Year in Review

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Here we are at the last day of 2020. I will not launch into a long essay about how badly this year went for most of us on the planet. Others have stated it over and over again–many more eloquently than I could.

Instead, here are some thoughts on what 2020 meant for me in terms of my fitness career…as well as some thoughts about what 2021 and beyond may bring.

The year started out well for me; I was working as a Personal Trainer at the local JCC and although the money was not great, my client list was really beginning to grow and my schedule was starting to fill out. The future looked rosy.

By mid-March, of course, the cancellations started as a trickle which grew into a torrent. COVID-19 had arrived. By the end of that month, the JCC was closed (and wouldn’t open until June).

Early on in the pandemic, I decided to offer a group fitness class daily (except Shabbat) for whoever wanted to tune in on Facebook Live. I did this as a way to connect with clients, keeping them engaged and moving during what most of us thought would be a brief interruption. No charge. Just work out with me. I watched my FB group grow quickly and enjoyed a steady stream of participants–mostly an older demographic, but that is my sweet spot anyhow. Soon the JCC gave us the green light to train clients on-line one-on-one free of charge; we continued to receive a salary through mid-May, which was laudable. In mid-May we went back to pay-to-play; I did not lose many clients since most had become accustomed to working with me virtually. Even after the gym opened (in a limited way) most of my clients chose to stay on-line due to their (well-founded) fears. Nevertheless, I was still nowhere close to where I had been pre-pandemic. Some clients were gone for good.

Those several months at the beginning of the pandemic were a time of professional growth. I honed my skills as a group fitness instructor, did some on-line continuing education (go TRX!), and broadened my knowledge of how to train on-line and be a better communicator. I returned to the gym feeling like a “real” trainer, on a par with my colleagues, as opposed to the new kid on the block. I had confidence in myself and my ability to make a positive difference with my clients.

Through it all, I had been thinking about branching out on my own. I had been actively looking at other job opportunities since the summer of 2019, but nothing promising appeared. I had set a 2-year mark for working at the JCC so that I would have a chunk of solid experience before setting my own course. By spring of 2020, I was in full planning stage. In June, I formed At Home Senior Fitness, LLC, with the State of Ohio and contacted SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) to get some mentoring and participate in a weekly webinar on starting a business. My mentors were excellent (Thanks Bob & Carlos!) and were very encouraging. They gave me the confidence to take the scary step of actually taking those first steps toward independence.

My goal was to be open for business by the High Holidays (September of 2020), but before then I required surgery on my bicep. That was not enjoyable, but since so many of my clients were virtual, it did not really set me back much. In mid-August, the website went live, the ads went in the Cleveland Jewish News and word spread via Facebook. My client list started small (2!), and now I am well into double-digits. I am training clients in Ohio, Connecticut, South Carolina, Florida, New York, British Columbia, and Israel. That’s right: I’m global!

2020 was a tough year. The pandemic. The economic fallout. The politics. The social separation. The silver lining was that this year allowed me to take an important step in my career.

What does 2021 look like? I’m still working on building my client portfolio and filling in my schedule, but I have far exceeded the projections that my mentors and I had set. I also know that a time will come when the pandemic will be under control (I pray) and that folks will want to go back to the gym. This will affect some of my clients and my business, but because of the demographic that I chiefly serve (55+) I am confident that many will stick with me or (if they are local) convert to in-person one-on-one training. I know that the world changes quickly so I will not be satisfied with a static business/marketing plan. I look forward to staying ahead of the curve and continuing to do what I set out to do: help older adults live more independently by improving their strength, balance, and mobility.

Here’s to a happy, prosperous, fit and HEALTHY 2021!!!

COVID-19 Silver Lining

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The current pandemic has been like a giant cloud hanging over the planet. No one quite knows when or if it will drift away. We don’t know where or how hard it will rain or storm. Even so, some have found silver linings in those clouds. For example, many older adults became proficient with technology that previously seemed too overwhelming. Others took the opportunity to make exercise and diet a priority. The aftermath of the killing of George Floyd has awakened in many a greater sensitivity to the suffering and injustice endured by those around them. People are trying to make sense out of all of this and find a positive along the way.

In Victor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, he argued that we cannot fully control what happens to us; there is a great deal of uncertainty and randomness in our world. What we can always strive to control is how we react to what happens. Even in places where it appears that we have very few choices (in his case, the Concentration Camps of the Holocaust of WWII), we can choose how to face adversity.

I have been thinking about the silver linings that have come out of this pandemic for me. There are more than a few for sure–some trivial and some more weighty. I had a chance to try making some baked goods; the dandelion rosemary shortbread was a win, the citrus carrot cake…not so much. I got to spend a lot more time with my wife–a big deal since we spent the first 10 years of our 12-year relationship living in different cities. I got to read some great books: In the Garden of Beasts, Unbroken, Letters to My Palestinian Friend, A Little Life; I got to watch some interesting movies and shows The Hunters, Citizen Kane, Pandemic.

The biggest win for me, was really upping my game in the realm of Personal Training. I got certified as a TRX coach (have been wanting to do that for 2 years). I completed a number of CEUs. I did personal research on a number of issues that my clients are facing. I learned how to use a new high-tech device that measures body fat in a sophisticated way that will help me guide my clients to live more healthfully. I started my own FB Group to do a daily online workout; I am hoping to restart that in some shape or form. I learned how to effectively train clients over Zoom. I created workouts day-in and day-out for clients who had no equipment at home at all–did you know that a couple of bottles of cabernet savignon are quite effective for doing Triceps Kickbacks?

I feel like I’ve had a chance to really “hone my craft,” and I look forward to using what I have learned to ensure that my clients see the results they want and deserve. I feel more confident about my skills. As someone relatively new to the Fitness Industry, I feel like I have “arrived.”

From a financial standpoint, having the JCC close just as my business was really beginning to build was a real setback. I did feel sorry for myself for a few days. Then I realized, I cannot control what this virus will do…what I can do is control what I want to do with the extra time I have available. I feel like I am coming out of the pandemic better than when I went in. I have found my silver lining. I hope we can all do the same.