Interview with George Pagan – Giving Clients The Experience They Need

“If you want to help more people, make sure your product is first good enough before you try and convince someone that they should care about it.”
– George Pagan

Interview with coach and personal trainer, George Pagan of Fitlete. George talks to me about how he defines a trainer versus a coach, a question that can determine your boundaries with clients, and how to use cluster sets to ease your client’s mind.

George Pagan – Coach – Miami, Florida

Thanks for talking to me today George! What’s exciting in your world right now?

If I had to go with the first 2 things that came to my mind I’d say one is in my personal life and the other is with my training:

I recently celebrated my 9 year anniversary and as part of the celebration, we booked a trip in for a week in Barcelona, so that’s just keeping me going.

I also just started a new training program and signed up for a new Gym that fits how I am training better. It always feels good to hit on all cylinders when starting a new program.

How does this new training program differ from the last one? 

The last one was focused on developing a stronger upper body specifically with rows and pull-ups and maintaining my same bodyweight.

The new one is more focused on a recomposition and building my strength back up in the squat and deadlift…I love squats.

Whats one thing you’ve learned about training programs over the years that you would tell someone just starting their fitness journey?

The biggest thing I have learned from training within a program is to be patient and trust that results will come with consistency and progress. A one pound gain or loss counts.

What was the point in your career where you decided to be a coach?

I started out as a trainer because I wanted to help people. When I started training I didn’t understand what it meant to be a coach. I knew what it meant to train someone, but I think a coach is so much more than someone who just puts someone through a workout.

I decided to be more than just a trainer when I realized that in order to help more people I had to be the best at what I did, and if my training service was sub-par then I’m doing a disservice and not actually helping people.

What would you say is the key difference between being a trainer and a coach? 

The difference is a trainer is someone who just delivers a training experience that someone thinks they need while a coach delivers a training experience they actually need.

The difference is a trainer is someone who just delivers a training experience that someone thinks they need while a coach delivers a training experience they actually need.

What something in the fitness industry that you wish you knew when you were first starting out? 

I really wish I knew more about the importance of programming, and periodization. At the time the program I was in for school didn’t really prioritize it as much. I see how important it is now.

That’s why I sought out an internship opportunity at a college program after working in gyms for a year or two.

I agree about the importance of programming. It’s not really given a lot of discussion in most certification texts. What’s one book or text that changed your game? What’s the one thing you took away from it?

I’m not going to lie I used to hate reading, but in maybe 2010/ 2011 I downloaded An E-Book Called “The Hero Handbook” by Nate Green after reading a couple of his blog articles. He was a fitness trainer/writer but, I enjoyed how he spoke about how to live the best life you can live for yourself and learning to take responsibility for what you can control.

It’s a really great read. He had put his website on hold when he went to work for Precision Nutrition so I’m not sure if it’s still available.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading a book called “The Road to Character” by David Brooks. I’m about 40 pages into it and already have about half of it highlighted and notes on it. I found that commenting as I read really helped me engage with the material better. I recommend it so far.

I recommend it so far.

Can you talk about a breakthrough with a client, and what led up to it? 

A client of mine recently had a really great accomplishment with his deadlift. He came to me with a very limited concept of how his body moved in space. He has swayback posture and a goal of having better resting posture and gained some muscle.

He now has less swayback as rest, and can pull from the floor above his bodyweight after never attempting a deadlift before, and gained 7lbs of mass that he has kept on simply by training for strength.

He just asked for more help on his nutrition because he wants to dive in 100%. It was mostly just building a relationship with him and building that level of trust that extends last the session.

Do you find anything that works particularly well for improving posture?

Yeah, loading and stressing tissues in positions we want to get away from and teaching the individual that their posture is not a passive activity.

They often need to make changes in how they spend the 23 other hours a week when they are away from bars and weights.

How do you generally start off when speaking to a client about nutrition?

I often talk about different foods or restaurants I enjoy (like chicken parm) which can help them speak more freely to me about what they are eating or like eating. A lot of times clients will give you an answer they think you want to hear for fear of being judged.

Once I get them comfortable and talking about food it’s A lot easier for me to help them make changes without giving them a task that might be overwhelming to execute.

What are your top 3 questions you ask when you first meet a potential new client? 

What would you like get out of training? 

What are your top 3 hobbies?

What’s your favorite type of exercise?

What are 3 other questions you get a lot of info from?

What does your workday look like?

Is this a goal you have tried to reach before?

What do you often struggle with or challenges you most?

What kind of reaction or responses do you get out of the question, “Is this a goal you have tried to reach before?”

Its mostly a previous goal and I have noticed that it’s often described as a problem which to me indicates a certain level of frustration around the topic so it’s best to tread lightly until I get to know the person better.

That’s a great question to know what your boundaries with a new client! How has your programming changed since last year?

I have out a lot more focus on cycling volume on a more frequent basis and not being stuck using the same pieces of equipment.

A lot of my clients are not concerned with building heavy maxes so something as simple as changing the equipment can keep my clients engaged without losing the benefit of training the movements.

Simple, effective, and often overlooked. Is there any recent continuing education that you really enjoyed?

The IYCA put on a great live Summit back in April that was amazing. Jim had some awesome speakers. I’m also really excited about the stuff Brett Klika is putting out with Spiderfitkids, and Eric Chessen with Autism Fitness.

I just got 2 new interview leads, thanks! What’s one thing that you think is really easy, but works well with many of your clients?

Using cluster sets as a way to get the intensity of training or loading you are looking for.

Some people get “psyched out” when they see and hear reps and set schemes. I use it as a way to highlight their ability to rest which usually translates to more consistent effort for a specific rep range.

That’s a great tip! You’re giving them a set framework with the freedom to achieve the reps and sets they way they want. It can work really well in your favor depending on how the client is also feeling that day by allowing them more or less rest. Thanks so much again George. Do you have any parting advice for us?

Yes, two things. Someone I used to train once told me that if I want to help more people I have to make sure my product is first good enough before I try and convince someone they should care about it.

A lot of people get into personal training and coaching to help people without making sure their product and service is actually good enough to do so, and if your service sucks, it helps no one.

Secondly, please develop a uniform for yourself to train in. It hurts my soul when I see other self-employed trainers around Miami in regular gym clothes training clients. How are people going to take you seriously as a professional in a homemade muscle tank.

I’m not saying you need khaki pants and a tucked in polo, but maybe a T-shirt with your own branding would elevate your service above the “gym rat/enthusiast who works people out part-time” vibe.

Great advice. How do we get in contact with you?

The best way for training is and for FITLETE is via the chat widget on the website

Recommended Reading:

Nate Green

“The Road to Character” by David Brooks