Interview with Matthew Nuttall – Care About Your Clients

Interview with Matthew Nuttall, personal trainer from Manchester, UK!

Matthew shares with us his thoughts on the life of a successful personal trainer, finance advice, the one thing that works really well for his clients, and getting kicked in the balls!

interview personal trainer matthew nutgallMatthew Nuttall, Personal Trainer, Manchester, UK

Matthew thanks for chatting with me! What excites you right now?

Right now at this particular moment boxing excites me. I’ve never really watched boxing or even been a fan but I have loved training boxing lately and have been to a few fights over the past few years.

I’m working with a professional boxer at the moment and the programming behind his strength and conditioning also excites me, and the thought that the work I put in will show in the ring and possibly help him improve and win.

Also, a lot of my clientele love to hit the pads so we do a lot of that.

How did you get started in the world of training and coaching?

I started out as a personal trainer back in 2005, in the final year of my sports science degree. Before that, I worked as a plasterer and a car sales man. Any job I ever had I hated if it prevented me from getting to the gym to workout, so I figured I should just work in a gym.

I worked in a private studio for a while, but quickly realized I’d earn a lot more if I worked for myself. So I became a self-employed trainer and bounced around various gyms and did home visits. This was good for a while, but it was a friend of mine from university who persuaded me to come and work for him in a gym environment. This was kind of the start of the boom in personal training.

I was the first personal trainer to be employed in JJB gym in the area I lived. I went there self-employed and paid rent to the gym. Everybody kept telling me how personal training was a stupid idea and it wouldn’t work in the gym as the members already paid the membership and wouldn’t pay extra on top of that.

I quickly proved them wrong and was regularly doing around 50 hours personal training a week.

Management soon realized that if I was this busy then they should employ more pt’s and make more rent money. This is when personal training became the diluted. Soon there were around 7 pt’s all competing for clients and even space on the gym floor. The manager of the health club had seen the relationship I had with the members and asked me to consider working as the fitness manager.

I lasted around 2 years in this role mainly due to the fact that it took me off the gym floor and put me based in an office, this didn’t really suit me as I just wanted to be out there training people.

So I left and set up on my own again from scratch and have been self-employed ever since. I recently changed my brand to just my own name and this was due to the fact that I was trying to obtain a visa to work in the US, something I am still working on to this day

50 hours of personal training a week is no joke! What’s one pro and one con of doing that many sessions. Can you talk about one system that you may have developed to manage all those hours?

One pro of working the 50 hours a week is obviously the money.  I mean that’s the main pro of it.  That and a whole lot of experience with a lot of different individuals. The negative side of it is that many of those hours are what people would call unsociable hours.
At the time when I was doing that many sessions, I never really saw it as unsociable, I mean how can it be called unsociable, when you are socializing with so many different people, that was until I got married though, and my wife was/is a 9-5’er, so things had to change a little.
I used to use a paper diary, this was before we had apps to book appointments in which has made life a hell of a lot easier, but I was very reluctant to do this originally, and still to this day transfer all data in my calendar on my phone into a paper diary so that I can use it to do my accounting.
I just use the basic calendar in my smart phone to book all appointments in and you can use this app to send a message to the client also to remind them.  I encourage clients to try and stick to the same times every week, its just easier for us both that way.

What was an obstacle that you faced and how did you overcome it?

One obstacle that I faced were quiet periods of work. I could never get my head around being quiet during the months where my clients were off on holiday due to the fact that their children were off school.

Every year for a good few years I’d toy with the idea of getting a ‘real job’ you know a 9-5 like everybody else does. I came close for a number of years. The way I overcame this was to first of all forgive myself for not being so busy in these months, I also took the opportunity to get other areas of my life in order, I would do work on my house or get in shape for a competition.

I just learned that it was OK to be less busy in these times. I started to look at my accounts just like any other business does, I split the year up into quarters and I would compare each quarter to the quarter from the year before, and low and behold, every single year I have been up on the last year.

Only now as of the past 2 years have I not felt the need to look into getting a ‘real job’, as I figure if I did, there’s no way I’d get a raise like I do by working for myself, and naturally I have just gotten busier over the years anyway, and also I’d be back to square one like I said before, I wouldn’t be able to get to the gym!

That’s great advice on breaking it up quarterly. Can you think of any other financial advice you can give us?

I would say that from day one you should be putting 20 percent of your weekly earnings into a separate account.  Its funny I say this because I still don’t do this ha ha!! I know I should but I just don’t.

The real reason why at the moment is that I don’t really spend much money these-days, so I don’t need to worry so much about the tax bill a the end of the year.  I have however in previous years, fallen behind and been hit with the bill and had to pay it with a credit card, which it turns out may not be a bad idea, I mean if you are good with your finances etc, you can pay the bill in one hit on the credit card and if it is interest free for 12 months, you can spread the cost over each month and set up a direct debit from your account.

This is what I have done over the past couple of years and it worked well for me.

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

Like most people who get into personal training in the beginning, I wish I knew how hard the work was actually going to be. You start off knowing how much a personal trainer can earn per hour and you have this number in your head, you naturally just multiply that number by 8 (hours), then multiply that number by 5/6 (days).

Your calculations come back and suddenly you think you will be driving a ferrari and taking long holidays in the Bahamas. It couldn’t be further from the truth. You can take your 8 hours in the day and add another 4 or 5 to that. You will be getting up at 5.30am, and you will be getting home after 8pm. The truth is you have to work when other people are not working. You have to holiday when your clients are holidaying etc etc.

Its similar to when I started my Sports Science degree, I walked in there thinking that at after 3 years I will get my certificate, I will be a ‘sports scientist’. I will head to the front door at Manchester United Football club, knock on it, and say I’m a sports scientist and they will give me a job.

I laugh about that now, but that’s exactly how I thought my life was going to go. I hear young kids telling me now about how they are doing sports science and are going to work in the premiership, and I have to tell them the stark reality. I try to help them.

If there is such a thing as work/life balance, how do you manage it with such long days?

I used to work all the time, evenings , weekends etc etc. I used to feel bad for saying I’m sorry I cant do 7am on a Sunday morning, or middle of the day on a Sunday, so I used to say yes to everything. Over the years I have learnt to forgive myself for not working on a Sunday or a Saturday afternoon etc.

You see the thing is, I love to see my friends and I love to spend time with my wife so I guess my priorities just changed. Now if people ask me if I work on a Sunday, I feel happy to tell them that I don’t, I usually joke and tell them I go to church.

I’ve found that if I dont want to work certain hours then the best course of action is to not be in the gym during those hours. So I will work until 8pm Monday through Thursday, I will get an earlier finish on a Friday and work a Saturday morning if needs be, and I will not feel guilty about taking time off.

Is there one way that your sports science degree gave you an advantage?

You know what, I’ve been working as a pt for 12 years now, and in that time one person has asked to see my qualifications.  Just one person, and she was a Canadian lady over in the UK for a few months studying.  She said that in Canada where she lived there were a lot of really young trainers that didn’t have a clue, so I’m sorry, can I please see your credentials.
I was really proud and happy that she had asked me, and I brought my certificates in the next day.  12 years and 1 person asked me!!  I would say that it is more to do with the trainer’s personality and likability than qualifications, certificates, and awards etc.  That being said, the knowledge I gained from my degree has obviously helped tremendously over the years, and in more depth with the professional sports people I’ve worked with.
I guess also that when some people look at my profile etc and they see degree on there it gives them more confidence with the trainer.  But I really could have been a serial killer and a successful trainer for the past 12 years and nobody would have known.

What’s one book that changed your practice/mindset, etc… and why? What’s the one thing you took away from it?

I’ve read so many ‘self-help’ books over the years and find them all really good. I get something from nearly every one of them. One of the best that made a huge impact on my life was a novel called ‘The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield.

The book just rang true with me on some level. I read it a long time ago and should probably re-read it at some point. But one thing I remember was the ‘poor me’s’ in the story and how negative people drain a positive persons energy, but how a positive person can generate enough energy to give them some.

It helped me to identify these types and just to understand their mindset a little. You know sometimes you have a conversation with someone and you come away all excited and think, man that was an awesome conversation, I like to look at things like that as a sharing of energy.

What are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading ‘You Are a Badass’ by Jen Sincero.  I’ve recently been on holiday and I always buy one of the New York times best sellers in the airport and read it on the plane, its a pretty cool book which I still need to finish.  I just read ‘The Klatten Power Boxing System’ by Moritz Klatten which is to help me with my work with professional boxers.

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

I had a client who was overweight, unhappy and very nervous to even come into the gym to begin with. for the first couple of months it was all about building her confidence up to feel more comfortable in the gym.

My common sense and experience or intuition or whatever you want to call it made sure she never did anything that made her uncomfortable (which meant we weren’t able to do a ton of exercises to begin with). Obviously I knew that I had to get her to clean her diet up and start eating healthy etc. But the biggest factor in her transformation were her friends who called on her to be there every weekend sinking cocktails and eating crap.

I was able over time to get in her head and empower her to miss the odd night out with friends every now and then, and then take note of how she felt the day/week after. Naturally, over time she lost a lot of weight (over 5 stone), and it was so good to see her come into the gym in new gym clothes, and even taking classes without me there.

It was a challenge in a different way. I always think its not the exercises you do in the gym that count so much, its how you get into your clients mind to make them WANT to make a difference THEMSELVES, after all you only see them maybe 2 hours a week.

I always think its not the exercises you do in the gym that count so much, its how you get into your clients mind to make them WANT to make a difference THEMSELVES, after all, you only see them maybe 2 hours a week.

Do you remember the tipping point of when your client that lost 5 stone, not going out with friends is hard and a common reason for overeating with our clients? Do you remember a point where she had a realization?

I wouldn’t say there was a tipping point with this particular client, it was more of a constant battle, but the more little battles that were won, the more she progressed.  By battles I literally mean, going out with her friends and not drinking a ton of cocktails and eating a bunch of crap even though said pals tried to entice her.  It was a big confidence building thing and it took a lot of time.
And it was the smallest of things that would spur her on even more, like buying a new t-shirt for the gym, from a brand she wasn’t able to wear before.  The more little victories we had the more progress she made.

Your top 3 favorite questions that you ask a new client? Regular client?

What did you do this weekend?
What did you eat?
How do you think you will feel when you reach your goal?

What do you look for from your clients by asking them about their weekend?

It’s just a conversation starter I always use.  I ask them what they did, then I ask them what they have planned for the next one.  Sometimes it catches them off guard and they let slip about what they drank or the crap they ate.

What do you wish people knew about you but probably don’t?

I wish people knew exactly how much I care about their goals, them achieving what they set out to do. I think most clients can probably see how passionate I am about their goals etc and how much I want them to do well, and how, when I get home at 8.30pm after leaving the house at 6.30am I’m still thinking about them, still thinking how can I get them to do this, how can I get them to achieve that personal best.

Your proudest moment?

Representing England in the World Kickboxing Association World Championships back in 2006, and also obtaining my black belt in kickboxing, oh and getting my degree, oh and marrying my soul mate.

“Representing England in the World Kickboxing Association World Championships back in 2006” SWEET! Any cool stories or experiences you can share from that?

I actually came 4th in the world championships and lost to a Slovakian kickboxer.  During the fight he actually kicked me square in the balls in the same way you would kick a football!  This should have meant a point deducted or in my eyes disqualification but only one of the 4 corner judges actually saw it, so they obviously weren’t paying attention.
There were plenty of stories after that day as I was then on holiday for the next 8 days or so, but they are all drunken stories and probably not for this interview ha ha.

Hah, Ok, I guess we keep it PG-13 here. How has your programming changed since last year?

My programming hasn’t changed at all really since last year, neither has it changed much the past 11 years. My primary focus with clients has always been Strength. Depending on the client’s goals I’ll add circuit training in there and a little CrossFit type stuff and boxing if the client enjoys it.

But over the years I have tried to make my clients Stronger primarily. I figure as a by-product of strength training the client will naturally lose fat, gain muscle (which will increase metabolism and further burn fat) and become more supple. Over the years I’ve jumped on a few bandwagons: kettlebells, vipr’s, med balls etc…, and I still use these tools now but its always been strength for me.

Recent continuing education that you really enjoyed?

I did a course on MMA training and conditioning which was really enjoyable. But more recently I enrolled onto Ric Moylan’s mentorship program, which was really good for me confidence-wise. The program brings together some of the top trainers in the industry and you get to share ideas with each other. There’s no ego involved and everyone is encouraged to share their experiences both in respect to business and in terms of client practice.

The program is designed to help you improve your business. You have physio’s, strength coaches, professional athletes, and other guys at the top of their game on the program and you all get together once a month and share ideas.

What’s one big idea that came for you out of the mentorship program?

One big idea was group training.  They talk about it a lot during the sessions.  One guy really impressed me, and I did take on board somethings he said.  I had a small group training session twice per week and it meant I earned double for those particular hours, but it worked out cheaper for the clients than a one to one session.
This was great and still is, but I still love seeing so many people on a one to one basis as I am very sociable.  One thing I did get out of the mentorship course though, was that I found out I’m doing pretty good as a trainer.  I had never compared myself to anyone before as I don’t really care what other trainers are doing or how much they are earning, not to say I don’t look and make use of ideas from other trainers though, I’m just focused on my business, my career and most importantly my clients.
But I found myself in a room full of some of the best trainers in the industry and felt pretty good that what I was doing was up there with these guys.  Not one ego in the room, and everyone willing to share, it was a good place to be.  And one thing I’ve known over the years is that there are plenty of egos in this business, so this was refreshing

What’s one thing that you think is really easy, but works well with many of your clients?

I think food diaries work really well, or the more digital food diaries you find on your smart phone these days. It brings about what I think is very important, ACCOUNTABILITY.

The client has to know that 10 pints on a Saturday night washed down with a kebab equates to a shit ton of calories, and even if they ate perfectly all week, they will not lose fat as a direct result of Saturday night, not because I didn’t do a ton of cardio with them that week!

How do you handle the client that doesn’t want to do the food diary?

3 strikes and you are out.  Something I got from the mentor course.  You dont do it once, we go again, twice we talk and try to figure things out, 3rd time you are out.
I mean whats the point, if you cant write down what you ate for 3 days, you cant stick to a nutrition plan and you are probably likely to be a bad client for me, so there are plenty of trainers out there that will train you so go find one of them, in the most polite way possible of course.
Usually, they never get to strike 3 so it’s all good.

What would you recommend a client not to do?

I always recommend a client not do, something they totally hate doing, I mean whats the point, you are never going to keep it up. I mean if a client tells me they hate heavy squats, but I know its good for them, and I keep making them do squats, eventually they are going to quit, so whats the point, there’s a million other exercises we can do so let’s just find one you enjoy a little more.

Any parting advice?

Be yourself, don’t try to be anyone else, it won’t work. People will see through it eventually.  If you don’t love this job, don’t do it.  Focus on you and your clients, don’t worry about what anyone else is up to.

Business will eventually bloom, it takes time and effort, but over time business will bloom, in my opinion, its a time served thing, over time you get busier that’s just the way it is, before long you will be getting repeat business and referrals all the time.

Read everything, then discard all the stuff that isn’t useful to you and your clients.  Once you have read everything, I can guarantee you that you will read it again, just in a different way, different context under the heading ‘new’.

Thanks again Matthew! How do we get in contact with you?


Instagram: mattnuttallstrengthcoach

Twitter: @dynamicptmatt

Resources mentioned:

Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

‘You Are a Badass’ by Jen Sincero

‘The Klatten Power Boxing System’ by Moritz Klatten