Friday, April 6, 2012

Interview with Dean Somerset

I have joked with Dean in some personal messages that his blog is the first one I check out every day and I meant it. There has been no one that grabs my attention through their writings like Dean Somerset. The guy is strong, smart, witty, funny, and did I say smart? I only discovered his blog about 2 years ago, and man, has his popularity blown! Rightfully so, the guy has made me look back on how I do some things and think more critically. If that hasn't happened to you after reading some of his past blogs, you gotta be high on something or dead.

Dean Somerset is a knowledgeable fitness professional from Canada that specializes in corrective exercise and post-rehabilitative training with clients from all across the board. You can check out his awesome blog here. Without further-ado, I asked Dean some questions to allow my readers learn a bit more about him.

JI: Growing up, tell me about your first experience in a gym. What attracted you to fitness, weights, and the like?

Dean: I grew up in a small rural town in British Columbia, Canada, so gyms weren't all that prevalent. There was the local rec centre which had a small fitness facility, but I never really paid it any attention until I was about 16. I was too busy playing sports and doing outdoor activities to care about lifting weights. If I wanted to do that, there were lots of mountains with big rocks where I could do it for free!! It wasn't until a really bad ankle sprain and at the physiotherapists recommendation that I start working on strength training to get back into competitive shape that I started to actually pay it some attention.

The first workout I did consisted of calf raises, standing on a wobbleboard, leg extensions and some band work the physio gave me. It wasn't anything stellar, or even really productive for that matter, but it was a start. Flash forward 3 years and I was moving out of my parents house and persuing a degree in kinesiology to get more out of the weightroom. Prior to that I was thinking I would go into learning how to do body work on cars!! Initially I liked it because of the potential it carried. You could get pretty much anyone into any goal they wanted by simply tailoring a workout with slight variations that would produce big changes in their health, physique, and overall capabilities to move. I also liked the fact that girls were paying attention to me a little more, which never hurts when you're 16.

JI: Why did you choose the corrective exercise route, or did you fall into it based on what you saw in the gym? or what you studied? or what caught your interest the most?

Dean: I chose to go through the corrective pathway more out of necessity than anything else. When I started working at my current gym fresh out of university, I figured I wanted to train people to lose weight or become more athletic, but I noticed I was getting a lot of people coming in to me fresh off the street looking for a way to get an injury stronger or reduce their pain or even to recover from surgery. I worked with some pretty interesting cases and after a while I grew a reputation as someone who knew what they were doing and could help people recover from injury faster than on their own. I started to network with my clients' physios, chiros and physicians, more to get more information on what I should and shouldn't be doing with them, and then they started sending me more of their patients to work with. Before I knew it I had a referral network of about 25 professionals sending me their patients directly (sometimes billing services through their clinics, sometimes writing prescriptions for insurance coverage, and other times coming in to see what I did for assessments), and even wound up training a bunch of the professionals as well.

When I asked a few of them a pretty simple question of why they send their patients to me instead of someone else, their response was simply that I was the only one they had worked with in the past who sent status updates, filled out Release of Information forms, and asked for advice on what I should do with them, meaning they could trust me more than any other trainers. Here's a simple moral to trainers: ALWAYS contact medical professionals to find out more information, and then follow up on a regular basis.

Over time I started to get really busy and began to off-load some of the lesser priority clients to other trainers, but then realized the trainers I was sending these clients to didn't necessarily have the skill set to feel comfortable working with them properly, soI started to build an educational pathway in my companies continuing educational calendar, where trainers could go through a career pathway that would help them learn all the components necessary, from anatomy to assessments to application of corrective exercises in a way that doesn't make me want to gouge out my eyes when I see it. Seriously, there's nothing worse than watching a trainer take a client through a workout that's way too advanced for them, and is actually hurting them, and the trainer not understanding why the client isn't getting stronger.

JI: I know that commerical fitness facilities get bashed alot online--including by me--but I have also been noted as saying they are a good place for new trainers to start a career. I have spent the first 5 years of my career in a commercial--for profit--fitness centers and found those years to be the best learning experience for me both as a trainer and manager. Enough about's a question for you: what are 3 advantages to working for a commercial facility and 3 disadvantages?

Dean: You know...I've toyed with the idea of opening my own space for a long time, but the management at my club is really great to work with and they see the value in what I'm trying to do, and are more than happy to let me have as much freedom to do what I want. I've also been here long enough that I've worked my way off the typical grid system most gyms operate on where payment is based on number of sessions trained each month. I have a corner office, a free facility to run any workshops or seminars out of, and can pretty much get any toys and equipment I feel would be beneficial without having to shell out of my own pocket. Top it off with the fact that all the advertising, marketing, accounting, reception, maintenance, and staffing are not a concern I have to deal with, and you're looking at one stress-free hombre!!

A lot of what could be considered downsides are actually potential benefits in my eyes. Most of the complaints I hear from other trainers as they rag on commercial gyms are things like crappy trainers with no education, having to pay the gym a cut of the session costs (sometimes a lot), having a boss telling you what to do, silly rules to follow, members who don't want training, etc, etc.

First, you will have low quality trainers in any situation, not just commercial facilities. I could name a dozen private training studios in Edmonton alone where I wouldn't pay a dime to set foot inside, let alone a few dozen regular bloggers who I've read that are completely out to lunch and still own their own facilities. The situation doesn't define the individual working there, and I would go toe to toe with anyone on their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, exercise adaptations, and plain common sense approaches to training.

Second, you're not going to make 100% of your session cost, regardless of where you work. If you work in a studio, you are either paying a rent to the studio owner, or are the owner and have to pay for everything. This means you may be leaving the month with more of a payment than you would at a commercial facility, depending on your deal. The gym has to take a portion due to things like insurance, accounting, marketing, keeping the place open each month, and making sure you don't have to worry about any of the administration stuff that goes into running a business. On top of that, the owner would like to actually make some money off you working there. The less you work, the greater your relative cost to the company, which means they take a larger percentage of the session cost.

Having members is like having a blow-up kiddie pool stocked with salmon and you standing there with a fishing pole. They see you training your clients every day, and they watch to see if you're worth spending money on. They also talk to your clients and get more intel than you would ever be able to give, and make up their minds without you even knowing it. If you're good, they come to you. If you're not, they avoid you like the plague. It's some of the easiest marketing you could ever do, and it's got a much higher closing percentage than any online marketing guru could ever get you. I've managed to close 96.4% of my initial consultations due to the fact that people coming into me are already aware of who I am, what I do, and what I can do to help them. They are also highly qualified, having either been referred to me through a medical professional or through watching me train others, or by referral from their friends or family members. The fact that I charge roughly 50-100% more than the average trainer per session has never been an issue.

JI: If you can go back to a time earlier in your career--knowing what you know now--what would you do differently?

Dean: I wouldn't have been such a jack-bag who thought he knew everything and spend the first few years of my career trying to learn more and more and more. I spent about three years just trying to be a great trainer, not trying to increase my knowledge base to become a better trainer. One thing I've found as I've grown as a professional is that it doesn't matter how much marketing you're doing if you're trying to sell crap. No one will want to buy into a poor service or product, so instead of trying to figure out how to get more clients, I would have tried to find a way to get better and faster results for my current clients. This would also help to keep those clients longer and turn them into walking billboards for my business, which would in turn get me more clients.

JI: Your product Post Rehab Essentials is an invaluable resource for trainers looking to design exercise programs that are efficient in corrective strategy. Your thought process is very well put together and you don't seem to leave any stones un-turned. There's alot of good information in Post Rehab Essentials--its like handing over the keys for a Ferrari to a zit-faced 16 year old who just got his driving license. The product is that damn good. What objectives can be met from watching your Rehab Essentials video lecture?

Dean: Wow, that's some serious praise!! Thanks for that John, I really appreciate it. You know, I came up with the workshop for Post Rehab Essentials after working with a bunch of trainers who didn't know simple things about common injuries they would be seeing in the gym: things like why you shouldn't do leg extensions with any knee injury, or why rotator cuff irritations don't like overhead pressing. I wanted to put together a resource that would cover all the bases with enough information to help as many people as possible without crossing boundaries into something that could be considered teaching the application of a therapeutic modality. Understanding what to do is really key, but also understanding when you need to have another set of eyes and ears looking into the problem is equally as important, and probably a bigger piece of the pie. Trainers who decide to get Post Rehab Essentials will walk away confident in having a lot more knowledge and options when it comes to training a client who says "it hurts here when I do this," other than simply saying "well don't do that!!"

JI: About your blog writing...I am a huge fan of your writing as (in my opinion)..parallels Tony Gentilcore's mix of humor laced with juicy information. Talk to me about your blog writing process--from inception to publication. How do you create your topics and write these gems?

Dean: I'd love to say I have a spread sheet with topics cross-referenced with the coefficient of frequency by which those topics are currently being discussed across all publications and an open account through Pubmed to do all my research, but to be honest, it's a lot more organic than that. Sometimes I just sit down at the computer and stare at the keyboard for a couple minutes, then start writing something, delete it all, swear at myself under my breath, consider watching Army of Darkness, and then try something else. Occasionally it winds up being the third or fourth try at something, and by now it's close to 11 pm and I have a 6 am client coming up the next morning, so I'd better hurry the hell up and get it done. Other times, I have an idea in my head, and I kick it around a few times for a day or so before I start writing things down, and before I know it I've created a 3-part series on the thoracic spine which is getting shared by dudes like Mike Robertson and Joe Dowdell.

As for the humour, I try to throw in enough satire to keep people interested in wanting to read more of the info so that they get the message. I figured out a long time ago that if I presented information that was a s dry as a popcorn fart, no one would want to read it and those who did wouldn't recall what I was trying to talk about, but if it had a little zing in it, everyone would remember what the point of the article was a week later. And to be honest, everyone likes the odd joke about stupid people, a demotivational picture or six, and the odd casual observation mixed with a visual analogy of some bodily function gone awry. All class, all the time. [END]


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