Interview: Chris Pearson, Reformed Athletes [Tips + Compassion]
February 14, 2020
Choosing to start your own fitness business takes a lot of focus, discipline, and consistency. Oftentimes, taking that entrepreneurial leap of faith can feel lonely and it can be difficult to find anyone who can relate to your present circumstance.
Today, we’re talking to Chris Pearson who will share his experience as an entrepreneur who also maintains “a desk job” while still building his successful fitness practice and lifestyle brand. He explains how he has benefitted from mentorship and how he uses education and relatability to have a lasting impact on his clients.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Chris Pearson, Founder of Reformed Athletes
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com. And today I have the pleasure of interviewing Chris Pearson, who is the founder of Reformed Athletes and who is also launching a new health and lifestyle fitness brand and website: chrispearson.life.
So, Chris, thank you again for your time.
Chris Pearson: Hey, Bro. Thanks for having me on. I’m super excited about it.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, well let’s jump into it. Let the audience know a little bit about yourself. How did you develop a love of health and fitness?
Chris Pearson: So growing up I mean, I was always this kind of skinny fat guy and I’m talking like really skinny. I mean, I [was] 6’4″,165 when I graduated high school, just a small guy. When I went to college in Edmond, I kind of just said, “Hey, I don’t want to be this guy anymore.”
So I started getting in the gym, started trying to eat right. Put on some good weight, started seeing results. With that comes people asking you questions. So I’m kind of like, “I like this.” So I switched my major from business to kinesiology and kind of went from there.
That was when the Oklahoma City Thunder was really hot. [The team] just came in and so I’m like, “Hey I’m going to go be a trainer for the Thunder.” Like any guy in that profession is like, “I’m going to do this.” Then some opportunities came open back home with a gym that we purchased and it’s all kind of history from there.
[Editor’s Note: The following is a hype video for that the Oklahoma City Thunder made at the start of the only season in which they made the NBA Finals while sporting three future MVP’s in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.]
Schimri Yoyo: Oh that’s awesome. Did you participate in any sports growing up or was fitness just kind of apart from that?
Chris Pearson: Yeah, when I was younger I played baseball. In high school, I did golf and basketball.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Now when you were in high school or early in college, did you personally use a strength and conditioning coach or a personal trainer?
Chris Pearson: Two summers in high school I had a personal trainer and they helped out a little bit, but I wasn’t putting in the work on the sleep side and the nutrition side, so I didn’t get out of it what I should have. Then over the last five, six years I’ve used a couple of online coaches, Jordan Syatt and Mike Vacanti and they’ve really helped me a lot. Like, when I’m kind of in a lull programming-wise, it’s easy to hop on with them and then kind of lead me in the right direction.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, that’s great. That actually answers my next question because I was going to talk about as you joined the profession and made this your career, did you have any mentors in the sports performance industry that you could kind of lean on for advice and so you kind of answered that.
Chris Pearson: Oh yeah, for sure.
Schimri Yoyo: Anyone you want to shout out?
Chris Pearson: Yeah. So you’ve got Mike and Jordan definitely on the online coaching side. They’re just amazing. I love how they go about what they do. On the sports side, Brett Bartholomew. He’s amazing. He’s the author of Conscious Coaching and Christian Thibaudeau, great stuff all the time. I have all of his books and then probably Mike Boyle. I mean, you can’t talk about sports and forms and not talk about Mike Boyle so.
[Editor’s Note: In the video below, Coach Christian Thibaudeau continues his commitment to education and mentoring by giving a thorough explanation of what overtraining and its potential dangers.]
Schimri Yoyo: That’s true. He’s the OG in this game.
Chris Pearson: No doubt man.
Schimri Yoyo: So when you’re not running your business, what else do you do for fun?
Chris Pearson: Man, we’ve got two little ones at home. So I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids. We have cattle now, so that takes a lot of time. That’s a big learning curve. Wife, kids, and cattle, Man—that’s what we’re doing.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Listen hey, that’s an honest day’s work, my friend.
Chris Pearson: No doubt, man.
Planning to Meet Clients Where They Are At
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Now if you had to describe your training philosophy and methodology in one word, what word would that be?
Chris Pearson: Flexibility.
Schimri Yoyo: You care to elaborate?
Chris Pearson: So not flexibility in the sense of better “hamstring flexibility,” but more so having an understanding that my client’s day and their workout it’s a very small part of what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going on at home. I don’t know what’s going on with their kids, with their job. If I’m training an athlete, I don’t know what’s happening in the school strength and conditioning. Is the coach going to make them run four miles and they’re going to be beaten down? I just need to be able to adapt and be flexible in what I’m doing.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s a great answer. Now, I know you’re very open about your faith on your website and in your life and can you share with us how your faith impacts how you train your clients?
Chris Pearson: When I got serious about my walk with Jesus, I think that my ability to have empathy for others in the situations that they’re in really changed my compassion for people and trying to meet them where they are rather than trying to hold them to my standard or whatever I think the standards should be.
I think knowing what Jesus did for me on the cross, it just kind of gives me the ability to say, “Hey, I need to meet them where they are. Whether it’s in faith or in fitness. I need to see where they’re at and we need to work from there. It doesn’t need to be what I think it should be at all times.”
Schimri Yoyo: That’s a great philosophy: that compassion, meeting them with compassion and meeting them where they’re at.
As far as training athletes, we hear about speed and strength and flexibility or pliability. How, in your training, are they all connected or how do you relate them to one another when you’re training your athletes?
Chris Pearson: You have to have a well-rounded approach. Today, in the industry, you have a speed guy, you’ve got a strength guy, you’ve got a flexibility guy, and it’s like everybody’s going to 10 different coaches and that’s fine. You can specialize, but at the root of it all, we need to just understand that you can’t be fast without some flexibility. You can’t be fast without some strength.
Everything is interconnected. No matter what we do it’s, all parts of a big cog. Nothing works by itself. So I think everything just needs to be looked at more as a whole and like pieces of the pie rather than, “Hey, I’m a speed guy and we’re not ever going to lift weights.” You know what I’m saying?
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. Have a holistic approach. That’s great.
Chris Pearson: For sure.
Schimri Yoyo: In what ways do you find that balance with helping your clients reach for their physical potential or the physical limits without also burning them out or putting them at risk for injury?
Chris Pearson: I think that goes back to flexibility, man. Like I said, if I have an athlete, and of course, I have their program written out, I have it planned out. If they come in and we’re supposed to do a heavy leg day, for the first five minutes, I’m just feeling them out seeing how their day was. If they come in and they say, “Hey, coach made us run three miles and we did plyometrics all day.” Well, that tells me their legs are going to be shot and heavy legs probably isn’t a good idea.
So I need to be able to adapt to that. Just not even talking about athletes. If somebody had a really rough day, do I want to just pound them into the ground with a terrible workout or do I want to give them a little bit of vanity stuff? Maybe one of my guys comes in and I say, “Hey, how are you feeling? Tough day at work? Well, let’s do some arms and some abs.”
It’s an easier way to do it. We still get work done, but trying to be stringent with the plan all the time is not a way to success. So you just got to be adaptable to what’s going on in your client’s life.
Schimri Yoyo: How are you also helping your clients to be proactive both in their training and in their recovery and with sleep?
Chris Pearson: I try to give them just bite-sized bits of information. I want to give them something to work on for maybe a week or two. Then we just kind of build on it from there. What I found early on in my career, I would just dump my brain on my clients and I would say, “Hey, we need to do this. We need to sleep eight hours, we need to eat this meat, X grams of protein, this, that, and the other.”
Everybody’s like, “Okay that’s cool.” Then they get home and they’re like, “Oh my goodness, I have to change my entire life.” So, now it’s more, “Hey I want you to work on going to bed a little bit earlier and I want to work on getting a little bit more protein. Let’s work on that for a week or two, see how we do. Then we add to that.”
Schimri Yoyo: Okay.
Grow and manage your fitness business better with Exercise.com
Chris Pearson: Maybe the results take a little longer, but it’s going to be more of a lifestyle change and they’ll be able to sustain it.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, more manageable. That makes sense. How are you incorporating nutrition as part of your training and coaching?
Chris Pearson: So I have my Precision Nutrition level one certification and that’s been a huge help. That’s where I got most of the habit based stuff that we do now. If it’s something that I’m not comfortable with, my wife has her degree in dietetics. So I run it up the chain to mama and she checks it out.
If it’s something that she’s like, “Hey we need to get this person to a registered dietitian,” we can do that too. So we just look at it from a phase by phase, case by case basis. Like if I can handle it, I do. If not, I send it up and then we just work it up the chain.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, how are you measuring progress for your clients and then also for yourself as a businessman?
Chris Pearson: So for clients, it just depends on what their relationship with the scale is. Do they get obsessive or is that something that they want to track? With one client, we may track their weight every day. So, we have a bunch of different data points and we can get a rolling average.
If they have an unhealthy relationship with the scale we may say, “Hey, let’s weigh once a month,” and then, of course, we’re doing measurements. We’re doing pictures. But on a bigger level, it’s just like, “How are you feeling? How is your daily life going?”
If you’re able to pick up your kids and not hurt your back, that’s a win for me. That’s results. Feel better in your favorite dress – you know what I mean? It’s more of a holistic thing. Just trying to look at it from the big picture.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. When you think about some of the clients that you’ve had that have had the best results or had the most success under your tutelage, what are some of the characteristics or traits that they’ve shared?
Chris Pearson: Consistency. That’s the biggest one.
Relatability Is Marketability
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. Now just thinking about your business a little bit. You mentioned your wife, Hillary, correct? She’s a registered dietitian or she has a degree in dietetics?
Chris Pearson: Yeah, she’s a nutritionist.
Schimri Yoyo: Nutritionist. That’s awesome. So how is it working with your wife or having your wife as part of your business that you can lean on? What’s that dynamic like?
Chris Pearson: Oh, it’s awesome. I mean she’s, for one, a lot smarter than me, so that helps a lot.
Schimri Yoyo: Wives typically are. Haha.
Chris Pearson: Oh yeah, I know, I know. She keeps me grounded. If we’re having a really great month, she doesn’t let me get too high on myself. You keep working hard. If we have a down month, she keeps me grounded and we tend to look at things in different ways.
So, I get a completely different perspective than what I’m looking at. We just have a well-rounded approach to where I’m not going to get too high on myself or too low. We just keep even keel and [are] always hitting the ground running.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. How do you budget your time between being the trainer or being the exercise professional and then also being the entrepreneur?
Chris Pearson: So, what do I work harder on: the business or do I work harder being a trainer?
Schimri Yoyo: Oh no, not that. Not if you work harder on it. More: how do you balance your time between being the trainer and managing programs and putting together programs, but then also the business side of things like marketing? How do you split your time between your role as a businessman and then your role as a trainer?
Chris Pearson: So, we’ve been lucky enough now, in our market, almost all of our marketing is basically referral-based.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, okay.
Chris Pearson: We’re not necessarily having to put out big social media campaigns. That’s not to say that we won’t, but for us, it’s been consistent blog posts and putting out constant, whether it be on my Facebook or Instagram, [although] we haven’t been as active there lately, but just putting out information and giving as much away for free as we possibly can to help people and just cut through the BS. That’s been our biggest driver of business.
Then, the programming just comes through. I love to read, so I’m always trying to learn something. So, that is an ongoing development. I mean, if I looked at programs from five years ago that I wrote, I would probably throw up or something. I’s always just a process that we’re learning.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, take a little time to brag about yourself and your wife and your whole outfit there with Reformed Athletes. What makes you guys unique in the way you approach your clients?
Chris Pearson: Man, I think that we’re unique in the fact that I do have a desk job, so I can completely relate to the struggles that come with that. I mean, it’s a different ballgame than having an active job where you’re up all day. If you’re at a desk, you are going to be tighter. You’re going to need more flexibility work. You are going to need to do more cardio than maybe you typically would if you had an active job. So, I can relate to that.
Then, I’ve also never been the guy that’s just lean for no reason. I can’t eat whatever I want and have a six-pack. Not that some trainers think that way, but for me, I have to work hard at it. So I know [the work] you have to put in and some of the sacrifices that you have to make to get there. I have to work at it consistently. Otherwise, I’m not going to look awesome either. So, I think I can just relate more than maybe some other trainers can.
Schimri Yoyo: The relatability factor, that’s huge. Now, what’s something that you’ve learned as an entrepreneur that you wish you would’ve known when you first started out with your own business?
Chris Pearson: Oh man. When I first started, I wanted to be the coach for everybody. I wanted to be everything for everyone. I spent a lot of time getting really down on myself if I didn’t get a client or if I just didn’t mesh with certain people. I would just get almost depressed. Why can I not help this person?
Now, I know that I’m not going to be everybody’s cup of tea. That’s totally fine. I have the people that I know I can work with and help and if I can’t, that’s fine. I will help them find another coach. I know that we’re not going to mesh. I will help them go somewhere else because at the end of the day, I’m all about helping people get [to] their goals and if I’m not the best fit for that, I know that that’s okay now.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. Knowing your niche market, but also being self-aware to know where you can do the most good. That’s awesome.
Chris Pearson: For sure. For sure.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, what’s been the biggest challenge in running your own business and what has been the biggest reward?
Chris Pearson: Man, I think the biggest challenge is that when you’re running your own business, you are responsible for the results. What you do is what you make at the end of the month. That’s how you feed your family. At the same time, I think that’s one of the best parts about it too.
If you’re busting it and you’re going really hard and if you’re treating people right, I mean you’re going to do well. So, I think that’s maybe one of the worst things and one of the best things all at the same time. I think that’s just the game of being an entrepreneur.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. We mentioned a little bit earlier that you have a new website that’s launching. Can you give us a little bit more information about what’s next for you and your business and where you’re transitioning?
Chris Pearson: For sure. We’re launching chrispearson.life [in February 2020] and are basically trying to expand a little bit [to a] different market, a more of a lifestyle-type brand, give people more insight into what we do on a daily basis, and just try to relate to more people, and get out more good free content. I’ll still work with athletes, but I want people to know that I can work with any population assuming that we fit together.
So, it’s just more of a lifestyle brand, transitioning – we’re parenting now. We have kids that are growing up, we have cattle now. So there are all kinds of things going on that maybe didn’t fit as well in the Reformed Athletes brand. So, we’re just going to transition into the chrispearson.life brand and be more of a lifestyle brand to reach more people.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, that’s awesome. So it’s being consistent with that holistic approach, right? It’s not just holistic physical fitness, but mental and lifestyle, emotional wellness as well.
Chris Pearson: Absolutely.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome man. We’ll definitely look forward to catching up with you when the site gets rolling now and to circle back with you to see how that’s going and how that’s progressing.
Chris Pearson: Thank you.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, Chris. Well, thank you again for your time. Just one last question. I appreciate you sharing your expertise and your life with our audience here.
Do you have any books, resources, or podcasts that have been beneficial to you that you would recommend to our audience?
Chris Pearson: Well, I’ve got some books for you. So I really enjoy Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
Great books. They’re amazing. Conscious Coaching by Brett Bartholomew is an incredible book about communicating with different personality types. That’s awesome. The Black Book of Training Secrets by Christian Thibaudeau is an incredible book. Then, also, Becoming a Supple Leopard by Kelly Starrett if you’re kind of looking to do more flexibility type stuff. That’s an amazing resource.
Schimri Yoyo: Awesome. Well again, thank you for those recommendations. We’ll definitely put them on the list and hope that the audience will check them out and I know that will be a great benefit to them.
Chris Pearson: Awesome, Brother. I appreciate it.