PJ Glassey of X Gym Interview (from Apps to Automation)
May 22, 2019
I had the pleasure of talking with PJ Glassey, owner of X Gym, author of the book CRACKING YOUR CALORIE CODE and the X Gym Workout DVD, co-author of the book 101 Great Ways To Improve Your Health, inventor of the multi-protocol exercise concept, research scientist in exercise science, and winner of various awards in bodybuilding, fitness, endurance, stair climbing races, and strongman competitions read more.
Mathew Sims, Editor-in-Chief Exercise.com: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today. So can you tell me, what does a normal workday look like for you? If there even is a normal workday?
PJ Glassey, Owner X Gym: Yeah, there really isn’t. Every day is kind of random, based on, you know, fires that need to be put out or marketing things that need to be done. Because, of course, I’m wearing lots of different hats.
I try to do a morning routine and evening routine that doesn’t change, and the morning routine is typically when I wake up.
I’ve got this ring here where I can check my sleep, see my recovery, and see if I’m ready for the day. So I have to turn my phone on because the phone is in airplane mode because I put it on airplane mode when I’m sleeping.
So, of course I turn the airplane mode off; and the reason I have it in airplane mode is so the radio’s off and it’s not sending EMFs that could disturb my sleep. And then, of course, any emergency texts will come in at the same time from trainers and things, fires to put out from any employees, but that’s rare, which is great.
Then I’ll also check my schedule, just to make sure that I know what my day looks like, and any early morning things I’m going to be ready for. Then I’ll make coffee, have devotions with my wife and then I’ll pick a person, at least one person, to send gratitude to.
So, of course, that’s great for them. It’s also a brain training exercise for me, and it helps put me in my zone, and then I’m a lot more productive; my attitude’s better.
I’ve got this gizmo, it’s called a Muse headset (Editor: see video below). And so it hooks around the ears, goes around the front, and it measures brainwaves. Then I have another gizmo from Heart Math, coherence trainer, that clips to my ear lobe. So I put myself in that, and then do meditation, and those help me get a lot more benefit from meditation.
It’s kind of like meditation on steroids. So, since my schedule is so packed, it only takes me five to seven minutes, and I’m getting an hour or two of meditation benefit in that time because I’m getting this instant biofeedback from the apps that drive these gizmos.
And then I put my watch on because my watch is Bluetoothed to my phone, so it gets texts and things and I don’t want to be interrupted while I’m doing all of those things before that; so I don’t put the watch on, so I’m not distracted. And that just helps me start my day.
Then, I’m checking emails, and doing random things throughout the day, manager stuff. The X Gym app stuff, research, blogging, videos, training, all that stuff. Then, the end of my day, around 7 P.M.ish, I’ll put my red glasses on which are blue blockers and green blockers, which helps my parasympathetic nervous system cool down and wind down.
Through the day, when I’m on screens, unless it’s something like this where it’s a podcast or something, I will put on my other just straight blue blockers. But at night it’ll be the blue and green blockers, then, again, I’ll send gratitude to someone. That might be a text, that might be just my wife, that might be an Email, nothing big, just shoot something out.
Back to the muse coherent combination. Then at 8 P.M. all screens are off. No phones, no tablets, no computers, no screens period. Then I write down, hand write, my big rock for tomorrow. The one thing that I need to get done, top priority.
So if everything else needs to be pushed aside because I have fires to put out, then at least I’ve got that one big rock done, which I’ll start with first the next day. Then I’ll set my alarm on my phone if I need to wake up at a certain time and then put it in airplane mode.
That’s a long answer to a short question, but it has to be what it is.
Mathew: I think that’s so great. I actually just read a study that was talking about the power of gratitude and on the opposite side, complaining, and how, kind of like what you were saying, complaining kind of rewires your brain almost to be depressed and have anxiety and things like that.
Where the opposite is true with gratitude. When you’re programming your mind to be thankful, it’s not only for the other person. But like you said, it’s actually helpful for your own physiology as well. I think that’s super, super powerful.
PJ: Yeah. Some people have problems because their brain has been programmed, like you just mentioned, in the other direction. It’s harder for them to think of things to be grateful for, but in this country, all that somebody has to do if they’re in a block is just open their eyes and look around the room.
We are so much better off than 9.9 out of 10 people in this world and eight out of 10 people on this planet would, literally, give their right arm to trade places with us. They would have it chopped off to trade places with us. We have it so good.
It’s just easy, but once it gets hard for somebody, it’s just an indicator that they’re spending too much time on Facebook looking at everyone else’s fake lives.
PJ: Then complaining about their own life when it’s really amazing. You know, we have so many first world problems and with my clients and my friends, somebody will come back and they’ll start complaining about something, and then I’ll just throw it out there; I’ll just mention something about it being a first world problem in different ways depending on the person and we just end up laughing.
It’s like, why are we even talking about this when we have it so good here?
Mathew: It’s easy to forget sometimes. You kind of lose sight of that.
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Work Hacks and Tips
Mathew: I’ve obviously heard of what you do a little bit through Jeff and some of the other team members at Exercise.com.
As I was looking into what you do at your gym, and what makes the difference, I noticed that a lot of it seemed very science and research driven. So tell us a little bit more about your niche and what your advantage is and what makes X Gym kind of stand out.
PJ: Yeah, so the main thing is time. We just take less time for our training sessions and our workout style, because of the methodology that I invented. It only takes 21 minutes and it’s just twice a week. Up until we came out with the app, it was appointments.
People would come in for their appointment to the club, or we’d meet them online doing the remote training, live training, and in both cases, it was 21 minutes.
So is the app, but what we’ve noticed since we’ve been on the app is, people are kind of running with that and modifying things because sometimes they’ll do longer than 21 minutes (Editor: see intro workout below)
They’ll put in more workouts than we would, or more exercises than we would if they were live, which is fine. Some people are going to the other extreme because each exercise only takes three minutes, so they’re saying I have three minutes now, so they’re opening up the app and doing one thing which is really cool, which I haven’t even thought of. It’s a great idea.
People are stretching out on both sides, which is really fun to see.
Mathew: Kind of adapting what you’ve already developed to fit the busy life schedule.
PJ: Yep, and that’s our main client, really busy people, and people who may not be busy, but don’t like working out. They would rather spend time doing other stuff than exercise, so that’s who our clientele are.
Now, the people who are really into the Crossfit community or bodybuilders, and like to spend a lot of time in the gym, they’re just not our market. They won’t be interested in what we do.
Our people are really super busy, usually executives and people who just would rather not spend their time exercising. So we just help them get it done really fast. And we get great results.
The other thing that makes us different is our level of safety because it’s very controlled motions, kind of like Tai-Chi with body weight, lightweight, or carpet sliders, or elastic bands. So it sounds easy when I put it that way but because it’s three minutes of constant time under tension to complete muscle fatigue, it’s not at all.
So it’s high-intensity training, but it’s also safe. Where those two words don’t typically go together with traditional training. If it’s high intensity it’s also dangerous, but not in the case with our methodology.
Mathew: And has that always been your niche from the very start? Did you know like I want to help busy people exercise or is that something you developed as you built your business?
PJ: Yeah. It started back when I was in college getting my degree in exercise science. So then I graduated and most of my clients were out of their homes and I was an in-home trainer for about 10 years and they were also my guinea pigs.
So I was reading their research in exercise science and experimenting with them based on what I was reading, that research.
The experiments kept getting shorter because the effectiveness kept going up because of the great research study I was finding. And so it ended up being 20 minutes twice a week. So, of course, it’s getting shorter and they’re getting more enthusiastic and it’s fun to do new stuff and try things and so they’re telling all their friends and everything.
So it got to the point I had to scale myself. I opened up the X Gym in ’98 and the app last year. We’re going strong. We started the online training last year too, so we’ve seen a lot of really great growth experiences lately especially. It’s just been me studying the research and experimenting with clients and trying out new stuff and doing what works.
So I’m still spending a couple of hours a day on the research making sure that we’re on the front and doing the best stuff and safest stuff and constantly improving and evolving.
Mathew: Yeah, I think having that growth mindset is unique. Not all businesses do that. Some are just happy to find their thing and just get stuck in a rut.
It’s refreshing to see someone whose open to new ideas and, like you said, even staying up with the research now even though you’ve already got something you know is working and is beneficial, there are always ways to tweak it.
It was really interesting to hear the app has helped even those busy people maybe show us something you haven’t even thought of, either stretching it out or cutting it short. I know for me, working at home, you have to find ways to stay active and so usually that’s what I’ll do.
I’ll have set times where I’m four or five minutes throughout the day getting up and doing something to get the heart rate up.
That’s great and I think we’ve already kind of danced around this but, I would think that the value would be that time saving but, how do you think through that as your working on programs and working with clients and creating value for them, even outside of just the obvious time-saving?
Twenty minutes a week, two times a week and focusing on other things that are important but, what other value adds and how do you think through that as a business owner?
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PJ: Yeah, so, the value adds are, of course, the time saving and the safety but, also functional training because we’re not using machines with hinges or guiding the movement, we’re using the body as the gym.
What people get out of it is a functional fitness that they can use in the real world so they can use it go do the fun stuff they want to do outside the gym and, or, outside the app.
What I tell people is, you’re going to spend 42 minutes a week doing the methodology, the type of exercise that we have in the gym, in the app, to have the other 10,032 minutes a week free to do the stuff you like to do and to sleep better.
All those things that help them get healthier because the value that we provide is mainly health and the style and the methodology that we use is focused toward getting people healthy, giving them that functional fitness so they have a healthier, happy life.
That’s our goal for people. When people come to us and they say, I want to lose weight for my class reunion coming up or I want to get that six-pack, or whatever it is, what they’re really saying is, I want to get healthier and the old adage is true, give people what they want and you’ll get what you want.
We’re just really giving as much as we can [to give] people what they want and the rest falls into place later. We just want to help as many people as we can. Now with the app we’re more scalable because we’re wider now and we can spread the love and spread the health.
- We’re helping people get off their medications.
- We’re helping people lose weight, of course.
With health as the main goal then the other stuff happens automatically so, as people get healthier, they lose weight without really thinking about it, or focusing on it. It just happens because healthy bodies don’t have a whole bunch of extra weight on them.
We also have an online course that we use to piggyback with the app and with the membership so people get automated lessons, if you will, on health stuff and fitness stuff and the methodology explanations and things like that.
It’s really a whole thing, it’s not just a bunch of workouts, it’s a course on how to get healthier and happier and get the goals and things that people are really after.
Mathew: What would you say is the intersection between hard work and success?
PJ: Probably automation. Passive automated streams of income because I’m trying to get to the point of continuously working towards the point where I can be working on the business. More on the business and less in the business. Automation is really the key to that.
Of course, the app is a huge step in that direction. But, you know, success, I guess if I were to define success it would be just helping more people, because that’s where I get my motivation.
When I get an email from somebody, I just tweeted one out, or Instagrammed one yesterday, let me open it up. This is a member she’s eighty-one years young, an online client.
Mathew: Wow, that’s awesome.
PJ: She has the app too and we can’t hook up online but, here is what she said:
“I just love being able to carry a full basket of wet laundry up the basement stairs and hang it out to dry, to haul the lawn mower around the yard, to lift my set of stainless steel pots from the lower cupboard to the counter and to twist the frozen lid off my Ninja food processor.
“Plus go for a six-mile hike with my 50-year-old daughters and not cause them to slow their pace. X Gym makes that all possible, I’m grateful and have a love of an active life. Love you and your fabulous trainers.”
Just stuff like that just really juices me and motivates me, and I just want to do more of that with more people.
Mathew: Yeah, I’m glad you defined success, I think that was really good and I think that quote especially just shows how, what a big impact on someone’s just day, like for her it’s just the day to day stuff, like she’s able to do all the things she loves, be with the people she loves because of it so that goes back to that holistic approach that I think you mentioned that you take so.
PJ: People come to me with a less than holistic approach, like the six-pack example I gave you. I want to get shredded and a six-pack. My response is, great that’s a fun goal, so let’s get you healthy and see if that happens because, some people, when they reach optimal health aren’t meant to have a six-pack and that’s okay.
Optimal health is the main thing and that’s the goal. If somebody who isn’t meant to have a six pack ends up getting one, they’re probably doing extra things that aren’t healthy, so, they may look healthy but, it’s not for everybody. We’re just counseling people and working with people on what that really means and how that feels.
Mathew: Yeah, that’s a good point, different body types, different people so, you’ve talked a lot already about your goals with automating things and being able to help people, but if you could give someone just one tip for growing their business or managing, you know, you talked about your trainers and having to put out fires sometimes and stuff like that, if there was one thing you could tell someone that’s just getting started down that road, what would it be?
PJ: I would say, as far as if you have staff, people that work for you, I would recommend just giving them as much autonomy as they want, but with enough direction so they know where it’s all headed.
Especially with a why, because especially millennial generations need to know why they’re showing up every day for work, there has to be some sort of mission that their all working towards and accomplishing as a team. I mention millennials because in this industry that’s mostly the workforce now.
They also want autonomy because they want to be able to make their own decisions and stuff too, so, a micromanager doesn’t work for that generation, but yet they need enough direction so they know what to do and when to do it.
I guess, you know, that’s a broad range and big topics but the bottom line is, it’s the same case for millennials, ex gen, whatever generation, people need to know why, they need to know the mission, they need to know the purpose and feel like they are contributing to that purpose, so that’s really the most important thing.
Growing X Gym Business
Mathew: Okay, great, and what motivated you?
You talked about setting up your app over a year ago, if people, we already kind of mentioned it at the start, but if people don’t know your using the exercise software to have your own custom branded app and kind of move some of your business online and stuff like that so, what initially motivated you to even look online to grow parts of your business?
PJ: Just to get more scalable and help more people. With the gym business in the Seattle area that I’m in now, the number of gyms has exploded in the last three or four years and we’re crowding each other out now.
It used to be that each gym, five years ago, each gym had a ten-mile radius to draw from, now it’s two so it’s way smaller. I just needed to increase that radius so now with the app and online training it’s global. Now we’re able to have a bigger radius and affect people and to scale it more easily.
Mathew: Now do you think that trend, kind of having your finger on the industry, is that trend happening in other bigger cities too where that radius is kind of shrinking and people are having to think through that or is that unique to Seattle you think?
PJ: It is worse in Seattle than anywhere because we have the best economy in the whole country and that’s why everybody is moving here.
We’ve got 10,000 people moving to the area every month, so, I think we’re probably one of the fastest growing, certainly in the top five in the nation and because of the big companies we have over here, you know, Amazon and Google and Microsoft and Boeing and it just really drives the local economy.
It’s probably opposite in some other cities but I think for the most part, in this country, that’s probably the most common story because our economy is still growing, things are getting better and I would say other countries in the world are probably going the other way. But, our country is in our own little bubble.
We’re riding it and it’s great as long as it lasts. It’s great so that’s what is happening now at least.
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Mathew: Yeah, and then, how have you used your website and SEO to market your business and maybe Facebook and other things like that, how has that helped?
PJ: So, still working on that and right now it’s just organic. Friends and family, we’ve already proved our concept so that’s just the first step. Ideas are great but to prove it actually works in the real world is the first step. We’ve done that, so now we’re in step two with promoting it, friends and family, organically.
I’m also doing a lot of Instagram, hooked to Twitter and Facebook. I’m rarely on Facebook or Twitter, but Instagram pushes to those. Doing that four or five times a week just to keep people aware of us and what we’re doing and how we’re different. Then probably the next step would be, for the app, Facebook ads.
What I’ve noticed is with a big-ticket item like personal training, Facebook advertising doesn’t work. It’s just too big of a cost, a line item for the demographic that uses Facebook and personal training is very personal, that’s why personal referrals are the best of course.
But the app is a different story, different price point and it’s not one on one, it’s personal. I will try Facebook advertising for that product pretty soon here.
Ending with Gratitude
Mathew: Yeah, that’s great. One more question to wrap things up. You mentioned the gratitude early on, and that’s kind of been a theme, just helping people, the gratitude and kind of that positivity.
So with that being said, who would you say is your role model or mentor and how has this person impacted you? So I guess we’ll end with giving you the opportunity to give a little gratitude to someone.
PJ: Gosh, it has to be, two people pop into my head right away. My dad, who is just the most amazing, giver person and his fascination with other people and interest in other people’s lives, it is contagious.
That’s something that I’ve learned from him and probably the most valuable skill in life is being able to connect with people and be truly interested in them as a person.
Then, my wife Bev, has so much energy and so much great advice and love and, yeah, I just can’t say enough amazing things about how she makes me feel and motivates me to just be a better person so, those would be the top two.
Mathew: That’s awesome, well, thank you for sharing that.
Again, it was great to talk, I loved hearing your story and appreciate a lot of the things that you emphasize with the gratitude and just taking time, even just hearing your morning and afternoon routines and winding down and just being present, stuff like that was fantastic. It’s a struggle for a lot of people these days.