I got a chance to hear from 7 of the most influential fitness minds in the St. Louis area.

I asked these 7 trainers six straightforward questions about fitness, the industry, and their role in all of it.

I didn’t expect some of their answers, and it has put the fitness industry in a better perspective for me.

First, an introduction to the Coaches:

Jaime Rothermich- Owner and Coach at Functional Elements

With over 15 years of personal training and nutrition, Jaime Rothermich has worked with a wide variety of clients with a wide variety of needs.
A graduate of the University of Missouri, Rothermich is married to wife Jennifer, and lives in St. Charles with their three kids. He is one of only four dietitians in Missouri to be a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

Nick Dudas- Owner and Coach at Dudas Fitness

In 2007 I graduated from Central Methodist University with my B.S. in Business and Accounting. After my first year as an accountant at Williams Keepers, LLC I knew I couldn’t sit at a desk for the rest of my life. Taking a leap of faith, I decided to follow my passion and became a personal trainer in 2008.

I grew from working at a corporate gym, to being contracted at a private studio and finally opened up a studio with my wife.

Matt Wirth- Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

In November 2008, I left 24 Hour Fitness and the corporate gym atmosphere to train independently at a private studio where I trained an average of 40 plus clients week. I decided to take another step forward in my career and become a business co-owner of an exclusive studio called “UBX”. I opened the studio to not only have a place of my own to train my personal clients, but also a place that elite trainers could train; they could graduate from the corporate world and get rewarded with no restrictions to do what they love best. After selling my share of the studio, I decided I wanted to take on a bigger, more aggressive role and train athletes at Emerge.

Beth Pirtle- Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

I have worked in the personal training industry for over 12 years. I have trained a diverse clientele with diverse fitness goals. I’m not your typical personal trainer. I am 62 in an industry where the average age is probably 30.

John Farkas- Owner and Coach at Blue Ocean Fitness

After working in the fitness industry for 9 years, John opened Blue Ocean Fitness in 2011 to create an experience that put the focus on the client.With just a dream and no real business plan, John has grown Blue Ocean Fitness into a 3,000 square foot training gym servicing over 200 clients on a weekly basis with a team of 4 coaches.

John and his team specialize in meeting clients where they are at and creating custom solutions to help them achieve their goals.

Brendan O’Neil- Owner and Coach at KOR Komplex

Angie Nation-Pirtle- Owner and Coach at Emerge Fitness Training

Inspired by her earlier experiences at Wellbridge Athletic Club and 24 Hour Fitness Angie is driven to raise the bar in fitness and sport training. Developing the highest levels of client rapport and success guides all her actions and agendas as both an Emerge Exercise Specialist and Co-Owner of Emerge Fitness Training.

Those are the coaches, here are the questions and anwers. Straight, unfiltered responses from the experts.

Question 1: What got you into fitness?

Rothermich– “Around the age of 13 to 14 years old my brother introduced me to strength training. I saw immediate results, but a few years later I began to realize the importance of nutrition, leading me into the field of dietetics in college.”

B. Pirtle– Initially, many years ago, it was all about weight loss and diet. I started out working for Weight Watchers because I lost weight on the program and I wanted to help other people, primarily women, understand that they could eat plenty of healthy food, lose and maintain weight loss. Exercise was not the critical fitness component back then that it is today.”

Wirth– “I got into fitness when I was younger, growing up with friends with older brothers who spent a lot of time in the gym. My friends and I just followed along.”

O’Neill– “Originally I got into fitness and bodybuilding when I was 15 after my brother had open heart surgery because of a heart defect he was born with. The doctors told him to start exercising regularly for his health. I became his workout partner from there.”

Dudas– “After graduating CMU with an accounting/business degree, my first job out of college was a tax accountant. I quickly relaized I was not meant to do taxes for the rest of my life. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I loved the CMU football strength and conditioning program and when I reflected about what I was truly passionate about, I realized how much passion I had for lifting weights and being fit. I couldn’t sit behind a desk everyday, so I began to pursue education to become a Certified Personal Trainer.”

Farkas– “When I was 15, I started working out in order to gain muscle for sports in high school. By the time I graduated, I enjoyed working out more than I did the sports and I was hooked. I loved being in a gym and couldn’t spend enough time there. When I was 18, a friend of a friend asked me to help them get stronger and the rest is history”

A. Pirtle– “I have played sports my entire life from baseball in the backyard with my brothers and neighbors to team sports through high school. After high school I went to WIU and studied business and marketing and realized quickly enough after the first semester I missed being active. I changed majors to exercise science and nutrition my sophomore year and have not steered from the industry since.

Question 2: Why do you do What you DO?

Rothermich– “I have witnessed and understand the power, strengthening, and healing effects of proper training/exercise coupled with proper nutrition. Through my own journey, along with all the people I’ve counseled and educated, I’ve seen these effects countless times. It brings me so much joy seeing others succeed in reaching their individual goals. Whether it is reducing the risk of or reversing disease, or becoming stronger, leaner, and more confident, helping a person in their own journey is very fulfilling.”

B. Pirtle: “I became a personal trainer because I realized that to be a truly healthy, fit person I needed to adopt all the components of fitness, which included exercise (cardiovascular and strength), flexibility, etc. I knew that the ageing population did not necessarily understand how functional strength training could translate into a much better quality of life. It empowers me to pass this on, especially to older clients.”

Wirth: “I do this because I like to see people improve their quality of life. I also love pushing clients to achieve things in strength that they thought wasn’t possible.”

O’Neill: “Because I truly love helping people better their lives, and empowering them by giving them the tools to do so.”

Dudas: “The only reason I get out of bed every morning at 3:40 AM is to inspire someone to move better, push farther, and live better. That’s why I do what I do. What I do is truly worth it. Doing someone’s tax return could never be as rewarding as a client reporting they can finally get up the stairs pain free or that they made a select sports team that they got cut from a year before.

Farkas: “I don’t believe there is anything more important than your health and I believe fitness is the best way to manage it. Rich, poor, married, single, kids, etc… in my opinion, regardless of your situation, none of that stuff matters if you don’t have your health.

I love helping people and few things are more rewarding than watching someone improve and accomplish things they might not of thought were possible when they started. As a coach, you can truly change someones life for the better in ways that nothing else can.”

A. Pirtle: “I love sharing what I know about nutrition and strength training with clients and seeing them make changes and accomplishments in their life. Not only do I witness physical changes but improvements in mental health and positive energy.

Being a business owner for the past 10 years I have found myself being pulled to the business side of Emerge which in turn took me away from time with clients. This past January I made a decision to get back on the floor and do what I am really good at and that is sharing my passion and knowledge with people.”

Question 3: How did you know fitness was your “calling?”

Rothermich: “As I began my college career in nutrition/dietetics, then eventually training, it was the only educational area I truly felt passionate to learn.”

B. Pirtle: “I didn’t. I’ve spent most of my adult life committed to bettering my diet, eventually incorporating exercise and ultimately becoming a runner — my love.”

O’Neill: “After I rehabbed myself from a back injury when I was in my early 20’s. I was told by a surgeon that I was 20% disabled and was told that I should live an inactive lifestyle to avoid being in pain and injuring myself more. I took control of my own situation and persevered to become a fitness professional.”

Dudas: I knew this was my calling the first time I helped a client achieve their goal of becoming a better version of themselves. The feeling I get when I change someone’s well-being through health and fitness is more rewarding than anything I’ve experienced.”

Farkas: “I honestly can’t recall a single moment where I “knew” this was for me. While it has been a bumpy road with many setbacks, there isn’t anything else in the world I would rather do.”

A. Pirtle: “24 hour Fitness. My first year out of college I started as a trainer at 24 not knowing a whole lot about working with people but fell into it quickly. Within 3–4 months of training I had a full schedule of clients and it soon became my career.

Question 4: Where do you see the training industry going in the next 5 years?

Rothermich: “One area I feel will advance is in our older population. Our total population is becoming older with greater risk of disease due to poor food quality, environmental pollutants, and an increasing reliance on medication. Education and guidance in the areas of nutrition and exercise training will become imperative in this group to reduce the need for medications, reduce disease, and improve overall quality of life. And I believe they are realizing this fact.”

B. Pirtle: “Focusing in on whatever will assist people in our country to get healthy and disease free. We’re overweight, out of shape and sick and it’s costing our country a fortune. Getting people to understand what “healthy eating” is and the impact it has on staying well is going to be critical (food is medicine) along with exercise and activity is necessary.

I think we are going to see more and more the importance to catering to seniors in the fitness industry. We’re planning on being around along time, we’ve got money and we want to feel good.”

Wirth: “I see the fitness industry moving towards getting sedentary people or persons with specific muscle imbalances feeling better through movement.”

O’Neill– “I see it developing into more dynamic functional training focused around sports and outdoor athletic events and recreation.”

Dudas– “Hunching over computers, phones, steering wheels and dinner tables will continue to demand that trainers be excellent at clearing range of motion and building stability where needed in the body as a part of their training expertise. I also see more mental well-being playing a role as well with yoga and meditation growing. Facilities that offer high intensity group training will continue to make their way into the industry but I don’t see that ever replacing a good coach because a program truly needs to be individualized.”

Farkas-”I think culture and community will be more important than ever before. People want to be part of something, they want support, encouragement and a place where they leave feeling better than when they arrived. We live in a busy, stressful world and it’s more important than ever before to have an outlet for that stress. A place where for at least a short period of time, you can forget about all the other stuff going on.”

A. Pirtle:-”Our industry is only on the up and up. This industry will never die and the good trainers will keep it thriving. I think fitness will keep trending towards personal trainers not just being rep counters but movement specialists with understanding of pathology and of the body.”

Question 5: What do you think is the most important attribute of an exceptional coach?

Rothermich:- “Tough question! I’m not sure if there can be only one. I believe there needs to be a solid foundation of education or knowledge of the field as well as passion for the field of nutrition and exercise. Passion, lacking education, may provide a misguided program. Education, lacking passion, will also lack in client motivation. So, in my opinion, equal amounts of both will lead to an exceptional coach.”

B. Pirtle:- “Good coaches have very high client retention rates because they have compassion and the ability to listen and connect to clients of all ages. They understand the importance of ongoing reading and education in the field of fitness and human beings. They know that connecting and talking with other coaches enhances their ability to motivate clients to wellness & fitness. They believe in what they coach and teach so much that they actually do it themselves.”

Wirth:- “Some of the most important things I see from an exceptional coach is a person with a drive for continuous education on how to better their training and having the ability to get through to their clients and athletes in order to help them achieve what they are capable of.”

O’Neill:- “Tried and true experience in what is taught, and truly wanting to help others.”

Dudas:- “In my opinion the most important attributes of a good coach can have is the ability to listen and communicate. Athletes/ clients will have obstacles arise. Their goals may change. A trainer needs to be able to hear exactly what their client is asking for or what obstacle they are running into in order to come up with a plan of action to get them there. Then, the coach needs to be able to communicate clearly and effectively so that the client can shine.”

Farkas:A relentless desire to continually improve. There are many variables that go into helping clients succeed and an exceptional coach is constantly working to better help clients achieve the results they desire through sustainable and efficient methods.

Not only does it take time and repetition to build the skills necessary to provide a well balanced and effective session, you also must be able to guide clients to make behavior changes, work around injuries, learn how to appropriately set goals, and navigate many of the other hurdles that life throws in the way. All of these skills take time and constant tweaking to develop.”

A. Pirtle:- “ The most successful trainers I have worked with have an undeniable ability to give great customer service and to connect with people.

Question 6: One piece of advice for aspiring trainers/coaches?

Rothermich:- “You are the expert in your field but you will never know everything within your field. Don’t let your ego stop you from learning. Your knowledge and education must always continue to grow. Once you stop learning you also stop being an effective coach.

(Side note: I’ve been a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist for almost 20 years, and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Nutrition for the past 5.5 years…and over the recent 5–6 years, after throwing myself deeply into a couple new areas of nutrition and nutrition research, I feel like the more I learn, the less I know. It’s amazing how much more I can and need to learn…and that will never end!)

B. Pirtle:- “Dive in and keep growing and learning about the changing world of fitness. It will help to keep it fresh and avoid burn out.”

Wirth:- “Stay humble,be a constant student of fitness, and listen more than you speak when it comes to your clients. I think it is then that you can truly understand people and are able to get the outcome you desire from them.”

O’Neill:- “Knowledge isn’t power. Applied knowledge is power- Paul Chek. Practice what you preach, and never stop educating yourself in all aspects of health and fitness.”

Dudas:- “Surround yourself with people better than you. Being around coaches that continue to learn and grow will only up your skill level.”

Farkas:- “Fitness is hard. We are selling a service that people don’t really want. What I mean is, people want the results that come from exercise but in large part, they don’t enjoy the process- the effort, the time, the lifestyle changes.

You have to keep that in mind when helping clients. Not everyone is going to buy into everything you tell them from day one. You have to be able to meet clients where they are at on their journey and gradually take them to where they want to be.”

A. Pirtle:- “Get as much experience in the field understanding people and different personalities. The more you can listen to and understand people the more successful you will be. If you are person that is passionate in the field, knowledge will come and you will learn from good coworkers. The ability to communicate with people is key.”

So, there you have it. These are the thoughts of some of the most experienced, accomplished trainers in the area.

Stay tuned. I plan to have more specific discussions with these experts about all topics health, fitness, and wellness. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Feel free to comment on suggestions for future discussion.

Matt Pirtle MA CSCS