MEET EUGENE THONG, TLT – Top Level Trainer talks about how he does it.
As a great man once said – “Let me see that THONG” –
Or in this case I wanted to talk to him: I’m referring to fellow trainer Eugene Thong. For every trainer out there who gets big-time media coverage, trains a roster of stars, or is selling a new workout machine, there are dozens who you may never hear about but that are making great livings in this business. We call them Top-Level Trainers, and Eugene’s one of them. I first found out about him when I came across his blog while doing research online late one night. I ended up spending the next 3 hours completely engrossed by his in-depth posts, probably more for my own fitness than my clients. You can find it at www.eugenization.com.
We’ll get into details about Eugene’s blog and his tips about blogging another time, for now I want to introduce him to everyone. I had a chance to speak to him recently and it just confirmed everything I already knew about him. I think his story from inadvertently getting started in fitness to becoming a $100 per hour trainer and branching out in the business is one everyone can relate to.
What makes Eugene a TLT? Overall, it’s this:
1. Practices what he preaches.
2. Places high value on arranging for free time.
3. Effectively uses the web to market and gain new clients.
4. Charges $100 per session, the right of passage for all top trainers.
5. Has achieved mastery as a Personal Trainer before moving on to other ventures.
Definitely not one of the overworked, underpaid health-club trainers; he’s got his head in the right place and really understands what being a trainer’s about. Here’s the transcript of our conversation –
In this issue of Super-Trainer I have an amazing guest from my home-town of New York City. His blog is mandatory reading for every Personal Trainer – you can find it at http://www.eugenization.com/ – I just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce everyone to the man behind the posts – welcome Eugene Thong!
Thanks Kaiser. Remind me to hire you as the emcee for my next seminar.
You’re too modest man. You’ve got one of strongest backgrounds as a trainer that anyone will find, with your degree in exercise science from Rutgers University, and tons of clinical experience. People get into Personal Training for many different reasons, but in your case it looks like you made your decision top become a top trainer a long time ago; when and how did you make this decision?
In the interest of being completely forthright – it was a decision that was made for me. My first post-graduation job as a staff physiologist at a corporate wellness center was being phased out, and I was offered continued employment as a trainer. It wasn’t a career move I relished, but looking back on it now, I’m glad it happened.
As far as to the decision to become a top trainer, I have this compulsion to succeed that’s been conditioned into me since I was a child. Having Chinese parents will do that to you.
Wow – I had no idea. It’s funny how almost every major trainer has a story like that.. I’m also curious about your first training experiences; you started your career with an upscale midtown health-club and with the Serious Strength franchise – how were your experiences in those settings?
I think it’s great for all trainers to spend at least some time in the trenches at a major health club, if for no other reason than to gain perspective on why you’d never want to work long-term for a major health club, and to get experience training people. As far as my experience goes, if I never go back to training people for $25 an hour, sales managers breathing down my neck telling me to get my monthly numbers up, that’d be perfectly ok with me. I’ve worked at three different health club chains, and each time was driven away by the same fundamental problem: pushy management that wasn’t content to have me make tons of money for them without following their rules. Either they weren’t willing to pay me enough or treat me, or others, with respect.
My experience at Serious Strength, now that’s a different story. It’s run very differently than a corporate place. It’s very mom-and-pop, but they do things with the utmost of professionalism and mutual respect for the trainers, the clients, everyone. It defines in my mind what a personal training studio should be all about: personalized attention to clientèle, professional, educated staff, and attention to the little things. If I were to suddenly lose my mind and decide to open up a personal training studio one day, I would do it the way they do it there.
Having seen the fitness industry from those two polar opposites makes me appreciate what a blessing it is to be in a profession with so much freedom, yet gives us the potential opportunity to make a huge impacts in people’s lives and to earn a handsome profit, besides.
I’m glad to hear you speak so positively about Serious Strength. I had no idea they were such a good facility. You still won’t catch me doing any of that super-slow training though. How are things different now with your independent training practice?
One great thing with not owning your own facility is that the only overhead I have is monthly rent to the owner of the facility I currently train out of. Of course, there’s the usuals with running a personal training business: insurance, certification dues, presents for clients…
The freedom you experience with being able to plan your own hours is great, but it’s not for everyone. You have to be disciplined. You have to be able to say, “I’m going to get xyz done today”, and do it, no matter what interruptions pop up, how tired you are from training, etc. Most people don’t have that kind of get-to-it-ness, or they aren’t self-starters. Both are important for success.
Probably the biggest growing pains came from figuring out how I was going to get clients without having a ready pool of potentials milling about. That was before I learned about marketing.
With your combination of knowledge, active competition, and obvious passion for fitness, being a Personal Trainer has got to feel kind of easy at times doesn’t it?
I really enjoy working with clients, even if they can get challenging sometimes. One of the great things about Personal Training is that it’s one of those careers where you can constantly push yourself to grow: there’s always more knowledge you can get, more ways you can be a better coach to your clients, etc. You can grow in so many different directions: create certification programs, start a membership site, do online or phone consultation, help design and run corporate facilities, give seminars…the list is endless.
Eugene’s career path matches mine, getting started with a corporate health-club and eventually striking out on my own. I’m sure it’s a jump many health-club trainers are looking to make, or a step that many trainers new to the industry are looking to avoid.
Stay tuned for part II of this interview where I talk to Eugene about the nuts and bolts of blogging. Again, his blog can be found at http://www.eugenization.com/.