“Today we are also dealing with emotional fitness!”
Johanna Fellner is a familiar name in the trainer scene. Fellner (39) has been working as a presenter and trainer for more than 20 years, and is now in demand as a mental coach as well. She will also have a presence at the FIBO CAMPUS, the new FIBO congress, with her NATURALFLOW® concept. In our interview, the Munich native tells us how she manages to always be fully booked and in the best of spirits. Her secret includes a holistic approach, frequent training and professional development measures, and yellow objects.
What are some of the basic things a trainer must do if they want to set themselves apart from the competition?
The fact that the term ‘Fitness trainer’ is not legally protected continues to be a problem. In principle, anyone who is good at selling themselves can work as a personal coach. Training in the anatomical and physiological fundamentals is covered by a B Licence, and no studio will hire you without one. At the end of the day, it is essential that I know what to do if someone has unstable knees or shoulder pain. Yet a good coach has to do more than simply create a sequence of exercises. The customer should enjoy a feeling of well-being, and they should leave each course feeling better than when they arrived.
How are you supposed to make someone else feel good if you are in a bad mood yourself?
As soon as I put on my sports clothing and get into my car, I am in ‘trainer mode’. This is simply part of the professional attitude that goes with the job. If I’m in a bad mood, before I do anything else I will do a few exercises aimed at changing that. I start off with breathing techniques and turn my negative thoughts towards something else – for example, I might look at everything in the vicinity that is yellow – then I do a few yoga moves.
You really look at all the yellow items within your field of vision?
(Laughs) Yes, I really do. In situations such as this, a specific problem can be quite dominant, and simply telling oneself not to think about it will not work. As a result, it is necessary to shift one’s focus elsewhere, such as to the yellow flowers, the yellow vase, the yellow car ... This is a technique taken from the field of neuro-linguistic programming, known as NLP for short. Five years ago, I realised that personal training alone was not getting me where I wanted to go. The reason why a customer is not losing weight often has nothing to do with a lack of movement or exercise. Instead, it is frequently due to something else entirely, such as stress at work that causes them to continually reach for sweets. As a result, one is immediately confronted with the need to develop strategies for combating stress. It is only in the next step that a strategy for reducing excess body fat makes sense. Yet even coming to the realisation that stress is the culprit requires not only a relationship of trust with the customer, but also specific questioning techniques. These are but some of the things that I learned when training to become a mental coach.
Does this mean that you are now working as a ‘double coach’?
Yes, I guess you could say that. I no longer offer customers personal training alone, as I now always work on both levels. I’ve noticed that I am able to achieve results much more quickly this way. We start off with 30 minutes to talk – or 45 minutes if requested by the client – and this is followed by 60 minutes of sport. It is then up to the customer whether we maintain this structure or go forward solely on a mental level.
Does this holistic approach represent the future of the trainer sector?
Absolutely. Last year I was at the Idea World Convention in Las Vegas and the Inline Congress in Kassel, and at both events, futurists proclaimed that emotionalisation would be joining digitalisation as the next big thing. Emotionalisation, emotional connections between people, psychological hygiene: those who establish themselves in these areas early on will be in good shape over the long term.
Psychological hygiene – what does this mean exactly?
This refers to mental support for clients. It is not only physical fitness that is important, but social and emotional fitness as well. Some situations happen to impact each area, and training does as well. People naturally learn as they go through life, and they experience growth as they deal with challenges, but it is better if one can get to the point more quickly and develop strategies to deal with these challenges. For example, I was able to help one client overcome her fear of flying, something that was a huge help to her, as she is a model in high demand.
The range of what you offer has increased significantly – have your prices increased to match?
Yes, but the increase comes from what is on offer rather than from my hourly rate. As a coach with the requisite certifications, I am able to operate in business situations, for example, where the rate structure is quite different. Here, I am booked for such things as events that focus on stress and back pain. I begin with a presentation, offer a short impulse coaching session and then follow this up with an hour of instruction in NATURALFLOW®. This is my own fascia training concept. At the end of the day, my price is tied to my brand.
How can I build my own brand as a trainer?
First, I have to figure out what I am really trying to accomplish. Who do I want to reach, what are my goals, and what do my services offer for individuals and society ... A desire to make a great deal of money cannot be the primary motivation. Luckily I have been able to find someone who set up my website in exactly this way (https://johannafellner.de). This is naturally of fundamental importance. One must also think carefully about the specific message of the website, and how to communicate it. After all, I will not be able to reach anyone with my message unless I myself know exactly what it is. A concrete example of an objective would be ‘helping people to develop their inner and outer power’.
How do you maintain your power? Your job does not sound very relaxing.
Stress is individual. For me, it is important that I enjoy my work. If I find myself doing the same thing too often, I know that it is time for me to take another course. Or to embark on one of my ‘MindFIT’ journeys. Then, when I return, I am happy to get back to what I know. As a very specific level, I heartily recommend that trainers always leave sufficient time between two appointments, because if your next client is already in the doorway before your current client has even said goodbye, this will not make them very happy. It is therefore a good idea to schedule breaks, even if only to give yourself some time to think. The chance to eat in peace and take a breather is good for one’s own health. I also always take one day a week off, so that I can be creative and do something entirely different.