The One-on-One Opportunity


The Halal Guys is a restaurant that serves up American halal food. Even though it’s in the process of opening franchises globally, it all started in 1990 as a food truck.

TJ Belger said that same idea is how Greg Glassman started — with a few personal training clients. Overtime, those one-on-ones turned into group training, and Belger said gyms should follow the same model.

But if you’re already up and running, is one-on-one training still something you should consider? Belger said when he made the transition to one-on-one intros in his business, TJ’s Gym, it was exactly what people wanted, and what his Box needed. “You have to be paid by half a dozen dribbling hoses, not one fire hose, because you’ll burn out,” he said.

Belger explained his system of Coach, Goal, Plan is what has helped his members find success through one-on-ones. “The idea is that every successful person, no matter what their endeavor is — starting a business, raising a kid, buying a house, I don’t care what it is — they have three things: They have a well-defined coach, a well-defined goal and a well-defined plan,” he said.

Erik Boyd, the director of programming at CrossFit Survival in La Crescenta, California, also starts his one-on-ones with setting goals. He said it’s key to understand what people want to achieve and then individually tailor the exercise, nutrition and progressions.

After those goals, he will then teach his clients about basic body awareness and motor control, and how to understand volume and intensity.

At Friction CrossFit in Grand Rapids, Michigan, members sit down with Coaches every 90 days to discuss their primary and secondary goals for that quarter. Jeff Burlingame, the owner of the Box, said they ask what the most important things are for the member to accomplish, as well as if the goals are S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

That goal-setting session opens up for members to purchase 30- or 60-minute sessions with Friction CrossFit’s Coaches. But, Burlingame said 80 percent of his personal training revenue comes from his one-on-one on-ramp structure, not the extra sessions purchased from inside his membership. “The members are going to do a couple 30-minute sessions, maybe a 60-mintue session, here and there, but you’ve helped them join the cool kids club,” he said. “They don’t want to leave that to do some one-on-one sessions, because they’ll feel like they’re missing out on that now.”

At Friction CrossFit, new members start off at four, eight or 12 one-on-one sessions. This, explained Burlingame, gets the membership comfortable with personal training from the get go.

Belger said you need to make one-on-one a core part of your business. “You have to talk about it like, ‘This is what we do here and we are the best at it and you should trust us with this,’ because whenever you offer anything different, you’re going to get an adverse reaction,” he explained. A practical way to get the membership onboard is for the owner to do personal training sessions when other members can see those one-on-ones happening.

Beyond being a revenue method for the business, Belger said his Coaches get paid three to five times the amount for personal training than for teaching classes at his gym. And part of that includes Coaches writing individual programming for members, as that is the only type of workout allowed during open gym at the Box — one written by Coaches that work there.

Because at TJ’s Gym, Belger said he wants his Coaches to be celebrated as rock stars. That means teaching them the business of personal training and giving them the tools to succeed with it. “I don’t want them to leave and start their own gym,” he explained. “I want them to be their own owner under my roof.”

Burlingame said he teaches his Coaches how to present themselves and their sessions. In fact, the time they spend teaching classes is their chance to pitch themselves to the membership. “We encourage them to value what they offer, have confidence in themselves,” he said.

Echoing the importance of a Coach having confidence in their value, Boyd suggested in order to build that confidence, one should gain adequate education and specialize in an area. “Have something that is your niche and make sure to market yourself that way,” he said.

All in all, Burlingame highly encouraged Affiliates to pursue one-on-one offerings in their gyms, just as he did when starting his Box. “I knew it was a good opportunity for any gym,” he said. “There’s a high value per hour with that, versus just CrossFit. But I also love the methodology of CrossFit, so I knew that if there was a way to get the two working well together, that would be ideal.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at