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Episode 6: Personal training during a pandemic

By May 13, 2020 May 20th, 2020 No Comments

Those in the fitness industry have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic. On this episode, we talk to personal trainer, Stacey Grant-Lewis, about how she has continued to connect with clientele during COVID-19, and how the work she did building her personal brand helped her launch her new venture, The Sweat with Stacey.

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Transcript

Kristin: 

This is Kristin Brandt, and you’re listening to the Sundin Sports Marketing podcast. With gyms closed and clients sheltering in place. Those in the fitness industry, like so many others have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. It has also inspired explosive growth in trainers, athletes, celebrities, and others offering virtual trainings, motivation, advice, and more. In this episode my neighbor and friend Stacey Grant-Lewis, a personal trainer, shares how the work she did in the past. Building her brand has helped her stay connected with clients and adapt to Covid-19.

Kristin: 

I’m here with my neighbor, Stacey Grant-Lewis. Good morning Stacey.

Stacey: 

Good morning KB.

Kristin: 

So good to see your smiling face. Usually. I see you just walking past me with your, with your pup. Elliot.

Stacey: 

Yeah.

Kristin: 

How many times you take Elliot out a day?

Stacey: 

Probably like, uh, he gets two long walks sometimes. Otherwise he’s a nut job. Um, I basically get out for myself too, to get some fresh air. So we’re out a lot.

Kristin: 

I was gonna say we see a lot of traffic walking past our house these days. Um, right. So to get us started, we’re going to be talking about, you know, your life today, um, in Coronavirus. But let’s start with pre COVID. I like to say everything’s like BC and AC before COVID and after COVID. So before COVID, if somebody said to you, “hey Stacey, what do you do?” How would you have answered that?

Stacey: 

I would have said that I’m an instructor, a group fitness instructor who used to be a personal trainer and is a nutritionist, so I’ve been in the fitness realm for some time, but I’ve just been teaching for the last 18 months and taking nutrition clients. Post-COVID, I am doing more, uh, personal training now, doing more instructing from home. I mean, I haven’t had many of those basically focusing on my own own nutrition while we’re going through this Pandemic, because hello, all we want are snacks.

Kristin: 

So before, before COVID, you know, you and I had talked a little bit, you fitness person, me marketing person about personal branding and um, how you use personal branding to like basically connect with your clientele and, and you know, so what was I guess before COVID, what were you doing when it came to like personal branding and what was the role that it played for you?

Stacey: 

Well, social media has been a huge part of my personal brand and just having, giving people access to just good advice. Um, I know that there’s a lot of information out there to compete with in magazines and television and some of it it’s kind of wrong. So I’ve always taken it upon myself to kind of just be a voice of, um, facts. Um, before this, before living in Massachusetts, I was in New York and there I had a very big personal brand.

Stacey: 

I had a company called Maven Strong that essentially focused on helping instructors and trainers get treated right. You know, um, we had events all throughout the city where they would come and have like free shopping days and things like that. So here it’s a little bit more, a little bit different, you know, it’s basically some of that, but more like, you know, I’m just a regular person just trying to help you out type of thing.

Kristin: 

Yeah. And you’re now, is Instagram your primary channel that you use? Is that the tool you like use the most these days?

Stacey: 

It is for free information. I also do reviews on YouTube. Of all of those products.

Kristin: 

So you were doing classes and I know you were also doing, so the um, I had to come to your house one day to do a video with your husband. Your your sweet, sweet husband who I just love how much he’s victimized and participates in everything. Such a good sport. Um, but what was that for? Cause it was, it was for something.

Stacey: 

A certification, I was getting a certification and I had to send proof of my ability. So that’s what that was for.

Kristin: 

Right. So you were using these tools, whether it was to connect to people or to gain your certifications. So then in March you posted here in Massachusetts, we locked down our gyms. So no more classes. And I noticed you definitely started to increase the number of like videos that you were posting. So what did you, how did you start to pivot, you know, after COVID I guess?

Stacey: 

Well it was such, I think, you know, the gyms kind of waited until the very last minute until our governor gave that press conference saying that, you know, okay, no more than 25 people in the room. And so it literally was the night before that all of our classes were canceled. And the only thing on my mind was, oh, that is such a huge interruption in everyone’s lives. Let me just continue to teach my regular schedule, but I’ll just use another platform. I’ll just use Instagram. And so that’s where, you know, that first week or two I basically was just teaching my regular schedule and all of the members that were at HealthWorks came to watch that. And then during that time and after that time, HealthWorks developed their own virtual system, their own virtual platform to go to deliver classes. And so that is a paid service. And so people started going there. But initially it was just like, Oh my gosh, I just want to help everybody and help myself stay sane. I’m just going to offer classes.

Kristin: 

Well as you said in one of your, as you said in one of your videos, (I may have completely cyber stalked you in the preparation) and you said one of your videos, I’m going to work out anyway, so I might as well do it. Um, you using IG live?

Stacey: 

Yup.

Kristin: 

To post them, which I will confess, I don’t, I love giving people advice that they should go live with stuff, but ask me to do it myself and you can just forget about it. Um, yeah. It’s so embarrassing. Um, so what were some of the challenges with IG live? Because I know you then kind of started to move away from posting them there.

Stacey: 

Um, IG live is great for that. First week was great. People had nothing else to do and they were basically shell shocked and myself included. So for the people that were already tech savvy, it was easy for them to go on IG live and see a real workout where they actually felt like you were in the room with them. I mean, that’s the difference between IG live and on demand classes. Yes, the classes are there, but you’re not exactly working out with someone. And when someone is going to a gym, that’s the experience that they’re looking for for you to be with them, talk to them. So I think that the great part of IG live is that interaction. There’s the ability kind of like simultaneously be with someone. But the difficulties are while they’re tech difficulties, I mean everybody’s on it now, right? So it’s really slow.

Stacey: 

The market is saturated and you know, you’re basically beholden to whoever shows up. So if you’re doing a free format, it’s fine. It’s great. You’re not, you’re only doing it for everybody anyway. So it doesn’t matter how many people show up, but it can be disheartening that you’re doing this thing and only five people show up.

Kristin: 

Oh, that’s true. Right? Because you have to do it. Live means live. So it’s Monday at 8:30 AM if I get distracted and it’s 9:30. I missed your workout, which is a, which is a bummer. I don’t know about you. It’s getting harder and harder to get out of bed for those things.

Stacey: 

Yeah. I mean that, and that was that initial, you know, everybody’s excited about it and they were like really kind of enthused about the time they now have in their lives and now everybody’s like, okay, I’m over it. I don’t have in my life.

Kristin: 

Right. So in that first week, so you were teaching these classes, you know, you’re just trying to keep people on the normal.

Stacey: 

Yeah.

Kristin: 

What were some of the other challenges? And I’ll even cue that up. We’ve said his name a couple of times, which is Elliot. So you have this, this rescue pup. Um, we’re three doors down from you for, for listeners. And my daughter and I were outside on the back deck and Sophie was like, what is that sound? Is there a child crying outside? And I said, I think it’s Elliot. Why was Elliot crying?

Stacey: 

So as you can hear and witness here, Elliot is, he’s a puppy so he requires a lot of attention and at first it was kind of cute. He would like kind of photo bomb or just kind of walk through my videos and I was like, Oh there’s Elliot. But then it became like a thing Elliot wants to play, chew on everything. So I kind of had to have an exit stage left outside and he has some separation issues. I put him in the garage, he’s howling, I put him in the kitchen, he’s howling. It’s ridiculous.

Kristin: 

My daughter was like, I’m, I’m really concerned right now. And I was like, I’m fairly sure I know what it is, but let me text the group just to make sure.

Stacey: 

All those people out there who do have young kids who are like photo bombing and walking through their zoom meetings and dogs. They get it. Yeah. Yup.

Kristin: 

Because it’s you, your husband, the two kids. Um, so, you know, how do you kind of manage, even now I’m finding I’m going to, I’m going to put quiet in air quotes, “quiet space” to have these classes or do you just kind of embrace the chaos?

Stacey: 

Well, you know, a little bit, all of the above. I have some time here and Eller here. They do help. They try to help by taking him somewhere. You know, I’ve talked to Todd and Todd is taking them to work with him, which is not convenient at all for him anymore.

Kristin: 

He’s not like, Oh, that’s so fun.

Stacey: 

I’m like, shout out to Todd for a lot of things. So, um, yeah, you just kind of have to make it work and you know, but like I said, last time I put him in the garage, he was howling and you just kind of have to incorporate it as real life in your videos, you know? Um, the good news is lately I’ve gone to really on demand classes so I can be much more well prepared for the video instead of just kind of a one off.

Kristin: 

Yeah. Okay. So, yeah. So, so you have transitioned. So, um, you launched something called The Sweat with Stacey. Do I have that right? Yep. Love it. Um, you know, website saw the video. So, um, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what is kind of, what was your thought process launching it?

Stacey: 

Well initially, you know, my employer was not able to give me the amount of classes that I normally teach and so it was really just really an uncertain time of what kind of benefits you were going to get out. You know, I’m considered a full time employee and so I had a salary, not a salary but a paid week, a couple of weeks there. So that was okay. But then I started to get kind of frantic about the future. Like how long is this thing going to last? Do I just collect unemployment? I mean, a lot of people are asking themselves that question. So I thought, you know, I’m not that type of person. I could just launch the sweat and get kind of give the classes that I’ve already done on on live on demand. That’s essentially what it became. So I’ll just, whatever I did on, on on live, I would just put it there and people could pay for them per video.

Kristin: 

Okay. So the videos you did during the first week, the IG live videos you still had. So then you could take them and repurpose them. I love that. Um, and then you gave people the option, right? So they could, they can, what? They can buy them on demand. They can subscribe.

Stacey: 

They can subscribe to get a more affordable price. I don’t think it’s unaffordable. I mean these are only like 99 cents to $5 a piece, these videos and you can pay a monthly membership subscription to it. Um, but I also want to say, you know, I’m still employed by health works and so they also have their virtual platform where I teach classes that are not seen on The Sweat. So if people are more interested in those types of classes, they can join Healthworks virtual.

Kristin: 

Oh, that’s awesome. So Healthworks. If we can speak to them a bit. Was this something they were doing before or did they pivot quickly also?

Stacey: 

They pivoted quickly also. They had to find a way, you know, I mean it’s, it’s, I just feel so bad for a lot of the small businesses who had to find a way to earn money, you know, and the CEO is not taking a salary anymore. He had to lay off some people furlough people. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a rough situation for the company, you know, so. Um, you know, this, this, the sweat was supposed to be for like my friends and family. I have friends on the West coast who trained with me via Skype back in the, I’ve been doing this since 2009 and so being able to pivot to virtual was not hard for me at all. I still had, you know, the, the process of doing that. So it was like, Hey, here I am again doing this again, you know?

Kristin: 

Right. Well, I was going to ask how much the work you had done in the past with your personal brand. How much do you think that helped as you started, as you started this transition? Right. Cause you weren’t starting from scratch.

Stacey: 

Right. A lot. Like I said, I’ve been doing it since I have been Maven strong for a really long time, I just recently changed the name. I mean for six years I’ve been Maven so maybe like, so I recently just changed my IG name to reflect that, you know, Maven Maven strong has died, but it’s gotten me a lot of opportunities. Um, we have, I got an opportunity with TM, you know, to be their ambassador for instructors, kind of, you know, for the cycling shoe company. Um, I’ve gotten to do takeovers of their platform, of their IGs. Um, I’ve done one for the teacher’s lounge. Um, and I think this is all based on the fact that, you know, I’m consistent in putting myself out there, but you know, in a way that’s helpful cause I just think that there’s another, a lot of noise and I don’t know if you noticed, but they are not a lot of people of color doing this. Like at a high level, which is very strange considering the entire market of delivery is from people of color.

Kristin: 

Yeah, no, it’s true.

Stacey: 

It’s very strange. So I think that, um, I’ve made it a point to kind of put myself out there as that person, as representative of that.

Kristin: 

So one thing I have noticed, and I know you have to, because you also mentioned it, is that there does seem to be an explosion in free content for us, for us, not us. I’m still sitting on my couch. For those who feel so inclined to take a class, whether it’s the big organizations like planet fitness or, um, whether it’s just, again, personal trainers, how does, how do you differentiate yourself from those that are giving it away for free? And how do you, you know, I guess maybe give your value proposition or, you know what I mean? Because I think if said, like you said, it’s really cluttered, right? Like it’s, I was just turned on my Roku and there was a big thing classes with Brooke Burke. I was like, what does Brooke Burke know about fitness?

Stacey: 

You know, we’re in such a unique time right now, unprecedented time for at least my generation. And I have to say that not competing has been helpful in competing. I, I think that we’re all going through such a strange time in life together that I haven’t really focused at all on being better or more popular than anyone else. I think I just have me to offer, I mean this is a service that, you know, your arms and legs can only bend in one direction. So, you know what I mean? Like I don’t care how you butter it up, it’s just fitness and moving your body. So I think what I have tried to do is just to say, look, find some structure in your day. Find some me time, get something done, get a little sweaty for at least 10 minutes. That’s all. I don’t expect anything else from you. Right? So I think, you know, right now the gyms and they should be, I mean, they’re trying to stay relevant so that they can come back, right? So I think that, um, I think that what I’m doing supports them, if nothing else, while just trying to be a human being experiencing this with everybody else.

Kristin: 

No, because I think that’s a nice mix. And I mean it does remind me, you know, I was watching your videos, I was watching some others. I have taken classes in the past. It reminded me how important the personality of the instructor is, right? Like how to, and I will say, how is it difficult for you to maintain? So I watch you and you’re like, all right people. And I’m like, she’s looking at her dog right now. Like, there are no people. Right? And I’ve done webinars, I’ve conducted webinars where I’m like, this is the worst. I need that people. Right? So how is that trying to kind of maybe keep that up? Um, when you don’t have the people,

Stacey: 

When you’re an instructor or trainer, you’re basically on stage all the time because people are looking to you at you for information. So I think what I’ve done is just basically pretend that there are people there that I’m being helpful. I just assume I’m helping you out, girl, you know, I’m here for you. So when I put on that instructor or trainer hat, I become like that person. So it’s been easier for me. I know people, I’m known instructor and friends of mine who are having a struggle with that and it’s valid. I get that. Um, friends have texted me and um, given me emails that they do appreciate what I’m doing. So maybe I’m feeding off of that a bit.

Kristin: 

Alright, so what is next? I mean I know none of us knows what’s next. We just for those who are curious, we are recording this at the end of April. Um, we just got locked down in Massachusetts for two more weeks, two more weeks. Um, how do you see The Sweat, I guess both through Coronavirus and after, like how, what do you think is kind of the next, next for you?

Stacey: 

I think the sweat should be and will be, become something that’s useful to people. I think that, you know, how it’s presented at lately has been kind of new, a little bit refreshing, but let’s face it, there are so many websites and instructors out there doing the same thing. So um, I would like to bring valuable information to people and that’s the goal. If I, if it can’t be kind of unique and we’re like, Oh, let me check the sweat for that, then why do it? So that’s essentially the goal, you know, because I don’t want to be bored either doing the same thing now.

Kristin: 

Some people are doing sourdough starters and some people are starting new businesses, personal training and great information. I’m on board. I like it.

Stacey: 

Yeah.

Kristin: 

All right, well thank you so much for coming on the show. For those who want to find you or sign up for The Sweat, where can they reach you? Really easy. It’s thesweatwithstacey.com and you can follow me on IG at Stacey Designs Life. All right.

Stacey: 

Thank you so much Kristin!

Kristin: 

Thank you again, Stacey for joining me. If there is a bright side to COVID-19 it has been the creativity shown by individuals and businesses as they continue to adapt. Many adopting tools that I suspect they will continue to use even after life returns to quote unquote normal, whatever that means. For show notes and links, including to stacey’s website and Instagram, you can visit Sundinsports.com you can also connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter at Sundin sports. Thank you again for listening. I hope you can safely get out to play.

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