My Advice to an Aspiring Fitness Professional

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So, just the other day I woke up to an email from an old friend of mine from London – we met back in 2007 when I had just started in the Fitness Industry (working for Virgin Active [Barbican, London] at the time), and he was a trailblazing, high-flying Investment Banker working for one of the biggest Investment Banks in the world.

We reconnected via LinkedIn over a year ago, and it was great to be in touch again! He’s been in Hong Kong and Singapore since our days back in “The City”, and meanwhile, I’d been in Korea, Spain and ultimately wound up here in the Pacific Northwest Region of the States.

Anyhow, so he was reaching out on behalf of his partner – he wanted to see if I’d be happy to give her some advice/guidance in relation to starting a new career in the Fitness Industry; my natural response was, ‘Of course!! Ping her my details, and I’ll answer any questions she fires my way!’.

The next morning, I was delighted to wake up to her email:

Hi Chris,

How are you? Hope you don’t mind Rhys passed me your email. 
We are planning to moved back to UK on the end of the summer and I am kind of thinking to do a PT course there. 
Fitness was always a big part of my life and I would love to do something that I genuinely love and feel strong about.
Hope you don’t mind me asking, but could you recommend me the “way to go”, course, or perhaps the gym facility that I could start from please?
It seems that UK it’s quite flooded with courses and fitness qualifications, but quantity does not mean quality, so if you could give me a recommendation I would be very grateful please.

Thank you for a good read and a great podcast to listen to, very kind of you.

Hope you are having a great weekend and looking forward to your response.


I love when people actually take action and reach out! It’s great to be the first person that comes to mind, and especially in the context of what I love doing for a living. So, I already knew I was going to give Klaudia the most thorough reply possible. When I reached the end and sent it, I knew this was something I wanted to share with my CXP Fitness Community also. I’ve added a few notes [marked in blue] to make it relevant to my U.S. readers/listeners also (as my advice was applicable to the UK Fitness Industry). Anyhow, here’s my reply:

Hi Klaudia,

I’m very well thanks – enjoying a nice, relaxing weekend to myself while my other half is out of State on a course (she’s a Physical Therapist, trying to now do her specialism in Orthopaedics).

And oh gosh, of course – it would be my pleasure to help!

So, let’s start with who to do your qualifications with, then go from there…

I whole heartedly recommend: Premier Global (who are now partnered with NASM*). Ever since I started in the Industry – doing Sales at Virgin Active, which is how I actually met Rhys! – I knew that Premier was the best of the best! The most veteran / highly regarded Trainer I worked with was the only one on the Fitness Team (of my first Club – Barbican) who was Premier-certified.

*If you’re a U.S. reader/listener, then NASM is the way to go!

I knew even years before that too – as a Member of my first gym (back in my late teens), I would always pick the brains of the Trainers, and asked the same kind of questions you’re asking me. Everyone agreed that Premier was/is #1.

So, that’s where you should start. Note: they’re more expensive than most others (like YMCA, FutureFit, etc)… but you pay for what you get. In this case, they’re the gold standard!

As for the “way to go”…

This might be the most important part to consider!

You can simply get your [Basic] Level 2 Gym Instructor Certification, then add some other Level 2 / “Group X” certifications like: Kettlebell Instructor / Suspension Training Instructor (think: TRX) / Circuit Instructor / Zumba / Spin Instructor / Metafit Instructor (this is my *favourite*!!)… And the list goes on.

Group X (“Group Exercise”) is a lot of fun! I have always integrated it into my weekly schedule. It livens things up, keeps it interesting, and for the most part… it’s “Done for you” (i.e. you deliver pre-made workouts, which don’t require too much effort or thought – you just rock up and roll!). Occasionally you may find yourself with the freedom to “create” a Group X Class – some kind of Circuit Class for example, which will require thought/pre-planning; but if you’re creative and passionate like I am, this will actually be a good thing!

Group X is motivational, it’s ‘in-out-done’, it’s low accountability (in terms of you having to *encourage* people to show up – if they enjoy it, they’ll come every week!).

Then we have Personal Training…

This is a different beast altogether! This is a “Do Not Enter [if you’re not prepared]” kind of deal. Because trust me, I have seen plenty of people fork out the cash to get certified up to Level 3 (Personal Trainer), only to walk right back out the door a few months later…

This is 1-on-1 Training (mostly – though you can certainly find yourself offering 2-on-1 for Couples/Friends or even Small Groups). The dynamic, however, is very different! You’re not blaring music and “vibing” off one another. It doesn’t have the same level of fun as Group X (most of the time).

You have to individualize everything! You have to make programs for your Clients that are appropriate for their needs, their level [of fitness], and their goals. You have to keep track of their progress every single session. You have to constantly “evolve” their programming – as they grow fitter and stronger, they’ll need to be challenged at every turn in order to “make gains” (whether we’re talking about losing bodyfat, gaining muscle, or improving performance).

You also need to consider demographic – we all wanna train inspiring, self-motivated individuals; we’d love to train athletes – people who we can reallyyyy push! But the reality is – and read this again if needed: If you work for a big chain (Virgin Active / Bannatyne / Fitness First / etc*)… You will have to work with whoever you’re presented with, and for the most part, this might mean: stressed, de-conditioned people with very little motivation (outside of realizing that they need to get fit & healthy [again]).

*For U.S. gyms, think: LA Fitness / Anytime Fitness / Planet Fitness

In fact, you’ll find that you’re having to give tons of *free* “Fitness Orientations/Consultations” where people just expect a free program and to be on their merry way! While these are great opportunities to meet prospective Clients, you do NOT want to simply dish out free programs – it will quickly devalue your services as a Trainer! It’s more an opportunity to showcase your expertise, and highlight what gaps they might have in their knowledge, and how you’ll be able to help.

Personal Training is a LOT of hard work! But it is also the most rewarding! You get to genuinely change lives (if you’re good at what you do and can actually help people achieve results!).

Group X Instructors are fun, and they bring people to the gym a few times per week… but I have watched Members attend the same Group X Classes for *years*, and not see the results they’d hoped for; they’re a hell of a lot *fitter* than they were a year or two prior, but generally, they’ve not seen much in the way of ‘cosmetic results’ (i.e. losing the bodyfat that they’re wanting to get rid of). The “secret” here is: lifting weights (effortfully!!)… Fact is, all they’ve achieved is improved muscular endurance. But they haven’t gained much muscle, thus not really increasing their metabolism, and therefore, not losing as much fat as they could have.

Also, in Group X, they receive ZERO advice regarding Nutrition / Supplements / Rest & Recovery… Whereas with Personal Training, all of that would (should) be addressed.

As you can see – there is a lot more that goes into being a Personal Trainer. I don’t want to scare you off though, just mentally prep you for what to expect!

If you decide to become a full-fledged Personal Trainer, then Level 3 is as far as most need to go. There are more advanced qualifications – Level 3 (+) and Level 4, for example – but unless you wish to learn about / work with people who have health conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis / Diabetes / Osteoporosis / etc. then this isn’t necessary.

I did go “the whole hog”, so to speak. And so, I fall under the <10% of Trainers in the Industry who have done these advanced courses, but only because I knew I wanted to have the knowledge to help as many people as possible! And so far – in my career – I’m glad I did, because I have met a buck-load of people who have had complex conditions that I wouldn’t have known how to help had I not done the advanced courses!

My recommendation might be this: start off with Level 2 – see how you enjoy teaching Group X first. If you find that you truly want to make “a bigger difference” to people on an individual level, then maybe go ahead and attain Level 3.

As for who to work for…

I worked at Virgin Active, and they’re great! In fact, I recommended them to a young guy I met when I did my courses, and he’s been with them ever since! The company has seriously great perks/benefits, and the pay is reasonable.

*Here in the U.S. the first place I “gravitated towards” was OrangeTheory Fitness – they’re a solid choice, pay pretty damn well, and you can seriously create your own “following” (of sorts) – i.e. Members who rave about YOUR Classes (if you’re truly great at what you do!).

However, if you’re more into “Traditional Lifting”, then you’d rule them out because they don’t have those facilities. In this case, I would recommend a smaller, locally owned gym [over a big chain]. They’ll have more flexibility [regarding your hours, etc], and pay better than the “big chains”!

Although I walked through OTF’s doors first, I ultimately wound up at a local gym here in Wilsonville, and they check all the right boxes, plus they have all the equipment I could want – Rowers, Olympic Racks, BoxMasters, TRXs, Kettlebells, Pull Up Bars, and tons more!

The one “big chain” that I might have considered (if one were local to me) is: UFC Gyms… given my love of Martial Arts I could see myself wanting to do something a little more MMA-based with them though, so…

I have also worked at Bannatyne… I don’t recommend working there… Also, the following places aren’t exactly “great”: David Lloyd / Fitness First / LA Fitness – they all pay pretty damn poorly, and their employees get milked for everything they’re worth!

*American context: we’re pretty much looking at the same ones mentioned earlier – Planet Fitness / Anytime Fitness / etc. When I moved here to Oregon, I ruled them out straight away because I’ve been in the Industry since 2007, and I know that things at these big chains haven’t changed one iota…

I was head-hunted by GymBox (which is solely London-based); they are the BEST!! You’ll earn the most there. But… the setup is different! Unlike all the others I have mentioned, you get no hourly-wage or salary. And in fact, you have to pay them “rent” every month. However, you keep 100% of what you make! (All the other Clubs/Gyms will take a BIG percentage of what you charge [as a Personal Trainer]!!). The earning potential is massive though – every GymBox has several Trainers training Clients at any given moment. A lot of other places, you’re lucky to see more than TWO Trainers on the gym floor actively delivering sessions!

GymBox is also very difficult to get an offer from though… most of their Personal Trainers are former Elite Athletes! I think the reason I was offered work there was because during my [3-4hr] interview I demonstrated an extremely high “Fitness IQ” (ranging from technical training-related topics to current trends in the Industry and even an in-depth knowledge of how and where those trends evolved from); added to a level of self-started hustle that they simple require. (Being a black belt in two Martial Arts, trained by a Royal Marine Commando – in Metafit – as well as a 6x World Champion Rower – for Shockwave – probably helped too!).

*My recommendation for an equivalent to GymBox would be somewhere like Equinox! If they were close to where I live, I’d seriously have gone to them first. Check ‘em out (Google them) and you’ll see why!

Another option you might consider is setting up your own business… if you have the means/resources… you can do things “your way”. For most people in the Fitness Industry, this is ‘the dream’. But it is also the hardest to achieve – the startup capital, business acumen, ability to put systems in place to run your business efficiently, assembling a Team of like-minded individuals (if/when you decide to grow/expand), understanding cashflow & taxes… It’s messy / complicated / risky / but with the greatest possible ROI (Return On Investment).


Those are your options.

Get qualified through Premier Global – they are the best!

(NASM if you’re in America)

Do Level 2 – usually, you will find that they bundle courses to include stuff like Kettlebell certifications as well as Circuits (for example), which is a nice bonus!

Contemplate Level 3 very carefully! But don’t worry about more advanced courses than that unless you plan to actively pursue Clients that warrant such expertise.

Virgin Active is a safe place to start. GymBox is ideal if you can get a foot in the door!

(OrangeTheory Fitness or UFC Gym are solid choices. Equinox is incredible if you’re near one)

And if you have the network / potential “ready-to-roll” Client base / resources (financial and otherwise) to “go it alone” you could try that.

I hope this helps! Sorry – really, REALLY long email here!

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with, and I promise I’ll only write an email half as long next time! (Kidding – I’ll be far more concise/to the point than that!).

Hoping that you and Rhys are having an awesome weekend!



So, that’s my advice to an aspiring Fitness Professional!

I’ve gone ahead and sprinkled in a ton of extra advice / references for my American compadres; for my readers/listeners in other countries – my blog & podcast stats show that you guys are tuning in from well over *20* countries around the world!! So, I’m sorry that I don’t have examples for you all, but my advice maintains the same flow of:

Beware of the big [corporate] gyms – do your research (thoroughly), and if you can, try to talk to someone who already works there (maybe you know someone already? If not, go find someone!).

Consider going local (but be conscious of how “cliquey” they might be!).

Explore your options – do your homework on these places!! (Last thing you wanna do is rock up not knowing crap about them! And I mean this as much for big companies as well as small ones).

And to circle back to qualifications/certifications – again, you’d do well to talk to a few different people who are already in the industry (in your country), and get their honest feedback/opinions!

Anyhow, that’s all for this one!

Phew! (And breathe!!)

I hope you’ve found this super useful, and better yet, I hope it helps propel you into a mega-successful career in this wonderful, crazy, frustrating, inspiring, exhausting, ever-evolving, positive-change-inducing Industry!

I’ll catch you in the next one, but until then, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO


UPDATE: Since writing this article and publishing the podcast, Klaudia has since already sent in her application to Premier Global back in London! (Gotta love the pro-active go-getters!!)

Had someone I know reach out recently and ask about getting into the Fitness Industry; as soon as I clicked "Send", I knew I'd written a reply that had to be shared/put out there so that other aspiring "Fit Pros" might benefit also!

The Biopsychosocial Approach – What Personal Trainers Could Learn from Doctors & Physical Therapists

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“Bio-Psycho-Social” – bit of a mouthful, and yet it is actually written as all one word! Should sound self-explanatory, right? But let’s go ahead and dissect this one…

Now, to be clear, this ‘approach’ isn’t exactly new! It’s actually been around since the late 70’s – the brainchild of George Engel, who developed his ideas during his career at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.

Often criticized for deviating from the harder, fact-based “Bio-Medical” approach and floundering too much in more speculative and less quantifiable fields; the biopsychosocial model has nonetheless earned its place in the field among Doctors, and nowadays, even Physical Therapists are putting it to use.

The approach postulates that we ought to treat the Patient as a ‘whole’, and in order to do so, we should seek to glean a better understanding of their circumstances from a Psychological and Social perspective… not merely the Biological situation that they present with.

In order to achieve this, they consider some of the following:

A person’s physiological response to stress (along the Biological line)

Their personality traits (along the Psychological line)

Thought patterns / perceptions / emotions (again – Psychological)

Interpersonal Relationships (Social)

Lifestyle (Social)

Access to healthcare / financial situation / level of education (All Social)

And there are many, many other factors they take into consideration – these are just some.

Considering a Patient’s background/history is another aspect – have they been “conditioned” through negative experiences in life? Do they display ‘catastrophic thinking’? Are they currently on medication? (This could be bridged between Biological and Psychological factors). Are they going to therapy? (This could be something Psychological and/or Social).

Do they exercise and or eat a healthy diet? This is obviously quite Biological at first glance… but think about it: there could be underlying Psychological and even Social factors at play here. This is the juncture at which I believe it is important for Personal Trainers to broaden their “approach” when it comes to the Clients they work with!

See, for “us” [Trainers], this is where it starts: Is this prospective Client currently pursuing an active lifestyle, and do they ‘eat right’?

Or: Do my [current] Clients keep up the hard work when they’re not training with me, and do they do all the right things regarding their Nutrition (Food Tracking, Calculating Macros, “Eating Clean”)?

But there is a LOT going on behind the scenes that you might not realize!

The one thing I’ve found with the Fitness Industry is that way too many people get into it with these rose-tinted glasses thinking that it’s going to be all simple and easy:

                ‘Ahhh! I love Fitness – after doing my first class, I just fell in love with it, and I knew this is what I wanted to do!’ … Only thing is, that’s a Group Class; you’re in, you’re out – perhaps a little happy-clappy-chit-chat at the end, but it’s not *Personal Training*.

Thing is, doing Group X is fun – it’s a social affair that implicitly leads to a higher degree of accountability than going solo, and can be very engaging. Personal Training though, is a different beast in and of itself.

See, the Personal part is where a lot of people who decide to take the leap to become “full-on” Trainers rarely realize just how much the Psychological and Social side of things comes into play.

The preconceived notion is that we just get to focus on our session with that ONE person, help them with their unique/individual goals, maybe get to know them a little, but ultimately, focus on Training (maybe giving some advice on Nutrition), but we’ve gotta keep things “professional”, which is where the lines get blurred.

What new Trainers in the Industry fail to realize is that they will quickly become an “on-the-spot psychiatrist/counsellor”; oftentimes people seek out 1-on-1 Training because they don’t like the Group setting, and they want that dedicated focus on *their* goals. But what can often happen is that as the Trainer-Client relationship grows, so too does the level of trust, and that can occasionally lead down some “rabbit holes” that most Trainers aren’t prepared to handle.

I’ve literally seen people leave the Industry because they didn’t realize they would “have to help people with all their emotional baggage too”…

But it’s not their fault. There’s virtually no part of any Personal Training Curriculum (at the basic levels!) that covers psychological issues, and the fact that you may end up being a Client’s cheaper alternative to seeing a ‘Shrink’.

Granted, at the higher levels (Level “3+”, for example – go check out my article on Master Trainers if you’re not sure what these are)… there are chapters/modules in these curricula that delve into some psychological factors; namely, we look at Depression & Anxiety.

So, Exercise Referral Professionals (Trainers with Level 3+ or higher) are better equipped to handle Clients with these conditions. But again – as in that referenced article – there is a very small percentage of Trainers (barely 10%!) who ever go on to get qualified to that level.

The Psychological side of things is a bit much for some people to handle. Not all Trainers are cut out to listen to a Client bleed sad stories or bemoan a stressful situation. It’s like that cliché, guru-wish-wash about ‘being the sum of the 5-6 people you spend the most time with’… Seemingly, some Trainers fear that by spending every workday around this much negativity, it could somehow impact their own emotional wellbeing.

Well, okay – we’re not Psychiatrists, but listening to another person’s problems is just a basic human skill; and sometimes, that’s all someone wants – is for someone to listen. You don’t have to solve their problems. Just lend an ear while you put them through their workout.

And this makes a great segue into the Social side of things…

What you might not realize is that your Client may not have an “All-Star” support system at home. You may just be the only person that they can turn to. Now yes, that’s a LOT of responsibility to bear, but if you do your job right – help them get stronger, fitter and healthier – then you’ll notice that a domino-effect of changes starts to occur…

As that Client starts to look and feel better, their self-confidence will grow. As this happens, they’ll often come out of their shell and begin working on the Social aspects of their life more. Their improved quality of life will likely yield more social interactions.

Perhaps having dropped 50lbs, they now feel like doing a half-marathon or running an Obstacle Course Race; plunging into an environment with hundreds of other like-minded people will then create new relationships, and before you know it, they’ve gone and developed their own support system from scratch.

You’re never [usually] going to know straight away what a new Client’s situation is [at home]. They might be recently divorced. They may have just lost a parent or sibling. They might have recently overcome Cancer, and have been mentally/emotionally changed for it. Maybe they’ve been involved with a lawsuit that had an unfavourable outcome. They could be going through a financial rough-patch, and so, Personal Training is every bit the *luxury* and investment for them.

But ours is not to judge. Although we – as Trainers – never have to swear the Hippocratic oath like Doctors and Physical Therapists, I believe that it is our duty to help people to the best of our abilities, without prejudice, and always with their best interests at heart.

So, on a Biological level, you may simply have someone who is mentally/emotionally unburdened, has a great social life, and is just looking to drop a few lbs… Those are the easy cases. However, when we come across the “not-so-easy” ones, we would do well to consider WHY that’s the case.

One acronym that is connected to the Biopsychosocial Approach is: ‘A.B.C.




I like this, because we already expect and encourage the first and last ones, but do we pay enough attention to how important the second one is? To “belong”.

When we say “Act”, we mean – stay as active as possible in all areas of your life – socially, mentally and [of course] physically…

By “Belong”, it’s wise to *connect* with your community – we all [at our core] want to be a part of a ‘Tribe’ of sorts. It is human nature.

And by “Commit”, I [at least] mean that you should commit to yourself! First and foremost. But to elaborate, we should commit to seeking out new challenges in life, and getting more engaged with friends and loved ones.

By acting on our Fitness & Nutrition, we address the Biological side of things. By belonging, we bridge the Psychological and Social; and we do the same through committing.

One of the best examples I can give of a community/group of people who embody the most exemplary form of both “A.B.C.” as well as having super healthy biopsychosocial factors in their lives would be the people of Okinawa (Japan).

You’ve probably seen the documentaries about how Okinawa is one of the few places in the world with an ultra high number of Centenarians in their ranks. Heck, there’s even a scientific study on them called: The Okinawan Centenarian Study!

A few years back I saw one of said documentaries, and they were going around the world analyzing the places where the Centenarian populations were the highest in the world; even Sardinia (Italy) was featured [among other places]. And oddly enough, they were evaluating key factors such as: their diet / how much regular exercise they get in / their social norms and practices…

With their diet, lo-and-behold, it turns out their nutrition is über-healthy! They eat LOTS of vegetables – everything from leafy greens to sweet potatoes. They eat plenty of meat, however, it is more the “accompaniment” of the dish (i.e. instead of a huge steak with a side of veggies, there is more rice and vegetables with a side of meat like cubed pork, or sliced beef). And surprise, surprise – they have virtually ZERO processed foods and/or beverages! Everything is what nature provides.

Regarding physical activity, they all exercise EVERYDAY!! Nothing insanely vigorous – just enough to keep the body strong, flexible and *active*. Whether they’re practicing Kenpo (or Karate), going for a walk, riding a bike or merely stretching… they do any one or more of these activities simply as part of their daily routine.

Typically, when they pursue these activities, it is done on a group-basis. And keep in mind, I’m talking about eating AND exercising! Meals are a very social affair, and they exercise together also. Therefore, you could say that they organize their own form of “Group X”!

Thing is though, while utterly exemplary and the picture of health, they are also unbound by the social norms and practices of “more modern” Western cultures. They’re not glued to iPhones, watching Netflix, stressed about ‘Why Colton Jumped the Fence’ (#bachelorproblems)… They live a far more simplistic lifestyle, and stressors are rendered relatively minimal.

What we can do though (and I’m talking to/about Trainers and non-Fitness Professionals alike), is we can extrapolate lessons from these people. Try and implement gradual and progressive little changes over time to our Nutrition, our Daily Activities, and our Social Interactions.

By making [what I am now going to coin as] ‘Micro-Adjustments’ to these various aspects of our lives, we will ensure that we improve our Biological condition, ameliorate any Psychological malady, and vastly enhance our Social wellbeing. As much for ourselves as individuals implementing these changes, as using these examples to help our Clients do the same. Who knows… we may even improve our chances of becoming Centenarians ourselves!

That’s all for today’s article. As ever, I hope it got the gears churning, and has helped you view things through a broader lens. I’ll catch you next time.

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

I've been meaning to write this for months, and just the other day I saw a friend's Instagram post that showed a picture of a donut, and it said: 'Treat the Donut, Not the Hole!' Seemed like the perfect trigger to get to it and write about the Biopsychosocial Approach...

Why Food Tracking is Like Shark Tank & Dragon’s Den

Why Food Tracking is Like Shark Tank &amp; Dragon's Den

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I know, I know – we all hate the term [almost as much as we hate the act of]: Food Tracking…

But today I’m going to lay this one to rest. Too many people whine and cry about it.

‘But it’s too much hassle.’ – Really? Grand scheme of things… really!?

‘Well, I’ve never tracked my food, and that’s worked for me just fine!’… Again – really!?

Be honest with yourself – if you’re trying to “lose weight” (drop your *bodyfat percentage* – is how you should be thinking of it!), and if you have “struggled to [do so]” for “so many years”, then uhhh… *That* (not food tracking) has clearly NOT worked for you ‘just fine’ at all!

BOOM – Truth bomb! (Sorry, I know those hurt!)

Alright, cynicism aside, let’s do one of my favourite things to do on this blog: Let’s play Devil’s Advocate! (I would have called this article ‘Playing Devil’s Advocate with Food Tracking’, but the connection to Shark Tank & Dragon’s Den seemed more appropriate).

Anyhow, so… this first part will be slightly more… limited.

What are the “benefits” of NOT Food Tracking?

Short Answer:

[Cue staring, unimpressed face, crickets chirping in the background, and tumbleweeds blowing past]…

The slightly more “put yourself in our shoes” answer:

Okay, YES! It is tedious! I concede on that. However, so is filing your taxes, yet we all have to do it. Those who hire an Accountant… Bravo! But that only creates surmounting levels of dependency and increasingly takes away from your own autonomy.

Same goes for Food Tracking – you could have someone else do it for you; look at Celebrities who  undergo EPIC transformations – they sure AF aren’t “counting their macros” they have a Nutritionist and/or Trainer do that for them.

Funny thing in my mind is though – that’s a LOT of trust to put in the hands of another individual! Whether we’re talking about Taxes or Food Tracking! In one instance, your Financial Wellbeing is at stake, in the other, your Health & Wellness…

But hey, they’re professionals – they’ve been doing this for years; they’re excellent at what they do, and it takes extra work off your load. Happy days!

I’ll tell you this though – regarding the tediousness – that you only have to drag through the process a few times to get the hang of it. Through practice and repetition, you’ll find that looking up foods, tracking the numbers and reaching your “macro goals” gets easier and easier.

And let’s be honest, most of us like to eat the same kinds of foods week-in, week-out. So really, as long as you’re not going on some “month of discovering a different food every day” or some other quirky quest, you’ll actually come to realize that when you ‘do the math’ [tracking your food] for even just a week or two, you kinda just know what the numbers are going to be.

Of course, then we have the “curve-ball”: Eating Out! Even then, most restaurants now have the Nutritional Info available – some display it on their menus in the restaurant, others have a readily accessibly PDF that you can access from their website.

So, ‘Pro Tip’ on how to manage these [hopefully] not-too-frequent occasions: adjust your calorie-intake for that day! If you’re about to chow down on a meal that’s loaded with 1000 (+)kcal… you might wanna bust out the Rice Crackers for breakfast and lunch!! (I’m totally kidding – do NOT do the Rice Crackers! We’re not rabbits, people!). But in all seriousness, you might do well to stick to lower calorie options throughout the day to create space (in your “calorie budget”) for that big meal!


Say your goal is to stick to 1600kcal per day (this low a number would be for someone trying to shed some lbs!)… You’ve looked up what you’re gonna eat ahead of time (am I the only one who does this!? I swear – anytime I know that I’ve got plans to go out and eat with friends or family, I look up the restaurant, check out their menu [and Nutrition Info for it], and I’ve already made up my mind before I walk through the door!)…

Let’s use that ‘1000kcal’ as an example (in America, I’ve found this is somewhat average – tragically enough!). So, you have 600kcal as your limit for the rest of the day. Best bet? A 300kcal breakfast, and a 300kcal lunch. Now, that’s not much… but it WILL help you to stay as close to within your calorie “budget” as possible!

Bonus ‘Pro Tip’: get in a big-a$$ workout at the gym ahead of time! Heck, as I like to say – ‘Earn it!!’ If you go to the gym for an hour or two and burn an additional 700+kcal, then you’re creating a greater deficit, thus allowing a little extra “wiggle room” for those extra calories later on.

HOWEVER, you shouldn’t be doing this (eating out) regularly! – I’m relieved to see that there’s been a move [in recent years] towards helping people ‘eat in’; look at Hello Fresh! (for example) – giving YOU all the ingredients to make a restaurant-worthy dish at home (and for a fraction of the price!).

But okay, so how is Food Tracking like Shark Tank & Dragon’s Den…

First off – just to be clear – they’re the exact same show; it’s just that Dragon’s Den is the original (from the UK), and Shark Tank is the U.S. version that came later.

If you’ve never heard of either, then here’s the rub: Entrepreneurs go onto this show and present their businesses / business ideas / inventions to a panel of wealthy (often well-known) millionaire investors.

Mark Cuban is perhaps the most famous of “The Sharks”, and Duncan Bannatyne is [debatably] the most well-known “Dragon”.

If the Entrepreneurs can win over the Investors, they’ll secure massive amounts of cash as well as the epic influence and connections that come with their Investor.

Fact is, the ONLY brave souls who enter the Tank/Den and actually receive the investments are the ones who *know their numbers*!!

If they can’t readily reel off their P-‘n’-L’s (Profits and Losses), Previous Year’s Earnings, Forecast for the Coming Year, and other *crucial* data… They will be shunned by the Investors almost straight away!

So, the successful Entrepreneurs know their Cash Flow, their Income & Expenses, their Assets & Liabilities. They know how much is spent on R&D (Research & Development), how much is needed for Marketing. The numbers are vital to the longevity of their business.

In much the same way, it is important to know YOUR numbers when it comes to your *Nutrition*!!

How many Calories does your body require? More importantly [on that note], what’s your goal!? Because THAT is going to truly determine whether you need to adjust your caloric intake (in order to loss weight, gain weight or maintain your current weight).

What are your Protein requirements? How many grams of Carbs do you need? How much Fat is right for you? Without these numbers, you’re just shooting in the dark and hoping to hit your mark…

It comes down to investing the money to buy food that is healthy and supplying you with the Nutrients your body NEEDS (from Macros to Micros); and you also have to invest the time to calculate how to hit “your Macros”.

Truth Bomb #1: You gotta strap in and get comfortable with reading Nutrition Labels.

Truth Bomb #2: You gotta LOG what you’re eating! (And be *honest* about it!).

Truth Bomb #3: It WILL get easier with just a couple of weeks of due diligence! You’ll hit your stride and it will just become a simple task (and less laborious to boot!).

Now, if you haven’t already, I would recommend reading the following articles that will help you get a better idea of your Caloric Needs, Protein Requirements and Understanding Carbs:

The Misconception of Calories

Playing Devil’s Advocate with Protein

Playing Devil’s Advocate with Carbs

These are going to help you determine what your personal numbers should look like. Then it’s just a simple math game of adding foods to your meals that help you achieve those numbers.

(In case you’re wondering – a) I haven’t written ‘Playing Devil’s Advocate with Fat’ yet, and b) to be fair, once you have “cracked the code” with Calories / Protein / Carbs, it is very simple to fill in the gaps).

I know, you’re probably wanting an example, right?

Well, okay…

So, I’m 5’10”, 180lbs, pretty damn active (as a Trainer). My Basal Metabolic Rate is [approx.] 1800kcal, with Thermic Effect of Food at about 200kcal, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis also being roughly 200kcal, and *my* Thermic Effect of Activity ranging between 500-1500kcal (depending on whether I do a workout or not).

Therefore, on “Active Days” I’m burning up to 3700kcal, and on “Rest Days” I’m burning between 2200-2700kcal (basically depending on how much walking I get in that day – if I’m walking, I usually ring up around 3-4miles per day [encumbered / load-bearing], thus yielding roughly an extra 500kcal burn – I’ve worn a Heart Rate Monitor [that provides calorie-burn readings] to verify this, but those are MY results – you might burn a slightly different amount).

My goal is to *maintain* my weight…

As a result, I aim to consume up to 3700kcal on my *Active Days*. But if it’s a Rest Day… I’ve gotta keep it in the low 2000’s for sure!

My protein requirements are up to 180g per day. I like to get in 1g per lb of bodyweight – this is what I recommend in Playing Devil’s Advocate with Protein; however, for most people, even 1g per lb of Lean Body Mass is suffice. (So, if you’re 20% Body Fat, you would calculate 80% of your total bodyweight, and aim to consume that much [in grams of] Protein).

As for Carbs and Fat…

I’ve played around with these two before, and ultimately, my body responds best to an equal amount of each! So, if I’m getting in 180g Protein, that’s 720kcal. Therefore, whatever the remaining calorie goal is, I’ll split evenly between Carbs & Fat. Therefore, let’s say I’ve had a Rest Day with a lot of walking (approx. 2700kcal in total)… I’ll then aim to get 990kcal from Carbs (248g) and 990kcal from Fat (110g).

So, the four most crucial numbers that I have to hit are:

Calories – 2700kcal (the sum total coming from Protein / Carbs / Fat)

Protein – 180g (720kcal)

Carbs – 248g (990kcal)

Fat – 110g (990kcal)

From there, I just have to add up the Calories / Protein / Carbs / Fat that I find on the Nutrition Labels of my food. There are several numbers on those labels (inc. Sodium and Fiber, for example)… You can get away with only paying [the most] attention to just these FOUR!

Another “Pro Tip”: As if there aren’t enough good reasons to buy natural, UN-processed food… fact is, the preservative-laden, plastic-wrapped, processed-beyond-recognition foods out there that people like to eat so much often have Nutrition Labels that *under-report* the numbers by as much as 10-15%!! So, if you can ‘clean up’ your Diet with NATURAL food, you’re going to stand a better chance of having infinitely more accurate Nutrition Labelling.

Anyhow, that’s all I wanted to touch on today. Just how absolutely fundamental it is to know YOUR numbers! So, *please* go and read those other articles, and figure out what *you* need. Then just try Food Tracking for a couple of weeks! Because you seriously can’t guarantee yourself results when you have zero clue as to how many calories you’re consuming, and how many you’re burning; or when you’re nowhere near getting enough Protein in, and your Carb/Fat intake is out of whack.

Do the math, guys! It’s not hard. Just a tad tedious [in the beginning]. I promise you it doesn’t take long to quickly become a habit that is [eventually] effortless. Once you dial in the numbers, you’re going to see better results.

Invest in yourself. Invest in your health. It will pay off dividends in the end.

I’ll catch you next time, but until then, remember: Eat healthy, and eat smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

You should think of your Health as you would a Business Opportunity: it's an Investment of both Time & Money! The only way to ensure a favourable outcome is to KNOW your numbers! That's where Food Tracking comes into play...

OrangeTheory Fitness – Evaluating Elite

OrangeTheory Fitness - Evaluating Elite

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When I was in the process of getting my Green Card to move to the U.S. it seemed obvious to me that I would do well to have work lined up and ready to roll. Once I had established exactly *where* I would be living, it was a simple matter of scoping out the Gyms & Health Clubs in the local area and assessing which would be a good fit.

There were three main choices, but really it boiled down to just two. You had an Anytime Fitness, a family-run Club (Edge Family Fitness), and finally, an Orangetheory Fitness. Off the bat, I ruled out Anytime Fitness – from my understanding it just had too many red flags that immediately discounted it from earning a place on my radar.

So, I was left with a stark contrast: a thoroughly corporate-heavy, ‘bleed-Orange’, die-hard facility that encompasses some of my favourite types of training (Functional & Rowing)… or somewhere that I had never heard of, which looked like it had plenty to offer, but professionally-speaking, gave nothing to go off in so far as assessing what a future there would look like.

Well, I wasn’t going to put all my eggs in one basket. Therefore, I checked out both!

The onboarding experience at each was polar opposite, and that’s the funny thing – while I ultimately went with Edge, I actually did go through ALL of Orangetheory’s core training. I even spent the time to attend four of the Studio’s OTF Coaches’ Classes to assess them on a criteria that I created that addressed OTF’s “known-for” attributes as well as just their general training standards. (For the most part, they were pretty darn good… with only one exception).

Despite already having earned some of the highest-level qualifications in the Industry, and while the Studio Manager and Site Owner were very impressed with my resumé / accolades, there was still the “due-process” of being moulded into a quintessential OTF Coach myself.

Just to touch back on my article on ‘Master Trainers’, the title of *Coach* was one that I deliberately omitted from my list then because I wanted to save it for this article.

See, the term “Coach” is one that I have heard waved around like crazy since coming to America. It’s almost more concerning than the issue with “Master Trainers” (at least, those who don’t actually train other Trainers), because it seems as though just about anyone can become a Coach…

In my experience, the Industry seems to [mainly] have four types of Coach:

Fitness Coach / ‘Elite Coach’

“Health Coach”

[Sports] Coach

[Life] Coach

The first type – the lynchpin of Orangetheory Fitness – are perfectly legit. Essentially, this term is just being used as a synonym for ‘Trainer’. And their Elite Coaches are essentially considered their “Senior Trainers”.

Now, “Health Coaches” are the ones that worry me the most! In most instances, they are people who have wound up becoming part of a Health-orientated MLM (think: Herba-Life), lost a bunch of weight using whatever special diet is being promoted, and then invited into the fold to become a ‘Health Coach’ with ZERO formal training whatsoever. Worse still, they’re provided with plenty of “support”, which is really just a Social Media strategy providing them with dozens of photos of other people who have seen results, but they’re supposed to make it seem like these are their actual “Clients”… when in reality, they’ve never met the people in the photos they’re posting.

In very rare instances, you might find some of these Health Coaches do actually work in the Fitness Industry, and do – in fact – have real qualifications and experience to boot.

But I’m not gonna lie… it p*sses me off because 90% have no real education on what they’re peddling, and frankly, it completely devalues the role of the true professionals: the Nutritionists, Dieticians, and Personal Trainers [especially those who have Nutrition-based qualifications].

Anyhow, then you have Sports Coaches – perhaps the MOST legit that you’ll find! These are professionals who train Athletes!! They have to go through various courses that involve very technical education that is commonly focused heavily on their specific *sport*, though in some cases (where relevant) they’ll also learn about “general training” (like Weight Lifting and Cardio – just not quite as much about the Anatomy & Physiology like Personal Trainers do).

Then you have ‘Life Coaches’. Now, believe it or not, there is actually a qualification for this! In fact, it is even higher than the Specialist-level Personal Trainer Certs you can get; now I can’t call this elusive, as it would only be so if there were more people actively seeking out the qualification, but certainly it could be considered somewhat mythical… There actually exists a “Level 5” in the Health & Fitness Industry, and being a Life Coach is it! (And no, there is no Level 6).

I think the funniest thing about this is that there are scores of “Life Coaches” out there [especially on YouTube & Instagram] who have absolutely NO formal education or training in this field. In case you’re wondering what you could possibly need to learn, it is very *psychology*-laden. Understanding how people’s minds work is crucial to helping them “think clearly”.

Vision Boards – simple psychology. Forming habits to boost productivity – again, psychology. And while it is all quite ‘simple’, it is anything but *easy*; after all, if it were easy, people wouldn’t seek the advice from Life Coaches to begin with!

So anyway, as you can see, the Industry is awry with confusing titles (again – like I covered in my last article). But reeling it in and zooming back in on Orangetheory…

The one thing I understand (and appreciate) about them is that regardless of how many titles and qualifications you have to your name, you still have to learn things the “Orangetheory Way”. Having actually gone through their training and even completed their Elite Coaching course, I am [unfortunately] bound by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, so I can’t go into any details as to what their courses entail.

However, I love that they provide SO much ongoing education to their entire workforce! And while only a certain amount of their certifications are obligatory, there are tons of extra modules/certs that you can do if you’re serious about educating yourself and staying up-to-date with the knowledge that Trainers *should* be well-armed with!

Where I do criticize their “model” though is when it comes to the utter homogeneity that permeates throughout their entire chain. I mean, I get it – they want Members to have the same fun, engaging, and empowering experience no matter what Studio they visit (as they get reciprocal access across all Studios – much like other big names like Virgin Active and Anytime Fitness).

I take issue with two things though:

Firstly – and most importantly [in my eyes] – I hate that all the autonomy and creativity is taken away from the Trainers (‘Coaches’). In my career to date, I have always prided myself on coming up with tough workouts that have tons of thought and thoroughness ploughed into them! Granted, the Members who do my Circuits or Classes likely don’t realize the “method behind the madness”, but I’m okay with that.

It’s like being a Chef – we all [or most of us anyway] want free reign over what we create and serve up; a great Chef will always provide an incredible dish, and the Guests will consistently leave extremely satisfied. But in an environment where the Chef must simply whip up whatever the Restaurant Owner decides is best for the Guests… well, sure – the Patrons may get a “good meal”, but a) the Chef knows that he/she can probably provide better, and b) it’s not likely to be “one to remember” for the Guests either.

Flipping the script slightly… I do – conversely – recognize the amazing convenience that comes with delivering a workout that is “done for you”. No last-minute prep work. No having to come up with new ideas. Quite mindless, really… and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t see some good in that. There are certainly days when I just don’t want to *think* too much about what I’m doing, but rather, ‘Just Do It’!!

Heck, as Metafit Coach, this entails the exact same thing – delivering a pre-designed workout to Clients/Members. However, I utilize it as a tool – one of many in my arsenal. I have several Clients who know too well that I like to “keep things interesting” by injecting new things into our Training; and often times, I might use Metafit as a workout to mix things up a little.

With Orangetheory though… you’re fundamentally going to do a lot of the same stuff every time you step through the doors. You will be on a Treadmill. You will end up Rowing. And you will do some form of Functional Exercise. The parameters of the workout might change – it might be geared more towards Endurance (for example), and for sure, they will try to mix up the order of things, as well as the specific Functional work you do.

OTF Full Colour (Transparent) Logo 2.0

So, in “Evaluating ‘Elite’”… I’ve gotta give my raw and honest opinion here (as I always do). While it’s great that Orangetheory do offer career progression through their advanced training – to become an ‘Elite Coach’ – it really is more about the brand and the experience than gleaning any super technical level of knowledge about training people.

Yes, there is a focus on how best to push Members regarding the Intensity of the workout for each individual in the room. There is a pseudo-psychological approach when it comes to being compassionate and empowering. But do these attributes constitute an “Elite Status”? Within OTF… sure! Of course. Outside of the branded workout… I don’t think so. Because I think that when people stick the words ‘Elite’ and ‘Coach’ together, there’s a side of their brain that probably interprets that kind of “in reverse” – i.e. [a] Coach [of the] Elite.

Think about it – when you *generally* hear the term “Coach”, 90% of the time it is going to be in the context of Sports. And in virtually every corner of the globe we refer to Pro Athletes as being Elite. So frankly, I feel like it is a slight misnomer… but again, I get it – in any business, you’re going to use different variants of the same terminology so that on some primal level you are at least distinguishing yourselves from the competition.

Do I, therefore, believe that there is a certain degree of hyperbole surrounding the title… well, a little. But again, within the microcosm of the Orangetheory franchise, it is well within their rights to use whatever terms they like.

For prospective “fit-pros” who are interested in a career with OTF, a career path that leads to being able to call themselves ‘Elite’ can sure be an incentive. And much in the same way, for Members coming into a Session and knowing that they have an “Elite Coach” training them – sure has to be a boost in confidence in believing that you’re being trained by the crème de la crème!

But I also feel like to be Elite, you have to be capable of taking the reigns and flying solo. You must embody the creativity and next-level expertise that comes with being truly “Elite”. And that should all entail an enormous amount of autonomy, not dependence.

So, while I am [technically] – on paper – an OTF Elite Coach (with the certs to prove it), it’s ultimately not the career path that I chose, because I believe in a multi-faceted approach to Health & Fitness, and that stretches beyond the confines of a Rower, a Treadmill and a couple of pieces of Functional Equipment.

The true Elite are also incredibly versatile; and with versatility comes a greater range of workout options. And being able to train the body in more ways is going to yield better results.

Orangetheory Fitness is clearly doing something right though – they’re growing the franchise at one of the quickest rates of any business in any industry throughout the entire country right now. And most importantly, they’re getting a$$es off the couch and into an environment that promotes an active lifestyle.

Again, from a business perspective, they’re downright brilliant! I mean, I have been using my MyZone Belt for years now to monitor my Heart Rate and give me a Realtime feed, but one thing that OTF has done is make everything you need available “in-house”. They have literally made their own Heart Rate Monitoring Devices in the exact same available forms (as a belt that you where around the chest, and as wearable tech for the wrist).

You can also buy their branded merchandise – from water bottles to t-shirts, sweat towels to backpacks; and the thing is, by making the Heart Rate Monitor a mandatory part of the workout (you don’t have to buy one – though it is preferable – they have a supply that are “ready-to-wear” which they sanitize before/after every workout)… but the deep-level psychology here (whether intentional or not) is astonishing.

See, you’re already wearing the belt around your chest or the wristwear on your arm… so, why not get a t-shirt… and hey, ya know what… a water bottle is a great idea cuz those workouts are tough, and you gots to stay hydrated! And let’s just get a drawstring bag – it’s convenient to carry my “gym essentials”.

Before you know it, you’ve turned into a free advertising campaign for them… The true genius is in the fact that YOU have actually paid THEM for it! Where most businesses have to stress about Marketing Budgets, OTF have actually turned it into a g*d-damn revenue stream! Bravo Orangetheory! Bravo!

In saying this right now, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with some Members at Edge just a few weeks ago – I was being given a hard time for how I was holding [and drinking from] my gallon-size water bottle (which has the logo emblazoned on either side); a couple of Members were saying that I should be an Ambassador / Promoter, and joked that now they wanted to go online and buy one! I then pointed out how we were all – virtually without exception – walking billboards for companies like Nike, Adidas and Columbia Sportswear, to which we all looked at each other’s attire and laughed realizing how tragic but true that statement was!

But I don’t think there is another gym franchise out there that has mastered their own branding quite as strongly as Orangetheory. So, props to them for that too!

The only areas where I think they could offer more are when it comes to advice and/or resources on Nutrition and Supplements. I actually spoke with the Franchise Owner and Studio Manager about the Nutrition side of things from Day 1, and they said that OTF was working on something. So far, I’ve only seen one very basic blog-like article on the topic (and nothing to do with Supplementation)…

While it’s fair to say that they should stick to their strengths, I also believe that we are in a day and age where all Trainers and Gyms should be competent and well-versed in the basics of these two crucial areas.

But anyhow, that’s all for today. I just wanted to put something out there that shed light on a few things: firstly, one of the big names out there, and what you can expect (on a tip-of-the-iceberg level) if you were to become a Member, or if you’re interested in a career with them. Secondly, I wanted to flesh out the last confusing area regarding the titles that exist in the Fitness Industry and evaluate their validity. And finally, to give you a little more insight into my own experience within this Industry.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed this one today. Feel free to comment below, and I will catch you in the next article soon!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

One direction that my Personal Training career nearly took was headed towards one of the fastest growing Fitness franchises in America... Learn a little something extra about Orangetheory Fitness (and me) in today's installment!

What is a Master Trainer? Separating Fact from Fiction

What is a Master Trainer - Separating Fact from Fiction

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Okay, so this is a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time! In fact, I nearly did write about it a few months ago when I read an article that was absolutely slaying the “title” [of ‘Master Trainer’] and basically saying that it was a load of bull.

Now, I want to set the record straight. In order to do so, I must give the article its dues – for the most part… they weren’t wrong! See, unfortunately in the Health & Fitness Industry there isn’t a whole lot of regulation when it comes to what you can call yourself (or if you’re a big Gym Chain, then what you can call your Trainers).

The majority of the Industry behemoths out there don their staff with over-stated titles – and it has insidiously seeped its way across several departments, but for now, I’m focusing just on the Fitness Departments out there.

You’ll see several variants on our nametags, so let me give you some examples:

Fitness Advisor

Fitness Instructor

Gym Instructor

Senior Instructor


Personal Trainer

Senior Personal Trainer

Master Personal Trainer

Now, one thing that a lot of consumers don’t realize is what Certifications we as Trainers have to go through to achieve certain levels in the industry. One standardized version – though – looks like this:

[Level 2] Gym Instructor

[Level 3] Personal Trainer

[Level 3 (+)] Exercise Referral Professional

[Level 4] Specialist / Master Personal Trainer

Notice how there are literal “Levels”, and oddly enough, we don’t even start at “Level 1”, for some reason we just jump to “Level 2”… I’ve always felt like this was the Fitness Industry version of ‘Tetraphobia’ (a fear/superstition prevalent in Asia whereby they avoid instances of using the number 4 – linguistically, in many Asian languages this number is similar to the word for “death”, hence why you find elevators that skip the 4th Floor!)… Only we’re avoiding the number 1 in this instance.

Anyways, moving past the random Asian culture lesson and back to the topic at hand. As you’ll see we start off as ‘[Gym] Instructors’, then progress to becoming ‘[Personal] Trainers’… so, Level 2 to Level 3 is where 90% of us start and stop. Barely 10% of Trainers go on to become Exercise Referral Professionals (which I have labelled as ‘Level 3+’ – not quite the official Level, but there are aspects of the course that form the foundations for Level *4*, so it’s more advanced in terms of the depth of expertise you attain).

You might be wondering what on earth an Exercise Referral Professional even is… Well, essentially we’re talking about a Personal Trainer who has undergone advanced education so as to be competent in working with Clients who have more complex health conditions, such as: Osteoporosis, Low Back Pain, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hypercholesterolaemia and other health issues that require a higher level of knowledge so as to prepare appropriate programming for these Clients.

Then you have the proverbial pinnacle: Level 4

For the most part, Level 4 is considered a Specialist Certification. It is akin to when Doctors go on to specialize in fields such as Orthopaedics or Neurosurgery (for example), just more within the scope/confines of what we in the Fitness Industry can expect to be able to work with. Some examples include: Pre/Post Natal Exercise, Diabetes & Obesity (which is MY specialism), Low Back Pain (as its own “niche” of expertise), and a couple of others.

Now, Trainers can obtain Certifications through a number of Awarding Entities that provide the courses, curricula and certification at all levels of the Industry such as: YMCA, NASM, Premier Global (now partnered with NASM), Future Fit, and others.

In some instances, Level 4 in and of itself is considered/labelled as a Master Trainer qualification. In other cases, there is the prerequisite of obtaining a number of Level 4 “certs” in order to then [cumulatively] be considered ‘Master’ level.

So, you can obtain a qualification that adorns you with the title of Master [Personal] Trainer. However, where the Industry muddies the waters is in its handing out of the title as a mark of “seniority” or in being something of a “veteran”.

                Okay, so you’ve been a Trainer for 5+ years… Great! Let’s call you a Master Trainer – that should help you gain more Clients, and even charge a higher rate than your peers.

Cynical and sarcastic as this may sound… that’s kind of just what happens in a lot of cases. And personally… I do NOT approve! As someone who worked my a$$ off to get *qualified*, and invested in myself, and has taken pride in learning on a daily basis so as to provide the highest level of service possible to my Clients with a substantial level of expertise to back what I do; no. You don’t get to call yourself a Master Trainer just cuz you’ve been doing this a while. ‘Senior Instructor/Trainer’ – sure! No problem.

But let me just shine the light from another angle for you here…

I’m going to tell you about two totally different “industries” that have VERY similar (almost identical) structure when it comes to ‘titles’ and “hierarchy”.

First, let’s think academically speaking. After all, to become a Trainer (at any level) you must receive a certain amount of *education*. Think about it – take your GCSEs / A-Levels / High School Diploma / Baccalaureate or whatever pre-tertiary level (pre-university level) qualification you want… these can be considered the Academic equivalent (relatively speaking) of the Gym Instructor level.

Then you have the Bachelor’s Degree – this can be considered the equivalent of Level 3 (Personal Trainer). Let’s then say that “Level 3+” [Exercise Referral Professional] is like graduating with Honours (or ‘Summa Cum Laude’ – going off the American system).

Level 4 can then be considered the equivalent of Master’s Degree; again *relative* to the Fitness Industry! (Clearly, there are no Fitness Industry derived qualifications that equate literally to those of the world of Academia – especially when you consider the amount of TIME it takes to get Degrees [versus Fitness qualifications] – so this is just for comparative purposes).

Now, you’re probably wondering: Cool, so what about Doctorate Degrees? What’s the Fitness Industry equivalent to that? Well… derived from and/or provided by the Industry itself… we have no equivalent. That’s where you really do need to go the [pure] Academic route; and so, the literal position could be considered that of a Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist).

The simple fact is this: there is only so big a scope of practice that you can entrust to someone who has obtained qualifications through the Fitness Industry alone. We only go into so much depth. At Level 4, the level of detail could be considered somewhat a “Foundation” level for applying for a Physical Therapy [Degree] program… But even then, generally speaking, you’ll have to have at least obtained a Bachelor’s.

But I want to adjust the lens slightly and consider another point…

Think of university professors – they (at bare minimum) must have a Master’s Degree to even begin teaching at that level. So, you could argue that you need a Master’s Degree to teach at a Bachelor’s level. Well, likewise, in order to train other Personal Trainers, you should have a Specialism or Master title to your name.

And this is really where we get to the main point: a Master Trainer is someone who can actually train OTHER Trainers!! He/she can educate and certify other Trainers/Instructors. So, it’s not necessarily about training Clients at this level. It’s about creating “the Trainers of Tomorrow”!

You may have seen or heard of TRX Master Trainers – guess what… Their job is to train up new TRX Instructors!

Now, you may not have heard of Metafit (although, if you follow my Instagram then you’ll know), but there are VERY few Master Trainers for Metafit across the globe. Despite there being over 10,000 Metafit Instructos in over a dozen countries, there are less than two dozen Master Trainers around the world (and *I* am one of them!). Again, the purpose being that [we] Master Trainers help train new Instructors to the highest possible standards.

Let me now share my other “industry” example with you – and this has NOTHING to do with academia!

Turn your gaze towards the world of Martial Arts…

Again, you have the various ‘levels’ (belts) that you work your way up in order to attain “mastery”, and the pinnacle is the elusive Black Belt! Though, ironically this is just the beginning of a whole new journey! But that’s getting a little more philosophical.

As some of you will know – if you’ve been reading my blog for a while – I lived in South Korea for a while, and during my time there I dedicated as many as 15 hrs per week to both Taekwondo and Hapkido. By the end of my time in Korea, I had obtained my Black Belts in both!

But again – like with academics, there is a proverbial hierarchy that is well established and respected. Your first Black Belt really only allows you to train other students from White Belt upwards, but that stops just before Black Belt – after all, how do you train someone who is either the same level or higher than you?

So, with your ‘1st Dan’ (in some cases, you need ‘2nd Dan’ or second degree Black Belt), you can be considered a Martial Arts Instructor. Only when you attain your fourth degree Black Belt (‘4th Dan’) can you be considered / given the title of: Master. At this point, you can train other Black Belts (from 1st to 3rd). As you progress to 5th and beyond, so too can your students [beyond 3rd].

Therefore, you can see that in various “walks of life” it is widely accepted that in order to be considered a Master (in Academia / Martial Arts / the Fitness world), you must be competent enough to educate and train other Instructors (or in the case of universities – Bachelor-level students).

In my case, I am a Level 4 Specialist in Diabetes & Obesity – this blog started because I was shortlisted to give a talk on Diabetes at a TEDx event (in Folkestone, UK). I am a Master Trainer [for the Pacific Northwest Region] for Metafit and train other Instructors in the Metafit “system”. And I am also a 1st Dan Black Belt in both Taekwondo and Hapkido – so, not quite a Master there, but given that it is more of a hobby (and not my profession), I’m okay with that.

Guys, I hope this has opened your eyes a little to the topic of what a Master Trainer truly is, and honestly, if you train with someone who has that title, you might do well to find out what qualifications they actually have.

Hopefully, this has done its job in separating fact from fiction. As always – and as you know – I always advocate doing your due diligence, whether we’re discussing Supplements, Nutrition, Rest & Recovery or Fitness, you’ve gotta make sure that you put in the work to find out whether what you’re doing/taking is legit. I’ll arm you with the tools, now you gotta use them!

Yours in Training,


Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Time to get under the hood of one of the most misunderstood titles in the Fitness Industry - the Master Trainer! Let's separate fact from fiction...

Mood & Music – Keep Calm, and Carry On!

Mood &amp; Music Blog Graphic

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Some of you might remember one of my articles for CXP Edge from a few months ago – Exploring Limits with Nootropics – Bio-Hacks for Brain Function. Well, recently I have been experimenting with Sounds and Music in a bid to enhance Cognitive Function – either to Relax, or to gain laser-like Focus!

Right now, I’m in the process of selling one house, and moving into a new home; so needless to say, my stress levels are slightly elevated; and this month I’ve got just two of my awesome Clients missing their Training (one for Business, the other for Leisure), so having an extra few hours per week to “decompress” midway through my day has actually been much-needed.

These ‘experiments’, however, have all been taking place at home. In the earlier part of my day, I’m using various Sounds and Music to get myself more motivated, boost productivity and stay amped and ready. At the end of my day – when it comes time to hit the hay – I’m seeing what works to help me wind down, relax and achieve that Zen-like state.

So, you may have heard of Music Therapy before? Or even ‘Sound-Healing’? Their origins stem back to Ancient Civilisations ranging from Greece to Tibet. Now, I won’t delve into the back-history here, but instead, let’s look at this through a more “modern lens”.

Fact is, most Athletes out there will tell you that they have their favourite music that they listen to when they want to get pumped up and ready – either for Training or for Competition. It helps them get in the zone. Heck, look online and you’ll find the [supposed] Playlists that big name Bodybuilders, Athletes and Celebs like to listen to ahead of / during their workouts (for example).

Of course, different people will have different genres that illicit the emotional and mental responses that one desires to get into the right mindset; for some, it may be cranking up some Thrash Metal… Or maybe busting out some Hip Hop does it for you? Electro-dance? I remember a bit of Darude – Sandstorm would quickly up the pace of any Group X Class way back when – still does, to be fair. But what others? Maybe some Trap? Garage? Jungle?

Zipping down to the other – less… intense? – end of the line: perhaps Classical or Jazz just gets you into that perfect place [mentally]?

In my case, I have fairly eclectic taste in music, but I’ll tell you four songs that I absolutely LOVE that help boost my mood:

AC/DC – Back in Black

Pharell – Happy

Keala Settle – This Is Me

Macklemore – Can’t Hold Us

These are what I will call ‘Incidental and Intentional Mood Enhancers’; “incidental” because if they randomly come on the radio, I can be in some kind of negative mood (upset/angry/stressed) and they can almost instantly change that… and “intentional” because I can *choose* to listen to them to alter my mood also. Their lyrics are empowering and uplifting. The instrumental music itself is powerful enough to trigger a switch.

And that’s where I want to switch over to Sounds – specifically – for a moment. See, what I have personally discovered is that while various songs might lift me up and get me into a better “headspace”, they actually don’t help me focus much… See, I convert from negative to positive – emotionally – but then I end up paying more attention to the words in the song, and singing along rather than concentrating on the task at hand.

Although, to be fair, this does depend on said task. If it is one that requires creativity and a literal “thought-process”, then it is quite difficult because my brain is processing what I’m hearing. However, if I’m trying to focus on something purely physical, then there’s no issue. Whether I’m doing a workout or chores around the house, plugging in some of my favourite tunes is always helpful.

But when I have to write content, design graphics or create videos, the lyrics of the song kind of interrupt my thoughts and I get distracted. This is where instrumental music comes into play; but I don’t mean downloading the versions of those songs simply without lyrics. No. That just leads to my mind filling in the vocal-void with the lyrics I know should be there.

Fortunately, if you go on Sound Cloud or download an App like Calm, they have a massive variety of lyric-less music to listen to.

The other week, I had to clean the entire house by myself ahead of our Realtor hosting an Open House, and there was easily 3hrs of work to be done. But I also needed to whip up the Blog Graphic for the article I published that same week – Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified… Ladder!

So, I put on my headphones and listened to a couple of tracks on the Calm App that are in their “Focus” section; these tracks are generally a little faster paced, slightly more “intense”, and actually seriously helped get me honed in and get everything done with zero procrastination, distraction or any other mishap.

When it comes to Focus – we want to listen to music that is going to resonate with us at a level that makes our hearts beat just that bit faster, that sharpens our senses, and gets us dialled in.

For simply physical tasks, then slapping on some of your favourite jams will do the trick. But if you’re studying for something, writing something or have to process some kind of information that – by itself – is mentally taxing, then “au natural” (sans lyrics) may help better.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, there’s the relaxation side of things…

While there are plenty of songs out there that are perfectly soothing to the soul, I am again finding that the lyric-free option seems to work best. Let me reiterate – this is all an experiment using myself as the “test subject”, so you may find that lyrics are no problem for getting you psyched up or mellowed out.

In fact, the whole idea for this experiment came about while I was online shopping! See, there’s a [relatively] new company that makes ‘advanced sportswear’ – their name is Vollebak – and their stuff is freakin’ legit! I own about half a dozen articles of their clothing ranging from half-zips to t-shirts, and it all feels downright bulletproof!

If you’ve ever watched Jimmy Fallon, you might have seen the episode where Vollebak’s Relaxation Hoodies were featured; now granted, they look like something out of an S&M catalog, but actually, they’re far from it. There’s a ton of science that goes into them – you should look ‘em up if you’re interested in finding out more – but essentially, they can help create a wearable ‘isolation tank’ of sorts, which can be used to induce a state of calm and zen.

So, I was looking at this hoodie the other week (though I first saw them on [Jimmy Fallon] The Tonight Show almost exactly two years ago from now); and anyway, I noticed that on Vollebak’s site they actually have a link to their Sound Cloud profile where you can listen to one of two tracks:

Condition Black soundtrack


[Baker Miller] Pink soundtrack

They’re both so… “other-worldly” – for lack of a better way of expressing it! And I definitely prefer the Baker Miller Pink track, but they kind of just transport your mind to a place that is so gloriously… disconnected

*You might do well to read up on the Condition Black clothing selection to better gauge/understand WHY the track sounds like it does. (Long story short: it’s the term that Special Ops units use to refer to a state where you’re basically surviving for dear life; hence it sounds a tad… ‘bleak’?). I am fairly certain that 99% of people will naturally prefer the sound of the “Pink” Vollebak track instead!

Thinking about it, I actually can’t help but remember this video I saw on YouTube of a man called Mark Gungor who talks about the difference between how men’s brains and women’s brains work; and the one unique thing about Men is that we apparently have this thing called ‘The Nothing Box’ – a part of our psyche that we can access that allows us to just think about absolutely NOTHING!

Having grown up around women all my life – with my Mum being single, my older sisters having been single mothers while I was growing up, having only nieces from when I was 6 right through to my teens, then going to university and being in a cohort that was 95% girls… I’m not sure I’ve ever quite had the chance to find my “Nothing Box”… until now!

Not gonna lie, my mind goes a million miles an hour sometimes, and I’ve always got something that I’m thinking of: Work; my Clients/Colleagues/Schedule. The house(s). My apartment back in Spain. The realtors here. My realtors in Spain. My tenants in Segovia. Money. The blog. The podcasts. My fitness routine. My nutrition. My relationship. My friends. My family. The bloody dog! The adorable cats. The next level on whatever PS4 game I’ve recently been sucked into. The next episode of Survivor. When I’ll next get to go on vacation. WHERE I’ll go next. My upcoming YouTube channel. Why people Follow then Unfollow on Instagram. When I’m going to get back into my Martial Arts on a serious level again. How badly I’d love to be on the new upcoming show – Titan Games! And the list goes on………

But listening to those Vollebak tracks just somehow calmed the humming buzz of the high voltage that runs through my neurons! I finally discovered that infamous “Nothing Box” – better late than never, I suppose!

I’ve also found that some ‘soundscapes’ on the Calm App worked quite well too. For example, there’s the Thunderstorm and the Campfire – both are sounds that are surprisingly easy to relax to. Funny enough, back at boarding school I had a good friend – Sean – who just *loved* thunderstorms – he always said he found them calming, and I never quite understood why… Now I do.

But there we go. While I could book a holiday to some hillside getaway and be lulled by someone playing Tibetan ‘singing bowls’, I think I’ll save the cash and listen to some equally soothing tunes from Calm and/or Sound Cloud.

So guys, this article was really more a whimsical musing of how Sound & Music can impact our mood, make us more productive, aid in creative thinking, and relax the mind so that stress just disappears – if only for a while.

There’s plenty more science and ancient tradition behind it all, so you should definitely do a little research if this has peaked your curiosity.

As it’s not exactly within my wheelhouse, so to speak, I really just wanted to skim the surface and help you glean a little something from my own personal experience dipping a toe in the waters.

I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and more importantly, I hope it gets you thinking about how you can best USE music or “soundscapes” to manipulate your mental state and enhance it.

The mind is a powerful thing, and so is sound – after all, virtually the entire universe ‘vibrates’ under a myriad of different frequencies. Choose what vibrations you let enter your mind, and you can gain some modicum of control over the world around you. Just think: they’re called good (and bad) ‘vibes’ for a reason.

Guys, have a good one, and I’ll catch you next time!

Until then, remember: Love life, and love yourself!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

Perhaps somewhat esoteric in its nature, I'm hoping that I'm opening up the topic of Music and how it can impact your mood and either help you relax or focus in a way that is not overwhelming. Have a quick read and see if you're picking up what I'm putting down...

Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified… Ladder!

Celebrity Backed, NSF-Certified... 'Ladder'

Apple Podcast SVG 1.0

Okay, so first off, I just want to take a moment and apologize for being somewhat AWOL for the last couple of months. CXP simply had to take a backseat because life has been throwing several curve balls my way, and so, in order to maintain the standard and quality of what I put out there, I felt it best to just wait until I could pour 100% of my focus, love and attention back into this.

Those of you who follow me (@cxpfitness) on Instagram and Facebook will have at least seen me keeping up with posting some of my Workouts, the grub I whip up, and the Supplements I use; so I hope you’ve been liking that content!

But right, let’s get into it. A hot topic for this last week: the new supplement line known as ‘LADDER’ – founded by a foursome of Legends who have each reached the absolute pinnacle in each of their respective careers…

We have: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lebron James, Cindy Crawford and Lindsey Vonn. The proverbial Kings and Queens of their respective fields, you have Arnold – once the most formidable Bodybuilder on the Planet; Lebron – still defying Father Time as he elongates his Prime of what has been an astonishing NBA career. Cindy is one of THE *original* Super Models – the only other names that even exist in the same realm would be Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. And finally, we have the game-changing, Olympic Gold-Medallist Alpine Skier – Lindsey.

Now, I follow Arnold on Instagram, so I was aware of Ladder pretty much the moment they [finally] took it public. However, this was opportune timing for me, as I was just getting ready to tuck back into my articles and podcasts here on CXP.

I actually held off a couple of days in the realization that a) I knew this was what I wanted to talk about as my first article back (it fits *perfectly* with the topic of my last article: Great Marketing or a Great Product… You Choose!). And b) I wanted to wait and see what other people were going to say about this new venture into the Supplement World, and the results were… well… about what I expected!

I listened to a couple of podcasts, watched some YouTube reviews/rants, and read articles online, and honestly, felt pretty underwhelmed! I mean, I hit up everyone from big [“household”] names to lesser known Content Producers. I’m talking:

Men’s Health (article)

Vibe (article)

CBS Sport (article)

Tim Ferriss (podcast)

Weik Fitness (podcast)

Massive Iron – Steve Shaw (YouTube)

Nick’s Strength and Power (YouTube)

(These aren’t all of the sources I scoured, but most of them at least)


Not one of them got into the truly relevant aspects of what makes the Ladder Supplement Line good or bad. I mean: the ingredients themselves, the quality of said ingredients and the standards that their products actually meet!

Instead it was just a lot of superficiality. A fair bit of ignorance. And shameless plugs for the product simply copying and pasting content from the About Page from Ladder’s website!

So, I knew I had to do it some justice! (But sorry –  let me just be clear – I’m not meaning to “bash” anyone here, so I will justify this as we go!).

Vibe and CBS Sport really just gave a background on how/why Ladder was formed in the first place (pretty much everything you can read on Ladder’s About Page). Though, Men’s Health did have ONE interview question with Arnold that was relevant (ish); the question was vague, as was the answer, and then the article just moves on to the next irrelevant question!

(In case you’re wondering – it was about how Ladder ‘works differently to other proteins and supplements’, to which the answer was an odd allusion to how one product wouldn’t work for two people with different *goals*… Well, no sh*t Sherlock!).

I think what was just a bit blatant was that these “major media monsters” were really just trying to direct traffic to Ladder’s website. They don’t utter a single syllable about the products, it’s just paid publicity, so… Slightly disappointing!

And Tim Ferriss (in Episode #349) spent all of about nine minutes of an hour-long Interview with ‘The King’ (Lebron James) and his Trainer (Mike Mancias) talking about Ladder… again though, it’s more based on the formation of Ladder as an entity, as well as its resources for the Community it is hoping to build. Tim does at least highlight that Ladder is NSF-Certified for Sport.

YouTube was where I got a bit more in the way of “opinion/review”… The most irritating thing was the ignorance.

In most cases, there was a seemingly universal problem with the fact that Ladder leverages the Celebrity status of its Founders… [Insert/cue forehead slap]. I mean, really? And, when you’re going to compare to the only brands you know (in these instances, you had Optimum Nutrition, 1st Phorm, MetRX and other Supplement Industry behemoths being put out there), it just doesn’t make sense to criticize using a person’s fame to yield business!

All companies do it! That’s the whole point of endorsements and having Brand Ambassadors!! So, frankly, the Celebrity Status “issue” should be a moot point! After all, as Social Influencers – between the four of them, they have well over 50-million Followers on Social Media – why the heck wouldn’t you capitalize on that Distribution Scale!?

But okay, roasting the most irrelevant stuff out of the discussion, let’s get into some of the things that actually matter!

So, simple fact is, there is an awfully large segment of “the market” that is concerned with ‘Price Point’, and I get that. However, these guys are seriously making mountains out of molehills! They’re talking about $2 – $2.50 being “astronomical” as a ‘per serving cost’. Well, again – when you’re comparing it to buying Optimum Nutrition [in BULK] at Costco… what the hell do you expect?

But the fact is, most of the names these guys on YouTube are dropping are Supplement Companies that have committed some of the cardinal sins of Supplement formulation: they’re either [simply] under-dosed, use proprietary blends, are guilty of protein spiking, or just don’t deliver what they put on the tub!


Thing is, when I hear someone who has thousands of Followers say something as ignorant as ‘their products are FDA approved’ (talking about the brands they actually use) and ask ‘How is [Ladder] any different?’ (without actually taking the time to look at the formula/ingredients), it just pisses me off! Because now we have THOUSANDS of people believing the same crap that they’re saying. The same under-educated, completely un-researched, just over-simplistic “bro science” with nothing but some bulging biceps in a tight-fitting Supplement-branded t-shirt to back their arguments.

I’ll agree that there are some decent Supplements out there that you can get for cheaper. However, there are some elements of the Ladder product line that warrant a high price-tag, which I’ll get into later on. Fact is though, for as high a standard (regarding product quality) that Ladder meets, their price point isn’t out of this world, but rather, quite competitive with others on the market that are of the same calibre. But I’ll get back to that…

Another issue that some people seem to have is with the Subscription-based / Direct-to-Consumer Model that Ladder uses. Again, this is simply a business strategy. Subscription Models are the new “thing” now – Onnit uses it, Freshly uses it, Under Armour uses it. And ya know, the funniest thing is that some of these YouTube guys are comparing to GNC… clearly, they’ve never looked at GNC’s website before, because – what d’ya know – they have a Subscription-based service also! Granted, it’s not the ONLY option (like with Ladder), but still…

So, once more we have a bit of a moot point! And once more, we have the bemoaning of an aspect of Ladder that hasn’t been looked at well enough; one person was complaining about how you can’t just try it out, because then you’re tied in and can’t cancel… They clearly didn’t read this part of Ladder’s FAQs:

Ladder Cancellation Policy


Another point that was made on the Subscription Service was that it was “a ploy” to trick you into buying into their products in the hope that you’ll simply ‘forget about your subscription’ and just keep paying [“unwittingly”?] for several months down the line. Sorry, but that would suggest that we – the consumers – are just morons that don’t pay attention to our bank balance nor when a package rammed with supplements arrives at our doorstep every month!

That leads me to the next issue that most of the more Hulk-like ranters had about the Ladder products, and that was its packaging: Packets instead of Tubs…

Now, while there is a brief acknowledgement as to the convenience that packets offer, there is no recognition given to why gargantuan tubs of protein might NOT be so appealing to a number of people.

Again, perhaps it’s unfair to pick on these guys as they practically eat, sleep and breathe Whey Protein… but their ignorance is what is so intolerable.

See, I *get it*. Thing is, there’s wayyyy more thought that has gone into Ladder than I think anyone truly realizes! Some have recognized that there is an ambitious aim for the mass market in every sense of the word; but that’s only from the standpoint of how the Founders are comprised of two Men and two Women. Clearly, I’m talking demographics now.

Some coverage of Ladder has pointed out how the idea was originally the brainchild of Lebron, and subsequently Arnold. Only later on did Cindy and Lindsey come onboard. And this was a smart move – put a product on the market that was totally universal, meant “for him” and “for her”. Problem is, having famous females at the helm doesn’t quite cut it alone. That’s where packaging comes into play.

From a marketing perspective – they’re going “gender neutral” with the colours (simply black & white, for the most part; then full-spectrum when adding a splash of colour). Also, the fonts used on the label, and the overall aesthetic of their website is – again – very neutral. Clean, crisp, ageless. Like the Founders themselves, right?

But let’s pivot back to the Packets vs Tubs thing… so, while most Men are happy to have their “man-cupboard” rammed full of Protein Powders (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a cupboard matching that very description!)… Women – understandably – can be quite put off and/or intimidated by the notion of having a gigantic 8lb bucket of Protein!

But also, there’s the versatility and portability that comes with Packets – stereotypical as it may sound, it is pretty genius to make a product that can slip easily into a lady’s purse, no? I mean, without sounding vulgar, it’s akin to the marketing psychology that goes into tampons…. Discreet. There when you need. Convenient. Easy to use.

Sorry… never thought I’d find myself comparing packets of Protein to tampons, but hey-ho! Funny enough, the “quest for tampons” (helping a Customer who was in a bit of a “crisis”) formed the most unexpected dialogue of my interview for Virgin Active (over a decade ago) when I first got into the Fitness Industry; I got the job, so apparently the Regional Manager who interviewed me appreciated the balls it took to drop a topic like that in an interview!

Anyways… back on point!

Let’s just consider the Founders for another sec… So, we have Arnold and Cindy – both the faces that moulded the Bodybuilding and Super Model worlds into what they are today; yet despite Cindy being in her fifties, and Arnie dipping into his seventies, they are both excellent examples of how well we can age if we take care of ourselves and our bodies!

Then you have Lindsey and Lebron – both in their thirties, relatable to the younger generations, still very relevant in their respective sports, and both the more “sporty” of the four.

As a target audience, Ladder is trying its best to appeal to just about everyone possible! And let’s just de-stereotype the packet thing for a second too – fact is, Seniors (aiming to emulate Cindy and Arnold) wouldn’t want massive Tubs either, and yet, they can most definitely benefit from taking either one of the Protein Powders; and whipping it down to the other end of the line… Fact is, kids could even take a packet to school with them.

I actually remember when I was about 15, I found these boxes of Protein Powder sachets (packets) in the supermarket that were individual servings – they only had about 16g Protein per packet, but I loved them – they tasted like a healthier version of a Nestlé milkshake!

By the time I was 18 and started looking more into Sports supplements, the first “real” Protein Powder I started buying was the MetRX Meal Replacements… that came in boxes… of single-serving packets!

So, fact is – a) the packets/sachets have been around for a while, and b) they’re actually ideal for just about everyone! Minus the self-conscious men out there who can only be seen shovelling Protein into their faces Direct-from-the-Tub!

Then we have another aspect of Ladder that has been criticized, and to be honest, I find myself scrutinizing this same point here, and that’s the ‘unique’ element of being [apparently] personalized to the consumer/customer, and I’m not sure they’ve convinced me on this one.

The whole “Personalization” part of it is really just a thin veil for what is – at its core – unadulterated data collection. It’s really no different to a BuzzFeed Quiz where a certain combination of answers will yield a specific set of recommendations.

The reason Ladder uses this quiz is two-fold: firstly, because they’ll now have data that you’ve offered up that will allow them to send you additional “personalized” recommendations in the future [as their product line expands].

Secondly, it’s to cover their own a$$es! See, you’ve filled out the quiz. *You* have given them answers. They have given you recommendations to those answers. So, let’s say that you selected an answer that would clearly indicate that you’re Vegan, but then you go and buy the Whey Protein (against the recommendations of their site), then you try to slander them for selling you a Supplement that [obviously] isn’t Vegan-friendly… they can turn around and say, ‘Well, based off what YOU told us, we didn’t recommend the product that you ultimately bought. You wouldn’t have had that experience if you’d gone with what we recommended’.

So okay, I know you’re probably wondering what they ask in the quiz, right?

Well, here are the six questions they ask:

What primary goal would you like to focus on right now?

  • Losing Weight
  • Gaining Muscle
  • Improving Overall Health
  • Enhancing Sports Performance

How often do you eat protein each day?

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Most Meals
  • Every Meal

How often do you eat vegetables per day?

  • Never
  • Sometimes
  • Most Meals
  • Every Meal

Do you avoid products that include dairy?

  • Yes
  • No

How many times per week do you exercise?

  • Never
  • 1-2
  • 3-4
  • 5+

What is your gender?

  • Male
  • Female
  • Other
  • Prefer Not to Answer
(I’ve highlighted MY answers in yellow)


My results: Whey Protein (30 Pack – 5 x per week) & Energy (16 Pack – 4 x per week)

Based off my answers, this makes a lot of sense. They know I’m working out 5+ times per week, so they were always going to suggest a 30-pack; the ‘Dairy’ question automatically results in the Whey recommendation (had I selected ‘No’, they’d no doubt have offered a 30-pack of the Plant Protein instead). And the Energy product will be based off the fact that I’m clearly active, so it’s an easy upsell. The lack of Greens is likely because I selected ‘Most Meals’ on the ‘Vegetables’ question, so I’m not lacking there.

So, I respect that they’re not trying to ram everything down your throat, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel terribly “personalized”. Those are just the logical options based off a 6-question Quiz… When I think of *personalized*, I’m thinking that it’s going to be tailor made to suit my “bio-chemical profile”… Which is kinda what the claim is… Just looking at the ingredients of the four products, there’s nothing that marks them out as being outliers in the Supplement Market that will cater to *YOUR* individual needs.

That pretty much covers all the topics that were actually touched upon by other Content Producers via articles, videos and podcasts.

Now, this is already shaping up to be the longest CXP Edge article ever, so I won’t delve into this last part too deep…

But the final thing I want to talk about is WHAT is actually *in* the products!

Actually “deciphering” the Nutrition Label and Ingredients is what I’m all about here on CXP Edge – explaining why a product is top notch or not, rather than basing it off price and hype; and instead considering whether what you’re paying to put in your body is actually worth the money or not in the first place!

First up:

Whey Protein

Off the bat, the best thing I see is that all protein sources are from Isolate (not Concentrate) – big win in my books! And at 26g Protein, this is just slightly above [what has become] the Industry standard. The use of Vitamins & Minerals is nice to see, but a tad redundant when it comes to the Zinc and Magnesium (as these will have to compete with other Minerals for uptake). And the Probiotic Blend (not to be confused with ‘Proprietary Blend’) is something I’ve never seen in a Protein Powder before, and I’d say there’s good reason – it is highly unlikely that much of that Probiotic bacteria is going to reach the gut (where it NEEDS to go) as it has to survive the harsh environment of the stomach first… Conclusion: good product, just a tad too much “garnish”!

Plant Protein

It makes sense to see a Vegan option in their lineup, and this one seems on point. The likelihood is that the inclusion of ‘organic pumpkin protein’ is going to be to a minimal extent, but no doubt the true Vegans out there will relish the thought of such an “exotic” protein such as that. The Enzyme Blend is a curious one – not sure why you would put *lactase* in there… just saying. And the same argument as before can be made regarding the Probiotics. Ultimately, 21g Protein is pretty decent for being Plant-based.


This one is playing it safe in some ways – mostly regarding the Green Tea; I think that’s because a fair number of people can’t tolerate much greater amounts of it, so 100mg is enough to reap benefits, but not so much that you’ll get an upset stomach. And as far as Caffeine content goes, 98mg is very conservative, but again, just enough – especially for those with a lower tolerance for Caffeine. Creatine / Beta-Alanine / Betaine-wise, they’ve nailed it! 5g / 3g / 2.5g [respectively] are all doses that are scientifically proven to be effective, so there’s no under-dosing here! Now, I’ve talked before about Choline as an ingredient, so seeing its inclusion here is a pleasant surprise. L-Theanine also makes sense as it pairs well with Green Tea. Overall, a decent product – playing it this safe [again] just further explains their widespread approach for a Customer base.


Now, I’m not gonna lie – I think these “Green Powders” are a bit of a waste… for me at least! If you’re someone that doesn’t touch a single veggie throughout the day, then clearly, you’d benefit greatly from something like this. Doubling up as a Multi-Vitamin is a definite upside (and you get significantly more Vitamins & Minerals than you do in either of the Protein Powders). With much fabled ingredients like Spirulina, Matcha and Rhodiola (which some people have never heard of), I know that this one “has all the right things” in it… I think the main thing that “seals the deal” on this one for me though, is the fact that a) it’s Non-GMO, and b) the product – like EVERYTHING that Ladder offers – is NSF-Certified [for Sport]! And that – Ladies and Gents – is the true game-changer here…

Ladder NSF-Certified

If we go back super-briefly to one of the first major grievances that some people had about the Ladder products out the gates, it was about Pricing! Knowing that their entire line is NSF Certified tells you all you need to know about WHY… And if you haven’t read any of my content that explains that, I’ll tell you right now: NSF Certification is the gold standard when it comes to testing for purity and quality – especially in Supplements.

What most people don’t realize is that Pro Athletes (in the NFL / NBA / Olympics / etc) cannot take ANY Sports Supplements that haven’t been WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) Approved – or in the case of the Olympics, complies with the incredibly strict IOC Standards. NSF (the National Sanitation Foundation) is one of the only third-party lab tests that a Supplement can pass that will meet all these super-high standards. And getting these products tested and certified is NOT cheap!

It’s for this reason that I trust brands like dotFit and AthleanRX (both of which have NSF-Certified products). And if we’re talking about Price, then $2 to $2.50 falls right in line with these other two brands.

And by the way, both Neal and Jeff (the CEOs of these two companies) use a Subscription-based Model… and are Direct-to-Consumer! (That’s why you’ve probably never heard of them – because instead of ploughing millions into mass marketing, they focus on producing high quality products).

You can find dotFit / AthleanRX / Ladder products listed on the NSF website, thus proving their authenticity.

Anyhow, that’s all for today…

First one back – had to make it a good one!

If you’re not already following me on Instagram or Facebook, then check out my pages @cxpfitness – give us a Like/Follow, as it’ll really help to grow this gradually expanding community that I’ve been building over the course of the last year or two now.

I’ll catch you in the next one, but for now, remember: Train Hard, and Train Smart!

Yours in Training,

Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO

First post back after a brief "sabbatical". We're looking at how Great Marketing AND a Great Product can possibly be conceived when you have the clout of global celebrity status behind your name. We're looking at the rungs of the new Supplement Line: Ladder