and it’s a lot harder to keep them. Whereas with these clients, we’re changing their lives month after month, year after year. They get to 82 and they say well, I can’t stop now; how could I possibly stop?
I had a client who’s 82. She continues to tell me, “Everyone that sees me says they can’t believe how young I look, how strong I look, how healthy I look. My friends around me are starting to think about nursing homes and it’s not even a consideration for me. My physician says I’m doing great, keep doing what you’re doing, you look better than you did five years ago.” Those kinds of things to me are the bigger factor in terms of the career game-changer but when you talk about the dollars and cents, we’re talking about a generation that could be clients for 20 to 30 years, for essentially the rest of your career which is a really nice thing from a business perspective.
Craig: That’s incredible. I really appreciate that, Dan. Now what is the number one piece of advice you would give to someone who’s just starting out in the fitness industry, specifically not really even having to be starting out in the fitness industry but they’re starting out in the functional aging industry. They’re transitioning or they’re getting more clients around it.
Dan: The first thing I tell people entering the fitness industry, starting out or even career changing into it is just stick to what you’re most passionate about first and foremost. If it is training athletes, don’t be dissuaded by what I’ve said about training people over 50 because you’re going to be frustrated. I had a trainer who wanted to train athletes who worked for me who was a great trainer but he knew he couldn’t stay here long term and he wound up opening his own facility, he’s training athletes and he’s far happier doing that. So you do have to go after what you’re passionate about. If you want to help people and you really like people over the age of 50, then this is a great opportunity and a great place to go.
And it doesn’t matter how young you are, if you’re 22 or 23. I hire trainers who are 22 or 23 right out of college but first and foremost I have to know that they really, really enjoy older people. Do they love hanging out with their grandparents? Do they love talking to people over 55? Do they find them enjoyable and engaging? If that’s a passion for them then they fit really well. In fact, a lot of our clients love our trainers that are 23 or 24 if they’re passionate about that.
So you can’t make a career in the mature market if you don’t like people over the age of 55. It’s just not going to work, just like I couldn’t make it training athletes but they too had big of egos for me to enjoy training them. There are some college strength coaches that are phenomenal at dealing with those egos. In fact, they thrive on it. They use that ego and they figure out how to channel it and turn the person into a tremendous professional athlete.
So my simple piece of advice is to focus on what you’re passionate about, what kind of outcomes for people you want to impact and pursue working with those people.
Craig: Okay, that’s wonderful advice. You’re right. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. So tell us some of your best success stories.
Dan: Okay. I’ll share two with you. Joanne, I think she was 78 when she started with us and she’s got fairly advanced Parkinson’s at her age. She’d been training with us for maybe six months and about the age of 79 1/2, she comes to me and she says, “Dan, we really want to take this trip to the Galapagos Islands before it’s too late for me, before my Parkinson’s advances too much. I’m going to turn 80 and we’re looking to go for my 80th birthday.” I’m sitting there thinking okay, first is this even possible? So I asked her. I said Joanne, what do you need to be able to physically do to enjoy this trip, not go on this trip? To me, there’s a difference. She said, “Well, they tell me I need to be able to walk a mile without pausing to rest. I need to be able to walk a mile.” I said okay, well define that for me. At what pace? She said, “Well, just a leisurely recreational pace. They say somewhere between 2 and 2 ½ miles an hour.”
So that’s literally what we set out to do over the next six months. It was train Joanne to be able to walk a mile at a 2 ½ mile pace without holding onto anything because we didn’t want her to have to roll in a cane. We knew she could use one if she needed it but we really wanted her to be as stable and strong as possible. So we did a lot of lower body functional training. We did a lot of balance training and we did some treadmill training. We literally did walking and got her walking. She went on that Galapagos trip and she absolutely had the time of her life. She said, “I did not feel like the old person with Parkinson’s on the trip because I could walk.” They never did more than a mile-hike exploring the islands. She said, “I was able to do everything. I didn’t slow my husband down. It was absolutely the trip of a lifetime.”
The reason I share her story is she’s now 85 and her husband has actually preceded her, which we didn’t expect. He passed away this past year and she still remembers that trip fondly as a trip of a lifetime for them that they got to experience and something that they didn’t know they’d be able to do because of her Parkinson’s. That is just a success story that I share that is just exciting because I realize that was a really big deal for her and her husband to be able to experience that. She actually shared some pictures of some birds that I have never seen anywhere except the picture she shared with me. We share those in our book.
Then the other clients are Doug and Sidney. They’re the ones I mentioned earlier that when to France and rode bikes across the countryside. But the story I want to share about them, Doug is 70 and Sidney is 65 and they went to Patagonia for a 10-day glacier hiking expedition. They’ve been personal training with us for two years. They’re fairly wealthy. They can afford to do these excursions, these trips. In fact, I realized you probably have to be almost semi-retired to do these things. I can’t disappear to Patagonia for 13 days with my 5 kids back home.
They get to Patagonia and National Geographic has to get a special exemption from the national park in Patagonia to let them out on the glacier because half of their group was over the age of 65 and it was against the law for anyone over 65 to be out on the glaciers, which I thought was really interesting. It’s like here we are, we have people over 65 that can afford to come do this trip but the national park has a safety rule that people over 65 can’t be out there, which Doug and Sidney found amusing because they said, “We weren’t the only ones on the trip. Over half the trip was over 65.”
They sent me pictures of this just breathtaking glacier, just amazing and you realize what we used to think was old, and I’m sure when they came up with rule that 65 and older was too dangerous for them, well that might have been 25 to 30 years ago when 65 was old but it’s not anymore. We’ve got clients who are 70 and 65 that are saying hey, I’m taking off to Patagonia and I’m going to hike glaciers for 10 days. So that was really exciting to them to see that they were actually having laws changed to allow their group out on this glacier and they were physically able to handle it with no problem. That was really cool.
Craig: Man, that’s fantastic. You’re right. Those are some pretty incredible success stories. I feel the same way about people that change their lives with big weight loss transformations. I still think that there is powerful to me. But the bottom line is you can’t have these physical transformations without mental transformations so we’re both doing the same thing and it’s fantastic.
This is why we wanted to have you at the TT Summit. You’re going to do a certification on the Sunday and you’re going to speak on the Friday. So what do you have in store for us and who should consider sticking around for your extra day and why should they?
Dan: Great question. I’m so excited to be speaking to your group on Friday. I expect by the end of my talk, I’m going to have some people at your event going oh my goodness, this is why my best clients are all over 50. In fact, I think some people don’t realize that until they hear me speak and they go, “Yeah, that makes sense. Half of my clients are over 55 and they’re all my best clients. They always pay on time. They don’t complain. They show up on time. They’re the most loyal. Maybe I should focus my business on this.”
So on Friday, that’s really what I’m going to talk about, what Cody and I call the perfect storm that has been essentially waiting at your door in terms of a fitness opportunity and why focusing on the 50+ market is really a huge success opportunity. That doesn’t mean you can’t train people that are 30 and 40. We do that here and guess what? That’s why we’re 3 women to 1 man because we go after people that are 55 and we get those male and female. Well guess who’s most comfortable in our environment then on top of that? It’s 35- to 50-year old women because they find our environment very comfortable, non-threatening and non-competitive. So we get that market as well.
The reason people should stick around for Sunday is the certification workshop is a full day where I basically teach people our entire training philosophy. So people who are saying hey, I want to learn how to train people over 50 successfully, get them great results, get them life-changing results, know that I’m going to give them a program that is going to serve them for not only six months but for years to come and have an impact on their lives for years down the road. That’s what our workshop on Sunday is all about.
So you basically are not only get training tips but we’d go through program design so when somebody leaves our certification workshop, they literally on Monday can go back and start designing programs for clients over 50 with all sorts of physical issues, not just healthy ones. We talk about knee replacements, cardiovascular conditions, balance issues and falling, all of those things. It literally helps people be a more successful trainer the next day which is what we really want.
In addition to that, they get our full online program. They get 22 videos, 12 manuals, ongoing support. They get the certification exam. They can become a functional aging specialist all from that one workshop. So it really is a tremendous value in one day and the people that have gone through those workshops have always been thrilled because they get stuff that can actually use right away with their clients and they can start to see results right away. Their clients start to say wow, these exercises are really helping me in terms of doing laundry at home, climbing stairs, picking up the grandkids and whatever it is. They start to see how it impacts and it just helps the trainer tremendously.
Our one-day workshops have been well received. Last year, we did about a dozen of them, had about 200 trainers go through them and overwhelmingly people have just been blown away by how quickly they can implement that stuff into their practice. It really allows people that have any interest in training people over 50 to be really confident that they’re not going to hurt people and they’re not going to wind up frustrating their older clients but they’re actually going to give them great results.
Craig: Yeah, and it’s funny that you’re right. You told me that you can close your doors at 5 PM and still have a 500K-a-year business. That’s really a great lifestyle business. It’s the freedom to trainers that they’ve wanted for so long.
Dan: Yeah, there’s a guy on our advisory board on the Functional Aging Institute advisory board and he closes his doors at 5 and they’re doing over 500K a year. So I don’t just throw that out there. People are doing it. I jokingly said to Paul to one day, “Do you not want to make any more money? You surely could train people after 5.” He just sort of laughed and said, “No, I like going home at 3:00. Some of my trainers take on the late clients which are the 4:00 and 4:30 and they close the door at 5:00. They’re making enough money. They don’t need to make more and they don’t really want to train people after 5:00 so they don’t.”
That just shows you can have not only a successful business but one that also allows you to have a life and a lifestyle. You don’t have to be training at 7:00 at night. Like I said, we’re jam-packed here at 1:00 and 1:30, so much so that when we had a video guy come and film our promotional videos, we about drove him nuts because our facility is never quiet. He’s like, “Well, we can just film at noon.” I said there’ll be five or six clients here at noon. “How about 2:00?” There’ll be four or five clients in here at 2:00. He finally realized we can’t film till after 8:00 at night to get quiet. So absolutely, you can have a nice lifestyle business as well as a successful one.
Craig: Man, that’s fantastic. I’m really looking forward to your presentation which should be on Friday morning of the TT Summit. I know everybody listening is going to be excited for it. I’m really excited for it. It almost makes me want to go and open a facility again just because what you said is just total truth because that really is the population to work with. So Dan, this is fantastic. I look forward to seeing you in San Diego. Anything else you want to mention before we end our call today?
Dan: I don’t think so. I’m absolutely glad to have done this interview. Thanks for having me on. I’m really looking forward to speaking at the TT Summit and for all those folks who stick around for the Sunday Functional Aging Certification Workshop.
Craig: All right. Thank you, Dan. Everybody who’s listening to the call, make sure that you get signed up for the TT Summit at TTSummit.com or email Lisa at TurbulenceTrainingHelp@Gmail.com if you’re already certified with Turbulence Training so that you get access to the event. It’s going to be amazing. There will be birthday cake and we’ll see you there very soon. Thanks so much, Dan, and have a great day. Bye-bye.