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From Intern to President, Providing Virtual Personal Training, and Aligning Company and Staff Goals with Cody Johnson

Posted by Ben Isley on Sep 22, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Cody Johnson is the President and studio manager of Chapel Hill Training, a fitness studio that provides individualized training programs to members, both in person and through their newly-launched virtual fitness platform.

Chapel Hill Training is a small, private personal training studio in downtown Chapel Hill, NC. The studio is primarily 1:1 training with some small group work. The studio has been open for 10 years, Cody began as an intern and has worked his way up to President and co-owner.

During the period of time that Cody was managing the business without an ownership stake, he was hugely focused on the day to day and operational and client-facing side. With the mental shift that comes with ownership, there are many more areas to consider, such as the career goals of employees, the challenges they face, and how to build a community that's going to grow and improve the experience for staff and clients.


"One of the biggest challenges is hiring and retaining really quality staff. Make sure you have a staff that wants to work with you, feels comfortable, engaged, and has their goals and can grow in that place."

Cody talks about goals in hiring interviews and conducts quarterly check-ins with staff. Cody looks to identify areas where the studio and the individual can be aligned, where the studio can help them achieve those goals. If the staff are able to achieve these goals inside the business, why would they go anywhere else?

Cody has also dealt with a lot of burn out. This is common in personal training. Staff get up early to train and work late. Personal trainers are usually working before and after normal business hours. Cody wants to provide a work life balance where trainers can get out of the studio and get the sleep and recovery they need.

"Any policy changes that I'm making at the managerial or ownership level, I know how it's going to impact [staff] day to day because I'm also there [training] day to day."

The trainers on staff see that Cody has retained 5-10 hours per week of training, Cody gets to maintain an accurate pulse of the studio and the life of the trainers. Cody gets to walk through all potential consequences of a decision from the perspective of a trainer.

Pros and Cons of Private Studio

The biggest pro of having a small private studio is individual and custom training. The gym is about 1,200 square feet but has everything you need. You're getting a space where there's only a handful of people in the gym with no distractions.

Large industry competitors have many very nice facilities, but their training programs are standard across the country. Everyone training at these gyms is doing the same thing, the regimen is not customized per individual (as personal training should be).

"There's a lot of things people don't really understand about how their body functions, the thing they're doing might not be the best exercise for them at the time."

CHT offers specialty training and can add additional value to those with prior injury history or specific requests or abilities.

A big con is the budget and resources available. Cody has to get very targeted with marketing efforts to outpace the large amounts of money thrown around by giant companies. This involves partnerships with local restaurants, apartment complexes, and dance studios, for example, to expose more people to CHT.

COVID Changes

"We made the decision really quickly to switch over to a virtual format. We set up via Zoom from day 1."

Cody emailed all clients with a message about the changes they have made, their plans to retain the structure of the workouts, and that health and fitness don't have to (and shouldn't) stop during this time.

With solid success and good feedback about the virtual workouts, they also created an on-demand app, Chapel Hill Training On Demand. This app houses all of the exercise programs.

Another fun and engaging activity is live workouts. Cody likes to host these outside or via Zoom, with his DJ table and a camera to record! This is something people look forward to - a lively group fitness setting. Many clients have said that they don't even want to come back in the studio after - the virtual and outdoor training has been a hit.

If a client purchases a contract or a number of sessions, CHT will send the relevant equipment to their house. Chapel Hill Training has actually added some new clients during this time.

Chapel Hill Training is offering a three week trial for training on demand

Promo code: stayingpower

Learn more about Cody and his work:

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