Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Launching a nutrition coaching service at your gym really comes down to one question:

What do my clients need?

Over the last 30 years, personal trainers have sold nutrition coaching as part of their packages. Some of the best have even sold their services in eight-week blocks called “challenges” or something else. They did it this way because they realized their clients would adhere to a plan better if it had a firm endpoint. Their success didn’t start with the question “What can I sell?” or “What can I get away with charging?” but “What do my clients need?”

Your clients need nutrition coaching. But how much? And when?


Nutrition Challenges



Challenges get your clients excited. And more clients stick to a challenge than to a traditional “diet” because a nutrition challenge has a fixed endpoint. It’s easier for a client to say “I can hold off for one more week!” than “I can give up chips forever.”

Challenges can also teach clients good habits—even if it’s just paying attention to what they eat.

Most importantly, challenges do get some results. Counting macros, fasting intermittently or even giving up carbs—any one will help people lose weight. And if they need a bit of encouragement to keep going, fast results can provide it. Motivation precedes success.



Nutrition challenges usually don’t produce lasting changes or results. I can remember several “Paleo challenges” at Catalyst where clients “celebrated” their success by going out for wings and beer. And yes—I was with them.

Challenges can also potentially sabotage long-term results. Five years ago, when gyms frequently offered “nutrition challenges” to their members, many of their clients would wait for the next challenge instead of fixing their nutrition right away. In trying to help their members, the gyms ultimately undermined their services.


When to Use

Use a nutrition challenge when your nutrition service is new—or when your clients are.

New clients can kick off their memberships, get fast results and get excited about your service with a challenge.

And when you launch your nutrition service, a challenge is a good introductory way to get clients excited about it. Like any product launch, a big kickoff will help you get some momentum.

But if you want to get your clients results, every nutrition challenge should lead to ongoing nutrition appointments.


Ongoing Nutrition Appointments



Clients form long-term habits that lead to long-term success.

Clients can also be guided toward a sustainable, lasting program instead of a binge diet they can’t sustain forever.

Coaches can alter a client’s program when results slow down instead of waiting and praying for a client to ask for more help with his or her diet.



Accountability isn’t sexy for the client or the coach. Check-ins can become routine. And as the coach and client become friendlier, the client might figure out “what I can get away with” instead of what he or she needs to do to be successful.

Remember when everyone at your gym went Paleo? After the first two months, someone figured out how to make “Paleo brownies,” right? Well, it happens with every diet. But this is a tiny tradeoff: Keeping clients on a plan for two years will make a huge difference in their lives, while having them give up carbs for four weeks won’t.


When to Use


Whether you own a gym or take PT clients at Gold’s, your coaching practice requires you to stay in constant contact with your clients. The best way to do that is to sell hybrid memberships that include nutrition coaching and exercise coaching.


Other Media in This Series

Why You Need a Nutrition Program
Hybrids Are the New Normal
Mike Doehla: Why Nutrition Coaching Isn’t Always About Food

Why You Need a Nutrition Program

Why You Need a Nutrition Program

We sell fitness.

Fitness is achieved through optimization of exercise and nutrition.

Fitness cannot be optimized without the inclusion of both.

That’s why the best gyms in the world sell exercise and nutrition together.

Though this combo is still a new concept for many gym owners, personal trainers have successfully sold nutrition and training packages—or “hybrid” packages—together because a personal trainer’s name is the brand, and he or she knows clients won’t get results without nutrition coaching.

Somewhere along the line, gym owners got the idea that they were selling exercise classes or private workouts. I certainly fell into that camp. But mature owners understand that they’re really selling results, so they begin to sell nutrition coaching with their exercise coaching.

If you’re just adding a nutrition component to your coaching practice, that’s fine. In this series, I’ll tell you:

The differences between selling “challenges” and selling ongoing nutrition coaching.

How to sell “hybrid” packages including exercise and nutrition (and why hybrids are the “new normal”).

How to get people to follow your plan (on Two-Brain Radio with Mike Doehla of

How to get started, what to charge and what to offer.


Why Not Just Sell More Exercise?


Everyone sells group exercise.

Looking into your gym from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference between your fitness class and that cheap one at the YMCA.

Sorry, but it’s true: Your “free foundations” and “group on-ramp” courses are practically identical to the free versions offered by someone else. That means they’re subject to downward price pressure.

You really sell results. You provide coaching to get people results fast and with the least effort required. More exercise isn’t enough to get those results.

Listen to my conversation with Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit. His coaching practice always included nutrition and sometimes included “challenges.” It didn’t include upselling to “unlimited” memberships.


It’s Not What Your Clients Need


More and more clients seek our services for weight loss.

In the early days of personal training (25 years ago,) only elite athletes and Hollywood stars had “personal trainers.” When I started my career, having a personal trainer was still a status symbol.

But as HIIT group classes become a commodity, your clients need 1:1 attention. They need daily accountability. They need access to a coach more than they need three workouts a week.

You can still tailor a client’s experience if his or her membership is only for group classes. Following the Prescriptive Model, you can review a client’s goals and shift the client journey every quarter. But that journey has to include updates to a nutrition program. Clients won’t figure this out for themselves. And while they can find workouts for free on any app now, they can’t find coaching. I wrote more about this on


Nutrition Scales Faster


Nutrition coaching doesn’t require much space. It doesn’t require any equipment. And because most nutrition coaching is about accountability, you don’t need a degree to help people fix their diets.

(In these states, you do require a licensed registered dietitian to prescribe a diet. But you can work with an RD to do it—find a local one or work beneath the umbrella of a system like Healthy Steps.)

A nutrition practice can scale up quickly: Most gyms in Two-Brain immediately add $500-$2,000 in recurring monthly nutrition coaching revenue just by offering the service to current clients. And unlike adding 10 new exercise clients, these clients don’t require more space or equipment.

Finally, nutrition coaching has a high effective hourly rate for coaches because they can serve many nutrition clients in the same hour. While the coach should expect to answer questions at 9 p.m., he or she doesn’t have to stand in the gym and watch a client perform reps.

Adding a nutrition program to your gym is great for revenue. It’s a good potential position for a coach. And, most importantly, it helps your clients reach their goals.

Instead of trying to push more heads into your group classes, adding a nutrition component should be the top priority of every gym owner. Then, when you start marketing hard later, you’ll have more to sell—and more ways to help.


Other Media in This Series

Hybrids Are the New Normal
Mike Doehla: Why Nutrition Coaching Isn’t Always About Food
Nutrition Coaching: Challenges Vs. Appointments

Habits of Highly Successful Gyms: Delegation and Pricing

Habits of Highly Successful Gyms: Delegation and Pricing

Over the last several years, we’ve been tracking the best microgyms in the world. Their success led us to build the Two-Brain Roadmap. In this series, I’m sharing the six things they all have in common—The Six Habits of Highly Successful Gyms.

I’ll wrap this series up on Jan. 24 with a free webinar on the topic. You can register here (500 people max, and it filled last time).

In the previous installment, I wrote that the first two habits of highly successful gyms are Focus and Metrics. Today, we’ll focus on the next two habits: Delegation and Pricing.




What’s the difference between working in the business and working on the business?

Working in the business means coaching classes and mopping floors. Working on the business means hiring staff, marketing for growth and improving your operational excellence.

When you’re a coach, you should work hard to get better at coaching. But when you own a business, coaching is no longer your primary job.

The best gym owners in the world know that their jobs changed the moment they opened their own gyms. Now, some love coaching, and some actually have the goal to just coach all day. But all the best gym owners know that if they spend all their time coaching, their businesses will die.

The best gym owners focus their time on the things that will grow their businesses. To figure out where they should focus, they calculate their Effective Hourly Rate.

Calculate your daily wage (your monthly wage divided by 30 days). Then count up the hours you spend working. Do a time audit to determine where you spend them. Divide your daily wage by the hours you work in a day. That’s your Effective Hourly Rate.

For example:

$2,500 / 30 days  = $83.33 per day

$83.33 / 13 hours = $6.41 per hour (ouch)

Now, prepare to delegate the lowest-value roles on your schedule.

Group tasks together to make up the roles. You can download all the roles and tasks in your gym from our guide “Free Hiring Plan and Job Descriptions,” found here.

After you assign an hourly value to each role, hire someone to replace you in the cheapest one. Use that time to work on a higher-value role, like sales. We call this “climbing the value ladder,” and it’s part of the step-by-step process we mentor you through in our Incubator and Growth programs.




The best gyms in the world know what they’re worth and charge that amount.

Other gym owners “know they should charge more” or “know they’re worth more,” but they don’t know exactly what they’re worth and don’t charge anywhere near that amount. The weakest gyms charge what their owners think clients can afford to pay (they’re always wrong and they always guess low).

How do you set your prices?

Weak gym owners look to see what everyone around them is charging and then subtract $20.

They think, “This is what the market will bear!” and then justify that myth with stuff like “I’m in a poorer demographic.”

They tell themselves stories that cripple their businesses.

How should you set your prices?

Set your rates based on what you want to make.

Let’s say you want to make $100,000 on a business with a 33 percent profit margin.

You’re going to have to work to make that profit margin happen, but you can do it. On the next edition of Two-Brain Radio, Peter Brasovan and Jared Byczko will tell you how they did it in a gym with revenues over $1 million (it’s a great podcast episode).

Here’s the math:

We use the number 150 (Dunbar’s number) to make the math simpler.

What about discounts? Even for marketing purposes?

Discounts mean you’ll have to work harder for less money. And they don’t work anyway.

With discounts and sales, you’ll need more clients. That means more coaches, more space, more equipment. You’ll need to spend more time and money on marketing and more time and money on retention. You’ll have to closely monitor your churn rate. You’ll always be seeking the next big marketing idea instead of comfortably banking on a loyal audience. You’ll always be victim to underpaid coaches leaving, discount gyms luring clients away and people complaining about your programming.

It’s been proven over and over again—if you haven’t heard stories from gyms that were killed because of the discounts they offered, it’s because they’re gone.

When we post stories about gyms that charge $400-$1,000 per month for membership, many other gym owners don’t believe it’s possible. They comment on our social-media posts and deny the truth before them. But gym owners who have successfully implemented what they’re taught in our Incubator know the truth and live it. They follow the six habits and see why the top gyms in the world are so successful.

Want a mentor? Click here to book your call and get started. 

Spoiler alert: Every one of the top microgym owners in the world has a business mentor.


Other Media in This Series

The Six Habits of Highly Profitable Gyms
Habits of Highly Successful Gyms: Focus and Metrics
Two-Brain Radio: The $1 Million Gym Built by Two Guys Who Once Rationed Paper Towels

How to Help Your Clients Win

How to Help Your Clients Win

Only you can put your clients on a podium.

Their bosses aren’t writing their names on the wall after a good week in the office.

Their kids aren’t giving them a round of applause after they mow the lawn.

No one else is celebrating them.

You have a daily opportunity to delight your clients. Not just to deliver a good class with individual scaling and cheerleading. Those are the basics. The best gyms put their clients on a podium.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Find opportunities for “podiums” within your scheduled workouts.

For example, in the workout Jackie, there are at least four opportunities to do something they’ve never done before:

A. Row 1,000 m faster than ever before.
B. Do 50 unbroken thrusters.
C. Do 30 unbroken pull-ups
D. Finish the workout in a PR time.

And I’m sure you already see more opportunities, right?

2. Before the workout, ask each client which podium they’ll aim for (or their personal goal in the workout).

3. Coach the client toward that goal when the workout begins.

4. When he or she hits the mark, write the goal on a small whiteboard and take a creative picture of the person holding it up and smiling. Stand the member on a plyo box with a small whiteboard listing PRs and use the #podium hashtag.

5. Post on your Facebook business page and your personal page. Tag the athlete. Make sure the post is “public” so the person’s friends can see it.

You’re probably already taking pictures of your clients during workouts, right? Uploading and tagging them? That’s not new to anyone. But context matters: a sweaty heap of Henrietta on the floor isn’t as appealing as a beaming Henny, standing on a plyo box, holding a banner that reads, “I DID IT!!!”


This is also helpful to your gym in other ways:

1. It gets your coaches thinking about celebrating success and delighting your clients.

2. It teaches the habit of internalizing small wins.

3. It presents a new way to approach old workouts.

4. It puts small wins in context (“the growth mindset”).

5. It allows for mucho celebration. If you’re using SugarWOD, the fist-bumps will fly.



1. Review your programming with coaches a week before. What are the best opportunities for podiums?

2. Get 10-15 small whiteboards and a lot of whiteboard markers.

3. Allow two minutes at the end of class for podium celebrations, pictures and hashtag time.

4. Post one picture from each class to Instagram; auto-feed to Facebook.

5. Create a Facebook album on your page for the other photos.

6. Tag every person in every picture.

7. Host a Podium Party every quarter.

8. Smile.

Our business isn’t “based on service.” It is service. The best way to service your clients is to show them the path to success … and help them celebrate when they get there.

Your best programming doesn’t matter nearly as much as celebrating success does.

When your clients celebrate success, they’re more likely to internalize joy and gratitude. That is the definition of delight.

Put them on a podium.


Other Media in This Series

How to Delight Your Clients
Delighting Your Clients: Giftology
What Jason Ackerman Learned From 10,000 Hours of Coaching
How to Delight Your Clients Online

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

How to Change Your Clients’ Behavior

Humans do things for a reason.

You can’t improve a person’s health until you change his or her behavior. This includes your clients, your coaches and yourself.

The process I’m about to teach you is the result of all the current research on behavioral change. It’s the sum of two decades’ worth of study in changing behavior and making people healthy. It’s so important that I co-founded Two-Brain Coaching to help coaches learn the things that really change lives.

Everyone teaches cues and corrections; no one teaches how to change behavior—until now. It’s a fundamental part of our courses at Two-Brain Coaching.


8 Steps to Behavior Change


As I’ve said earlier in this series, behavioral change has to come before motivation, before adoption of a new fitness program and before adherence. Retention—keeping a client long term—is the result of mastering behavioral change. It’s a lagging metric, not a leading metric.

Here’s how to do it, step by step:

1. Start with a clear picture of success. No one joins a gym for the sake of joining. Ask every client—in a sit-down, 1:1 conversation—what his or her goals are.

2. After you get a clear goal, ask “Why?” until you get to the root motivation. You need to know what the elephant likes to eat, so to speak. In this analogy, the elephant is the client’s emotional mind, and the rider atop the elephant is the client’s rational mind.

3. Show the client your plan to get him or her to the goal. We call this the “prescriptive model.” If you read the previous post in this series, you can call it “informing the rider” atop the elephant.

4. Provide a 20 percent bonus. Show the client what he or she is already doing right. It’s easier to modify an existing behavior than to start a new one. I wrote about “head starts” in “Two-Brain Business” and “Help First.” It’s important to show people they’re already a little bit successful.

5. Find Bright Spots. Motivation requires success, not the other way around. Highlight wins early. Celebrate them. Make this a priority for your coaches.

6. Put clients on podiums. A podium is a victory over a previous best. It’s also a chance to step up and move to a higher degree of challenge. And it’s the best marketing you can do. Make your clients famous. Tell their stories.

7. Ask for the next goal. This is the step most coaches miss.

8. Repeat.

The fitness industry is changing. Selling the same thing to everyone means selling a commodity. But no one can compete with personalized delivery. Even if your gym sells only group programming, your program must be delivered in an individual way.

Gym owners in our Incubator program build out their Client Journey step by step. They plan every interaction with their clients in advance. They keep clients longer. They don’t sell memberships; they sell change. And they can make this righteous claim because they understand behavior.

In the next installment in this series, I’ll talk with Ty Krueger of Behavior Change Collective and Packerland CrossFit on Two-Brain Radio. He’ll give you some real-world examples of behavior change in action.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

Changing Behavior: The Elephant and the Rider

I will never be the cheapest gym in town.

I will not spend $100,000 on equipment every year. I will not provide 24-hour keycard access. I will not provide towels or run a juice bar.

I sell coaching. Coaching is more than teaching, more than cheerleading, more than dictating. I don’t merely provide access to equipment; I deliver people from their current state to their goals.

Reaching their goals requires hard work. But before hard work comes motivation, and before motivation comes behavioral change. I can’t out-yell a bad lifestyle.

No goal is motivational enough to pull a client past every temptation, every late-night craving, every moment of weakness. None. The knowledge that “this is bad for me” won’t overcome “I want this right now” without practice.

That’s because logic doesn’t drive our behavior; emotion does.


Riders on the Storm?


Picture an elephant with a rider sitting on its back.

The rider is your client’s rational mind: the logical thinker, the planner.

The elephant is the client’s emotional mind: the irrational, easily distracted thinker driven by urgency and whim.

The rider sits on top of the elephant. It’s how our brains have evolved.

But the driver only thinks he or she is controlling the elephant.

The rider can see the road ahead. The rider can consult the map. The rider can plot a course. But in the end, if the elephant wants to stop to eat, it will stop. If the elephant turns around and heads in the other direction, the rider can’t really force it back on course. All the kicking, prodding and even whipping won’t force an elephant to turn around.

To keep our clients on track, we have to understand how to inform the rider and how to motivate the elephant.

What really motivates the elephant?

Fire. Mice. Immediate threats. Things that are urgent, not necessarily things that are important.

Luckily, elephants are trainable. The best way to keep an elephant from crashing off course is train it to stay on the path.

It’s not hard to train the rider: Just tell the person exactly what to do and why.

Training the elephant part of the brain is more difficult. In the next article in this series, I’m going to share our step-by-step process for training an elephant.

People do things for a reason. That reason is rarely logical. Most even know what they “should” do. My job is to make them want to do it for the rest of their lives.


Other Media in This Series

How to Change Your Clients’ Lives
How to Change Your Client’s Behavior
Behavior Change: How to Turn New Year’s Resolutions Into Long-Term Success
What’s Holding You Back?