Saturday, January 5, 2008

An Interview for Trainers

Here is an interview I did a little over a year ago with Keith Suthammanont. As you can see, my philosophy remains the same. Enjoy

14 March 2007 by Keith Suthammanont

From Keith: Ok, so if you’re a consistent reader of my blog, you already know who John Izzo is from my previous post about John’s eBook Secrets of Personal Training. If you don’t know who John is, here’s a brief bio:“John Izzo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health Promotion specializing in Community Nutrition. He holds multiple certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), National Endurance Sports Trainers Association (NESTA), American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), Schwinn Cycling, and APEX Training Systems.”To read more about John go to

Anyway, on to the interview.

KS: Hey John, how’s it going? I want to first thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this.

JI: Hey Keith. Thanks for this opportunity.

KS: As some of my readers know, from the review I did of your e-Book (Secret Skills of Personal Training), you know a thing or two about what it’s like to get started in this business. For someone who was a manager and was in charge of hiring trainers, what did you look for in the interview? What kinds of qualities were you looking for?

JI: Where I am right now in my career, I feel I am in an advantageous position to help trainers. In my experience, I have sat across the interview table and listened to a boss explain the business to me and he/she has never gotten up at 6am to train Ms. Wilson, or stretched a sweaty Mr. Wilks, or had trained 8 clients in a row without sitting for a meal. They talk the numbers game and “vision” of the club, but they don’t understand the complexities of a trainer’s job. Luckily now, when I sit and talk to a trainer, they realize that I do know what they have experienced and what they will experience in the club setting. Usually the interview process is a conversation I have. If the candidate and I have a great conversation off the bat, I barely look at the resume. Typically, I review the resume before the actual interview and bring it along. If the conversation between us sucks, then I refer to the resume A LOT. If I don’t, you are doing well. There will be questions regarding experience, passion, and education—but I am looking for the “why’s”.

Why did you become a trainer?

Why do you want to help people?

Why do you workout?

Finding out what the least common dominator is of a candidate is my mission during this conversation process. When I “feel” their passion, then their physique, certs, and education become secondary. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t hire incompetent enthusiasts either. If you are happy go lucky and want to save the world, but don’t know how to spot someone on a squat or dumbbell press, you are 3 feet away from my door.

KS: Let’s stick to the interviewing process. I’ve seen people come dressed up to interviews in both jeans and a t-shirt or slacks and a dress shirt and tie. As a manager what were your thoughts on both sets of people. Did you feel the guy in the dress shirt and tie was more professional?

JI: Real simple. I always classify people (mainly trainers) that walk into a gym in slacks and a tie as persons looking at the long-term. Jeans and a t-shirt walk-ins don’t understand that personal training is a commitment to others and virtually apply for the “vanity” of being called a “trainer” or showing people how to exercise. Not that I mind if they come in dressed in jeans, but the interview process better be a good one (meaning good personality backed by willingness to learn). Those that come dressed-up understand (I assume) that personal training is a profession and should be treated like so. You wanna come in with a shirt 2 sizes too small and show off your arm band tattoo, then you better go to Walmart and buy a clipboard with a calculator built in, because that is what your career will be—a clipboard, rep-counting trainer with a fake tan. I am looking for coaches!

KS: What do you think makes someone a ‘successful’ trainer? There has been a recent debate on the JPFitness Forums about whether someone who can sell a “package” is simply confidant in their product or a good salesperson. What are your thoughts? (Reader’s Note: Successful is not being defined here as making the most money. Some trainers may be able to sell sessions, but not get a client the results they’re looking for.)

JI: A successful trainer is one that can get renewals. We all know that the benefits of exercise are cumulative and the success rates of clients are higher when they stick with their trainer. So, I want trainers that can get their clients to their goals realistically and take them beyond what they originally expected. When I first started out, I was often surprised when a client would renew with me at the end of our session package. Heck, I messed up my first year’s worth of clients. But when I began to understand exercise programming, biomechanics, and nutrition—clients were getting results and wanting to throw down another $500! And when we reached their goal of 25 pound fat loss—we went more. And when that goal was reached, we set the goal of a higher step jump. And when that goal was reached, we set one for a 235 bench. It is an amazing feeling to take people beyond what they “think” they can do. And the only way to do that is to continuously influence, instruct, inspire them over a period of time. That is a successful trainer.

KS: I know you are currently working on a couple different things, which some readers may be interested in; would you care to explain your website and products?

JI: I finished an interview with along with Eric Cressey, Tony G, and John Paul Catazano. I also completed working with Virgil Aponte on a Jump Experts training program and I am in the process of filming my next DVD, "Eye of the Trainer”, to be released in the spring. My business, Athletic Performance Applied Resistance Training (APART) was a term I coined when I was training in commercial facilities to differentiate myself from the other trainers who were still stuck in the 3 sets of 10 zone, or machine based express line. I took my experience as an athlete and began training (and treating) my clients like athletes. Our exercise programs mimicked movement patterns usually seen in athletes and I was turning moms into machines, dads into dominators, and kids into jets. Then in 2005, I began, (now called which has grown tremendously in membership and packed with info-laced articles. The Roundtable is a group of awesome, smart fitness professionals that are willing to take the time to answer some pretty tough questions and offer insight for the readers, whether they are trainer, coaches, or workout enthusiasts. It’s a great group, and I am very fortunate to have their time and respect. I have some great contributors and colleagues that understand the mission and are passionate enough to dedicate time and effort into it. My DVD’s are not a bunch of exercise programs for people to “memorize” or “copy”. They are lectures that “teach” and demonstrate exercise concepts, rather than market a hot, new exercise program.

KS: John, thanks for your time.

JI: Thanks Keith for this. This was fun and I hope the best for you in your training career.


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