10 years of the GoodLife: Interview with Rafael David on how to succeed in the Fitness Industry.
“Get to love the early mornings – they suck in the beginning but you will love them in the end” – Raf
Interviewing Raf was one of the highlights of my week. With over 10 years of experience as a Personal Trainer, I couldn’t wait to sit down and find out how a man with biceps that big could have a dog that fluffy! Check out his facebook profile /rafaeldavid for more pics. But choice of pets aside, I loved spending time with this guy and think we can all draw inspiration from what he has achieved. The thing that struck me most about my interview with Raf was that he was completely selfless – always bringing it back to “I just want to encourage those starting out” and “I’m not that special I just love training and looking after my clients”.
Raf is what every PT should aspire to be and we are going to show you how in this article.
1. Why do you love being a Personal Trainer?
Raf made it abundantly clear from minute one of our interview how highly he holds the role of PT. He went in to incredible detail about how he sees the role of a PT as a pillar to anybody’s long term success, happiness and fitness (of course!).
“Personal training should be just that – personal training. You become a coach, mentor, shoulder to cry on – whatever your client needs from you in the moment”
One of the most incredible pieces to this guy’s arsenal is just how much he cares. I could literally feel his energy lift while describing the enormity of the impact that physical training has had on his clients and the incredible effect that getting fit and strong has had on their lives. In short Raf lives and breathes personal training and has plans to stick around for a long time yet. This really impressed me – at the top of his game and absolutely crushing it, he has no immediate plans of moving to greener pastures. Too often we are bombarded with the appeal for more, bigger or better but Raf is excited by things with a purer motive– he loves being a part of his clients journey.
“I get to experience the peaks and valleys my clients go through every day. And I get to be beside them, help them through – it’s really easy to wake up early for that feeling”
2. Why did you become a Personal Trainer in the beginning?
“To be honest with you, when I found out I could use exercise mixed with a little motivation to change people’s lives – I was in. The fact you can get paid was just a bonus.”
Shining through again is Raf’s deep-seeded belief that he can make a positive shift in the world. Sure, it might start with just one client, but who knows how many people they will tell/influence and that’s when the real change happens. Raf is also a huge fan of the flexible lifestyle that personal training permits but warns all new PT’s of pitfalls to look out for.
It is really easy to get starry eyed at the glitz and glamour of being a PT. The ‘work for yourself’ and ‘entrepreneur’ lifestyle that is flashed across our social media accounts every single day is inspiring but what about the goings on you don’t hear about? There are hard parts to being a personal trainer and I discussed these with Raf. Long days, difficult clients and difficulty keeping on task were a few we discussed early. Not to mention the long list of paper work that builds and builds until you have to tie yourself to a desk for a full day to get through it all.
3. What is your least favorite part of the job?
“Sometimes clients just aren’t a good fit. Personalities clash, there is no shame in it, but when this happens you need to react. Refer them out, have a serious chat and find out what the problem REALLY is”
This statement is consistent across all of the successful Pt’s I work with. Finding out who are good fits for your business is the first essential step that is often overlooked by PT’s starting out. I totally get it, you want to get your session numbers up and the money you are paying for rent each week is getting scarier by the second. But before you dive head first into signing any and everybody up for a 12week program, think about this. How are you going to feel after sessions with people who you just don’t get along with? Drained, lethargic, ready to go home and cry? What if you accidentally took that attitude into your next session with a client you LOVE? Carefully choosing who you do and do not work with is one of the hardest lessons learned as a PT but one that Raf is keen for you to consider.
4. What are your current challenges?
“Time management, a clear direction and actionable next steps is something I STILL struggle with as a PT with a mature business. If I could give any advice to new trainers, it would be get a coach – and get one early”
Raf makes a really big point here. As successful as he is at running his personal training business, he wants to do more. But getting to the next level in any field requires getting the help of someone who ‘knows what you don’t know” ( add article link)The exciting bit is that he has already realized that enlisting the help of a coach (just like your clients do with you) is the fastest way to get to the next step of his journey. One strategy that we did discuss was the use of 1, 4 and 12 week goals for his business.
“I use 3 monthly goals broken down into more manageable pieces to get things done and to keep things moving forward”
What Raf is trying to be modest about is his use of Backward Engineering a desired outcome and working on the smallest possible pieces every day to create a wining outcome. He went on to describe that even if he has not ticked 100% of the boxes for that month/quarter, that he still considers it a success if he is at least 50% closer to where he wanted to be.
5. If you could start your PT career again, what would you change? / Where should new PT’s start?
“Get a mentor, I am sure you are a great personal trainer and people come to you to receive your expertise in fitness. Go and talk to some one with expertise in business EARLY and you will not regret it.”
Raf highlights a fact here that is seldom recognized by personal trainers until it is too late. Coaching should become the norm to stop PT businesses failing and personal trainers eating instant noodles for 6 weeks at a time – just to cover rent at the gym.
Learning more about his wide ranging reading/audible habits, I also discovered quickly that Raf places a big premium on mindset not just the technical aspect of training and personal development. The New Psycho-Cybernetics (Dr Maxwell Maltz), complimented by The Rise of Superman (Steven Kotler) gives a good look into what Raf is reading right now.
One last point: Getting a business ‘coach’ can be as cheap as buying a personal development book or attending a marketing seminar – it doesn’t have to mean signing up to a 12month program!
To round out this interview, I asked Raf what he thought makes a successful PT – his answer didn’t disappoint.
“Well dressed, well educated and totally focused on your clients. You need to bring you’re a game every single session and nail the 1%’ers that make all the difference to your clients experience with you in the gym. ”
Taking pride in your appearance is a huge factor for anyone in business – let alone all of us in the fitness industry. But this goes far deeper than just maintaining a decently low level of body fat.
You are being watched EVERY second you are on the gym floor.
Too often, my own clients will point out when other trainers are goofing off, watching TV or just not paying attention to their client during a session. It’s a terrible look for the profession as a whole and one that Raf cannot abide.
“You have to be fully present, ask questions, be personal and – listen”
Although I touched on this earlier, I wanted to reiterate just how much Raf cares. He is deeply passionate about health and fitness and expresses this clearly through how he works with his clients and if given a chance to speak on the subject, will talk your ear off. This is how Personal training should be. We should be there to care for, inspire and motivate our clients (and all members) to make positive change in their lives. Health and fitness is only one part of it though, summed up by Raf in his 3 tips for new PT’s:
- Be present, be professional, make a difference
- Be selective with who you work with – don’t let terrible clients ruin your day
- Get a coach, get a book, get something. You are an expert in fitness, get help where you need it.
Make sure you take the time to reach out to Raf if you are in the Fortitude Valley club or give him a shout out on social media to let him know your pumped for him to make it 10 years!