Interview with personal trainer Scott Bisbee from Bisbee’s Fitness Experience. Scott talks to us about perseverance, moving to a mobile training model, challenges & wins in the military, and some stories from his firefighting days.
Let’s get on with the interview!…
Scott Bisbee – Personal Trainer, Alberta
Thanks for joining us Scott! Why did you get into personal training?
I am a people person and always had a passion for helping people. That`s why I became a firefighter, and that`s why I`m a trainer. I absolutely love learning about everything in this industry. Continuing education is a priority and I spent $11,000 in my first year in business.
11K! That’s a lot of money! What were some of the highlights you remember?
Haha! That’s exactly what my wife said when she had realized what I spent. That number includes hotel, food, and transportation too. Living in a small town makes traveling to courses expensive.
My favorite was probably the HKC course. It inspired my love of kettlebells, and I met Franz Snideman (the instructor) and developed a friendship with him. I really enjoyed my TRX courses (basic TRX and the Rip Trainer) and the VIPR course as well.
I know Franz! He’s great. What’s one thing you learned from him that you still use today?
One thing that Franz taught me at the HKC that I still remember and use to this day is how to hinge properly by standing in front of a wall and sticking your butt out until your butt touches the wall.
I still use it with all my clients before we touch the kettlebell.
(see end of interview for video)
How did you get started in this career?
I always had a passion for fitness. I remember when I was 12 years old I saw my first weight set at a Canadian Tire (retail store for my American friends). My grandmother bought it for me and I was bitten by the fitness bug. There was no turning back.
Fast forward a few years and at 17 I started working out at Sackville Sports Stadium, a gym near my home. I became friends with many of the people working there and asked question after question. I was a sponge, soaking up all the knowledge they shared. They suggested that I get my YMCA Fitness Trainer course so I could work at the gym. I did and then I started at the bottom cleaning equipment. Eventually, I started to train people. By then, I was in college and not too happy in my program.
I dropped out of college and studied to get my NFPA 1001 in firefighting as I was also volunteering as a firefighter at the time. I studied to become a certified personal trainer through NSCA, and worked as a trainer at the gym.
My other passion was firefighting, and when the opportunity came, I joined the Canadian Air Force as a firefighter. While stationed on the other side of the country I met my beautiful and amazing wife. Next, I decided to leave the military and go back to my first love, fitness. Except this time, I wanted to be the boss.
I opened a personal training studio after completing my fitness diploma and becoming certified as a personal trainer through ACE. My NSCA had expired while I was in the military.
My studio, Bisbee’s Fitness Experience, opened late in 2011. In 2013 I won the New Business of the Year at the Brooks Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. I grew my business to the point where I had 2 other full-time trainers and a waiting list. I soon realized that I was not able to hire enough staff to keep up with demand, due to the unique economy in Brooks.
My wife and I had 2 children at that point, and I was working 18 hour days. It was not working for us, so we changed the business model to a mobile training facility. I train people where they want, be it in a park, their homes, their workplace, or even my in home studio.
I`ve recently moved into online training, which is a natural fit for my model.
Are there any lessons you learned in the Air Force that helped you transition to a business owner?
The biggest lesson I learned was perseverance. My last two years in the military were tough, and I knew that if I could go through that I can do anything I want to because nothing could be as tough as those two years.
Keep your head down, work hard and get through the tough times; that’s perseverance.
Keep your head down, work hard and get through the tough times; that’s perseverance.
With the new travel time you need for your mobile training business, how did you end up working fewer hours as opposed to being stationed in one gym location?
Much of my time at the studio was dead time. I was busiest in the morning and the late afternoon/evening. I was stuck in the studio during the dead time because the door needed to be open. Mobile training frees up my late morning and early afternoon time.
Now I can design my client’s programs, work with my mobile clients at their specific times and then I’m free to do whatever I want like spend more time with my family, or work on my business.
What do you offer in regards to online training?
My online coaching focuses on the combining of a client-centered fitness program with a client-centered nutrition program. I’m excited that I can offer specially designed exercise programs with Trainerize, and habit-based nutrition coaching with Precision Nutrition’s Super Coach system.
These tools, along with my client specific coaching, helps my clients reach their goals.
What’s one thing about it that you had to learn quickly about online training?
The most important thing I had to learn quickly was to develop systems so I am as efficient as possible. I developed templates and systems for exercise programming, emails, nutrition, etc…
What excites you right now?
I can remember NSCA teaching a new fitness model in 2002. Basically, they weren`t about typical bodybuilding program i.e. chest day, leg day etc… We learned to incorporate the whole body into the program and split it up into push and pull days, etc…
Looking back, NSCA was way ahead of its time. I received plenty of pushback including from my other trainers at the Stadium because “it wasn’t the way to do things”. Today, that style of training is widely accepted now thanks to the kettlebell and Crossfit movements.
What was an obstacle that you faced and how did you overcome it?
I knew I wanted to be a firefighter for a long time but I wasn’t getting in with any city fire departments because I was young and had no life experience. That`s why I joined the military. The first time I took the aptitude test, I bombed it and had very few trade options, and firefighting wasn’t one of them. I studied for the test but when I was ready, the firefighter trade was closed.
I specifically remember going to the recruitment office every single week. It got to the point where I knew the recruiters by name. As soon as the trade was open and I took the test and I qualified to be a firefighter.
That was a happy day for me. It told me anything is possible if you put your mind to it and work hard.
When I started basic training for the military I had no idea that they could kick you out for bad marks like in school. It was a really rough adjustment for me going from civilian to military life. I made it all the way to week 11 and was kicked out because I had too many bad marks against me. I had to start basic training all over again from day zero.
My old platoon was so impressed that I didn’t give up that they named a mock exercise after me in the field: Op Bisbee. Giving up has never been in my vocabulary because and I knew I would be a firefighter.
I completed basic training with only one mark on my record which could have been avoided. That one black mark was because a bunch of us didn’t shave in the field, but no one could tell if I did shave because all I had back then was peach fuzz.
Graduation day came and all my instructors came and shook my hand. It was a proud moment.
What’s the “Op Bisbee” exercise that was named after you?!
Op Bisbee was a mock up field exercise based around the rescue of a fellow soldier. Basic training has a lot of mock exercises and I was flattered to have one named after me.
That’s great, maybe I’ll try the “Op Bisbee” with my clients. What is something in the fitness industry that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Don’t run into the trap of spending your money as fast as you make it like I did on continuing education. Create a budget and stick with it.
What’s one book that changed your practice/mindset, etc… and why? What’s the one thing you took away from it?
The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It taught me that most business’s fail because they lack systems. My big take away was to be consistent with everything you do. Systems make it possible to successfully scale a small business into a billion dollar franchise.
This taught me to look at my client programs; everybody is different but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t all do a particular movement.
All my clients do a squat, pull, push, hinge, carry of some sort, modified for their fitness level. For example, if someone can’t do a back squat, we do a goblet squat instead.
Right, there’s customization, but at the end of the day were all human. What are you reading now right now?
I’m just finishing up the book my kids got me for my birthday, Vince Flynn’s “Order to Kill”. It’s a political thriller. I’m just getting into Anthony Iannarino’s “The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need”.
I love to read, and usually have two or three on the go at once, and a pile to read when I finish those up. My wife keeps telling me to stop leaving books lying all over the house.
Can you talk about a breakthrough you had with a particular client, and what led up to it?
I`ve had one client for four years. When she started with me she had just had hip surgery, had no balance, and couldn`t even get on the ground. I basically had to simplify every single exercise for her. One example I remember was using a foam roller against the wall, and feeling like I had to think outside the box.
I can’t remember exactly what I did, it was a few years ago, but I do know the TRX helped her tremendously. We did a lot of TRX lunges and balance exercises with her. Once her leg strength was good enough, I had her on the ground where she had to do a modified get up, and that made it better for her.
Now she has no issue getting up off the ground and she swears that I saved her life.
That is a powerful client story. I’m sure you’re familiar with the risk factors of falling and not being able to get up from a fall. When working with clients, what are your top 3 questions when meeting a client for the first time, and your top 3 questions for someone that you’ve been training for a while?
For a new client:
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your exercise history? Have you used a personal trainer before?
These questions get them to open up for me.
If they tell me their answer I ask them why; I always ask why.
I dig deep with them to find the emotional trigger, because once I have that, I know I can keep them motivated.
For an older client: How’s your day? How Are You Feeling? How’s Your Wife/Husband/Kids?
Basically, shooting the breeze with my clients like I would with friends. However, these questions have a purpose. Yes, we are in the business of changing lives but at the end of the day clients are paying us. If something is going on at home or if they are not feeling well or injured I change their program on the spot.
It`s not just about the physical training I give, it`s about helping the whole body and mind at the same time. Plus, with the new research about stress in relation to high-intensity workouts, you can actually do more damage than good if you are not careful.
What do you wish people knew about you but probably don’t?
I persevere. I never give up.
I`ve had a few tough moments in my life but I always persevere. The greatest compliment I`ve ever received was from a close friend in the fitness industry. He said that if you look up persevere in the dictionary you see a picture of me.
My volunteer fire chief said the same words to me.
What advice would you give a trainer just starting out in the business on perseverance?
Don’t let yourself get discouraged. When you first start, you are pumped up and think clients will be flock to you. That’s not how it works. You might be the best trainer in the world, with the best programming & education or whatever, but until you can market it and convince everyone, it can be a long hard slog.
It’s like the military. After basic training, you end up in a “waiting platoon”, meaning the place they put you until your trade course starts up. You are going 100 miles per hour and then suddenly you hit a brick wall. That’s how it goes for a starting trainer as well. You’ll be busy marketing yourself, working hard to get started, and then it’s all done, but your schedule isn’t even half full.
During this “wait” time I would suggest study more. Read anything and everything you can get your hands, listen to podcasts, etc…
If you work at a big gym strike up conversations with the members. It’s critical that they are just conversations. Don’t try to sell training. Build a relationship with them. Build up the trust factor. It may mean that you give away some of your knowledge, but it makes you an authentic trainer and a voice they trust.
Try to get involved with everything that the gym and community offers, and soon you will be known as the fitness guy, and that’s what you want. Once you have the relationship, you can sell.
But never sell without the relationship.
That’s great, I hope there are new trainers reading that last paragraph. A lot of hard learned lessons there. You mentioned podcasts, any good recommendations for us?
The Strength Matters podcast, and Rdella Training. I don’t listen to them religiously. There’re so many fitness podcasts out there, all great mind you, I just think we are in podcast overload.
Everything competes for your time, you should choose it wisely.
You have achieved a lot in your career and “been around”. Is there anything that stands out that you are proud of?
I have many.
My proudest moments include serving my country, marrying my beautiful wife, witnessing the birth of my three amazing kids and winning New Business of the Year.
I had never won an award in my life so that was pretty exciting.
How has your programming changed since last year?
My programming has changed a lot. Since taking the 3 day SFG course, I’ve implemented a lot of kettlebells into my client`s training.
My warm ups always include a few rolling exercises, crawling and a Turkish Get Up. Last year, my warm ups were dynamic exercises, inchworms, jumping jacks bird dogs etc…
What have you noticed in your client’s performance since changing your warm ups/movement prep?
The switch to a dynamic warm-up leaves my clients ready to go. They can lift better, and we can fit more into the session. When I started my clients on a cardio machine (i.e. Jacobs Ladder or Treadmill I found it killed my client’s legs (especially the Jacobs Ladder) which is not a good idea if you are doing squats with them later.
Tell us about recent continuing education that you really enjoyed.
The 3 Day SFG Kettlebell Certification. I learned so much about how to use my body more. Whenever I take these courses I’m not so much amazed at the method (TRX, Kettlebells, etc…) as I am about how you can use your body differently.
I pick up different cues that I can pass on to my clients and what I learn with the TRX, kettlebells etc can be easily applied towards powerlifting or Olympic lifting.
What’s one thing that you think is really easy, but works well with many of your clients?
The TRX. A lot of people cannot squat properly, especially older clientele. Incorporating the TRX it makes it a whole lot easier.
If you went back in time to when you started personal training and had just enough time to give yourself 30 seconds of advice, what would it be?
Take every opportunity you can and focus on today not what may happen.
What’s your favorite story you have from your firefighting years?
I have a few, but I will tell you two!
My first story doesn’t involve being a firefighter, it was when I was sent up north to a little place outside of Alert, Nunavut Canada called Eureka right after basic training. I had no idea how vast Canada was until I took that flight.
It was 12 hours straight up North and we flew in a Hercules. A Hurc is a big noisy military transport aircraft. It was pretty cool and as soon as we crossed the permafrost line the whole aircraft was extremely bright because of the sun glare radiating off of the ground.
We stopped in Thule, Greenland and I couldn’t believe how big the American Air Force base was for so far up north. It had everything, including it’s own tv channel. I had no idea the Americans have a military TV channel so I thought that was pretty cool.
We get to Eureka, and the next day myself and a few others decide to go for a walk and we see a bunch of muskox in the distance. I had no idea what these animals were and they looked something out of the prehistoric age. As we are walking closer to the muskox, they start running after us so we turned around and ran as fast as we could.
There was a huge gully 25 feet away. I knew if I jumped in the gully I would probably break a leg or something. I didn’t want these muskoxen after me so I wasn’t sure what to do next.
Then one person stops and he laughs and says, “Muskox are not meat eaters.”
After giving him a hard time, we both start laughing hysterically.
Being up North was amazing. I would tell anyone to put it on their bucket list. When we got to Eureka, it was 20 below in May and when we left it was 71 degrees in August. We were only 2 hours away from the North Pole!
Another quick story I have is what happened to a friend of mine. The boys on his crew decided to freeze his uniform while he was sleeping. This was during the dead of winter I think it was -30 out and his uniform in the morning was frozen stiff.
It was amusing but what happens if there was a call in the middle of the night?
Scott goes over how he teaches his clients to hip hinge.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us! How do we get in contact with you?
or email me at email@example.com
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