Choosing to start your own fitness business is a hard mountain to climb even if you’ve always known from a child that you wanted to run your own health club. Making the decision to become a fitness professional as a second career can be an even more formidable mountain to scale.
Today, we’re talking to Haylin Alpert who will share his experience as a fitness entrepreneur who successfully transitioned from a career in urban planning to pursue his passion as a fitness entrepreneur later in life. He discusses how a strong work ethic and an empathetic spirit helped him to create a thriving fitness community of superhero seniors.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Haylin Alpert, Founder of Core Principles Personal Training
Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com and we are continuing our series of interviews with fitness professionals. And today we are lucky to have Haylin Alpert, the founder of Core Principles Personal Training in Stamford, Connecticut with us today.
So Haylin, thank you for joining us.
Haylin Alpert: Thanks for having me, Schimri. I’m excited to be here.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, well let’s jump into your background a little bit. How did you develop your love for health and fitness?
Haylin Alpert: Well, it’s probably a pretty typical story. It’s personal, so that makes it unique. I was involved in sports from as long as I can remember, so I think that’s the most clear and direct line into health and fitness. But what supported the heck out of that was my Dad. He was a crazy dude in the sense that I can’t remember one day of his life that he did not exercise.
Every day of his life, he exercised no matter what, whether it was zero degrees out and snowing. Whether we’re waking up to go on vacation, then we had to leave the house at five. He was up before that to get his workout in. I mean, it was absolutely obsessive-compulsive, not even borderline. It was over the line. It definitely instilled in me this idea of how to just get stuff done no matter what, from an exercise standpoint, and you just make it part of your life.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. That’s the discipline and work ethic that you had modeled before you that got you off in the right direction.
Haylin Alpert: Yeah, I don’t know if it was all good. As I said, it led to him blowing out both knees and both of his hips ultimately. But he definitely showed [me that commitment], and I liked it. If you say you’re going to do something, you do it and you don’t let things just stand in your way, just do it. So there was some real value there with maybe some downside as well.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. You have to be cautious but the work ethic is still there. That’s good. Now you said you grew up playing sports a little bit. What sports did you play or which ones did you prefer?
Haylin Alpert: Soccer. Baseball. I played everything I could. What I was halfway decent at was baseball and soccer. I tried to play basketball. I played football for a while. Probably would’ve been best. I just grew up in a small community, so football ended around eighth grade, so I didn’t have an opportunity to continue. Baseball is probably where I excelled most.
Schimri Yoyo: What positions did you play in baseball and soccer?
Haylin Alpert: Soccer, I was a defender. I wasn’t the quickest dude, but I took up a good amount of space in my earlier days to say it nicely. I was a good wall if you will.
In baseball, I’ve played first base. I’m a lefty, so I also did some pitching. I always like to tell myself if I had some better coaching, I would have been able to actually pitch well. I just got out there and threw it the best damn way I knew how and had some natural moves on it for being a lefty. But if I had some coaching, I still hold that hope that might’ve been a decent pitcher.
Schimri Yoyo: I grew up playing baseball too and I always joke with my older brother and my best friend that they should’ve steered me in that direction, and I probably could have played collegiately. But I loved basketball more and I pursued that, but I was probably better at baseball.
As you got into the fitness space as a profession, did you have any mentors that helped you along?
Haylin Alpert: I don’t know if that would meet the metric of a true mentor. I would say if you needed someone for a true mentor, I personally feel like you have to know them closely and personally. There’s a lot of people I looked up to, so I got a little bit later start in this industry and I had what you’d call a first life.
I actually did work as an urban planner, so I had a first life as an urban planner focusing on downtown redevelopment. Even though my initial studies were in environmental studies in environmental science, for whatever reason, I never saw fitness or coaching as an actual vocation. It was just something I did more of a hobby, and so I pursued a career in land planning and, having a Masters in Urban Planning, I did a lot of government work for about seven or eight years in downtown redevelopment.
While I was in that industry, I just continued to follow fitness and then it finally hit me. I’m like, “Well, why am I doing this? This is my true love. My love is in fitness. I don’t want to be in an office for the rest of my life. I’m going to have to move on to a life number two.”
Specifically, people like Mike Boyle was someone that I looked up to for a long period of time. Still do. Of course, Todd Durkin was some of my early introduction to the industry. Eric Cressey. Those are the people that I looked up to. I don’t say I have a personal relationship with them, but I gathered as much info as I possibly could about those people.
Schimri Yoyo: Those are some good people to follow. They’re like true OGs of the fitness space.
I was doing a little research about you as I prepared for this interview. I’ve read on your website something about the “Paint Spill” story. I want you to give us a quick summary of what that’s all about.
Haylin Alpert: Not one of my proudest moments, but that makes for a great story. Back in college, there used to be these startup painting companies called College Pro Painters. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them. It’s an opportunity for a college student to gather other college students and create their own business and go out and find houses to paint, and then run a business and pay other college kids to paint their house.
So my buddy and I decided to work for another guy who started his own business. We didn’t have much affection for him. He turned out to not be such a great boss. And didn’t really take care of us, didn’t pay us and all those things. But somewhat unrelated to that, there was one day we were pulling paint out of his van and somehow I managed to catch a brand new bucket of paint and spill red paint. An entire gallon of red paint over someone’s freshly paved driveway. That was in effect the “Paint Spill” story.
We spent hours trying to clean it up without actually ever being able to clean it up. It turned into a bigger story because the homeowners got pretty upset, infuriated with the guy that we worked for, I guess. They ended up taking him to court, we later found out. And so that was my “Paint Spill” story. Not one of my proudest moments but—
Schimri Yoyo: You’ve overcome it so this shows that you are tenacious and that you had that perseverance to overcome adversity, even back then.
Haylin Alpert: Yes. It made it clear that I was not going to go into the painting for a career.
Schimri Yoyo: Now when you’re not coaching or training, what else do you do for fun?
Haylin Alpert: What else do I do for fun? Well, I’ve got a three-year-old and a one-year-old at home, so that keeps me pretty damn busy. Running around with them is probably how I spend a good chunk of my time. Truly, I love running around the backyard with them and it’s one of the most fun things I can do in my life for§ now and look forward to.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh yeah, I understand that. I have a six-year-old, a five-year-old, and a two-year-old at home too.
Haylin Alpert: You get it, man. Awesome. Cool. I don’t consider myself a runner. But I do enjoy running a little bit. I try and get one or two runs in per week. Not with any specific mileage objective, but I just really enjoy the headspace it puts me in to go out there and run. And also to challenge myself.
Schimri Yoyo: Nice. Get yourself a little bit of mindfulness when it’s just you and the running. I know a lot of people who are fans of that.
Now, talking about your practice, what one word would best describe your philosophy and methodology of training?
Haylin Alpert: Oh man, I don’t want to put myself in a box with one word, but—
Schimri Yoyo: Well, you can elaborate.
Haylin Alpert: Let’s see. We’re very practical in what we do here. As I mentioned before we started recording, we worked exclusively with people 50+, which is a wonderful thing. They know pretty well what they want and we really focus ourselves on providing a great experience.
We know that it’s not just about fitness, but it’s about creating lasting, trusting relationships with the people that we work with. Actually demonstrating, not just saying, we care, but being able to demonstrate that. So that some people will tell someone else [about us], “They actually do care.”
So maybe that’s the word, caring. Which it feels awful cliche to say that because everybody says they care about their clients. It’s easy to say, I think a heck of a lot harder to prove.
Superheroes Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Schimri Yoyo: Now, I know that a part of that proof that you care is—you sort of at least play with a superhero theme in your gym or had that for a while and talk about the different talents that you guys have and provide for your clients.
How did that come about, that theme and what do your clients think of that? And do they participate in building that out with their talents?
Haylin Alpert: In our efforts to create something more than just a gym or a place that historically people don’t look forward to coming to. We wanted to create—yeah community’s a popular word. We wanted to create some community. We wanted to give people something to galvanize around to be more excited about than just showing up at a gym.
So, superheroes were something that we arrived at when we did some thinking about our people who are in their fifties and sixties; they’ve done a lot of stuff. They got a lot of stuff going on, right? They’re still managing kids, many in high school or college at this point. They’re managing careers, they’re managing injuries. They’re trying to do a lot of things. Yet they’re still getting their butts here three times a week, trying to make themselves better.
To me that constant constitutes superhero, like balancing a million different things, sacrificing themselves in a lot of ways, but still finding a way and making time from them to address themselves and make sure that they’re getting better.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. And how do you incorporate the nutrition or the discussion about nutrition as part of your coaching?
Haylin Alpert: It’s paramount to what we do. We are trying to be clear as day. Hopefully, we are about the value of nutrition in terms of what they want to achieve. No matter if it’s weight loss, which it is for most people, but just around feeling better about prioritizing themselves. There has to be some discussion about nutrition.
So we get—most people started in what we call 30-day VIP experience so that they can really see what we’re all about. And from day one, there’s a personalized nutrition program that people are a part of during that 30-day experience.
So they can really see what it’s like to have nutrition coaching that’s not a diet that’s super restrictive that tells you what to do. But allows you to explore your nutrition habits, create some awareness around what you do, and then being able to identify where there’s low hanging fruit and opportunities to make changes that are actually going to give you what you want. Which is to feel better, to have more energy, to simply feel like you’re prioritizing yourself.
Schimri Yoyo: In what ways do you balance helping your clients to push towards their personal peaks or their physical limits without burning them out?
Haylin Alpert: I think it’s something that we’re conscious about. Most people, we tell them we don’t want them here more than three days a week. I can tell them, “Clearly you don’t need to be here. Go out and do something else that you truly enjoy.”
We try to regularly remind people what they told us they’re here for and also ask them to reconsider if what they told us they’re here for is still important to them. To find out what are they actually after, even if they’re not quite ready to share it with us.
But on a more emotional level: What do they actually care about? How do they want to show up for themselves and for the other people that they’re close to? How do they want to honor their word that they give?
Always Seeking Improvement
Schimri Yoyo: Now take a little time to brag about yourself and your team at a Core Principles. What makes you guys unique?
Haylin Alpert: This isn’t a brag, but we’ll start here. So we are on a constant quest to get better. We are not afraid to say that what we did six months ago was not the best approach. We’ve learned how to do it better.
I’ll give you an example. We do mostly semi-private training—which is an industry term—but small groups of people. It was a bit chaotic for us and we couldn’t take care of the clients as well as we wanted to. So we moved to what is probably better known as the small group training model, so it gave us a bit of a template. Gave us a little bit more control of how people were looking through our gym space.
But what it really allowed us to do was provide a heck of a lot more coaching and attention to people that we work with. So, before yes, everybody’s program was super-customized based just on quote-unquote what their needs were. But we had everyone doing different things.
So, oftentimes, as coaches, we’re running around the gym like chickens with their head cut off, spending more time on setting it up and break down instead of personalizing things, by giving good high-quality cues so that people execute as effectively, as efficiently as they possibly could.
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We’re constantly trying to get better, whether it’s from a customer service standpoint, whether it’s what I just described, the delivery of our service. We’re constantly on a mission to be better. And the second piece of that, like everyone, says they care about our clients, but we try and execute it.
We have a bullet point list of what constitutes good customer service for every visit that somebody is here. We do little things that may not seem like they matter in and of themselves, but the totality of sending a little welcome video when someone signs up, sending a handwritten note saying thank you, celebrating an accomplishment of 50 workouts, 100 workouts, 150 workouts for people. Continually just checking in with people are some of the ways that we show that we care.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, we’re very thankful for your time and I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Just a couple more questions here. What ways do you use social media or technology to promote your services?
Haylin Alpert: We rely on it pretty heavily. I mean, word of mouth and social media are how we help get the word out. But one of the things I know that we try and do really well—and I think we do—is we’re really transparent about who we are and what we do.
Any social media representation of Core Principles shows who our clients really are. We use real pictures of our people in any paid Facebook advertising or any of that blog writing that we do, or anything that shows up on your social media is our real people because we’re super proud of our people—A. And B: We want to attract more people who are just like the people we have now.
Schimri Yoyo: Wow, that’s awesome. And lastly, what resources—whether it’s books, podcasts, or magazines—would you recommend to our audience? Doesn’t necessarily have to be fitness-based, but something that’s been helpful to you and you think would be helpful to our audience as well.
Haylin Alpert: Sure. Well, first and foremost, the coaching group that I’m part of, which is Business for Unicorns, which is led by Mark Fisher and Michael Keeler over at Mark Fisher Fitness. They have a coaching group that I’m a part of. Having those two individuals as well as all the other fitness business owners and the group as a resource, I can’t even begin to tell you how much that has me and been part of that for the last two years.
Nothing compares to that, but a couple of books real quick that have been helpful for me that I remember reading most recently. Joey Coleman’s Never Lose A Customer Again, which is really a customer service-based book.
And super, super impactful for me and Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service. Customer service is clearly on my mind. Those are the two books that jumped out. But I think they’re valuable because for a long time I read strictly fitness-based resources. It’s nice to give them space and notice that there’s a heck of a lot to learn from other industries.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s great. Well, thank you again for those recommendations. I’m sure our audience will be sure to check them out.
We are very thankful for your time, Haylin. We love what you’re doing with the 50+ demographic there in Connecticut with Core Principles and we wish you much-continued success and hope to hear back from you down the road.
Haylin Alpert: Thanks, Schimri, and I appreciate being here. I hope I had a few small nuggets of value to provide folks.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh, no, you definitely did, and I’m sure that we’ll definitely make sure to promote you and promote all things on our social media and make sure to gives you links to be able to put on your social media as well.
Haylin Alpert: Thank you.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. Have a good one.
Haylin Alpert: Alright. Thank you.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
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.