Kyle Maslen is a successful personal trainer to CEOs and bankers in Canary Wharf. In this interview he shares his business strategies for succeeding in an aggressive market
How long have you been a personal trainer for?
Four years this September.
How did you get into it?
Before I was plumbing. I hated it. I did it for six years and I was looking for an out. I just wasn’t mentally stimulated. I joined up to LA Fitness in West India Quay as a member and got chatting to some of the PT’s. At the time I didn’t even know personal training was a career. As I was always training I thought why don’t I do something involving fitness. I did a little bit of research and I had some money left over after buying my flat so I invested it in a personal training course.
I was a member of LA Fitness for about a year, I got to know people and so was in a way plotting my attack. And one day I just turned up in a PT uniform. I loved it and I still love it. It’s my passion.
So you came to London to be a trainer, why didn’t you stay in the countryside?
Living in Hampshire, personal trainers don’t exist. There are coaches, but people aren’t paying money to be taught how to train. You come to London and it’s a career. It’s getting more popular outside of the city but you are only going to be probably charging £20 a session. In the city people have got more disposable income, therefore it is easier to sustain a large client base. There are more connections, more opportunities, more aspirations to do bigger and better things.
What are the qualifications required to be a personal trainer?
You just need a REPS level 2 and 3 qualification. Which you can get in six weeks, six months or you can do it in a year. You can do a sports science degree and get a first in it but then you still need to do a REPS level 2 and 3.
What is REPs?
It’s the register of exercise professionals. Level 2 is a coach role, level 3 is a fitness coach role. Most trainers will have to have that to work on the gym floor and then level three is your personal training. REPS 3 goes into a bit more about nutrition and exercise programs and the practical side of things.
And how much does that cost?
Anywhere from between £1500 to £4,000 depending on who you do it with. Some of the top companies like Premier charge for the intense course £3,500.
Is it classroom based or can you do it online?
You do six practical weekends in a gym or in a classroom and then the rest is online learning.
Are you taught client skills on the courses?
No, you are not taught people skills. You are either a peoples person or you are not. I have seen people on courses that are some of the shyest people and I just think you have really got no chance. You are not going to be able to go up to a random person and approach them, especially as a lot of the time they are going to say get out of my face, and that is quite disheartening to even a confident person.
I’m surprised that you don’t need a degree. Would it be beneficial?
Most of the learning you do is on the job learning anyway as it is with most things. I know so many guys and girls that are qualified up to the eyeballs but they can’t personal train, their people skills don’t exist so they can’t be on a personal level with anyone. There are trainers that have MBE’s and teaching qualifications but they can’t connect on a personal level with a new client. It is ‘personal’ training after all. You need to be on a personal level with your clients and if they can’t relate to you they are not going to enjoy coming to your sessions.
Which REPs course provider would you advise going with?
I would recommend ‘The Training Room’ as it’s who i did mine with and I rated them highly.
What is the LA Fitness business model?
At LA fitness you pay just over a thousand pounds a month rent and that gets split between LA Fitness and a company called Club Training. The first six weeks are free, so you have to use that time to source your own clients from the members. If you haven’t got the client base you are going to be losing money, so you either throw in the towel or if you have got a bit of money to back you up you can carry on. Once you have got 10 set clients or sessions a week, then you can build to 20 and then 30 in a gym like West India Quay.
You need to be talking to people all the time and then only when you have got a nice client base will your referrals start coming in. 30 sessions a week is a good number. Any sort of successful trainer should be doing about 30 sessions a week.
So what happened after LA Fitness?
I was poached to come and work with Sweat with four other trainers and the system was the same, a thousand pounds a month rent but now because I had an established client base, I relied upon my referrals to join me. There is no members, there is no footfall, and there is no members so if you can’t rely on your clients to give you referrals you won’t succeed in the studio.
Is canary wharf the best place to be?
I think so, I was given an option of where I wanted to work and one of them was south Kensington and one of them was the city and one was canary wharf just because it is a pretty affluent area, there are people with a lot of money here and at the end of the day if you are going to personal train and charge x amount of money, people have got to be able to afford it. There is no point of going and training out of London because you are only going to get like
Do you ever train people outside the gym?
No. The round trip takes too much time to get to them.
How hard then is it to get referrals in a gym like that (which has no walk-ins)?
I mean just for arguments sake this Tuesday I had five referrals so five new clients, combined, probably ten sessions a week.
What is Sweat?
Sweat is essentially a private personal training studio where freelance trainers can train their clients and it offers small group training as a membership system. Small group training is a rig and it has 8 work stations around it. It is basically high intensity circuit training. You spend forty seconds on each station and then you change round. So they have a membership system for that costing between £100 and £140. And then we do freelance personal training as well.
Why do you prefer Sweat to LA fitness then?
It’s quieter. So no arguments to get on equipment. It’s more personal, I get a bit more freedom and there’s not really any rules. I can put programs together and not have to improvise every time because I can’t get to the dumbbells. In LA fitness after five o’clock I had to turn down anyone that wanted to build muscle because I couldn’t get up in the weight area. So it was only fat burning clients I could do in the evening.
I also had to get out because it was such an unprofessional environment. I love training and I actually give a shit, I actually care about the client and I really want them to get results. I want to help them I want to educate them, I am not in it for the money. The money helps pay the bills but essentially I am in it to help people and that’s it.
So it is worth the sacrifice that you don’t have walk-ins?
For me when I first started in Sweat I had more referrals in the first three months than I did in the whole last year I was in LA fitness, just because people were involved in something new.
If you bring a referral to Sweat do they then have to pay you and Sweat individually?
They just have to pay me, there is no membership fee.
Do you need a particular qualification to teach certain workout?
Plenty of people wing it. But to do it safely if you were to do kettlebells with someone and they were to injure themselves and then said ‘I did kettlebells with him’ (pointing at me). They could then take me to court and I’d be asked, ‘where is your qualification’, ‘I haven’t got one’, there you go. It is an insurance thing at the end of the day, and obviously you need to be educated, and your clients need to be safe.
What else would someone need to become a personal trainer?
I’m a limited company which I set up as soon as I started earning over a certain amount of money. It is beneficial tax wise and national insurance wise to set up as a limited company.
Do you need insurance?
Yes. I work out of a studio now where it’s not covered so I have got public liability insurance whereas in LA fitness you get covered by that from Club Training. But yeah I have got to be insured up to 2 million pounds.
How many ‘extra courses’ have you invested in?
‘Precision Nutrition’, ‘TRX’, ‘ViPR’, ‘Watt bike’, ‘Power plate’, ‘OMNIA’ and i would highly recommend the Precision Nutrition course to any fitness professional who wants to take their PT business to the next level.
Do you have be a member of REPs?
You don’t have to be but you can. But it is good to be registered with them as if you learn a new skill, e.g. TRK, you will earn a certain amount of reps points. It’s the same for kettlebells, nutrition course etc. And it’s available for the public to see.
How do you market yourself if you get no walk-ins?
I do a lot of external marketing and I am involved with a lot of the banks around here offering them corporate rates. It is about being imaginative and creative. Too many trainers just expect clients to come to them.You’ve got to be business savvy.
What makes a good personal trainer?
Personality, passion, drive. Drive I think is the main thing. my drive was I didn’t want to ever do what I was doing before and I was so driven not to go back there I then became passionate about it and my passion made me good at what I’m doing. Luckily I’ve also got people skills and I am very quick at adapting to different personalities, so therefore it becomes very easy to switch from talking to a young student, to talking to the managing director of Barclays. You need to relate to them, they need to feel happy and confident with you.
Are you passionate about what you do?
Of course. Every time we do a weigh in and someone gets those results they want (to see body fat come down, or muscle mass come up) they’re happy and that makes me happy.
Do you tailor your workout for your clients?
There is no generic program for everybody, you need to find out what their goals are and what their needs are, if they have got any injuries, if they have got any special requirements etc. I always use a fitness test with a client as part of the first session, or a strength test, a postural analysis, and a nutritional analysis, and then based on that I will put together their plan.
Cool do you practise what you preach, nutrition exercise?
I have never trained in my life (haha). Of course I do, for example I’ve just finished a bulk session. I will always take before and after photos so I can show my clients that this works. This is the formula you need to follow and if I can do it and I can put the hours in anybody can.
Any tips for sourcing clients?
When we started Sweat we had clients wearing our branded t-shirts which they wore around the different gyms. It was a bit of a cult and it was pretty awesome.
Any other tips that you would give?
Give some fliers to your clients advertising an offer, business cards, Facebook, social media, Twitter, get all your clients on LinkedIn. Make sure every potential client that works around here you connect with, then write an offer for them. They then see it, and if they share it, it goes out to all their work colleagues. Social media is the most effective form of free marketing but the most important thing is referrals. People that don’t get referrals don’t get results, simple as that.
How did you get on with flyers?
Flyers are okay, I printed a thousand flyers and got 10 people come back to me, and maybe five of them actually signed up, so they are not the most effective way.
Do you attend networking events?
I have been to a couple of networking events and they were not very successful in terms of, we weren’t getting the leads we wanted. Canary Wharf is very bank orientated I think people are networking for different reasons than to find personal trainers.
Do you network with other health professionals like a physios a chiropractors?
Yes, Karen is my local physio and sports masseur. I have connections with osteopaths and so yes, I have got people I send clients to if I need to.
And then do you get a cut?
No, it’s just as a favour.
What is the career ladder like in personal training?
It depends how entrepreneurial you are. You can do further education, you can get into teaching you can get into doing seminars, or you know you can get into opening up your own studio, or you can open up another fitness related business.
When you hit client saturation then what happens?
You employ trainers to work for you. For example I have two new trainers which I am now sourcing clients for. And I will take a cut. Obviously that will be an ongoing thing. You need to have trainers that you trust, that you can vouch for and who can deliver the same service as yourself. Trust isn’t enough though, you need contracts for these sort of business agreements.
How much do Personal Trainers get paid?
It’s all supply and demand. In LA Fitness I was charging £45 and I was doing 40 to 45 sessions a week. I was working long hours and I thought this is too much so I upped my rate to £60 thinking that I’m going to do less sessions. I didn’t! I ended up doing more sessions because people saw that I was charging £60. I now charge £70 and you have to because you just burn out after a while.
So what does your day look like? What time do you get up what time do you go to bed?
I am here from 7.30am. I train clients until 3pm, workout myself and eat between 3pm and 5pm. I then start again and train clients until 8pm. On Friday I normally I knock off at 2pm just to do all my admin. I don’t work weekends. They’re long days but now they’re just part of my routine.
Which are your busiest months?
Jan and Feb for personal trainers are the busiest two months of the year.
Tell me about your brand (Team Dyle).
It took us a while to get it right, it is about being creative and standing out. We had an idea about what we wanted and we got a graphic designer from People Per Hour. It cost about £50. We went back and forth on the drawing table until we were happy with the logo which ended up being a female arm and a masculine arm with some dumbbells in the middle with neutral colours so it appealed to guys and girls. It seemed to be very successful.
And your website?
We used Ipage, it was really easy. I think it costs £18 a year.
No you have an accountant?
Yes. but to be honest with you I do do my own accounts. I make sure I know what I am earning and what is going out and he just finalises everything for me. I am quite organised, everything is in excel. I keep all my receipts so I know roughly what I am going to be paying.
How do you take payments?
To start with everything was cash, but not any more. Everybody else pays blocks via bank transfers.
Do you give them receipt or invoices?
If they need an invoice then yeah, because some people put it through as tax deductible.
Do you notice workout trends?
I think classes like insanity are getting quite popular and lots of people know more about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).
How’s the distribution going?
We actually contacted a company direct based up in Newcastle called H2N Nutrition via a friend that did the branding. As we send most of our clients to Holland & Barrett all the time to get all their protein and multi vitamins, we asked H2N if we could be their Southern England distributors. After about two hours of negotiations about price we came to an agreement, and we drove back down to London with about four grand of product! It is all about buy-it-at-trade cost and sell it at RRP and that’s it (no complicated pyramid schemes).
So what is your five year plan? Where do you go from here? What can you talk about?
My plan is to outsource any new clients to my trainers that I have been mentoring. So I have been mentoring these guys for over a year now and one is starting on Monday and the other one is starting in the summer so it gives him enough time to get settled and then the other guy comes in. It is basically just about getting an umbrella now of three or four trainers underneath me working on a system where I give them their clients. As demand is getting bigger and bigger and I just can’t fit them in, and so instead of giving them away, I mights as well get them to train with someone that I trust. The hardest part about personal training if you are starting out is getting clients. I wish I had someone giving me clients when I first started out. If I had someone going ‘right here is 10 clients for you’ I would be like thank you, even if they were paying £15 a session.
What does your mentoring sessions consist of?
I happily give up my time to meet up with these guys once a month just to go through several things; programs, how to approach clients, how to sell to clients, how to externally market and how to set up all of your social media and your marketing.
So for example when I met with them today I emphasised how the first 6 weeks of personal training are the most crucial; walking the floor, what to do when you first start, because I remember when I first started I was completely thrown in at the deep end no one there to help me. Things like; tell-tale signs that someone could be interested in personal training, who to approach, who not to approach, PT put-offs, different types of approach, how to put together a portfolio, educating them about nutrition, education, supplements, time management (crucial) and then the whole consultation process. So what the consultation entails. Then there is the half an hour fitness and strength test, the ending half an hour consultation, as well as the final sell.
I also make sure they know their stuff with nutrition, as fitness is 70 percent nutrition and 30 percent training (a lot of trainers don’t know nutrition). And then finally you have got closing which is obviously what most people find hard which is the final close of the sale.
You also need to show them what sort of level of complexity you are going to go into in the future with their training plan (6-8 weeks) just so they know where they are heading towards.
Weight Training Case Study: Bulking
Can you give an example of a basic bulking routine.
Start with back to basics, practice with compound movements first and getting techniques right like squatting, lunging, bench pressing. It all depends on your competency and how confident you are with lifting.
Some people want to build but they have never lifted in their life. If you gave them the 3kg dumbbell and they can’t even bench press it because their limbs are so weak, you need to get them back on machines. Machines only involve one movement, whereas dumbbells are for the more advanced trainer because they require more core strength for stabilisation.
I’d then split the routine into three workouts, two body part splits, so we might do chest and back, arms and shoulders, legs and core.
Once I can see the client is confident then we can move onto certain styles of volume training, so perhaps four to five exercises per body part so by the time you have done a set you have done 48 reps on the chest. And that puts deep tears in the muscle fibre which allows more room for growth.
The body adapts very quickly to any changes that you make, so it realises very quickly that you are still doing the same program. So it’s always good to change the routine every six weeks so you are constantly shocking the body.
Nutrition is key, if you want to bulk you have got to be eating carbohydrates at the right time, proteins all day and fats at the right time as well that is what it is all. Clean bulking is about routine timing.
Phase 1: Chest & Back (Super Sets)
A-1 Decline Dumbbell Press: 10 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 4-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 Close Grip Pull Ups: 10 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 4-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 Incline Dumbbell Flies: 3 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 3-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 3-0-2-0. (60 secs rest). Video
Phase 1: Arms & Shoulders (Super Sets)
A-1 Tricep Dips: 10 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 4-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 Incline hammer curls: 10 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 4-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 3 sets x 12 reps. Tempo 2-0-X-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 3 sets x 12 reps. Tempo 2-0-X-0. (60 secs rest). Video
Phase 1: Legs & Core (Super Sets)
A-1 Back Squats (quads): 10 sets x 10 reps. Tempo 4-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 Leg curl (hamstring): 10 sets x 10 reps. 4-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 Low-Cable Pull-Ins: 3 sets x 15-20 reps. Tempo 2-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 Seated Calf Raises: 3 sets x 15-20 reps. Tempo 2-0-2-0. (60 secs rest). Video
Opposite hand/toe touches: 3 sets x 20 reps. (No interval rest). Video
Leg raised crunches: 3 sets x 20 reps. (No interval rest). Video
Right angle knee raises: 3 sets x 20 reps. (No interval rest).
Oblique crunches-R: 3 sets x 20 reps. (No interval rest). Video
Oblique crunches-L: 3 sets x 20 reps. (90 secs interval rest). Video
Phase 2: Chest & Back (Super Sets)
A-1 Incline Dumbbell Press: 10 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 5-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 Wide Grip Pull-ups: 10 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 5-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 Dumbbell Flies: 4 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 3-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 Bent over BB row: 4 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 3-0-2-0. (60 secs rest). Video
Phase 2: Arms & Shoulders (Super Sets)
A-1 Close grip bench press: 10 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 5-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 EZ bar curls: 10 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 5-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 DB lateral raises: 4 sets x 12-15 reps. Tempo 3-0-X-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 Bent over reverse lateral raises: 4 sets x 12-15 reps. Tempo 3-0-X-0. (60 secs rest). Video
Phase 2: Core
A-1 Deadlifts: 10 sets x 8 reps. Tempo 5-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
A-2 Leg curl (hamstring): 10 sets x 8 reps. 5-0-2-0. (90 secs interval rest). Video
B-1 Twisting crunches: 4 sets x 20 reps. Tempo 3-0-2-0. (No interval rest). Video
B-2 Standing Calf Raises: 4 sets x 12-15 reps. Tempo 3-0–20. (60 secs rest). Video
For your macro nutrient breakdown, multiply your body weight in pounds by 20.
Example: 154 lb x 20 = 3080
3080 is your total calorie requirements per day.
To calculate your requirements per macro nutrient, multiply by the following:
Protein: 0.25 x 3080 = 770 calories
Carbohydrates: 0.55 x 3080 = 1694 calories
Fat: 02. x 3080 = 616 calories
Now to work out how this translates to grams, divide by the following:
Protein: 770 / 4 = 192 grams
Carbohydrates: 1694 / 4 = 423 grams
Fat: 616 / 9 = 68 grams