It’s a common thread weaving through the stories of many of our trainers. Ask them how they started out in the health and fitness business, and often they’ll cut straight to the why instead.
“My journey to fitness inspired someone else.”
“A friend asked me to help them gain a little muscle, and they transformed their body.”
“I was so excited that my client/s were able to feel better about themselves as a result of advice I’d given them.”
“I can provide financial security for my loved ones and family and that feels great.”
“Providing for others is my greatest success.”
These powerful ‘why’s’ all have one thing in common. They each boil down to one driver — wanting to have a positive impact and change people’s lives. Their stories usually start with a trainer’s own physical transformation, and grow to a mindset change as well; where they recognize the whole health approach that fitness, discipline and purpose has brought to their life.
We thought we’d hear from one of the people behind these stories. Interviewed by MacroActive’s own Sarah Kelsey, she asks “How are you changing lives?”.
Based out of Queensland, Australia, Jackson Johnson is a certified coach and the man behind ‘JFIT Mind Body Strong’
My journey to this point with JFIT has taken some time. Where I’m at now, I’m focused on the whole fitness package with mental wellbeing support an important part of the equation.
Even at a young age, I was always saying to myself, ‘I’m meant for more than this.’
I grew up in a little country town where there wasn’t a lot of work — people would steer you to an electrical apprenticeship because it was the ‘safest’ option. So other people can put limitations on you before you’ve even begun.
Once I started doing my fitness certification on the Gold Coast, I realized that all the training advice and help I’d been offering friends and the local football team since I was a teen had given me a really good start. I’d been moving dumbbells and kettlebells around since I was 15.
As a personal trainer, I was working massive hours, yet limited by what I could charge at an hourly rate. After rent at the gym and tax, I might have been better working at McDonald’s. Other people were getting sick pay and had paid time off over Christmas. It was a tough way to make a living.
I was pushed into doing online coaching by my followers on Instagram, because I started growing an audience. That kind of just happened. I always had good images, and I would be ‘real’ with people. I would share what I was doing. So, people were commenting and messaging me all the time. People from all around the world started following me. They’d ask, “What do you eat?”, then “Can you do a meal plan for me?”
I did that for free a few times, before I realized, I needed to put a value on my time. Of course, in the beginning I was doing everything myself — pulling back on personal training to serve my online followers. I’d send people a payment pathway and do their program up. Then move onto the next thing, always chasing my tail. Maybe two days later I would get back to them, stressing about it, thinking about it, and losing sleep.
When my Instagram first started blowing up, I was young, I was making good money. I thought, “I’m basically famous, getting paid thousands to promote hair products, fitness clothes.”
I had a supplement company, one of the biggest brands in the U.S. sponsoring me. I was on this big high with the ego to match — at the time I guess I was ‘successful’ with a cool car and ten pairs of the very best shoes, but I wasn’t concentrating on my clients or why I was in the industry in the first place.
And then, I had an accident on my road bike. And this is what really changed everything for me.
I was 22, with a broken ankle and a busted knee. I ended up in a wheelchair when I was meant to be competing in the Australian championships for fitness modelling, WBFF.
I sat in that wheelchair for three more weeks. I couldn’t train properly. I couldn’t get dumbbells to do my own workouts. I had to get someone to drive me. So, it didn’t matter that I had a wardrobe of shoes and watches, I couldn’t even put those shoes on by myself.
Being helpless changed my perspective; it humbled me and changed everything in my direction. It also lit a fire underneath me. I was like, can I come back from this?
After my accident I started listening to self-development and mental health audio. I went from someone who didn’t even know what mental health was back then, to a clarity and focus on what matters. That’s why my coaching is called mind, body strong. There’s a whole mental capacity part of it.
I worked out what was really important — friends and family, my time, and my health. People love you when you’re popular and cool, but not everyone’s there for you when you’re struggling. I saw that over those few years of growing my Instagram massively, I had lost touch on what really matters and veered far from my purpose.
These days I run two Instagram pages, with what I call my ‘baby page’ about clients and fitness and coaching. It’s not the modelling and the products. And it brings me so much value. It’s that more personal touch where people aren’t afraid to message me because they think that because I’ve got thousands of followers, I won’t respond to their DM. So it’s a highly engaged, authentic, quality audience.
My other priority is to scale up at my own rate — I don’t have to have a ceiling on my business. I can go as small as I want or as big as I want. And I like knowing that if I do push down to only 50 or 40 active clients at a time, because I’m concentrating on something else, that my overheads aren’t going to go over the extreme top. It’s not like I own a gym. I put that money into a house deposit on some land instead.
Resetting my priorities has seen me reprioritize goals. My passion right now is to build enough success that I can finish my house, that I can have my own place to film my content; to look after my fiancé, and my mum if she ever needs it. It’s about allowing money to come in to help the people that matter in your life.
UPDATE: He’s finished the house!
(You can hear the full interview with Jackson on The Business of Fitness podcast)
These are two great stories from two clients who arrived at their purpose in completely different ways. But for me there are some clear take-aways here — some consistent themes that come up time and time again.
If you want to run a quick exercise, try this one I learned from the very gifted Nikki Nemerouf, a high-performance executive and athletic coach. He gets you to hone in on a single word that resonates most with you, with your definition of personal success (any word except the word ‘respect’). My interpretation of the exercise was your ‘why’-you-were-put-on-this-earth word.
My word is ‘helping’ — and I bet it’s similar with many others in the health and fitness world. I love my job helping trainers build successful businesses, so in turn, they can help other people.
Try it yourself. Focus, double down on that word, and find the industry that enables you to do that with your life. When you’re in the right place, it’s like swimming downstream.