Editor’s Note: Chris Forrest is one of the most humble and client focused coaches we know. Before the Habitry Platform was a thing, we helped Chris start a coaching group on Facebook. A few months into the group we realized he had been running it for free. Coach Stevo’s first free group (which had to be free, for his Master’s thesis) ended after 21 days from lack of engagement from clients. Clients in Omar’s first paid group stopped responding after 7 days. Clients in Chris’ free group were engaged for 204 days.
Despite his success, Chris still had doubts about his skills as a coach. He recently started his first paid Habitry group, while taking the Essentials of Group Coaching program. Here is his story.
P.S. The next cohort of Essentials of Group Coaching starts September 14th. Reserve your spot now.
Chris, tell us your story of how you got into the fitness industry.
I have been a personal trainer since 2010 and had my own business (well, businesses) for 5 years.
Originally I got into fitness as a way to overcome depression and alcoholism. I would train hard (I was a CrossFitter) and party hard (the last guy at the pub when the lights came on). I got talked into doing a personal training course by a workmate at the steel company I was working for. I decided to sign up about 5 days before the course started. At this stage I still drank heavily and partied hard but I trained even harder. It wasn’t until after seeing a Psychologist for about 2 years and worked on my issues that I decided to quit drinking all together for 3 months. The results and mindset change was so dramatic that I haven’t touched a drop since.
I still continued to train hard and even train harder now. My “adrenalin junkie” personality needs something to get excited about. I was a heavy pre-workout user and heavy coffee drinker. I ended up cooking myself and was bed bound for about 3 weeks being unable to move. My adrenals were cooked and to be honest they have not been the same since. So I completely changed my whole style of training and focused on longevity and building the training to suit my lifestyle.
Your newest venture is The CJ Rubric, an online fitness community. Can you talk about the motivation behind starting that and who it’s for?
What I found was that the Legends (my clients) where so so good when coming to the gym and working hard. But away from the gym they struggled a lot. The ones that did the best where part of mini groups inside the gym who also communicated with each outside of the gym.
I wanted to find a way to coach them and make an impact on them in the time they are not with me in person. I went through a lot of systems and got stooged by one company that took my money and didn’t offer anything in return. That’s when I stumbled upon Habitry, Coach Stevo and Omar.
They helped me to create my first online coaching group. Even though I thought it was a flop, Stevo and Omar said it was one of the longest running free groups they have seen. But I was sold, the online community answered the questions I had.
How do I make an impact when they are not with me? The Habitry System.
How can I move the community that I have in the gym and put it online? The Habitry System.
The CJ Rubric came about after a nasty bust up with a business partner and losing my gym. But after sitting down and working out my core values and what I believe in going forward, I decided online community based habit coaching was what I am most passionate about now.
Since starting The CJ Rubric and moving online, my passion has come back and even though it's early, I know it will succeed because (a) the Habitry System is almost flawless, you just have to do the work. And (b) anything you are passionate about will work because you will keep trying till you find a way.
I used Stevo’s “We Make Communities” steps and asked all my current Legends the questions laid out in the book about what the “best version of themselves” looked like and acted like. Using Stevo’s book and with help from some of the awesome Motivate Forum Coaches, we were able to create this identity statement for The CJ Rubric Community:
“We are a community for busy people working towards strength, fitness and health and away from time wasting bullshit!”
From this statement alone which was essentially created by the Legends in the community, I have completely changed my persona as a trainer and completely changed the way I deliver coaching online. The only people who come into the community are the ones I’m most capable of training and using Stevo’s steps it has given me and the Legends in the community complete clarity over who we are as a group.
What challenges have you faced as a coach? What was life like before you took Essentials of Group Coaching?
I used to be the typical, confident trainer who would say, “Do this. Why? Because I said so.” Not in a douchebag kind of way but I didn’t really coach, I told them what to do. That’s what the problem was, telling them what to do and what not to do led them to rely on me solely. I wasn’t helping them build up their confidence and autonomy.
How did Essentials of Group Coaching help you confront those challenges?
By making me do what I suck at. I got busy “running”a business and didn’t spend the time with clients like I used to. I didn’t ask open ended questions because I felt I didn’t have time to listen to the answers. That’s why I wanted to get back into coaching myself and doing it online and I knew that the Essentials program will help me to work on the stuff I suck at. It had an unbelievable the effect on my coaching.
What is coaching like now?
Completely changed. I think Dan John said it in Intervention or maybe Stevo but actually coaching the clients online has given me the chance to show people that less is more. Meeting them where they are at, using the tools given to us in the Essentials program has given me the opportunity to deliver “individualised” coaching but in a group setting.
I still catch myself wanting to answer someone with what I think is the best thing they should do, but time and time again it never works. Habitry has taught me that the Legends already know the answer. I just need to guide them to it. Because there answer is different to mine doesn’t always mean it’s wrong or right. Its just right for them right now.
During the Essentials program I started my free Facebook group to be a feeder to my paid coaching group that would start once I got settled after losing the gym and got my head back in the game. I used all the tools from the Essentials in the Facebook group and the motivation and courage it gave to the Legends was something I didn’t see at first. These were just friends, current clients and past clients. But they all have said how much their thought process has changed since The CJ Rubric started. This style of coaching is all I’m focusing on going forward and the Essentials gave me the tools to get started.
If I didn’t join the Essentials program I don’t think I would have got The CJ Rubric up to where it is now and I would be stuck in a rut still. The other coaches taking the Essentials program with me were so supportive when I was down and out and still very supportive now that things are gained momentum. I actually hope I can get to US and meet some of from the other coaches from Essentials program in person.
What advice would you have for coaches thinking about getting started with group coaching?
Just get started, start a group, and invite people in. It will take some time to find the “niche” you will want to attract but for now it does not matter. Get in and get started and go with the flow of the group. It will lead you to places you wouldn’t even think of.
I think as a Personal Trainers we seem to always undermine our skills. With people like Stevo, Omar, Vanessa, Roland, Georgie, Sean and not to mention people like Dan John, Mike Boyle… the list goes on. We feel inadequate compared to these legendary people that we as coaches look up to.
I had this issue with my first group. It was meant to be paid but I did it for free because I didn’t believe yet. The impact was massive, even though I didn’t see it and shut it down after 6 months. It changed their lives forever. The funny thing is, 80% of the original group members are in my current group and 10 of them are in my paid group now.
My best advice would be to do start a free group where you just answer any questions that come up, do Q & A Periscope sessions and generally give out good information without asking anything in return. Once you feel confident and have an idea on what your community needs coaching wise, then you can crack on with your paid group.
You can start small, my free group is only 50 after leaving the gym and the paid group is only 10. But they are super loyal. There is a famous blog post about only needing 1000 true fans. I love my community and we only have 50.
The growth will come. You just need to start.