As a Medical Exercise Specialist, I get fired up to see a growing number of people over the age of 50 venturing into the fitness playground. They are my people. Unlike the trendy gym goer clad in yoga pants, sport tanks and athlete sponsored shoes, the courageous Baby Boomers show up wearing T-shirts from a 5K three years ago, workout shorts from discount racks and a pair of white leather walking shoes.
The over 50 gym goer isn’t focused on looking good (yet). Today’s senior population is seeking to restore function, reduce pain, prevent injuries and manage medical conditions through exercise. They are focused on improving the quality of their life rather than boosting fitness levels, and they are looking for ways to preserve independent living, avoid the nursing home and elude the operating table.
However, a majority of these individuals seeking quality living throughout their “golden years” have no idea which exercises will address their needs, which program is safe for them or how to manage a body over 50 with pain and medical conditions to consider.
That is where a medical fitness professional is needed, necessary and required. Traditional fitness programming will fall short and potentially place at risk an individual who is battling against the functional deficits after a joint replacement, damaged heart or multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
The medical exercise client population provides a great opportunity for medical fitness professionals and medical exercise programs in health clubs to flourish.
However, today’s Internet-savvy Boomers will research who and where to get help when their physician suggests finding an exercise program. They have heard that not all exercise is created equal, and they will look for programs and professionals who understand who they are, what they suffer from, how to help restore function, and their quest to preserve quality living over optimal fitness levels.
To become a legitimate medical fitness specialist or program and stand out among the sea of YouTube copycats, you must commit to setting yourself apart from the rest and brand yourself as the medical fitness expert in your community
Here are three steps needed to become the go-to expert for the medical fitness population:
1. Get educated. An effective medical fitness pro must be properly educated and seek out as many opportunities to learn about and work with individuals in a special client population. This may include university courses, shadowing in medical clinics, attending support groups or attaining a professional license or specialized certification.
The best resource for fitness professionals and organizations looking to add medical fitness professionals to their staff is the Medical Fitness Network (MFN). MFN is a free online resource directory for consumers to locate fitness and allied health care professionals interested in working with people with chronic diseases and medical conditions. MFN also offers education programs and online coursework that trains fitness professionals to work with specific medical conditions. These specialized programs are written by industry experts and often have medical professionals contribute content.
2. Get connected nationally. If you want to build your practice and put yourself in front of consumers looking for medical fitness professionals in your area, you need to tap into the right databases. I have never been successful with direct marketing, advertising or value pack coupons. You need to be part of a network that is designed to bring you the right clients.
MFN has partnered with many medical and health organizations looking to connect their members with fitness professionals credentialed with the required education, experience and skill set needed to effectively serve individuals with medical conditions.
3. Get known locally. Once you complete the first two steps, I recommend developing a strategy to connect with medical providers in your community. However, here is the disclaimer: you will have a very hard time cold marketing to medical professionals. They are busy professionals that are scheduled back to back under piles of paperwork to complete daily. They likely will not have time to speak to you unless there is a reason, and that reason is their patient who is your client.
Although I have had success with cold marketing to medical professionals, my most profitable relationships started by collecting the names, emails, fax and phone numbers of medical professionals actively seeing my clients.
Here are three ways to use your raving fans and new clients to create a collaborative meet up:
1. Send an introductory fax/email. After your initial evaluation, send a fax or email on a secured server to your new client’s medical doctor, doctor of chiropractic or physical therapist (MD/DC/PT) within 24-48 hours of your initial evaluation. In that email include:
- A brief introduction of who you are, what you do, who you do it to.
- A bulleted summary of your top three focus points of your medical fitness program
- A list of three to four benefits or improvements your program have upon your client’s medical condition.
Note: You can also do this with existing clients. Just send a brief introductory fax to their MD/DC/PT and share why your client came to see you, what you have been doing with them, and the results you have achieved (a progress report). Medical offices are required to read any documentation that pertains to their patient’s care or activity to manage care.
2. Have a client write an email to their medical provider about their success. This strategy has worked well for me in the past. A warm referral to an MD/DC/PT is a great way to open the doors of communication. Have your client share their victory story with their medical professional asking if you can either email them or stop in with some more information about your medical fitness programs.
3. Take a field trip. Do some research on common medical professionals that multiple clients are seeing. Ask your clients when their next visit, adjustment, therapy appointment is and ask if you can go with them. Have your client send a testimonial email, like the one mentioned in step two above, and ask the medical professional if he or she would be okay with you coming into shadow the appointment and ask some questions about how to best coordinate care with the fitness program you are delivering.
The key to success is to keep your emails and conversations professional with a casual feel. Do not try to sell yourself and how much you know. You are a guest in their house. Your objective is to meet the doctors and to briefly share who you are, what you do and how you can serve their patients. If they want to meet with you again, they will let you know. Your role is to share their patient’s progress, present what you do and let your results speak for themselves.
It is clear that medical fitness professionals are in demand, and there are many people to help. The major obstacles you have are letting consumers know you are out there, that you understand their needs and that you have the skills necessary to help them succeed. The medical fitness field is rewarding, and I have been blessed and inspired by my tribe throughout my career. If you follow these steps, you will improve the enjoyment and longevity of your career while changing lives every day.
Trevor Wicken is owner and developer of MedEx Masters, which trains fitness, nutrition, and medical professionals how to use exercise to manage medical conditions, reduce chronic pain, and prevent recurring injuries. He has served his clients as a medical exercise practitioner for the past 15 years. He has a broad background in the fitness industry including training and management in medical, private, commercial and specialty based fitness centers. He is on the advisory board of the Medical Fitness Network. Wicken holds a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from Colorado State University and a master’s degree from California University of Pennsylvania in exercise science and biomechanics. You can find out more about him on his website: www.RiseAndMove.com or email him at [email protected].