Sean Pastuch Evolving Fitness

Sean Pastuch
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Kelly: [0:00:04] Hey everyone, I’m Dr. Kelly Starrett.

Juliet: [0:00:06] And I’m Juliet Starrett.

Kelly: [0:00:08] And you’re listening to The Ready State Podcast.


Juliet: [00:00:16] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by LMNT. And what we wanted to talk about today is the fact that we find we just plain drink more water when it actually tastes good and is flavored.

Kelly: [00:00:30] Unlike that brown water you drink all the time. 

Juliet: [00:00:34] Brown water? Are you talking about coffee?

Kelly: [00:00:34] The science is true. People will consume more water if it has flavor. It’s interesting. And one of the things that I cannot stress enough, from brain fog, to your tendons and ligaments being well hydrated-

Juliet: [00:00:48] To be able to sleep better.

Kelly: [00:00:50] Caroline noticed that her skin cleared up when she started drinking more water. We need to drink more water. Lot of you are killing it, in which case you’ll definitely benefit from supplementing some additional electrolytes and salts, key salts. Those of you who struggle with a lot of water… Quit looking at me, it’s true. I find that if it’s flavored with LMNT, I crush it.

Juliet: [00:01:11] Yeah. And I will say I love to sell you down the river but you and I actually both struggle to drink enough water. We both default to coffee, especially in the first half of our day.

Kelly: [00:01:19] Just because Lisa makes fun of me. Yeah, I’m thirsty, let’s have a coffee.

Juliet: [00:01:22] We have found that if we wake up and drink some LMNT first thing in the morning and sip on some throughout the day, especially because it tastes so good, we’re just more likely to drink more water, which is a benefit in and of itself.

Kelly: [00:01:33] You don’t have to make a liter of LMNT all at once. Half a pack, drink some water. You’ll find that you will do better and you’ll be more consistent in your hydration. 

Juliet: [00:01:41] Right now, if you order through our link, you’ll get a free sample pack with all of LMNT’s flavors. Go to

Juliet: [00:01:52] On this episode of The Ready State Podcast, we are delighted to welcome live in studio Dr. Sean Pastuch. Sean is a dedicated husband, father, and leader. He is the founder and CEO of Active Life, a company that guides its clients to a life well lived through the attainment of empowered thought, physical freedom, and emotional well-being. When he’s not working to improve the life of his clients. Dr. Sean spends his time with his wife and three daughters. He credits his wife with being his biggest supporter and his children with being his best leadership coaches he’s ever had. At Active Life, Dr. Sean and the team believe that the two industries that exist today to help people enjoy a life well-lived—fitness and healthcare—fall severely short.

Kelly: [00:02:36] I have known Sean for a long time and we have become great colleagues. I completely understand where he’s coming from, married to an incredible woman, trying to balance the demands of-

Juliet: [00:02:49] Fatherhood and business life.

Kelly: [00:02:50] Well, I was going to say how do we think differently about helping people care for themselves clinically and exercise and manage other aspects of our lives. This is a great conversation.

Juliet: [00:03:01] Yeah. And you know, one of the things that was fun for me was to be able to spend some time talking with Sean about what it’s like to actually own a brick and mortar gym or a fitness facility. We haven’t spent a lot of time talking about our own gym and the challenges of closing it. And so we were able to really relate to one another. He’s had some gyms open and close throughout his career as well. So that was one aspect of the conversation I really enjoyed.

Kelly: [00:03:25] One of his gyms was closed by a hurricane and ours was closed by-

Juliet: [00:03:29] A global pandemic.

Kelly: [00:03:30] A global pandemic. One of the great things I think you’ll like in this conversation is seeing how the sausage is made. We are talking critically about the problems we have as small business owners in health and fitness and how we have this bigger digital reach and how we try to synthesize that to help serve people. It’s great. 

Juliet: [00:03:49] Yeah, and I really appreciate the approach Sean is taking by helping serve the broader community by helping support gyms and coaches and make those organizations better at what they do so they can serve a really broad population.

Kelly: [00:04:02] And lastly, Sean has done an amazing job of really bringing people along the ride. He points positive, he really supports his friends, he’s a great colleague. I think you’re going to love this conversation with Dr. Sean Pastuch. 

Juliet: [00:04:15] Sean, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. And first of all, thank you for being here in person. This is so fun. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:04:20] It’s my pleasure. It’s a trip to be here, honestly. You know, I’ve told Kelly in the past, when I was coming up in 2009, 2010, this is the guy who I was looking at and saying Kelly’s going through this brick wall, getting bloody on his way through, and now I’m going to be able to crawl through and maybe get a few scrapes on the wall or on my elbows. And I didn’t know at the time that it was actually all you; Kelly was just a mouthpiece.

Juliet: [00:04:46] Behind the scenes. Behind the scenes. 

Kelly: [00:04:48] You don’t know until you know.

Sean Pastuch: [00:04:50] Once you know, you can’t forget. So it’s a trip to be here and I appreciate it.

Juliet: [00:04:53] Yeah, and you’re on a Northern California world tour. It’s like the Kelly, Juliet, Sean BFF Tour. So you were at Mark Bell’s yesterday and then you’re going to Jason Khalipa’s if I’m-

Sean Pastuch: [00:05:02] That’s correct.

Juliet: [00:05:04] All great friends of ours. So you mentioned 2009. Let’s go all the way back to the origin of what are you doing, where did you get started? What’s your backstory?

Sean Pastuch: [00:05:12] I’ll give you the brief backstory. I was a personal trainer out of college in 2004. And then 2005 I got my first real job as a personal trainer.

Kelly: [00:05:21] And this is the East Coast?

Sean Pastuch: [00:05:22] East Coast. Yeah. I’ve only been on the East Coast. I’ve lived in New York my whole life. So I got a job working at Equinox after I worked at a local mom and pop World’s Gym. And I got really disenfranchised with the fitness industry because I would bring my clients upstairs to the physical therapy suite because I didn’t know anything about this stuff, and I’d say, “Hey, this guy’s got this knee issue. What do I do with it?” “Ah, just work around it.” “This guy’s got this shoulder issue, what do I do?” “Ah, if it hurts, don’t do it.” “This guy says his back hurts.” “Well, he’s getting pretty old for this stuff.” I’m like this sucks, this sucks. And that was my impression of physical therapy. So I can’t go to physical therapy school to solve this, I’ve got to go to chiropractic school to solve this. And I was going to come out of chiropractic school and save the world. Came out of chiropractic school and I’m like I don’t want to snap necks and cash checks. That’s not what I want to do for a living. 

So after two years working in my father and my uncle’s clinic, who I loved, they were great mentors to me, just not the way I wanted to practice, I opened my own CrossFit gym because I could kind of afford to take investment and open a CrossFit gym and a clinic. Fast forward I don’t know how many years—after Hurricane Sandy wiped us off the face of the earth and I got a chance to rethink how I wanted to do things—I started working with clients who were flying in from out of town for three day appointments where we would assess, do some soft tissue correction, evaluate them in the gym, and then send them home with a program that they could follow that we would write and iterate on using Google spreadsheets before there was a TrueCoach or a Fit Bot at the time to do it on. And that became something I was really passionate about. And owning a CrossFit gym and owning a clinic became things I fell out of love with. And so I just started pursuing things that made me happy. That’s how I go here.

Kelly: [00:07:00] I want to hear more about falling out of love and the things we’ve discovered because I feel like you and I, we talk on the phone a lot, I consider you a serious colleague who understands the world and the battles we’re fighting as a family. The first thing you said was you’re a coach at Equinox and you’re coming in contact with everyone’s issues because you’re a coach. And if someone has a shoulder problem or knee problem, we’ve told coaches for a thousand years, not your wheelhouse, you’re not allowed to talk about it, you can’t address it. So punt it up. We refer out to physical therapy. And when you did that, you got this pushback that, hey, this actually isn’t the right place to set that up. Do you think that is still a huge issue? Because one of the things I think Juliet and I are trying to do is say, hey, we’ve got to reempower… I mean you have a saying, you’re like, “Humanize the doctor and professionalize the coach.” Am I getting that right?

Sean Pastuch: [00:07:56] Humanize the healthcare industry by professionalizing the fitness industry. 

Kelly: [00:08:00] And we feel like we’re still not doing a good enough job teaching coaches and trainers how to manage these complex systems. We’re sort of like, no, just squat differently and workout hard and don’t pay attention to it.

Sean Pastuch: [00:08:14] Well, to take it back to you going through the wall, for me, there was this, am I out of scope to be helping coaches do this? Am I out of scope to even be having the coaches in my gym do this? And I was able to look and be like, no, Kelly’s doing it. He wrote a book and why can’t a coach take that book, The Supple Leopard, and put it towards what they’re doing with their client? No, I do have permission to do this. And you guys gave I imagine millions of us permission to do that kind of stuff. What I think is happening now is we’re dealing with the potential for scope creep where it’s where does the line become black and white, where okay, this is a physical therapist’s or some kind of a rehab job and this is a really good coach’s job. And that’s why we built the curriculum that we built and put a name to it where someone can become an active life professional instead of being a coach, instead of being a doctor. And we say this is the world that you fill, when it gets to here, that is a hard line referral to a medical professional.

Kelly: [00:09:20] We start all our courses with that line that we’ve created. How do we define an injury or someone needs… And what we’ve found is instead of worrying about mission creep, because we are trying to teach physical therapists actually how to coach and the other way around because that’s where people are for three to five hours, what we’ve found is that the coach is actually picking up problems and has become the combat medic first responder and is getting people to the right help sooner. That was the surprise to us is that the coach is saying, hey, this smells weird, and instead of waiting around for months or things to become really critical, that line that we set up to protect coaches, actually enabled them to serve their populations better.

Sean Pastuch: [00:10:06] Well, what happens, at least from my experience, is people are not looking necessarily for the person that can help them; they’re looking for the person who can connect them to the person who can help them. And if that ends up being them, great. But when you can be an abundance minded coach and an abundance minded healthcare provider—let’s say they’re different people—you’re just saying I don’t need to help everybody. I can find somebody else who can help this person in a way that they’re going to enjoy it more than the way I’m going to help them and get them results faster because they enjoy it. That way everybody can get what they need.

Kelly: [00:10:40] When you mean an abundance minded… Not that I have to be the only person who solves all the problems?

Sean Pastuch: [00:10:41] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean we have people who will come to us at Active Life and ask about mobilizing things and do you have any programs for this and we’ll tell them to check out The Ready State because it’s a better place for them to get that kind of stuff than what they’re going to get from us. And we don’t have a referral code, I don’t want a referral code. It’s not about that. It’s about if we can constantly help the people find the people who are going to be best for them, we’re going to constantly be able to expand our trust, and that’s going to allow us that influence long-term and that’s going to allow us to actually achieve the mission that we’re all in pursuit of. What I would like to see more of is physical therapists, healthcare providers, having the abundance mindset that I do need to find a coach who I can collaborate with or coaches who I can collaborate with. Because I think that allows the coaches to start to look for the physical therapists and the healthcare providers that they can collaborate with. Because going from coach to healthcare provider can be intimidating. And it can be I don’t want all these doctors to shut me down and tell me that I’m outside of my lane. And so when the doctor goes first—and when I say doctor, I mean anybody with a doctorate—when the doctor goes first, it can make it easier for the coach to go, oh, I can refer here and now I don’t have to take on all of this burden.

Juliet: [00:12:03] You know one of the things we still see a ton of, and I’m sure you do, and you referred to it a little bit in what you said before, but I still think we’re so far from that model where we have the really clear scope and then this abundance mindset and then a lot of collaboration between the doctors and the coaches. And one of the things we’re still seeing so commonly is that people who come into us mostly from traditional physicians and orthopedic surgeons, the model there universally still seems to be, okay, well, if it hurts, don’t do it, or if it’s bothering you, stop doing that.

Kelly: [00:12:38] That’s reasonable advice, actually.

Juliet: [00:12:39] And it is. It’s reasonable advice and that’s within their scope because that’s what they understand and know to do. And/or the other tool that they often have in their toolkit is okay, take this drug or do this surgery, right? And so how do we begin to create those collaborations and create an environment where physicians and doctors and chiros and PTs feel like they feel comfortable? First of all, how do we create the network so that those doctors know that this is out there, that these people with this skillset are out there, and they feel competent and comfortable to say, “Actually, you have to keep moving. In fact, moving is going to be the beginning of the end for you in every way.” And how do we create those collaborations and connections?

Kelly: [00:13:19] Do you mean at like a national level or a hyperlocal level?

Juliet: [00:13:22] Well, I mean I think it has to start at a hyperlocal level because there has to be connection and collaboration. But how do we even begin to do that?

Sean Pastuch: [00:13:30] I think the national/international thing starts with hyperlocal being successful and then people wanting to model that behavior. My answer to what you’re describing is if you were to eliminate the network of people that you’ve developed for yourselves over the last 20 years in this industry, who is a trainer, how would you find the coach/trainer that you would be comfortable referring to?

Juliet: [00:13:51] I hate to say this but it would be all coaches that we brought up and trained at our own gym. Those are the people that I still today, even though we no longer own a gym and they’ve fanned out and are working at different places, those would be the people to whom we would refer. And isn’t that interesting? Sometimes we struggle. We often have people say, “Hey, can you refer me to a physio?” And it’s not easy. Our list is not long. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:14:15] That’s the problem that we need to solve. That’s the problem that we’re setting out to try and solve. I want to be careful to give credit to the great coaches who are out there doing work so as not to exclude them. The difficulty is I believe you will always be associated with the worst among you, not the best. And so what that means is when you’re looking for a coach or you tell someone in regular marketplace society, “Hey, I have this great coach for you,” they’re thinking about the 54 year old who’s been doing it for 30 years and hasn’t gotten any better since the first day that they did it in the gym. But they’re like, “I’m a master trainer. I’ve been doing this for 30 years.” That’s New York, by the way.

Juliet: [00:14:52] Yeah, I love that. I love that.

Sean Pastuch: [00:15:54] They have a coffee on the belly and the cellphone in the hand while the client’s on the leg extension machine, who has knees that are bad and they’re making them worse. So that’s what the average person thinks about, unfortunately, when they think about a coach or a trainer right now. The average pay for a coach or a trainer right now is $19 an hour and the average duration inside the industry is under a year. The only industry with greater turnover is hospitality, so servers. And very rarely is someone like I want to be a career server. So I believe that if we want to create any kind of sustainable infrastructure that allows for that kind of collaboration, we need to develop credentialing that is demonstrative of a coach who can do that job. That’s the only thing I know how to do and so that’s where we started. 

Kelly: [00:15:42] Do you think we can actually do that in our current system, or is the system so commoditized, so industrial complexed? I think about the big gym chains as we drive past where you’re not allowed to lift overhead, for example. There’s one of those, right? Whichever one has the Lunk Alarm. It’s Planet Fitness. I think they were like no jerks, no pushing overhead. And I was like, “Great, we’re going to snatch today.”

Juliet: [00:16:08] Is Planet Fitness the one that’s all purple?

Kelly: [00:16:10] Yes.

Sean Pastuch: [00:16:11] Does it count as overhead if I snatch it?

Kelly: [00:16:13] If I snatch it. So if I can’t press, then snatch. So we think about this all the time, in physical therapy, where the people are constrained by who’s paying and who owns the problem and who are the stakeholders. So do we have to create another model like CrossFit has done? I mean the way we solved this problem with athletes traveling, hey, you’re in Australia, you’re looking for a physio, I need you to go to the local CrossFit gym and ask them who they use because at least there’s some kind of relationship there that I’m like this person is going to be comfortable with the movements and the things that we’re doing. That’s the only solution I have currently.

Sean Pastuch: [00:16:53] And now you’re hoping that that CrossFit gym has a relation with a physio and that’s not always-

Kelly: [00:16:57] Or a chiro.

Juliet: [00:16:58] Or whoever. Yeah, just someone. Just some practitioner.

Sean Pastuch: [00:17:00] Right. And oftentimes, they won’t. Or they’ll be like, “There’s this place in town.” “Who’s the doctor I should see?” Agh… The answer to your question is, yes, I believe it can be done. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be trying to do it. I think it starts really small. And when it comes to what you were describing, Kelly, with the commoditization of it and trying to create systems where people look for it outside of the what does it cost and all that, a story that I like is a story of anti-lock brakes. I know it seems totally not even adjacent but seven steps away from this. But are you familiar with how they became what they are?

Kelly: [00:17:36] I’ve heard a little bit, but refresh us. 

Juliet: [00:17:38] Let’s hear it. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:17:39] They started off as a feature that Porsche added to their racing cars. And this is how carmakers innovate: They have a racecar, let’s try this crazy idea and see what happens. So they added anti-lock brakes and started winning. Well, the next year, they have to license that technology to everybody else on the racing circuit so they all started using anti-lock brakes. Porsche drivers then said, “Hey, I pay $80,000 for a car. Can I have anti-lock brakes on my car that I’m driving in the street?” Sure. So they started putting them into Porsches. Long story short, at the time, at the very beginning, it was highly unaffordable. It was absolutely for the top .1 percent of society and then the top one percent and top 10 percent. Now you can’t manufacture a car that is sold in the United States or Europe that doesn’t have anti-lock brakes in it. Every car has anti-lock brakes. It’s ubiquitous for the industry. Yes. You don’t have to ask anymore. And so the way I look at this, we are in the racecar phase of anti-lock brakes as it pertains to professionalizing what a coach looks like.

Kelly: [00:18:38] Have we made any progress in 10 years? I mean you’ve been at this for over a decade now. We’ve been grinding for just a smidge longer. And sometimes, we literally came up with the motto or the saying, we’re like, “The glacial pace is the breakneck pace.” This is as fast as we can go. And sometimes Juliet and I are like have we even changed the tanker one degree yet. I mean-

Sean Pastuch: [00:18:57] I can speak as an outsider for you – yes. The Ready State, formerly Mobility WOD, Kelly and Juliet Starrett absolutely have moved the tanker because there was not thought about moving the tanker before you guys started doing what you’re doing. So to say that the industry owes a debt of gratitude to you guys I think would be extremely light. So yes, the tanker has changed direction. It may not have changed direction in the sense of, hey, we’re heading west now, we were heading south.

Juliet: [00:19:27] Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a little five-degree turn, little five degree move. Yeah.

Sean Pastuch: [00:19:31] Right? But for every 100 miles we change a mile from where we end up when we change one degree, something like that? I’m not a navigator, so don’t hold me to that.

Kelly: [00:19:39] You just flashed your East Coast, New York sound technology. That was amazing. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:19:43] Did I? I appreciate it. Yeah, so the industry has started to shift. And what I believe is necessary is something that I feel grateful that I’ve been able to demonstrate with you and you’ve been able to demonstrate with me, which is the abundance mindset of, hey, we might have separate businesses—I own this business, you own this business—but we are in the same business, that by the way, this world needs thousands of people to be in if we’re going to make the dent in the way that we mean to. And there are headwinds that I imagine we haven’t faced yet. I told my wife, “You will know we are successful when a physical therapy organization sues us. That’s when you will know.”

Juliet: [00:20:19] Right because they’re looking, they’re noticing.

Sean Pastuch: [00:20:20] When it’s like, oh, this might be a threat. When it’s not by the way, it’s only a threat if you have a scarcity mindset. But that’s when I think it starts to be like, okay, now we’re having conversation. But the answer to your question is yes, it’s shifted, and yes, there are doctors now who are looking for great coaches and it’s very difficult for them to find great coaches. That’s why we built the curriculum that we built, we named it Active Life Professional, and we want to build a network of healthcare providers that want to refer to these kinds of coaches. The issue that we run into right now is we’ve only put 370 or so people through the program so there isn’t a coach near you. You know what I mean?

Juliet: [00:20:59] Yeah. We have the same thing. We offer our professional courses and we have a directory and we have people reach out to us through our support all the time, like, “Hey, I’d love to work with a Ready State coach.”

Kelly: [00:21:08] Couple hundred people a year.

Juliet: [00:21:09] And I can go onto the directory and look and every so often it unites where there’s someone nearby the person who’s reached out to us. But again, it’s just hard to move people through these programs. The comment I wanted to make to you, and I love this idea of professionalizing coaches, I don’t think we set out to do it when we were training coaches at our gym, but we really started with this very extensive and long internship program. We had a lot of coach physical therapists working for us. And the other thing we really focused on and something that I’m proud of in retrospect looking at what we did at our gym is we actually paid our coaches like professionals. Most of our coaches, especially our long-term coaches, were making well into six figure incomes. And I think this whole pay thing—you mentioned it with the personal trainers—to me, that’s everything. I mean not everything, but it’s a huge piece of this in professionalizing coaching. Because it’s always just going to be a job people do for two or three years after college and then once they’re like, hey, actually I want to be able to save money for retirement and pay for my kids, and maybe own a home, it no longer, in most cases, isn’t a viable profession. And so I think of course the education, of course this collaboration is so important, but I think also this pay model is so important. And I think more importantly that means in order to pay coaches as professionals, the consumer is going to need to bear that cost, right? So I don’t even know if I have a question, but what are your thoughts on the pay piece?

Sean Pastuch: [00:22:34] I have a lot of thoughts on it.

Kelly: [00:22:35] Sean has talked a lot about what a minimum wage for a professional coach is. I really appreciate that.

Sean Pastuch: [00:22:41] So I’ll say this: First of all, I remember when you guys were talking about the internship program and things of that nature on social media, early days. And I thought it was awesome. I owned a CrossFit gym at the time and I was like, agh, we’re not doing that; it would be great to do that. And I think that there’s a lot of things that you said that I want to touch on. The first thing is I believe actions align with incentives and I think that we can see that anywhere in society. We want someone to do something, let’s provide incentive for them to do it. The options are either punishment for not or incentive for. And if we choose punishment for not, then we need to increase the intensity of the punishment every time somebody doesn’t do the thing. I have kids, you have kids, that isn’t the way I want to raise them, right? I don’t want to get to the point of like, well, I guess the next punishment is kicking you in the chest. That’s not where I want to go.

Kelly: [00:23:26] Yeah, Georgia.

Sean Pastuch: [00:23:28] Off the deck. So I believe that we need to look at there needs to be a path. It doesn’t need to be an immediate starting salary, but there needs to be a path for a coach to earn enough income that if they hired a financial advisor, the financial advisor would say, “Yeah, you can afford to live in the town where you coach,” which means their housing needs to cost 25 percent or less of their income. Very, very, very simple. So if you own a gym and you’re hiring coaches, look at apartments within a five-mile radius of you and say would I be comfortable with myself living there with my girlfriend, my boyfriend, my husband, my kids, whatever the case might be. Okay, great, I would. What does it cost to be there? Let’s say it’s $1,500 a month. You need to pay somebody at least $6,000 or have a path to get them to $6,000.

Kelly: [00:24:12] Do you think anyone in the history of owning a gym has ever thought that or had those thoughts if they hadn’t come in to you?

Sean Pastuch: [00:24:19] No.

Kelly: [00:24:20] That’s a radical approach about building a sustainable business. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:24:24] It is a radical approach, which is crazy to me because everybody who owns the business either knows these things, needs to be taught these things, or intuits these things. And so you know you can’t afford a rent that’s 50 to 60 percent of your take home income, so why would you expect a staff member to be able to do it. And if you don’t expect a staff member to be able to do it, are you then banking on their significant other to earn the income so that they can work for you out of charity?

Kelly: [00:24:51] I actually really like that model.

Sean Pastuch: [00:24:53] It’s a good model.

Kelly: [00:24:53] Only because I married an attorney and I’m super about that model right now. Not sustainable, comma.

Sean Pastuch: [00:25:01] I did the same thing. I married a teacher who didn’t earn like an attorney, but she carried my ass for years. But so there needs to be either starting at that or here is the path to get to that: It’s clear, it’s articulated, there’s no guesswork, there’s no, hey, so can I get a raise now. It’s oh, these are the benchmarks that we discussed together, they are realistic, we do have a process to achieve these benchmarks, and when we hit them, your pay goes to this. And then I believe if you’re starting somebody below that, you should be creating an opportunity for them to go above that because what’s happening is now they’re taking on risk, which is reasonable. You need to provide incentive for that risk. Does that make sense? So that’s the first thing. 

The second thing is, yes, the end user needs to bear the cost of being able to have this professional in business. What I have found interesting over time is the end user who values professionalism wants that cost. They don’t want the inexpensive coach because everything else in their life… They’re buying sea salt in their kitchen to sprinkle over their food when they’re done cooking it. They could just take the table salt and shake it over the top. They’re going out to dinner and they’re spending $100 a plate. They don’t want to think this person who’s telling me they’re going to change my life is going to do it for $50. They don’t believe it. It’s like when you park two Ferraris next to each other—not that I’ve bought one yet—but you park two Ferraris next to each other. This one’s $250,000 and you have to wait two months to get it and you can apply. This one’s $45,000 and you can take it off the lot today. The person who the coach wants to work with is the one who says, “What’s wrong with that one?” Not the one who says, “Why is that one so expensive?” 

And what I’ve seen happen in the fitness industry is because of the way people started their pricing models, they started getting people who were stretching a little bit to work with them. It was like, look, the industry was $39 a month, now you’re charging $140, $150, $160. People are like ugh, all right, I can make it work. But they give you price objection every single time. If that same gym charged $400 for the same service, it would be scarier, they would have a totally different audience of people in there, they’d have to deliver at a higher level, but those people would not object on price. And all this financial scarcity for the owner would go away. And so to finish that point, high quality service costs high quality dollars. It does and people want to spend it. You wouldn’t want to go to the best restaurant and spend $20. You would be like this-

Juliet: [00:27:28] Suspicious.

Sean Pastuch: [00:27:29] Yep. Don’t put my steak on a paper plate.

Kelly: [00:27:31] I’m going to say, “Don’t put my steak on a paper plate,” the rest of my life. 

Juliet: [00:27:34] I like that. We’re stealing that. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:27:34] You can have it. It’s yours. The last things is, and this is the one I find to be the hardest one to solve, frankly, and I think you guys know PJ Nestler over at XPT. So I just had him on our podcast and I was talking to him about this topic as they try to proliferate XPT around. The hardest thing for us to do in an Active Life location, and I believe the hardest thing for them to do, is if you were going to look for a coach today, if I was going to look for a coach today, I’m first going to look for a person who I want to be around, who I am happy to want to be a little bit more like. Then I want to make sure that that person is able to share education with me and provide a good session and follow up with me appropriately. It’s difficult to become that person when you’re 21, 22, 23 years old. You can do it. It’s very difficult because when I’m coming to you at almost 40 and you guys, what, 25 and 26, right?

Juliet: [00:28:29] Exactly. Thank you.

Sean Pastuch: [00:28:30] You’re welcome. 

Kelly: [00:28:31] Juliet actually is 31, or 30, and I’m 29. 

Juliet: [00:28:34] We’ll explain that ongoing theme here.

Sean Pastuch: [00:28:35] Biological age, biological age. I get it. But I have a different life experience. And when I come in and I say, “Hey, last night my kid woke me up three times and whatever, I’ve got a lot of travel this week,” if I come in and the trainer’s like, “Gotta gut through it,” I’m like you don’t even –

Juliet: [00:28:51] You don’t understand my life. Right.

Sean Pastuch: [00:28:52] You don’t understand and you don’t even want to. So the difficulty becomes if you want that person, you have to pay for that person. And then you have to develop that person. And I think that too often the fitness industry has looked at staff as a commodity instead of an investment. And when you look at any other business, nobody—forget Amazons and Apples of the world—the GAP down the block would not be like, well, we’ll pay you based on how much we sell this month. Never, right? So we need to professionalize ownership too.

Juliet: [00:29:24] I really like what you said about the 21-year-old coach because in our experience at our gym, our coaches were charging a wide range of hourly rates, but definitely over $100, in some cases almost up to $200 an hour. But of course, the clients who can afford to pay that tend to be in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, they’re usually professionals. Exactly like you said, they have kids, they have busy, crazy schedules, they’re traveling

Kelly: [0:29:51] For everyone, this is San Francisco.

Juliet: [00:29:52] This is San Francisco, right? And so I mean I think you’re right. So much of it, of course the coach has to have the coaching skill and the ability to follow up and make a program and hope that they can progress their client, but part of that personal trainer relationship with a client is the personal side. Can you actually talk to me? Because there’s a lot of talking that happens just about life and what’s going on with your kids and families. So the relatability is so important. And you’re right, it takes a while to get to that point. And the other point I wanted to make it is-

Kelly: [00:30:25] Do you think we had better choices because people came through our program and they could model it and we had a chance to weed those people out?

Juliet: [00:30:32] And I do think because we professionalized it, we paid our coaches enough that they could afford to live there. Most of our coaches were a little bit older and had kids and were at a phase of their life where they could relate to a busy working professional. So I do. I think we did a decent job of that. I mean again, that’s such a micro level. We just did it at our own gym. We didn’t do a great job of expanding it.

Kelly: [00:30:55] Yeah, people would ask us, “Why don’t you have multiple gyms?” And we were like, “No way.”

Juliet: [00:30:58] The thing that I do regret a little bit because I think we did a fine job from a one-on-one coaching, personal training standpoint in terms of prices and making sure our coaches kept the lion’s share of that money and professionalized them in that way. But we also had this big membership base, as you know. And in the end, we were charging like $300 a month, which I think for some people is a gobsmacking amount of money to spend on a gym membership. But I actually look back in retrospect and I’m like we weren’t charging enough at all.

Kelly: [00:31:27] Not for what we provided.

Juliet: [00:31:28] Not for what we provided, not for the location, not for the quality of the coaching. So I mean that’s actually a regret I have. And Kelly and I… I don’t know if you have this experiment with your wife, but Kelly and I talk literally once a month about could we ever own a gym again, should we ever own a gym again. I think because for so many years we were in a parking lot and we were trying to find a physical space, that we still, to this day, if we see a space that looks cool anywhere we are on Earth, we’re like, “Oh, that’d be a great gym. Wouldn’t that be a great space for a gym?”

Kelly: [00:31:54] Even our kids are like, “Dad, what do you think about this?”

Juliet: [00:31:55] What do you think about that for a gym? But what we know for sure if we ever owned a gym again, the only way we would own a gym again is it would be either $700 a month or-

Kelly: [00:32:10] Entirely free.

Juliet: [00:32:11] Right. It’s either the Mark Bell model, completely free gym – because that’s an amazing model, right? Or the other model is it would be extremely expensive by most standards but what we would provide is this extremely high-quality professionalized experience. And of course, it wouldn’t be, it’s not scalable. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to attend. It would really serve a certain audience. But for us, I think if we were ever to jump back into the gym world again, the pricing thing would be I think forefront of our mind because you don’t want to run this thing in this razor thin margin. We’ve all done that.

Kelly: [00:32:47] Owners have been highly disincentivized, for sure. It’s really difficult.

Juliet: [00:32:50] Would you do that? So I guess that leads to my question. And maybe before you get to that, because we could ask that question, but I’d love to hear more about your CrossFit gym experience and why you closed and what that was like and is there anything you miss and don’t miss.

Sean Pastuch: [00:33:08] If I can, I’d like to start by challenging your language. If I was in position and in the position I’m in, I would never open a gym again. Because a gym is a place. And what you were doing, the reason why you were charging at $300 is because you weren’t a place; you were a service. And when people think about a gym, when they hear the word gym, they think about, oh, that’s where I go to work out, yeah, sure. But I bet if I asked you what percent of the value that somebody got from your service and your business was from the workout, you would say 50 percent or less. So we have to price in alignment with what they’re actually going to get, not what they’re perceiving they’re going to get. And so the hardest thing we’re coming into right now is we have clients who own gyms around the world and they’re like what should we call ourselves because we were a CrossFit and now we’re not a CrossFit, we were a HIIT Studio and now we’re not a HIT Studio. Are we just like blank blank blank Fitness? I’m like, no, you’re more than fitness. And so for us, in Long Beach, where we opened our own location, we just call it Active Life.

Juliet: [00:34:12] Right. You don’t have a gym or fitness or health club or anything attached to it.

Sean Pastuch: [00:34:16] Correct. On the awning, it says: Education. Exercise. Mentorship. Those three words. So when people come in, first of all, they don’t just walk in. And we’re a retail. But people are not just like, “What is this place?” Although one guy did come in trying to buy season tickets. I don’t know what that means.

Juliet: [00:34:34] You’re like, yeah, maybe that’s something we should offer.

Sean Pastuch: [00:34:36] To the Mets? What are we talking about here? But the long story short to that is we just reopened. I just got back into brick and mortar. And it was in large part to prove a concept and in large part to put ourselves in the same shoes that our clients are wearing because they’re trying to run successful businesses. And I see them doing anywhere between 50 and 90 percent of what we ask them to do. And a reasonable objection for them if I was in their position would be, “Well, you haven’t done this either, so how do you know this is going to work? It’s all theoretical.” So we opened. And the average person in that business right now is paying us closer to $1,500 a month as a client. We broke even in our third month, we were profitable in our fourth month, and we haven’t broken 40 clients yet, and our staff are on salary. And by the way, when you get a personal training client, you don’t get a personal training client, we get a personal training client. Every sixth session they work with a different trainer on staff, a different professional on staff. They get curriculum dripped to them and if they’re not going through that curriculum on their own and the staff member has seen that they have not gone through this curriculum on the back end of our software, their next training session is education; there is no workout. And they pay the same price, $150 a session. not

Kelly: [00:35:48] But isn’t the sleep, nutrition, relaxation, self-care at home, isn’t that just not my responsibility as a trainer?

Sean Pastuch: [00:35:57] And that’s the crazy thing, is that it’s your responsibility before the workout because otherwise, what are we having these people workout for? Anyone who knows anything knows that we exercise for the opportunity to recover. That’s it. We exercise so that we can recreate the window for recovery to happen so our body can super compensate and improve. Well, if we’re not recovering, what’s the point of exercising? We’re just digging ourselves a hole. And so the first thing that our team needs to be able to do is clearly articulate to the client what’s happening in your life right now, what are your stressors, how is your sleep, what are you eating, how are you thinking about food, what are your exercises looking right now. You’re not exercising at all? How many steps are you taking per day? Maybe your first day shouldn’t be thrusters, maybe we should go for a walk. There’s a lot of that that happens at our space. 

Kelly: [00:36:43] Do we ever have to do thrusters?

Sean Pastuch: [00:36:43] We never do thrusters.

Juliet: [00:36:47] I’ve recently done thrusters but you said it and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I was like, oh, thrusters.

Sean Pastuch: [00:36:52] We don’t even have a squat rack in the building. And that’s not to say that I think squatting is a bad thing. It’s to say that the clientele that we’re trying to help is the clientele that are falling between the gap between fitness and healthcare. They can go… There are 14 other businesses in our town who offer fitness. All of them have a squat rack with the exception of the spin studio and the yoga spot, right? So finding a squat rack is easy. Finding a professional guide who’s going to educate you on what’s going on and hold you accountable to understanding that education because that’s as important if not more important than the workout, is not easy to find. And when you do find that, you’re going to pay for it. We’ve had staff members go to doctor’s visits with our client. It’s a scary doctor’s visit. Our staff member goes with them if they don’t have someone in their corner in their family who understands-

Kelly: [00:37:42] Bro, I don’t even know what you’re describing right now, but what you’re describing sounds like healthcare.

Sean Pastuch: [00:37:45] Yeah.

Kelly: [00:37:46] What even word do we… I’m like you’re a health coach, a wellness coach, a health span coach?

Sean Pastuch: [00:37:50] We just call them active life professionals.

Juliet: [00:37:53] Which is good because sometimes I hate the fact that Kelly and I are stuck in these three words to describe ourselves: health, fitness, wellness. In fact, recently there was an article that described us a fitness power couple and we died a little bit on the inside. I was like-

Kelly: [00:38:07] Lawyer turned personal trainer is my favorite.

Juliet: [00:38:08] Yeah. Someone called me a lawyer turned personal trainer one time. I was like, wow, thanks. I guess. That’s a little awkward. But one of the words that you used. I loved actually that you used the word guide and I’ll give you the backstory of why I like that so much. Kelly and I were both guides.

Sean Pastuch: [00:38:25] River guides.

Juliet: [00:38:25] River guides. But there’s something about guides I think that are special. And in fact, when people ask me-

Kelly: [00:38:31] The getting you down the river is the least part of the guide experience, right?

Juliet: [00:38:34] Right. I mean that’s really not what guiding is about. I mean you have to have the skills to get people from point A to point B down the river. But being a guide is about this holistic experience for someone, making sure they feel safe, talking with them, sharing, cooking food with them, enjoying food. There’s so much more to it. And anyway, we’re such fans of guides. In fact, anytime someone interviews me about my entrepreneur journey, they’re like, “Oh, it must be so great that you’re a lawyer. That must help you so much as an entrepreneur.” And I was like, “Well, actually, yes it does. But actually, what’s helped both of us more being entrepreneurs is our background as guides.” And so I actually love the use of that word.

Kelly: [00:39:12] I’m never saying strength coach ever again. I’m saying strength guide. 

Juliet: [00:39:15] Yeah. That’s so cool.

Sean Pastuch: [00:39:17] The first thing I’ll say is to that because you guys have said three things. I want to make sure I go back and touch on all of them. The first thing is when somebody pays you to guide them down the river, their expectation, the five star review on Google is, “I made it alive.” Period. That’s the anticipation, that’s the goal, right? I wanted to go from this point in the river to this point in the river and get out without having drowned or banged my head really hard on a rock. You didn’t talk about any of that. You talked about talking with them, making them feel safe, making them feel welcome, cooking them food. All of that is unexpected value. And the difference between to me a coach/trainer, the way society anticipates them today and the way that we want to build professional guides is that the job isn’t done until unexpected value has been delivered in such a level that someone is compelled to talk about you to everyone that they know. And there are such simple ways to do that. Going to the doctor’s visit is a simple way to do that. Writing up what we call a functional diagnosis to deliver to whoever their primary care specialist is or whoever their rehab specialist is, is a way to do that. Now when they go to that doctor, there’s a conversation to be had that wouldn’t have been had before. Being able to check in on them and ask them, “Hey, I know that you were going through this difficult thing. How is it going? How can I help you? Have you been using your breathwork to help you through it?” When they’re not in for a session, that’s offering an education and making sure that they go through it. All of these things are unexpected value. And to somebody like you, somebody like us, I don’t want to own a business that doesn’t do that. I only want to own businesses that do that. And so that’s where I think we can start to professionalize the industry in a way that’s undeniable. 

The other thing I wanted to go back to that you said earlier is you said, “We’re in San Francisco,” when you were talking about the pricing. I want to make sure that people who heard that do not give themselves a pass for being like oh, well, I’m in Missouri so it’s $25 here. No it’s not. We built a calculation for what anyone should charge for any personal training session. And when I say session, I mean session, not hour. If you start selling time, all of a sudden, a 30 minute session is less valuable than an hour long session, but if two people tell me I can guarantee the same results in the same amount of weeks, this guy requires 30 minute of my time, this guy requires an hour, I’ll pay the same price to the 30 minute guy all day long because my time is more valuable than that money. So we sell sessions. And if the number 100, if $100 for a session gives you a shake, then I would ask you to evaluate what you’re offering to the client. Because I don’t care where you are in the country, that’s the floor for what we teach our clients to charge.

Kelly: [00:41:51] I only meant so much in terms of salaries to be able to pay rent. That’s what I meant. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:41:57] I knew what you meant.

Kelly: [00:41:57] It’s an important clarification. I agree with that. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:42:00] Yeah. So what happened for me was, I’ll give you more of the backstory. I talked more about raising investments from friends and family to open my first CrossFit gym. So I opened my first CrossFit gym in 2011. October 24, 2011. And we were killing it. We were almost full by the month of June. The problem was in the month of May we got sued by our next-door neighbor for making too much noise. Now we were already in the process of launching a second location about three miles away. And so our thought was, look, if we lose this lawsuit, that’s fine, we’ll go there, but let’s win this lawsuit and heave both. So it cost us $120,000 to win. That was just our lawyer fees — $120,000 to win this lawsuit. No one was coming to help us. CrossFit wasn’t sending us money. There was no case law about it.

Juliet: [00:42:49] It was up to you.

Sean Pastuch: [00:42:50] Yeah. So we win, great, October 17.

Juliet: [00:42:53] We win, great, minus $120,000.

Sean Pastuch: [00:42:57] And then Hurricane Sandy. It was almost like in basketball when someone calls a foul, shoot for it, ball never lies. We were loud. We won the lawsuit. But Hurricane Sandy was like y’all know-

Juliet: [00:43:08] Yeah, we’re going to swipe you out at the ankle here.

Sean Pastuch: [00:43:11] So Hurricane Sandy evicted us from our original location. We went to open the second location. And we realized we have no money and nobody lives here anymore and we have a lease. This is not ideal. So we finally got ourselves back open about five months later. We were letting people come in and work out for free. And the deal was if you help us clean for an hour, you can work out with us for as long as you want. And there was no running water, there was no electricity, because we were ravaged from a natural disaster. So we were pulling cars into the place, turning the lights on and we bought an adapter to put the clock into the cigarette lighter of the car and it set on the hood.

Juliet: [00:43:49] Open a business, they say. Yeah, I said the exact same thing. I was like, this is great.

Sean Pastuch: [00:43:52] It’ll be fun. But so all that to say I ended up not being able to provide the investors a return on their investment because they invested in two locations. And I saw the writing on the wall that it was not going to happen. And I was not enjoying my time owning that business. I had just fallen out of love with constant very functional movements executed at a high intensity. I was like well, what about varied intensity, what about rotating things, what about slowing things down, what about if we all understand that going for a 21minute walk can reduce mortality by 30 percent, why aren’t we doing that more often?

Juliet: [00:44:27] Yeah. What if I just like to do curls because it’s fun?

Sean Pastuch: [00:44:31] I made a video one time that was like people say bench press isn’t functional but my wife loves a great chest and that feels pretty functional to me. 

Juliet: [00:44:42] I love that. I love that. I like a nice bicep so Kelly does a lot of curling.

Sean Pastuch: [00:44:46] That’s it. So I regretted not being able to return that investment and I stayed in that business about a year and a half longer than I would have had I not taken an investment to do it. And what I was starting to see was our staff, our coaches who were taking personal training in the way that we were helping them do it were… Not only were our staff earning in excess of $60,000, $70,000 a year where in the town in Long Island, that was plenty, but they were getting results for clients that could not be got in the group class. And I was like, fuck, this is all I want our team to do. And it’s not just personal training, I want to make it so they can also attend a social environment to get this kind of support. And I looked at what OPEX was doing and I was like that’s not my style; it’s too precise in a way. And it’s also, I didn’t like the vibe, it wasn’t for me. They’re great, not my vibe. And CrossFit was no longer my vibe. And treating patients in the clinic was no longer my vibe. 

I had people flying… I remember a day I had two or three patients who had flown into town for evaluations and then a full roster of local clients. And I was like, all right, give me the first file. It sucked. I’m like what are you doing? And then this woman came in and we did a one, five, ten-year goal exercise. And after I did the exercise, I took that thing home, I looked at it, and I was like there is nothing on here about a gym or a clinic at all. What the fuck? So I started executing on a plan to get out of both and just went online helping people one on one for about a year. Then after that, we went into starting to help coaches because their clients were getting results that they couldn’t get for them. Like how do we get those results? We start helping coaches. They started achieving a level of success and the gym owners who employed them were like, hey, what’s going on here, I’ve got one guy making a living and one guy helping clients, and he worked with you. Started helping gym owners and that’s how we ended up where we are now. So what I miss about that environment was the scrappiness of it, the idea that I have no idea what I’m doing, but we’re going to figure it out if it’s the last dollar.

Juliet: [00:46:48] Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. 

Juliet: [00:46:55] This episode of The Ready State Podcast is brought to you by Momentous. And the thing that we want to talk about today is our love of Momentous Omega-3’s.

Kelly: [00:47:03] So the first time I ever… Okay, let’s back up. Our family doesn’t eat a lot of fish.

Juliet: [00:47:08] Like zero fish.

Kelly: [00:47:10] I do eat sushi. I love tuna. But generally, our whole family doesn’t eat fish. And I never get enough. And whenever I get a blood panel, they’re like, hey, you’re omega-3s suck. So I started supplementing with omega-3s, and lo and behold, things started to get better. And I don’t think it’s for the reasons people think we should. Of course, for vascular health.

Juliet: [00:47:28] Yeah. Heart health is what people think of it for.

Kelly: [00:47:31] But it’s really about the brain. And one of the things that I have done because we got into the CrossFit community early, those omegas were everywhere. Fish oil, fish oil, fish oil, which I’m not going to say is omegas necessarily, not all the same. But I burped up fish oil for years.

Juliet: [00:47:46] Yeah, we took some really horrible fish oil over the years. 

Kelly: [00:47:49] What I love about Omega-3s from Momentous is that I have zero burps. I am seeing my clinical levels continue to stay where they should be. And I even tricked our youngest daughter Caroline into taking one every day.

Juliet: [00:48:04] Well, and the other thing that’s amazing is like all Momentous products, they’re NSF certified and in this case, they’re testing for levels of lead and-

Kelly: [00:48:12] Mercury.

Juliet: [00:48:13] Just to make sure that there’s no trace of levels in the omegas at all.

Kelly: [00:48:17] And just generally, we think of this as a food product supplement, one of the problems is that people aren’t looking at NSF certification. Really, anything that you take should be third party evaluated, period, if it’s a supplement.

Juliet: [00:48:30] Yeah. Anything in the supplement world should be third party validated.

Kelly: [00:48:32] Jump on the omega-3s. I bet you’ll end up feeling better. I bet you’ll thank yourself in the long term. I think this is just one of my standard pieces. I don’t have to go heavy on it. That’s long exposure, little doses forever.

Juliet: [00:48:45] Go to and use code TRS for 20 percent off your first purchase. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:48:52] Someone could; I couldn’t. So I had to go through a serious, serious, serious evaluation of who I was to even be able to entertain any of this because I had a chip on my shoulder the size of Alaska when I lost the gym to Hurricane Sandy. And some people came to help and other people were like, “Sorry, bro.” No one owed me anything. But I was young, I had this thought of I thought we were a community, I thought we were in this together. And no one helped me when I got sued by our next-door neighbor, very few people are helping me with Hurricane Sandy and I allowed myself to sit in the role of the victim, which was not helpful to me or to anybody else. And so as the victim who would not be victimized, I found myself lashing out. And not in an overt way, but in a consistent enough way that people saw me as very brash and very stand offish and very that guy’s going to fucking do his own thing and you can either be a part of it or let him be on his island. I hired a mentor when I was at my lowest point professionally who the first thing he said to me is if you want to be more successful in business, you need to become a better person. And I was what are you talking about, I’m great. I treat everybody how I want to be treated. And he was like, you do and I respect that, but you’re a psychopath and people don’t want to be treated like a psychopath.

Kelly: [00:50:25] We ended up treating the gym like a teaching hospital. We had a model that was sustainable but it was a teaching hospital and a test kitchen all the time. And we do miss that. Let me ask you this: We have a lot of professional coaches who are like, hey, I want to take the next step, I want to go work with anyone. I’m like, great, you need to become a professional, either go to physio school or chiro school, if you’re serious about being able to step in and do everything. And then simultaneously we have a ton of physio friends who are like how do I do what you do really great, just need to be a strength coach. Do you think this model that you’re currently doing exists if you haven’t already gone to graduate school and chiro, if you haven’t been a personal trainer? Can you see both sides of this if both of those things hadn’t happened?

Kelly: [00:51:15] I just heard the same model. If we’re going to get the results, I have to be a better person to be a better owner. If I want to be a better coach, I have to help people in their other 23 hours a day and be a guide and those things. It’s all the same thing. Something that resonated with me was closing the business. We always were laughing, we were like, oh, you think it’s so hard to open a business? Have you ever closed one?

Sean Pastuch: [00:51:38] Oh God.

Kelly: [00:51:39] Because we’re like, oh, you’re an entrepreneur, how many businesses have you closed? Because that really was gnarly. That was super gnarly for us. We got closed by the pandemic, a different kind of natural disaster. And what we really saw was I mean the anger and hurt of our community losing their thing was brutal. And Juliet and I felt we were the only bad guys in the whole situation. There’s nothing we could do, so we had to say, well, how are we going to make ourselves whole, how are we going to come in and tax because no one else is coming for us. I mean it really was such an eye-opening experience and it really resonates with me that here you have had this brutal experience and you’re like I’m willing to put a different iteration out, that this growth mindset of not only what I learn but I can help you with your business but also, I’m going to show you that I have learned in real time with my next piece. Major kudos to that because I think we still have PTSD over the gym.

Juliet: [00:52:30] Yeah, I just want to add we never even really talked to that publicly about really publicly or deeply about closing our gym because I think we still feel have so many mixed feelings about how it went down.

Kelly: [00:52:41] It would hurt a lot of feelings if we were honest.

Juliet: [00:52:45] We definitely felt disappointed by a lot of people throughout that process. And also, it was a real mix. We had a lot of people who surprised us in many positive ways and supported us in unexpected ways. But if I could be dark snark for a second because you mentioned your lease. I don’t why I’m hung up on this, but one of the things that bothered me so much during the closing process, and you mentioned it, so it’s what brought it forward for me, is that what I realized is that normal people think that leases aren’t actual contracts that you have to fulfill. So many people said to me, “Why don’t you just close and break your lease?” 

Kelly: [00:53:24] We owed $275,000.

Juliet: [00:53:26] No, no, we owed $875,000. And so I thought that was such an interesting thing. I get it that I’m a lawyer, but I’m like how is it that normal people don’t appreciate that a lease is actually a contract and most landlords don’t just let you break your lease? Sometimes I think everyone’s like work from home for life. And I think to myself, okay, that’s a nice way to think, but whoever’s running your business is paying a lease somewhere that they couldn’t get out of in the pandemic and maybe even were in a 10-year lease and still aren’t out of, right? So I don’t know why that bugged me so much, that there was this total lack of understanding or appreciation that you don’t just break your lease. We had to pay.

Kelly: [00:54:03] Until people know, they don’t know. 

Juliet: [00:54:03] We had to spend a ton of time negotiating legal fees. And we were I guess lucky to be able to pay $125,000 to break our lease. 

Kelly: [00:54:12] Plus everything else we paid when we closed.

Sean Pastuch: [00:54:14] I didn’t have your experience and so I can’t speak to your experience. What I can speak to is a conversation I had with my wife when I was telling her this is… We don’t work in that business together and so there wasn’t a conversation of should we do this, it was a, “Hey babe, this is what I’m doing and I appreciate your support.”

Kelly: [00:54:34] And your health insurance.

Sean Pastuch: [00:54:35] Right. 

Kelly: [00:54:38] It’s okay. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Sean Pastuch: [00:54:40] The thing that came out because she’s the one everybody loves, my wife is like, we walk into a room and I’m like, good, no one’s going to think I’m an asshole because I’m married to her and how could she possibly be married to an asshole. She’s great. And so it works. The hard thing was what about our friends? That was her thing. What about our friends? And my response to that was we’ll find out if they’re our friends or if they were our friends out of convenience because we happen to be in the same place at the same time doing the same thing. And I think the thing that hurts is the thought of hold on a second, I opened this business because I am fulfilled by doing this thing on behalf of all of you and you’ve told me how thankful you are and how grateful you are, not for the business, but for me. And now I’m telling you I’m not going to do it anymore and you give me a hard time about it, you tell me that I’m a bad person for it, you try to shame me for it. What are you talking about? Have you ever changed a job or do you work at the same job you’ve been in since college? What about all the people you let down when you change your job? The best way that we can look out for other people is to look out for ourselves. And I believe that if we become the best version of ourselves that we possibly can, then the people around us get a better version of us to help them. And I only want to be surrounded by people who would be like, “Hey, I know that was probably really difficult for you and I’m proud of you for doing it and I’m here to support you if you ever need it.”

Juliet: [00:56:12] Awesome. Okay, so let’s change directions a little bit and have you tell us and everybody all the things you are… I mean you’ve hinted at it and we’ve talked a little bit about how comprehensive and awesome your program is. But tell us more about the business. From the moment you had your mentor say you need to work on yourself, how did you conceive of the idea and put it together? I know you’re doing a lot of different things underneath that banner.

Kelly: [00:56:39] Active Life to someone who’s listening

Juliet: [00:56:41] Someone’s never heard of you before.

Sean Pastuch: [00:56:44] So I kept on solving our own problems. I didn’t open a brick and mortar because I wanted to open a brick and mortar. I opened a brick and mortar because I have an incredible team who was like if we don’t open this brick and mortar, we will lose credibility with our clients. We have to do this. And we can do this. We will be successful. I was like, agh.

Juliet: [00:57:03] You were like okay. 

Sean Pastuch: [00:57:04] So that’s what happened there. So our business is this: There are effectively two different businesses. One of them is the lab. The lab is the brick and mortar space that we have opened and the online support that we provide to clients. So that’s for the person who right now is like, look, I need a professional guide to help me think about what I’m thinking about and get out of pain without going to the doctor or missing the gym, start living an active life all over again, but I don’t know how to start, I’ve been out of the game for so long. I have fear around this. I don’t feel comfortable in a regular gym or I do feel comfortable in the gym but I’ve been spinning my wheels for a long time. I don’t care if I get a six pack, I don’t care if I have boulders for shoulders, I just want to feel good and I just want to play with my kids, I just want to be able to say yes to anything physical that I want to say yes to in my life and say no to the things that I want to say no to, not because my body says I can’t but because my brain says I don’t want to. That’s one side of the business. We help people online from around the world with help for –

Kelly: [00:57:59] And if I went to, that’s what I’d find?

Sean Pastuch: [00:58:02] You would go to because internet. But you would go to and you would go to individual and you would find all of that stuff. We also have our in-person version of that which is our brick and mortar, which is what we’re going to be working to proliferate over the next several years, where we basically say, okay, this is what we do online, how will we do it in person, oh, where’s the gap online, close that gap. So that’s a part of why we have both. Our attention is not to scale that side of the business, to be clear. I want to scale the brick and mortar. I do not want to scale the online coaching that we do because I believe that our reach in scaling that would be too small. I want to scale the development of professional coaches who are going to go ahead and scale the one-on-one customer service worldwide.

 So our Active Life Professional is the mentorship curriculum that takes who today is a coach, who says I want to do this for a living, I’m finding this extremely difficult to see a path in which that could be the case. I am okay with coaching group class, but I prefer to have meaningful relationships with people in a one-on-one environment or a small group environment, like four people tops environment. And I am tired of chasing abs, ass, and ego. I want to start chasing the things that people light up inside to be able to do. I want my clients to tell me I booked a tour with the Starretts for a river guide, and I never could’ve sat in that kayak because of the way my back or my legs would’ve felt before I worked with you. That’s the client that Active Life Professional is looking for. Their education with us is 13 months long. They have a private mentor who has done what they’re trying to do and a team of experts who help them with all the elements of their businesses that they need help with, along with an 800-page textbook that we wrote, 996 test questions, and last check, 24 or 26—don’t quote me on it—assignments that they need to do during the week.

Kelly: [01:00:04] I’ve got to stop you for a second to say thank you, because I never want to do that.

Sean Pastuch: [01:00:07] Yeah, you’re welcome.

Kelly: [01:00:09] I never want to help coaches become professional coaches. I want to improve their skillset, I want to solve other problems. But I am so grateful that you are taking this on.

Juliet: [01:00:17] It’s so important. 

Sean Pastuch: [01:00:18] I appreciate that and I think that there’s a necessity for both. I think that the stuff that you do for coaches is still important because there are people who don’t want to go all the way to what we’re doing. And they need to do a better job handling the clients who are in front of them right now. I think you guys help them do that. And so this is something that I’m glad you I appreciate you gave me the opportunity to parse out because I want people to know that there’s value in all of it. And I believe that if we’re going to be successful, if Active Life and the Active Life professional is going to be successful, it requires an ecosystem of other people being successful doing different jobs so that when someone comes in, we can connect them to the right person when it’s not us.

Kelly: [01:00:58] And the need of trying to professionalize the coach means that you can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it, and you have to create another model that makes the other model obsolete. It was Buckminster Fuller who said that. He was like, if you want to change a system, you can’t go inside the system and rail against it; you have to actually create a different system entirely that makes the other one stupid and obsolete and incomplete.

Sean Pastuch: [01:01:19] It only makes it obsolete for the client for whom it was already obsolete. And that’s what’s interesting. People come give me shit all the time about, “You’re saying this is bad. You’re saying this is bad.” I’m like I am not saying this is bad. I am saying what we are doing is better for this person and this time in my life.

Kelly: [01:01:37] Bringing my back squat up from 500 to 600 is going to make me a better lover, husband, father.

Sean Pastuch: [01:01:44] It might. Go do that somewhere else. Go do that somewhere else. So what we found from doing that, from helping these coaches, it was getting them to making $75,000 to $100,000 a year, was the first goal. And when that started happening, it was like, all right, we need to help these people do more than just make a living. So making $100,00 a year is like okay, sure, but what are you doing with your clients? Who are the other people at the table that you’re sitting at? Who’s the physio you’re working with? Who is the mental health professional you’re working with? Where are you referring for nutrition? All of these kinds of things. You’re not the only person in this person’s life. You need to demonstrate abundancy. You need to demonstrate being the connector.

Kelly: [01:02:29] But really, I want to just point out that we talk about all the time, the coach we think is the function or the guide, I love that word, is the functional unit of change in society. They have the most contact with the person. They understand the person’s needs. They can really become the hyperlocal network that that person could never conceive of themselves or even begin to start. Where do I start to stitch all these things together?

Sean Pastuch: [01:02:51] Kelly, the coach is the primary care provider. The thing about a primary care provider is they’re the best at making referrals. That’s what they’re supposed to be. If you go to the doctor and they see something irregular with your heart, they’re referring you to a cardiologist. If you go to the primary care doctor, and they see something wrong with your hip or your leg, it’s really hurting, they’re referring you to an orthopedist. Now we can debate all day long whether those are the right referrals or the referrals that we want, but that’s what happens there. The coach needs to become the trusted advocate for the client who is going to make the referrals when appropriate so that everyone feels safe coming to the coach. That’s how they’re going to make a ton of money, a ton of impact and influence in their local marketplace positively.

Now the third part of our company is we educate and provide support to the gym owner. So what we started seeing happening was we were working with these coaches who were working in gyms that had loose business models. By loose business models, it was-

Kelly: [01:03:44] Hey, we used to have one of those. You put your check in the box.

Sean Pastuch: [01:03:47] Perfect. The coaches were running into the ceiling of the leadership of the owner. So what that meant was I want to charge $145 a training session. The owner would be like, “No one’s going to pay that. You can’t do that.” And the coach would be negotiating with the owner on what they should be charging for the training session and then the owner would dictate we’re going to take 66 percent of that, you’re going to take 44 percent of that. And it was like, well, wait a minute, now it’s not worth it for me to do it; now I need to leave the gym. And I didn’t like that. So we started educating gym owners on how they can develop professional coaches who can deliver professional services in a business that over time evolves from being known for its great group of community, whether it’s HIIT, CrossFit or something else, and it becomes known for being a place of service. It stops being a gym and starts being a business. It stops being a gym and starts being a service. And you stop having people who are doing this as a side gig, who work fulltime as a firefighter, a cop or a teacher, and you start having people who are looking to work in your business fulltime to be absolute killers at what they do, and that draws in a client who’s looking for that kind of a coach.

Kelly: [01:04:52] Why do you think… We stumbled on that early on. Because we really had one on one small group day one and we saw that some people still wanted to work out in a group but we really created that model from the start that people could choose and flip flop back and forth.

Juliet: [01:05:08] Yeah, I mean we were really in the CrossFit space one of the first gyms to do that and lean into that and we started seeing early on that was really where our coaches could actually make the most money. And so we leaned into that. We had this hybrid approach. And it was really interesting to watch in the CrossFit space where so many people… I mean as late as 2018, 2019, they’re like, okay, well, we’re now thinking of adding and leaning into one-on-one coaching. And for us, it was such a part of our business model from the very beginning. And again, talking about a light business model, we were that. I think we stumbled into it, but it ended up being such an important part of our business. 

But I wanted to go back to this, you talking about the gym owner versus the coach in terms of your professional training because I just was about to ask are you working with gym owners or directly with coaches, and it sounds like both. So I guess appreciating that I’m coming from this with the bias of having been a gym owner more than anything else, but in your model, if one of the goals is to bring everybody up and have everybody make more money, how do you create a model where both the coach underneath the umbrella of a gym, which is owned by an owner, is making money and also the gym is making money. And quick caveat before you answer that: Back to my ongoing question about myself, which probably never will we own a gym. For me, it’s a foregone conclusion that I would salary my coaches if I ever owned a gym again. I would not work in a percentage hourly basis model. But I don’t even know what my question is. What do you think about all that?

Sean Pastuch: [01:06:41] Here’s the thing: The ideal gym owners who work with us right now is doing somewhere between $20,000 a month and up and they’re able to pay themselves a little bit, but they understand there’s no path to what they really want to be able to do. And they have enough belief in self and at least one staff member who wants to be fulltime, but they don’t have a way to do it, or they are fulltime but they have to earn money somewhere else or someone else is supporting them. That person is ideal for us because they’re able to part with some of their money for help that they’re looking for. And it’s very, very easy for us to make that money back for them very quickly because personal training is so in demand in their gym and they don’t know it. 

And so the easiest way for a gym owner to think about this or a coach to think about this and to go back to what you were talking about for a moment to bring it to why this, is I think the reason why the average CrossFit gym, because that’s what we’re most familiar, isn’t looking for personal training is because the rhetoric out of that community is if you need personal training it’s because you’re not coaching your group well enough. And so there’s like this shame to doing a one-on-one session because a really good coach can assess somebody while they’re in class. It’s like, yeah, well, that’s a type of assessment. I remember an interview a long time back, it’ll always stick in my head, I was like, shit, I might need to get out of this field. I heard Greg Glassman talking to Sevan about Gray Cook being a charlatan because he has a movement assessment. He said, “What are you going to do, you’re going to squat him anyway.” And I was like holy shit, I didn’t realize that that’s where his values were. Mine are not aligned with that. Now I see use in CrossFit, but I can understand why the average CrossFit affiliate is not valuing assessments, is not valuing personal training. Because it’s not about the coach, it’s not about the location, it’s about the methodology. And so if you can’t do it within the methodology, it means you’re not that good at it because the methodology works. Here’s all of our proof. 

I think that’s why it’s taken so long for these gyms to start considering that. Now the way that you help a gym owner start to see the light is with this: How many members in your gym have been scaling the same movements for six months or more? And now look at that same group of people and say how many of them are scaling those movements not because they lack the skill or the strength. They’re not scaling the weight, they’re not scaling a muscle up to a ring row, they’re scaling a movement because they lack the range of motion or something hurts. And they’ve been doing it for six months or more. Acknowledge that you’re not getting them better. Start there. Now the beautiful thing unfortunately is nobody else is either. Do you want to be the person who helps them get better, who helps them stop scaling? I would love it; how do I do that? Well, now what we’ve done is we’ve obviated this group of people in your business who need more help than they’re getting in the group class, so we’ve shattered a belief. Great. The next step is, that’s not the only one. How many people joined to lose 40, 50, 20 pounds? And it’s been two, three, four years and they haven’t.

Kelly: [01:09:38] I mean that’s a mean on MakeWODSGreatAgain. I’ve been CrossFitting for 10 years and I still don’t have abs.

Sean Pastuch: [01:09:43] Yeah, well, the thing about anything funny is there has to be some truth to it. So now when we start to look at it, it’s like okay, well, let’s not force anybody to buy anything. How would you approach people and offer them the opportunity to work with you? So we start teaching them how to do that. The easiest thing is people who are coming in for onramp. The mistake is—you have kids—the mistake is the gym owner says, “We have three one on one sessions, six or twelve, whatever it is before you can go to the group.” And then people are like, “Do I have to buy that?” So now the mindset is like nobody wants to pay for training. Well, if you said to your kids, “You can have that cake but you have to eat your vegetables and your meat first,” well, they’re like, well, vegetables and meat suck, I just want cake. And you just put cake on a pedestal. Cake is now the thing. Well, in this environment, you only have to eat the meat and the vegetables once. Then you can just have cake for the rest of your life. 

So what we ask gym owners to do is when someone walks in, let’s figure out what they actually need. Let’s not put cake on a pedestal. Let’s not make group class the pedestal. So when someone walks in, we give them the questionnaire and the questionnaire has a weight to it and each question in the questionnaire indicates the number of personal training sessions necessary before you can move into anything else or even consider it. So when someone comes in, how does this work? First thing we do, we’re going to put you through a questionnaire and identify what we believe is necessary to set the goals you told us you’re looking for. Are you ready to start? Yes. Great. First thing we’re going to do is take you through 12, 15, 24—our average client in Long Beach is about 60—we don’t do that with new gyms because they’re not necessarily sure how to fill those 60 sessions. But the average for a client coming in is 12 to 15 personal training sessions. What about after that? We’ll reevaluate in the middle of that and see what you’re looking for, see how you’re feeling, see what you want to do. Okay. And people are happy to pay for it because you didn’t say, “I think you need this.” 

Juliet: [01:11:34] You have told us what you need based on your goals. 

Sean Pastuch: [01:11:37] And we’ve seen thousands of people and said, “Do you want this?” They’re like, “Yeah, great.” Gym owners are shocked. So I say, okay, great, how many people are joining your gym each month. Six. Let’s say that only four of them are going to join when you switch to this model because two of them are going to be like, I’m not paying for that. Okay, four people. The average gym member is going to be buying 10 sessions let’s say. Let’s low ball it. Ten sessions. How many personal training sessions per month is that? Four people, 10 sessions? That’s 40. Great. We went over pricing. Let’s just say you’re charging $100 a session and you can afford to pay the coach $55. I’m making this math up now. It ends up somewhere in that realm. How much is a coach now making on 40 sessions? What’s 55 times 40? They do the math, they’re like, what is that, $2,800 or something? No, it’s more than that. Whatever. Do the math at home, right? Fifty-five times 40, that’s how many sessions a coach is now going to do in your gym on your behalf with a client one on one. Are you confident you’re going to have four clients a month? Yeah. Great. You can now salary somebody that much money and then just fill that book in business. And then you can continue to pay them for the group classes that they’re running. You now have your first fulltime employee. What’s going to happen next is they’re going to start to be fairly full. People in the gym are going to see them training people one on one, getting faster results, saying, “What’s going on over there?”

Juliet: [01:12:50] Yeah. I want to be doing that. 

Sean Pastuch: [01:12:51] And you need to make that an experience. That can’t be wearing a ROKA T-shirt training a client. You need to have uniforms for your staff so that people know these people are coaching group class. Uniforms for your staff so that they know that person’s coaching one on one. Do not bother them. That’s the client’s time. Now when the client comes in for a session, the coach needs to be prepared for that session. They prepared before that client got there. It’s a $100 experience. The rower is already out. The weights they’re going to use are already in place. Now gym owners typically say to me, “I don’t have that much space, I don’t know where I would put it.” My answer to that is you’re not prioritizing your space properly. How much space do you have? Three thousand feet of floor space. How many people are attending the average class? Eight. How much fucking equipment is somebody using in the class session?

Kelly: [01:13:36] Well, boss keeps programming shuttle runs.

Sean Pastuch: [01:13:39] Whatever it is, right? So what we have gym owners do early in the days is take some tape, take the floor, map out this is the personal training area, dedicate some of the equipment to it. I don’t care if it’s empty, I want you to stare at it and know that it could be full. And what starts to happen is other coaches on staff start to want to pick up personal training clients because they’re seeing the money this person’s making, the smile on those client’s faces, and the changes that are happening for those people in the gym. Eventually what happens for our clients, this is the problem that they run into, they have so much personal training, they have doubled their business’s revenue—doubled, legitimate doubled—without by the way while they reduced the number of people in their group class. They end up price suggesting so their group class goes through different price points. People fall out. Personal training represents half or more of the revenue in the business. And then they start to say we’re running into this problem now where our coaches don’t have time to do both.

Kelly: [01:14:29] Or don’t want to do both.

Sean Pastuch: [01:14:31] The pay isn’t the same. So we’re like, okay, well, what do you want to do? I don’t know. And now the people who are joining are joining not for group; they’re joining for whatever they need because they’re being referred by people not who did group, but by people who did personal training, getting the accountability support, getting the unexpected value that we talked about earlier. What happens next is we’re like, look, you have at this point 30 percent of your income coming from group, the other 70 percent coming from personal training, nutrition coaching, whatever other services you’re offering. Ninety percent of your problems are coming from that group.

Kelly: [01:15:04] That’s really generous, it’s 95 percent.

Juliet: [01:15:07] Yeah, yeah, let’s say 95.

Sean Pastuch: [01:15:08] I don’t like the workout this week. Well, the personal training never complained about the workout because we met them where they were. They got exactly the workout that they needed. This is where we run into problems with our own program and why we had to launch our own facility because what happens is this gym owner went from making $20,000, $25,000 a month, now they’re making $50,000, $60,000. They have these people who’ve been members in the group forever. They stayed with us through COVID, they stayed with us when we raised our rates, when everyone told us we were terrible, they were our clients. Now you’re telling me that we should evolve our model and get rid of that part so we can maximize what’s happening over here? Yes. There are 15 places within five miles of you that can provide that person a decent community and good exercise. In the next 10 years, AI’s going to do it instead of people anyway. You have to be a person if you want to be sustainable. You have to do things that computers can’t, that Beach Body can’t, that Netflix can’t offer through Nike. You have to do a job that a computer can’t do. 

This is where you run into issues because they’re like, well, now I’m making enough money to have four fulltime staff, I don’t have to work in my gym anymore. I get to come in and be the mayor and just be like, “Things are going well? Cool.” High five it up and then go home. And then we’re like, you’re leaving a lot on the table. Forget about the money you’re leaving on the table. The clients walking into your business today are still not the same clients walking into ours. The average person walking into us is like 55 to 57 years old in Long Beach. Why? Because it’s obvious to them that we understand them. When you walk in, you don’t see the gym. You walk in and you see the desk and a smile on someone’s face who’s greeting you. When you’re waiting, you’re waiting in a legitimate waiting area that’s pleasurable to be in. It smells nice in the building. When you’re walking down the hallway, you can’t see anybody training without a coach. The only people you would see training as you walked down the hallway to the training floor are clients with a trainer, with a professional coach.

Kelly: [01:17:04] You’ve just reinvented Equinox.

Juliet: [01:17:05] You mean offering open gym isn’t the way to have millions of dollars, money in your pocket as a gym owner?

Sean Pastuch: [01:17:11] No, and here’s the thing about that. What you’re describing there is the decisions that gym owners make for money without consideration to their values. You cannot in the same sentence call yourself a world class coaching business and offer open gym and say it’s of value. Why be a world class coaching business and offer an open gym? Are you saying that coaching isn’t that valuable? Who qualifies for open gym? How does somebody earn the rights to be an open gym? I can see it if you have a path, like you must demonstrate this. But how do they learn to demonstrate that?

Juliet: [01:17:46] Oh, I mean I’m laughing because the amount of pain we experienced as a gym owner over do we have open gym, who can come, what’s the limit?

Kelly: [01:17:56] Or how many people left our gym because they were like, “We’re going to start the real CrossFit?”

Juliet: [01:18:01] Yeah, they’re like, “You guys aren’t open.” I think you made a point though, you made a lot of points, but one of the things I want to highlight is such an important lesson that I learned at some point, and I think every small business owner learns this, is it’s actually okay for people to leave your business. In fact, in some cases, it’s good. Especially when you’re running a more community-based business. It’s like if you have a toxic person in the mix, they can really make the whole experience for everybody negative. Kelly can list on his hands four or five times where we actually called and fired clients from our business, which is a real shock to them. But we again were focused on creating a positive and supportive community and if we felt like someone was a toxic human in that mix-

Kelly: [01:18:42] No one wants to get a call from Kelly Starrett.

Juliet: [01:18:44] No one wants to get a call from Kelly Starrett.

Sean Pastuch: [01:18:45] I do. 

Juliet: [01:18:46] But I think that that’s an important lesson for every small business owner, is to realize that not every client is appropriate for you.

Kelly: [01:18:52] They’re not your family.

Juliet: [01:18:53] They’re not your family.

Kelly: [01:18:54] Your coaches are not your family. This is a business. Stop calling it a family.

Juliet: [01:18:58] It’s actually not only okay but it’s good to refer people to other… say, “Hey, actually I don’t think what we’re doing is for you. We can’t meet you where you are, but let me make a suggestion. There’s this studio, this studio, this CrossFit. Why don’t you try one of those and see if you can be better served?” And that’s a good lesson because when you start your business, you want to hang on to every single client because you’re like (gasps). So I didn’t have a point there. 

Sean Pastuch: [01:19:21] You did have points there. The thing is this, and I like to put this to gym owners and to coaches all the time because I understand that person was with you when things were really difficult and they stood by your side and you feel like you owe them a debt of gratitude. I believe if you’ve been doing a good job, you’ve delivered that. they’re not paying you because they didn’t get the charity, they’re paying you for a service and you’re providing that service. Great that they were able to see the value of it when other people didn’t. You’re not a slave to them forever now. And this is where I don’t want to say I feel bad because I don’t feel bad, but it’s where I empathize strongly with gym owners and coaches being very uncomfortable with this as a reality. When you look at your business and you identify we’re not making enough money to be viable, I can’t see myself doing this in five years or in ten years, and then I approach you and say why don’t you raise your rates to what you do. You tell me that you deliver world class results for clients. I happen to agree with you. Why don’t you adjust your rates accordingly so that they represent world class results? Well, everybody would leave. Well, then is everybody valuing what you’re giving them or are they valuing the price that you’re charging them for it? Is it as good as you think it is? Do they trust you as much as you think that they trust you? Or are they there because it’s affordable and convenient? That’s a hard pill to swallow because when you raise your rates, especially I’ve heard people say never raise more than 10 or 15 percent at a time. We raise them 100 percent frequently. It can be a bloodbath emotionally. People can be like, “You’re all about the money now,” and this and this. And they didn’t know that you were sleeping on a mattress in the back of the gym.

Kelly: [01:20:57] It was a treatment table, by the way.

Juliet: [01:21:00] Yeah, in Kelly’s case, it was a massage table.

Sean Pastuch: [01:21:03] Look, this is a conversation that I would advise no one ever have. But I want you to have it in your mind figuratively. If you said to a client, “I want to share with you what my life is like right now. I don’t know if my car’s going to make it to the gym every day. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make rent at home. My wife is pulling double shifts to support me. And sometimes I fall asleep at my desk at the office because I’m so exhausted from waking up early and coming in and going home late at night. My stress is off the charts because I’m doing the best that I can and I don’t know how to do a better job. I need to raise my rates by $30 per person because that will allow me to go to bed at night and have a car that gets to work reliably. It does not put me in Bali in a suite overlooking the ocean. Are you okay with that?” And someone’s like, “No.” Okay. What are we talking about here? But that’s reality for people. And look, I just needed the most extreme version of it. I understand when you’re listening to this, that might not be your version. But it could be you go home to somebody else and you don’t feel like you’re contributing the way that you want to. It could be that you lay in bed at night and you’re like I do not want to get a real job and I don’t know how to make this a career.

Kelly: [01:22:11] You’re not saying that this is the only model. You’re just saying here’s my experience, here’s a model that solves these problems for you and if your life is good… What I really want to highlight is that you are uncovering a whole lot of truth about the modern fitness industrial complex that’s a little bit like running a restaurant where no one has health insurance, they have two weeks of runway. Beer doesn’t cost $5; it should actually cost $10. The whole thing is a tenuous hot mess. And we’re all sort of pretending that this is the way, that this is okay. And it’s interesting if I apply the same level of thinking that you’re talking about to the college strength and conditioning program, those coaches are overworked, hugely underpaid, massively undervalued. And the real question is how do we solve this problem?

Sean Pastuch: [01:23:02] I think we solve the problem by building an industry adjacent to the industry. That’s really what we’re aiming to do. You know, like you were saying before, I forget the guy who’s smarter than both of us with the quote, but we’re not going to do this by going inside of the industry and saying here’s what’s wrong with it. We have to go outside of the industry, build a new one, and welcome people onto the boat. And in doing so, my hope is that the industry that I left, the fitness industry, the healthcare industry, both look and they’re like, huh, we can do better, we should do better. Some of those people should still be coming to us. I would like that to happen. We still make decisions about who we’re going to bring in as a client and we’re wrong sometimes. We are wrong sometimes because these people have come to us and said no one else has an answer for me. We’re like, well, we might. We had a woman join who was taking 24 Percocets a day. No, Oxys, Oxys. A day. From an accident that she got into 20 years ago that she started experiencing pain two years ago. Interesting, right? She’s a realtor. Wonder if anything happened in the world two years ago for realtors in New York that could have spurred some stress, that could have created some pain that maybe wouldn’t have been solved best with some Oxys. But that’s what she got and now she’s hooked on them. And she came to us looking for help and we were like, we don’t know if we’re going to be able to help you but we understand there’s nobody who is and we tried and we failed. It sucks. I would love for the healthcare industry to look and be like why are these people trying to get help elsewhere. We should be providing this. I would love the fitness industry to see the guy who came to us who was like, “I don’t want to go work with a 20-year-old trainer who’s just going to put me on his program. I want to work with someone who understands how my relationship, my job change, my new house that I bought, all these things are playing into the stress I’m dealing with. And they came to us and we were like, “We failed. We failed because you wanted cooler exercises, you wanted to do more fun stuff. And that’s just not what our sweet spot is. And I get it” So we’re still figuring out, okay, these are the flags, don’t take that person, tell them where else they can go. Well, where else can they go? That’s the hard thing. So I would love to level up the other two industries while we rise. 

Kelly: [01:25:10] Sean, I feel like if we’re just on the West Coast, you’re on the right coast. Why don’t we work towards the middle and when we meet in the middle, we can all party. We’re never going to meet in the middle. There is so much work to do. We feel like we stumbled into a lifetime’s work here. I really appreciate how you have evolved. I see the sophistication in your thinking, I see the nuance in your thinking. I am so grateful that you’re on speed dial when I’m like, “Am I crazy? How are you solving this problem.” So man, tell us and tell our community where we can find you and your model and where people can find an Active Life professional.

Sean Pastuch: [01:25:50] I appreciate all of that. One of the things that I respect about you greatly is there was one day that you called me and you left me a voicemail and you were like, “It’s the weekend, you’re probably with your kids, do not call me back. I was just thinking of you and I wanted to reach out and hit you up.” And I was like, man, when Kelly Starrett calls you, you call him back. But Kelly said, “Don’t call me back.” Why did he say don’t call me back? And what I came to understand is that what you were saying to me was your time is more valuably spent right now with the family you are trying to grow and not calling me back to just muse about things. I am not important enough for you to move away from that to do this. And for me that was a really valuable lesson. And so I want to acknowledge that and I want to appreciate that. I’m happy that I’m on your speed dial. And I don’t know if you realize that or not, but that was mentorship that I got from you when you left that message. People can find me @drseanpastuch on Instagram and everything else is easy to find from there. 

Juliet: [01:26:50] What about LinkedIn?

Sean Pastuch: [01:26:52] Oh yeah. I don’t know how to find me. Sean Pastuch on LinkedIn. 

Kelly: [01:26:57] We’re going to have to do a part two.

Juliet: [01:27:00] Yeah, we’ll have to do a part two of this because there’s still 10,000 questions I want to ask, so we’re going to have to do a second edition on Zoom, I think. We’ll talk about social media.

Sean Pastuch: [01:27:07] I can fly back out and go back to the Muir Woods and we can have another conversation.

Kelly: [01:27:11] My friend, thank you so much.

Sean Pastuch: [01:27:13] Thank you.


Kelly: [01:27:20] Thank you for listening to The Ready State Podcast. If you like what you’re hearing, check out all our episodes here or at And be sure to subscribe or leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. 

Juliet: [01:27:30] Check us out and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thereadystate.

Kelly: [01:27:36] Until next time, cheers everyone. 


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