There are not many fitness presenters that give you goose bumps and make you want to run out of the workshop screaming in the streets yelling “I am ready to TRAIN!” Eric Beard is a Bostonian fitness educator that likes to mix humor with empathy, passion, and precision point knowledge of anatomy to his clients, his presentations, and his growing online following. As one of the National Academy of Sports Medicine’s (NASM) elite educators, Eric has the ability to “get through” to trainers and break down complex materials so that the learning process is fluid and effective. I had a chance to ask Eric a few questions about his take on assessments, fitness tools for trainers, and his current expanding presence online.
JOHN: I have been a fan of not only your extreme knowledge as a corrective exercise specialist, but also your enthusiasm, drive, and passion. I've really caught on to your videos and your expertise through the Internet. Listening to you, you remind me alot of another great professional--JC Santana. Can you tell me and my readers how you got involved with fitness training and later, as a teaching professional for the National Academy of Sports Medicine?
Eric: Hi John, thank you for interviewing me. I am a mutual fan of the great work you are doing in the industry. Thank you for the compliment about reminding you of Juan Carlos Santana. He has made quite a name for himself. I have enjoyed hearing him speak on several occasions and admire his entrepreneurial spirit.
How did I get into the industry? Well….there is the long story and the short story. Maybe you should warn your readers or give them a choice of versionsJ Although I played sports growing up, I found myself spending too much time sneaking Oreo cookies from the pantry an weighed over 200 pounds by the time 8th grade rolled around (no pun intended). 211 I believe was the exact number when we had to weigh ourselves in health class. After wearing out the inner thighs on my corduroys the first year of high school (that’s right ladies…corduroys…but I am married now) I started playing football and lifting weights. I showed up for the start of my junior year (unbeknownst to me) with muscles and a physique! A pretty girl with too much make up and hair spray felt my arm and told me she liked my muscles…I was hooked!
Fast forward to playing football and hockey a Springfield College along with a host of injuries (separated shoulders, broken bone in my neck and some tore up ankles and so on). I enjoyed working out but by the end of my first senior year (yes there were two) I couldn’t even lift anymore b/c my shoulders were so bad. I had done some work at the college’s fitness facility as a trainer, but wanted to learn more about rehabilitating and preventing injuries. My major was Rehabilitation Services and I concentrated in medical therapeutic rehabilitation. I was lucky enough to intern with some physical therapists and a chiropractor and see the benefits of manual therapy first hand. I was even given a gift certificate for a massage at the end of my second senior year and I felt like I could stand up straight and move like I had never moved before! I also had an adjustment from another chiropractor that treated the areas above and below the break in my C7 and it felt so good I cried tears of joy in my car after the adjustment. I had never had proper rehabilitation for my injuries and I wanted to help other people that were having similar challenges so I went to the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. I devoured any information that I could on deep tissue, orthopedic and sports massage. After cramming in over 1,000 of classes in one year I graduated with honors and decided that I had taken a single business class in massage school, so I must be qualified to start my own business, did just that. As I was trying to build my business I actually took a part time job as a personal trainer at a 24 Hour Fitness in Aurora Colorado, just south of Denver.
My focus now switched to preventing injuries and I found myself combining my skills and business as a massage therapist and personal trainer. After putting on some in house educational presentations for members and other trainers I was asked to help with the new hires for all 20 of the 24 Hour Fitness Clubs in Colorado. From there I was promoted to a fitness manager and although my focus shifted to hiring, training and developing my staff and driving revenue for the company, I still kept up practicing my massage therapy and personal training.
Once I relocated back to Boston and was working with the Boston Sports Clubs of Town Sports International (TSI), I became a faculty member for TSI again handling new hire training for my region, but this time I was selected as one of six educators out of 2,000 trainers in the company to be taught how to teach workshops on the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). I was psyched!!! I become a voracious reader of NASM’s material and attended more of their live workshops than the instructors at the time would probably care to remember. I immersed myself in the information. I studied until my eyes were red and fell asleep many nights reading the Optimum Performance Training for Health and Fitness Professionals Text.
I left BSC and went to the Longfellow Sports Club where I am the fitness manager now. I still personal train, work with groups of athletes and do some massage work. Months past after I left BSC and after staying in touch with NASM, I was asked by NASM to become one of their Educators. I was so incredibly humbled and excited! As the Senior Master Instructor for NASM, I am fortunate to travel the US, and occasionally over seas delivering the Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist workshops. I am fortunate to work alongside a fantastic group of instructors that I have the pleasure of teaching and presenting with.
JOHN: That is pretty cool to be contacted by NASM and asked to be one of their educators. Congrats on that accomplishment, and definitely, a great resume bullet-point. Let’s talk training trainers. What were some of the things you concentrated on or continuously wanted your staff to focus their efforts on?
Eric: The concept of C.A.N.I. (constant and never-ending improvement). The personal training industry is far more intricate that most people imagine. There is so much more than the basics; anatomy, physiology, the kinetic chain, program design etc. The relationship building, sales and marketing and business development side of things is what makes this a career instead of just a hobby. I am the first one to enjoy learning about human movement and athletic performance enhancement, but these seemingly ancillary skills, which are really corner stones, cannot be overlooked. I have seen many trainers that appear to have an undeveloped skill set that are booked with clients because they know how to talk to people, establish rapport and manage their business. I also have seen many the over educated fitness genius that is disgruntled because they cannot fill their schedule up because they lack the people skills to do so. Some people are born with the gift of gab but it can become a learned skill. Everyone can get better at talking to people, myself included for sure! So get better at rounding out the wheel of success, fill in your deficits as best as possible and use your strengths whenever possible. That’s what I encourage. Another area that I do not think we can focus on enough is corrective exercise. Clients are coming in more de-conditioned, with worse posture that ever. We must be ready to assess them and able to devise a corrective strategy that will prevent the common injuries that sideline so many people’s fitness routines.
JOHN: How important is it to you that trainers get involved with assessing clients?
Eric: This is absolutely critical to longevity in this field. An exercise program is only as good as its assessment. You can have the best map in the world, but if you start off at the wrong spot and are not precise about where you are going, you will end up in the wrong place or it will take way too long to get where you are trying to go. There is too much competition to fumble around. We must have laser like focus and insight when assessing clients and providing them the proper programming. Clients are being bombarded with messages from training studios, gyms and home exercise programs and equipment constantly. If you cannot deliver, then they will go somewhere else. It all starts with the assessment and separating yourself from the pack.
JOHN: Being affiliated with NASM, I am often asked this question so I will impose it on you. How close do you follow the NASM OPT model when designing exercise programs? Do you follow it stringently, or do you add some flexibility?
Eric: I know for years I did not grasp the true concept of the OPT Model. It is much more than 5 or 7 phases of training and sets acute variables. Most people that are new to the information may think that I am liberal with my application of the OPT Model, but to me I use it as true as can be. The concepts of human movement and the Law of Specificity are the underpinnings for the model. The body will adapt to specific stimulation and it is our job to apply that stimulus to the client to elicit the appropriate result at the correct point in their training.
As I continue to study, apply and review my results over time I continually improve as a trainer, corrective exercise specialist, massage therapist and presenter, just like we all do. The OPT Model is my guideline and I do not think there is a better way to learn about periodization right out of the gates but there is definitely a sophistication and some poetic license that goes into its application once you have been doing this for a while. You can get great results following the Model verbatim, but as your skill set develops and the client’s needs become clearer, then our application evolves for sure. Our toolbox deepens but you still use a hammer for a nail and a screwdriver for a screw…but it does get pretty fun when you learn how to use some power tools though!
JOHN: I agree wholeheartedly that trainers today are either lacking the people skills or the basic competency of exercise programming. The right combination is the key to success. Please tell my readers what you think trainers should do if they do not feel comfortable or confident in the following areas: Assessments & Sales.
Eric: It is impossible to learn too much, too study too often. There are endless resources to learn more about assessments, sales and client management. I would pick one topic and read/study on it 30 minutes a day for 3 months. During this time apply what you are learning as much as possible! The information that we put into our brains is worthless unless we are able to use it. We don't get any good at using information without practice. Assess as many people as possible, give more sales presentations that you thought you could and consult with business people who are more experienced or successful than yourself to learn more about client management. Notice I said business people, not just other trainers? Real estate agents, massage therapists, bankers, dog groomers, hair stylists and more can teach us about how better to market our service and manage our client base. Don't get caught up in the same box day after day. Get out, see other people in action, network, join a rotary; offer a Chiropractor to buy him or her lunch and if you can ask him about his business systems and marketing while you are out. The great Bruce Lee created a system of fighting, Jeet Kune Do, and that utilized techniques from many different martial arts. We can learn much from that integrated approach to all aspects of our business.
A) Specifically...for assessments, learn what is out there but have a single philosophy. You can utilize different tools, but you must apply consistent principles. A mistake that I see is trainers get excited about learning from different peoples and systems but they do not have a strong enough philosophy of their own and they end up blending philosophies from other people together and they lose some of their effectiveness. Blending techniques is a great idea, but they must be used within a strong framework or philosophy. I have personally found the systems that NASM teach to be the most helpful for me. I can take techniques from any discipline or other practitioner or company and use them effectively b/c NASM's integrated approach, focus on the principles of human movement and adaptation are powerful when united. The Corrective Exercise Specialist workshop from NASM particularly helped take me to another level from an assessment and intervention stand point. I strongly recommend it. From there shadowing other professionals or getting work from manual therapists, movement therapists and hiring a trainer for yourself are effective ways to learn.
B) As far as sales goes...buy some sales books, read till you can't read anymore. Listen to CD's/audio files when you are in the car or office. Go to sales, leadership, management and business seminars. The guess what? Apply! Fail! Repeat! This will eventually turn into apply, success, repeat with much fewer "fails" thrown in. Remember, failing forward (trying) brings you one step closer to your goal (sale). Brian Tracy, the late Jim Rohn and the great Zig Zigglar are three of my favorite sources for sales education.
JOHN: Eric, in your opinion, what are the 3 top tools a trainer needs to be successful and effective, and why? (ex.: body fat analyzer, goniometer, etc)
Eric: First is a movement assessment. This can help to convert prospects quickly to clients as well as help to gather information necessary to build a program that looks at the patient, client or athlete holistically, not just in bits and pieces. I know this is not a physical "tool", but a skill set that everyone should have.
Second, you have to take blood pressure and resting heart rate and although this is not a sexy answer a good BP kit goes a long way. I have had very good luck with the Omron brand over the years. Knowing how to use a manual BP kit is handy as well, and it may impress a prospective client:) They call hypertension the silent killer b/c there are no symptoms. We must assess BP/RHR prior to beginning a program with them to make sure that there are no under lying pathologies. I have actually had a physician say that I saved someone’s life by taking their BP, getting a high reading and suggesting they see their doctor to check on it. This person did so right way (shocking actually) and they were starting to have a massive heart attack and if they were not at the doctor's office, the physician said they probably would have died. Pretty cool!
Third, I personally love using a goniometer to establish baseline data. It is great proof as to why someone needs my services and that they are working! A goniometer is a handheld device, like a protractor, that is used to define the precise amount of degrees a joint can move in a designated plane of motion. Goniometers are most commonly used in physical and occupational therapy, but can be a powerful tool when used by fitness professionals as well. I create a movement profile for my clients during the first session where I look at; static posture, a step excursion test, an overhead squat assessment, single leg squat assessment, upper extremity reaches, occasionally gait assessment, orthopedic assessments and goniometric measurements. I can explain to the client, patient or athlete exactly what they need and why. It builds proof that they need your services and that they need to be compliant to their home programs. It is also perfect to quantify their results. Taking an athlete from 2 degrees to 10 degrees of dorsiflexion (15-20 degrees is ideal) in one session couple with how different they feel helps to create raving fans. Measurable data, combined with "feeling stories" are unbeatable sales tools. This also helps to make sure you are on the right path with your clients and that they are holding up their end of the bargain. I have a video out that I shot with a Physical Therapist that covers goniometry and range of motion assessments.[END]