Instructor vs. Coach: Client Perspective

The economics of a group class instructor vs the opex model

Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX Coach: Client Perspective

The client, the coach and the business: If you’re in the fitness industry, the hope is that all three can be successful.

For this to happen, the client needs a solution to his/her problem—to get and stay fit and healthy. The coach needs job fulfillment and an opportunity to make a professional wage so he can have a long-term career in fitness. And the business needs clients and coaches to stick around in order to be profitable.

None of this is possible if your gym is run by part-time group fitness instructors who are getting paid $20 an hour to run a class. This is only possible if coaches become professional fitness coaches.

This is the second article in a six-part series, we’re going to look at how the client experiences the difference between a group fitness instructor and a professional OPEX Coach.

Other Articles in this series:

#1: The Economics

#3: Job Fulfillment

#4: Incentivizing Your Coaches to Care

#5: Group Fitness Instructor or Professional Coach

#6: Business Perspective

Group Fitness Instructor versus OPEX Coach: Client Perspective

If you’re a gym owner, you have probably experienced that sinking feeling. It comes the moment your phone beeps and you see a text message from a client:

“Can you cancel my membership? I haven’t been coming in lately because (insert reason of the day here).”

Sometimes the text or e-mail—or in-person cancelation if the person has any respect for you—comes as an out-of-the-blue surprise cancellation, but most of the time it has been a long time coming and you’re not all that shocked. Sometimes they don’t even tell you; instead, they just ghost you leaving you to figure out what happened. You often realize it when their credit card mysteriously fails.

You had noticed the client’s commitment level had declined in recent weeks. Maybe because of work stress, maybe due to personal stress or maybe because of a lingering injury? You don’t really know what their reason was because you never bothered to ask…

So you’re left wondering what you or your other group fitness instructors could have done differently to save this client. But it’s too late now.

What you can do differently is change your business model to one that is designed specifically for long-term client success, and ultimately for greater client retention.

Why the OPEX individual program design model works for the client:

Considers individual weaknesses:

Janice Hardwick used to attend group classes at a CrossFit gym. But after dealing with major postpartum health issues after giving birth to her second child, including a prolapsed bladder and rectum, she lost all muscular ability in her pelvic region.

“When I would sit up to get out of bed, I would feel a bulge coming out of my vagina and I leaked urine all the time,” said Hardwick, who also couldn’t squat without pain anymore. She was a far cry from her former fitness level. And she suspected joining in on generic group classes would be detrimental for her recovery.

“I wouldn’t have been addressing the issues that I needed to and I probably would have done more damage than good,” Hardwick said. She admitted the competition aspect of the group environment would have eventually gotten the best of her ego and she would have pushed beyond her capabilities to keep up with the group.

Instead, she began working with an OPEX CCP Coach and built herself up slowly and systematically in a way that considered her individual weaknesses.

Today, she is back to her old self, and she said it would never have been possible without an individual program designed for her.

“You’re literally getting assessed to create a recipe made specifically for you and your goals,” she said.

We are not static; our training program shouldn’t be either

We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we’re also not unchanging in our needs and wants as we go through life.

For many of us, the fun and competitive group class model, coached by a young, entertaining coach making $20 an hour, works for a little while, but as our lives, schedules, needs, and fitness goals change, these group classes stop providing us value.

Boris Kezic is an OPEX client in Australia and has been following an individual program with an OPEX CCP Coach since 2014. He said it’s particularly useful because his coach adapts his program according to what’s going on in his life.

“It has been especially good when life gets busy. There are only so many areas in your life you can give conscious attention to, and if work picks up, for example, (my coach) knows how to give me the right dosage of training,” Kezic said.

“Like I can say, ‘Hey this week I only have two days to train and not four,’ and he’ll adjust the program and I’ll still be able to maintain a high level of fitness during some of the busiest times of my life, and stay injury-free. He has so much knowledge that I couldn’t replicate even if I tried,” he added.

As a result, clients stick around. Period.

Proof: Sean McCullagh’s client retention at OPEX Baltimore is 95 percent.

Or what about CCP Coach Dylan Staniec? Since switching to the OPEX model in January 2018, he hasn’t lost a single client.

Beyond the workout:

If you’re a group fitness instructor making $20 an hour, chances are you administer workouts for your clients, or for the group class, and leave it at that.

A professional OPEX coach, on the other hand, recognizes that people aren’t just looking for a good workout. They’re looking for a solution to their problem. And sometimes their problem isn’t about their fitness, per se, but about what else is going on in their lives that’s hindering them.

This is the impetus behind the 30-minute lifestyle consults OPEX clients do with their coaches each month.

Nicole Chambers is an OPEX client. She said her monthly lifestyle consults have played a huge role in improving her life and are the reason she’s still around.

Through these consults, she has been able to improve her nutrition, which has helped reduce her inflammation and thyroid problems. Through the consults, she was also introduced to seed cycling, a method that uses various seeds to support different phases of a woman’s cycle in order to balance hormone levels and relieve PMS symptoms. As a result, Chambers is much healthier than she used to be.

“It’s great having a coach that cares about how my life is going outside of the gym,” she said.

And for OPEX client Tiffany Wolf, her lifestyle consults have helped her as much with her mental health as her physical health. Her coach helped her work through major work stress that resulted in her leaving her job and becoming an entrepreneur.

“He gave me all sorts of entrepreneurial advice,” Wolf said. “To be honest, for a long time OPEX was the only stable thing in my life, and I don’t think I could have decided to quit my job—I don’t think I could have made that decision—without it in my life.”

She added: “He helps me look at my physical health today and in my future, and my mental and emotional health and how they all tie in together, with consideration to nutrition, of course. It’s a holistic approach that works better for me than anything else out there.”

It’s certainly not something Wolf would get showing up to a group class three or four days a week.

On the coach end, monthly lifestyle consults are a great way to build a transparent and trusting relationship that helps nip problems in the butt before they become a reason for a client to put a membership on hold or quit altogether.

The result: Gone are the days where you receive text messages from disgruntled or injured clients telling you to cancel their membership.

Accountable, but non-dependent:

Many of us are wired to desire accountability—be it accountability to a coach or accountability to a program or even just to ourselves.

In the group class model—often coached by a semi-motivated part-time coach bartering his coaching services for a membership—there’s no accountability.

Show up, don’t show up. Nobody will notice.

On the other hand, those who work strictly with personal trainers have all the accountability in the world, and are paying $75-plus per session, but they usually become dependent on their trainer because they can’t go to the gym unless the trainer is there to hold their hand.

The OPEX model, on the other hand, keeps people accountable to their program, but also ensures they have a certain amount of independence over their fitness. If their coach is away on vacation, for example, they can still workout, and if they’re away on vacation or for work, they can take their program with them on the road.

It’s a much better way to deliver sustainable fitness to people, said Brandon Burchfield, the owner of OPEX CDA in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“I think it creates the most sustainable fitness in people’s lives. I also like that it helps create an independence in their fitness, so there isn’t this reliance, almost co-dependency, on a coach being there every moment,” he said.

Results, results, results…

What does all of this mean?

It means clients see real results, far beyond what being coached by a group fitness instructor alongside a dozen other people could ever achieve.

And results mean client retention!

Hardwick, for example, has gone from not being able to squat at all to squatting close to 200 lb.

Meanwhile, 56-year-old Cindy Keisler got her first pull-up in her 50s after hiring an OPEX coach.

“I could tell the difference right away,” Keisler said of what happened when she switched to an OPEX coach. “There was no more, ‘Ow, this hurts and that hurts. I have to skip this and that.’ I didn’t have to skip things anymore because (my coach) knows me and what I need.  He sees what I can do and what I can’t do, and we have consults where I tell him about my goals, and he programs to help me get there.”

She added: “If I were still doing CrossFit group classes…I wouldn’t be where I am. I probably would have gotten so frustrated that I would have quit.”

Beyond the numbers game, Chambers explained it this way:

“The quality of my movements are just so much better now. I’m figuring out how to hold tension in my body the right way, and just to move properly,” she said. This is something she was never able to achieve when she was coached by a group fitness instructor.

Kezic added this: “Nothing I have encountered in (the fitness industry) offers a quicker way to get where you are to where you want to go, than having a personal coach.”

Get an introduction to the OPEX System of Coaching with the free course Coach’s Toolkit. Take the first step to becoming a professional coach and sign up today.

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CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. OPEX Fitness’s uses of the CrossFit® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and OPEX Fitness is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.

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