Interview: Matt Grimm, Sumner Fitness Performance [Tips + Inspiration]
September 12, 2019
When starting your own fitness business, there is a steep learning curve. You don’t know what you don’t know. One way you can flatten the learning curve slightly and minimize the amount trial-and-error you have to endure is to seek the counsel of experienced and accomplished mentors in the fitness industry and in business in general.
Today, we’re talking to Matt Grimm who started his business in the burgeoning fitness scene in the Greater Nashville Area. He has set up shop in the suburb of Gallatin, TN and is humbly built a network of mentors who are helping him to manage the business side of a successful fitness practice.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Matt Grimm of Matt Grimm Performance
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, welcome back. I’m Schimri Yoyo with Exercise.com. We are continuing our interview series with fitness experts, and today we are blessed to have Matt Grimm, who is the owner of Sumner Fitness & Performance in Nashville, Tennessee. In the Nashville, Tennessee area, so Matt, thank you for joining us.
Matt Grimm: Yeah, no problem.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, well, let’s just jump into it. What is your background? How did you jump into the world of fitness and strength training?
Matt Grimm: Well, it definitely didn’t start early on. I played basketball in college, and believe it or not, because I’m 5’10”, short, white guy, but I didn’t enjoy the weight room there. High school, I didn’t enjoy the weight room. It really came after, when I was in college, and I was really just able to learn about how things worked.
It kind of happened through my coaching AAU basketball. I really liked to coach. I found out I want to coach, but I didn’t enjoy the parents because the parents were just coming at you, and they thought their kid was the best. But I figured out I like to coach people, and [I like] the personal training side.
And I found that out really early on—when I was, I guess I was 22—and I just moved up to Nashville and went for it, into the personal training industry, and there’s a great personal training industry here in this area, so that’s kind of where it all started.
I just went for it. In college, I learned about the body, and how the working out part works, and how it affects the body, and I enjoyed that. And then I figured out I enjoyed helping people, and it just kind of all trickled down from there.
Schimri Yoyo: You said you played basketball growing up, and played in college. Were there any other sports that you enjoyed playing growing up?
Matt Grimm: I should’ve stuck with baseball because I got to be about 5’10”. That would’ve worked a lot better, but I played baseball until about the ninth grade, and then I played football until about the eighth grade. I just kind of enjoyed basketball more. As an uptempo sport, I really enjoyed it more than baseball and football.
Football was really brutal and baseball was too boring, so I liked basketball.
Schimri Yoyo: I feel like you and I are living parallel lives. I play with my brother and best friend all the time that it’s their fault that they didn’t convince me to stick with baseball. But I loved basketball more. I grew up in the Boston area, and baseball was my best sport, but I stopped playing in high school as well because I loved basketball more. and I’m 6’2″ now, but I didn’t get my growth spurt until later. So, in my freshman year of high school, I was 5’3″.
Matt Grimm: Oh man.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, and then I grew about eight and a half inches in the next 15 months. From the end of my freshman year to the start of my junior year. So, it was crazy but by that point, the ship had already sailed.
Now, you also said that there’s a burgeoning fitness industry, personal training industry, in the Nashville area. Did you develop any relationships or mentorships, relationships, when you got to the area?
Matt Grimm: Yeah. The music industry is so apparent here, and I started working out at a personal training gym here. And then I wanted to get back into the sports realm, so I was in a personal training gym, and then I moved into college strength and conditioning, which was the total opposite, but I’ve gotten a lot of mentors through the college strength and conditioning team.
They’re just—a college strength coach can be so valuable because the training is so much more dynamic than just personal training. So I did the college strength and conditioning thing for about three and a half years, and I got a lot of great mentors out of that, but a lot of local ones here, but the one I always refer back to is Mike Boyle.
He helped me so much at the beginning, and he’s just a mentor to so many people, but he’s always been so gracious with his time. My wife hates hearing me talk about Mike Boyle, but it’s just because how much he’s helped me, but yeah, he was one of the mentors that I always refer back to, and there’s a lot of good ones here, as well.
Schimri Yoyo: It’s funny, because we’ve interviewed a lot of fitness experts, and Mike Boyle is an OG, and he reaches a lot of people. So many people, so many of them have name-dropped him, unbeknownst to each other. They all seem to mention him as a mentor either directly or just through so much of the content that he’s put out there, so it’s great to see that consistency out there.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, when you’re not training, what else do you and your wife do for fun?
Matt Grimm: Well, since we’re in Nashville, we go to concerts whenever we can. There’s just tons of them here, tons of them. Just, music is everywhere here, and then if I’m just by myself and I could choose, I would just watch football all day long, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. The Titans are not very good, so we don’t really like them. And I’m from New Orleans, so I’m a Saints fan but they’re actually coming here this year.
But it would be those two things. I mean, concerts or football would be the two.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. That’s good living. You’re in the perfect spot for [all of that.] You get good SEC Football, and then the NFL, and then also good music.
Who are some of the artists that you’re listening to right now? What are some of your favorite artists right now?
Matt Grimm: Well, I’m really connected with the group, Old Dominion. They’re a country band here. Kenny Chesney‘s another one. But if I had to pick what I would listen to, I would listen to John Mellencamp or that kind of old ’80s rock, but that’s not really out there anymore. They’re super old.
But any of the country music crowd is pretty good, because it’s just such a tight-knit community here, and there’s somebody that you’re probably connected with somehow, and I’m just the trainer, but they’re all connected. You know them from their training with someone else.
But yeah, it’s an interesting dynamic here, with that.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s cool. You can toggle back and forth between live concerts and also your playlist. So, you get your fix of the old school and some of the current stuff, too.
Matt Grimm: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure.
Progressions and Preparation
Schimri Yoyo: As far as your practice, what one word would best describe your philosophy and methodology of training?
Matt Grimm: I think, really, if there was just one word, I would just say it was progressions. From training athletes to training adults, I think it’s the same, but adults, the progressions need to be a little bit more specific because their ceiling is a little bit lower. With athletes, there’s a little bit more leeway and almost room for error because if you’re working with college football players, those guys are just so strong that you can almost throw anything at them.
But the progressions still have to be on point, especially for adults. Now, as I move into only training adults for the last couple years, I have to have my progressions right or if I’m training somebody and their lower back is bothering them, I know it’s my fault if I’m off. But everything else, it’s functional but I think the one word that’d have to be most important to me would just be progressions because without proper progressions you won’t be able to train people properly.
You’ll just be throwing up workouts hoping that it goes well, and I don’t think that’s good for the industry. I think if we could be a little bit more prepared and just seem a bit more intelligent. You want to have a little bit of the swag, but you want to be prepared, and you don’t want people to give bad reviews to personal trainers, because I don’t think it’s good for the industry.
Because people are just all over the place with fitness, and I think if we can kind of at least come to an agreement on progressions, what’s the baseline and what’s working, I think we can come together a little bit better.
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. So, you mentioned injuries, a little bit, and trying to avoid them. What would you say is the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and also rehabilitation as well? How do they all work together?
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Matt Grimm: Well, since I would be in the strength and conditioning side, I would say a good strength program should be a little bit of both. There should be rehab there, and there should be injury prevention within the strength and conditioning program.
They say that we don’t need athletic trainers who are in injury prevention specifically and physical therapists, but if you’re putting a quality program together it should have rehab modalities in it. It should have injury prevention modalities in it.
It should have all of those qualities within the program, and strength and conditioning is such a vital part. Were talking about sports, and athletics, and athletes developing. It’s a huge part. I think it can be a great thing for athletes and for teams, but it can also be the scapegoat because if you have a really bad strength program or you’re just doing some really aggressive training with people who probably don’t need it, that will be the first thing that they cut.
I think you have to have a little bit of the rehab, a little bit of the injury prevention, because it gives you more depth to your program and it provides more quality to the training, to where people see it as more valuable if you’re doing that.
Schimri Yoyo: That actually leads me to my next question. You said you had some of that built into the program, so what are some of the things that you’re doing at Sumner Fitness & Performance to help your clients to be proactive in training and in recovery?
Matt Grimm: If somebody is recovering from injury in our gym, then we did something wrong. If you’re training an adult, they’re going to get hurt like moving an air conditioning or picking up a box that was heavy, or you know, just in life. [But it shouldn’t happen in your gym, under your care.]
It’s a little different with adults, but at our gym, it’s foam rolling and stretching is a part of their routine. Every single time they walk in the gym, they’re going to foam roll, they’re going to stretch.
And we’ll do the functional movement screen with them when they come in to assess, but even if they’re not doing the functional movement screen and we don’t know exactly what their issues are, they have to foam roll, they have to stretch, so we can get the muscles more pliable and then they’ll go through some of the activation stuff, which is kind of rehab.
And then they’re doing strength training and they’re doing conditioning, so it’s all a part of the whole program, and it’s just stuck to the recipe and then modify things as you need. If somebody has a shoulder issue, we can modify it. If somebody has a lower back issue, we modify it from there, but everyone probably needs similar things, and it needs to be very consistent. It’s like any other business. If you’re going to change up your services constantly, people don’t—they can’t buy into that.
But what we do is we’re very specific and we want the same kind of routine. It can be changed within it, but it needs to be the same kind of recipe. It may be a little different on each day, but it’s got to be pretty similar.
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. And so how important is rest and sleep as part of that recipe that you offer to your clients?
Matt Grimm: I mean, it’s huge. That’s the one thing you can’t control, you know? And you talk about training people in the music industry. Sleep, it’s a very hard thing to come by. If you can just imagine, people traveling on a bus, and going to playing in shows, and doing all this stuff, and all the things that come with that, and then trying to get them to sleep.
It’s beating a dead horse, sometimes, but it’s something you constantly are hitting them with. It’s just like with our nutrition. We’re always hitting them with something before and after and then in the middle. It’s kind of like the same thing. Go home, get some sleep. You can kind of diagnose that with the nutrition, I think.
That’s how we pair it. We address things, we talk about rest and nutrition kind of together because normally those both will get skewed if you don’t have both.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay, with that nutrition piece, are you guys proactively just helping them prepare the line sets, or you’re actually developing nutrition plans for them? How do you specifically incorporate nutrition as part of your training?
Matt Grimm: Well, we will meet with everyone individually. Since we’re a smaller gym, we will meet with each person individually, go over what their kind of low hanging fruit is. It could be soft drinks, it could be something really simple. Start working on them with that, and that’s where we approach it from, but we will hit it, like I said, when somebody first walks in, you’ll normally address it while they’re foam rolling.
Kind of, they’re getting comfortable, you’re asking them, “Hey, how did… ?” You know, your prior conversation. “How did last night go? You went to dinner. What did you eat?” And then when they’re leaving, we’re hopefully giving them some kind of supplement. We have protein shakes and whatnot on hand, but it’s really the same thing as training. You have to—I wish there was a one size fits all, but unfortunately, I don’t think that really works.
I’ve done the plans in the past, and for the clients I have, it just doesn’t work. They just look at me like I’m crazy, and I’m telling them they should be prepping lean proteins and chicken, and fish. And they’re like, “When am I going to do this? I have no time to do this.”
It’s just addressing it and being very consistent. It normally takes three to four months, I’ve seen, to get that habit to change, and then they’re like, “Alright, I know what you’re going to say. I don’t even want to talk about it today.” And you can kind of still hit them with it, but just being consistent, and giving them the information they need, but don’t overload them because then it just kind of becomes gibberish.
Schimri Yoyo: It seems you focus more on the habit of nutrition as opposed to the actual day-to-day planning out of the meal.
Now, as far as the clients that you’ve seen, in your experience, that have made the most progress under your tutelage, what are some shared traits or common values you’ve seen that you say, “Okay, this is why they’re successful under my training.”
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Matt Grimm: Yeah. Normally, their buy-in has got to be all in. But it’s the consistency of they’re changing their habits. They do it over a 52 week period, and I guess I’ll probably jump to the next question, but I can use it as the best example that I have. I have a client that I worked for him for about 18 months in the music industry, and he lost 55 pounds, but he was consistent. I said, “Look, you need to do two days of cardio on your own.”
He lifts with me two to three days a week. I go to him, and then he does the cardio. The nutrition’s been cleaned up. There were just some things that needed to be cleaned up. He was doing Nutrisystem prior. He switched to eating more whole foods, and then the one thing we were trying to cut down was the sugar. He cut down the sugar.
I mean, he went from 242 before I met him to, now, I think after this weekend, he’ll be like 185, so that’s a lot of weight [loss]. But his buy-in was different. He has another guy—I actually got him as a client through this guy’s referral—he doesn’t do those things and he struggles to lose. So, it’s good when you have somebody that is literally, they work together, and he’s like, “Why does he get the success and I don’t?” I was like, “Well, he goes to sleep at night, he eats the right foods, he does his cardio when I ask him to.”
But it’s having the opportunity to do it, as well, I think, is important. But it’s just the consistency. The consistency of day in, day out, doing the right things and making the right decisions.
Business is Budgeting Time and Revenue
Schimri Yoyo: How do you measure success for yourself? I know obviously you have the consistency, you can see the results of your clients. How are you measuring progress for yourself as a trainer and as a businessman?
Matt Grimm: Well, with the business, we got off the ground recently, so it’s going to be over this next year, I think, [before I can know anything definitively]. With that, it’s a little bit more loaded. But with the training side, it’s just—I’m performance-related. I’m not going after crazy numbers, but I have numbers in my head when I lift that I go after.
And then just, I kind of watch the scale where I am. And you can see it in the mirror too, but more just related on the lifting side and the training side for myself. But with the business, just being really honest about it, just the dollars, you know? “How many dollars are we bringing in?”
That’s a big way of how I look at the success of the business and “How many people are we impacting?” And that’ll come with how many people are joining the gym, and training, too.
Schimri Yoyo: And so, how do you budget your time and energy between being both the trainer and the entrepreneur? You know, splitting your time between working on the business and working in the business.
Matt Grimm: That’s been the hardest thing. I mean, there’s something about going, working with somebody. You know, you’re getting results with them, going hour to hour, you’re making so many dollars, and it’s all structured, and then now I have days where I’m structuring out time to where I’m working on the business, and I’m always like, “Man, what the heck do I do? I don’t even know where to start.”
It’s going back to that scoreboard and then knowing what you—I told my wife the other day, I was like, “This is a new career path to me—the whole owning a business thing. Because when you’re an independent trainer, it’s kind of easy. You have your clients, you train them, you keep tabs on them. That’s the fun part.”
This is a new avenue, and it’s still just as valuable. But managing your time, and getting stuff done, and not going to work out during that time, but instead going to work on the business, and having that scoreboard in front of you. But it’s one of those things. It’s going to take probably the next three years for me to really feel like I’m good at it.
I feel like I’m terrible at it still, but it’s one of those things that I think, with my mentors that I have in business, that have told me that that’s probably going to be the toughest part. Just because there’s no structure to it.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, that’s something that we, a common refrain we, hear from a lot of our trainers and entrepreneurs, that it does take time, and constant revision, so keep at it.
Well, let me give you an opportunity to brag about yourself, and your team, and Sumner Fitness & Performance? What makes you guys special? What makes you guys unique in the Nashville space?
Matt Grimm: Well, I just think it’s like we were talking about earlier. It’s just the consistency of the training. You’re not going to come in, it’s not going to be some random workout of the day that we’re just putting together. Everybody that comes into our gym, we modify our training too, and we really try to customize to that person.
And normally we almost get the broken ones, so the people that don’t move very well, you know, the ones that aren’t that strong yet, and they need somewhere where they feel comfortable. And I feel like we have the environment in our gym where they feel comfortable, and then they start at the beginning.
It was like I had to go get my mouth worked on at the dentist, I can’t—In three weeks, I have to go see the dentist again, and I do not want to go back, and that’s sometimes how it is with fitness. You know, people will go train, and they won’t want to go back because it was so terrible.
We try to avoid that. We try to give them a good experience. We try to give them just enough so they’re getting results but where they want to come back, and that’s where I feel like we’re really good at is finding that happy medium of they’re training, understanding what they want, and then meeting them where they are with that, and modifying our programs to make sure they’re successful.
Schimri Yoyo: Good. And so, how are you using your business and your platform you have to serve your community in Nashville? It seems like community and camaraderie is the big aspect of that community, so how have you been able to plug in that way?
Matt Grimm: Well, the one thing I did personally, and I still do, is this nonprofit called Healthy Kids and Teens, and we go to middle schools that are normally in the bottom 10 percent of middle schools in the area academically. But we go in and we train middle school kids, and they don’t have a lot of structure in their day and at home. And it is a really cool thing to see them start to change and start to like working out.
Because they don’t have that opportunity. In the schools that we’re going into, it’s really tough for those kids to even, just to get them to focus and have somebody that they trust, so that’s something I’ve been really passionate about. Working with those kids, it’s really cool.
It’s probably the hardest part of my day because it’s like 30 to 40 middle school kids that don’t have any coaching or structure, but it was also the most rewarding. Just seeing them at the end of the school year, them going to the next grade and all of that stuff, it’s pretty rewarding.
It’s really, really tough, but really rewarding at the same time.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. I actually was a teacher before. I still am an educator, but I taught for many years in middle school and high school in the School District of Philadelphia, so I know that the struggle is real. And they need more programs like that, I mean, especially in the tougher schools.
I was in high-needs, inner-city schools, and we used to fight tooth and nail to try to keep programs like athletics, fitness, the arts, and stuff because that’s always the first things they try to cut the budget. When those things are what those kids need the most a lot of the times, so it’s pretty cool. Continued success with that.
Thanks again, Matt. A couple of more questions. It’s been great to have you here.
What do you think is next for you and your business? What would you like to see to get accomplished in the next few years?
Matt Grimm: Well, our goal, because our gym is personal training and you don’t go to the gym, you can’t just join and not personal train. It’s a little bit more difficult to get clients to come in the door, and we’re the only personal training gym in the area. In Gallatin, and in Sumner County, really. There’s a Crossfit gym, but nothing like this. And what our goal was is year one is to, after this year, is to be around 100 members.
But we also want to delve into high school training, but for athletes specifically. And then for me, it’s to be able to cut down to eight clients. Now, I train eight personally, and I want to cut down to four, and then just really grow the business, and just become embedded into the community, Gallatin, and Sumner County. And just be somewhere people feel prideful about.
Because that area doesn’t have a ton of training. Nashville’s flooded with personal training gyms, and that’s why we wanted to start one in Gallatin, just outside of Nashville. We just want to be a part of the community. We want people to know that we’re there and that we’re helping people change their lives. A place to get into it, and that’s what we’re really hoping to be a big part of the community.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s cool. And lastly, do you have any resources like books, magazines, podcasts, that you’re listening to or that you would recommend to our audience?
Matt Grimm: I would recommend, if you own a gym, Fitness Business University Podcast is really good. It’s really helped me a lot to refocus and it’s helped me a ton. Mike Boyle’s Strength Coach Podcast is always a good one. Great content on there.
And then any of his books. Advances in Functional Training is really good. Mark Verstegen, Exos, that’s another good one. Every Day is Game Day is a really good one. It’s got some programs in there and it’s pretty simple. I think both of those are complex, but they’re really simple and easy to read.
I think those are the best books to go after now after reading all the confusing ones, the simple ones are normally the best ones.
Schimri Yoyo: Thank you again, and we wish you continued success in Gallatin and the Nashville area. And hopefully, we can circle back to you and see how much your business has grown down the road.
Matt Grimm: Thank you.
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Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.