Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast Episode 61: Developing CrossFit Coaches with Jason Ackerman

Today’s guest on the podcast is former CrossFit affiliate owner, Jason Ackerman. Jason is on the CrossFit seminar staff and has been training coaches for years. 
Jason is a three-time CrossFit affiliate owner (Albany CrossFit, CrossFit Soulshine and CrossFit Clifton Park) with over 25-years’ experience in health and fitness. He rose through the ranks on the CrossFit seminar circuit to take a position as a Level 4 Trainer on the CrossFit seminar staff; an elite team of coaches who mentor aspiring trainers, CrossFitters and affiliate owners.
In today’s podcast, Nicole Aucoin & Jason Ackerman discuss three main questions:
  • What is the biggest mistake new coaches make?
  • What is one thing that he has done to better himself as a coach?
  • What separates good coaches from great coaches?

Learning more about Jason Ackerman's coach's development program:

Topics Discussed In This Episode

The Biggest Mistake New Coaches Make

The biggest mistake coaches make is that there’s a lack of empathy.

You have to be empathetic to build that relationship with clients, so that they trust you. A foundation of an awesome coach starts with the relationship. You have to be able to build that relationship and provide support and accountability to your clients.

For the average person coming into your gym, that empathy is what’s going to get them to keep coming back.

What Jason has done to make himself a better coach

The desire to get on the  Seminar Staff at CrossFit pushed Jason to become a better coach. Along with the willingness to take feedback. This process for Jason involved multiple internships, hearing feedback and his willingness to accept that feedback and immediately try to implement it. 

Jason’s pro tips:

  • Listen to other people’s feedback and just smile, do your best to implement it.
  • You have to always be willing to learn.

What separates good coaches from great coaches

Having the ability to connect is key in separating good coaches from great coaches. Empathy is also a key factor. 

Not all fitness coaches make great nutrition coaches. In order to find who would be a great fit to run a nutrition program, the first thing to look for is a passion for nutrition.

If you aren’t passionate about nutrition, if you don’t walk the walk, it’s going to be really tough for you to be relatable to someone and for you to build that authority as the nutrition expert.

You have to have really good follow through if you want to be an effective nutrition coach.

Like HSN, Jason recommends coach’s evaluations should be mandatory in order to give appropriate feedback to the coach so that they can ultimately learn and grow. 

7-Day Jumpstart Guide To Building A Nutrition Program

Day 1: Complete The Self-Assessment

Day 2: Start Practicing What You Preach

If you want your members to make nutrition a priority, you need to! 
Start by trying simple recipes and sharing them in class and on your social media. 
Do you struggle with nutrition? Hire a nutrition coach to help you! 

Day 3: Determine Your Nutrition Philosophy

At Healthy Steps Nutrition, we believe something as fundamental as nutrition shouldn’t be complicated, which is why we focus on a simple, habit-based approach when working with clients. 
Your members and followers are overwhelmed with all the different diets out there, you need one simple approach and the systems to keep them accountable. 

Where To Start...

Eat meats and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little start, and no sugar. 
You can feel confident that you are providing your clients with a program that is guided, tested, and proven when partnering with HSN Mentoring. Every client resource and video from HSN HQ are written and backed by Registered Dietitians. 


In this episode, Nicole Aucoin and Ashley Osterman discuss our nutrition philosophy at Healthy Steps Nutrition.

Day 5: Provide Free Help

If you aren’t talking about nutrition regularly, your members will not associate nutrition help with you. Build nutrition as part of your content calendar and share nutrition tips regularly.  
Are you looking for inspiration? 
As part of the monthly subscription for HSN Mentoring, you receive nutrition tips, video scripts email content every month! When signing up for HSN you receive access to one year’s worth of nutrition content to start using right away. 


Examples Of Free Help:

Day 6: Identify Who Would Be A Good Fit As Your Nutrition Coach

As a gym owner, you can’t wear all the hats. You need someone to help you head up your program.
The problem is not all fitness coaches make great nutrition coaches!
Once you find a good fit to help support your nutrition program, HSN Mentoring trains the owner and the coach to understand the fundamental skills to become an effective nutrition coach. As part of the training process, the coach will undergo a coach evaluation to ensure you feel confident before accepting paying clients. 


Above all, you need someone that is passionate about nutrition, someone that is great with people and follow through.  

Who Makes A Great Nutrition Coach?

  • Nurses
  • Teachers
  • Someone Who Has Been Through A Transformation Themselves

Day 7: Revamp Your Client Journey

We know the best way help your clients achieve the results they are looking for and to grow a nutrition program is to guide new clients to get started on nutrition and fitness from day one. 
This means you need to revamp your intake process and your offerings.
Revamping your intake process is the first thing that we do at HSN Mentoring. 
The first part of the training will help you revamp your client journey to create nutrition-only offerings, and a hybrid offering (nutrition and fitness). We provide individual pricing recommendations based on your membership prices and area.


Did you know that HSN Mentoring has a turn-key solution for gym owners to build a nutrition program in-house?

HSN Mentoring is the largest nutrition mentorship business in the world, helping thousands of gym owners and coaches build successful nutrition programs.

All training and ongoing mentoring is approved for CrossFit CEUs

Additional FREE Help Related To
Nutrition Coaching

  • LISTEN: Inside The Nutrition Program At CrossFit Brighton & How Nutrition Coach, Darcie Helped Brent Lose 100 Pounds HERE
  • LISTEN: How To Find A Great Nutrition Coach In A CrossFit Gym HERE
  • LISTEN: Nutrition Made Simple Podcast – CrossFit, Nutrition & Your Health HERE
  • HSN Mentoring Client Highlight: Meet Rob & Beth Young, Owners of CrossFit Rockland, How A 11-Year CrossFit Affiliate Changed Their Business Model To Prioritize Nutrition & Health Of Their Clients HERE

Join The Facebook Group:
Nutrition Made Simple For Gym Owners

Past Webinar Recordings

Live Q&As

Simple tips to help you build nutrition into your gym

Connect with other gym owners who are looking to build nutrition programs

Mentoring Evergreen (1)

Episode Transcript:

Nicole Aucoin (00:02):
Welcome back to the Grow Your Nutrition Business podcast. At Healthy Steps Nutrition, we believe something as fundamental as nutrition, shouldn’t be complicated, which is why we focus on a simple habit based approach when working with clients. We help gym owners and coaches build successful nutrition programs without reinventing the wheel. I’m your host, Nicole Aucoin, registered dietitian and founder of Healthy Steps Nutrition, CrossFit HSN, and HSN Mentoring. I’m also the author of the Basics of Nutrition Coaching, CrossFit Preferred, nutrition course. I’m going to teach you how to take one step at a time to build a successful nutrition program where you finally feel confident talking about nutrition to your members and your community.

Nicole Aucoin (00:48):
This week on the podcast, we have Jason Ackerman. He is a three time CrossFit affiliate owner with over 25 years of experience in the health and fitness industry. He is actually on Seminar Staff and is a level four trainer. CrossFit Seminar Staff is an elite team of coaches who mentor and train aspiring trainers, CrossFit athletes, and CrossFit affiliate owners. He also has a coach’s development program, and I thought it’d be really fun to have him come on the podcast and talk about what you can do to become a better coach. In today’s podcast. We talk about three main questions. What is the biggest struggle new coaches make? What is a one thing that he’s done to help himself become better as a coach? And what’s the one thing that separates good coaches from great coaches?

Nicole Aucoin (01:40):
As a fitness and nutrition coach, you are in the relationship business. You are going to be surprised to hear this conversation and listen, because it has nothing to do with the letters behind your name, credentials or online courses, which is what we were talking about, separates good nutrition coaches from great coaches. We will get to this podcast episode right after this message. Did you know that we launched another podcast called Nutrition Made Simple? Yes, this is a client facing podcast where we give simple and actionable tips to help you become the healthiest version of yourself one step at a time. Coaches and gym owners are loving listening to this podcast, because it’s giving them more tools in their toolbox to become an effective coach.

Nicole Aucoin (02:29):
Make sure you head over to wherever you are listening to your podcast and subscribe to Nutrition Made Simple. All right. Enjoy this podcast with Jason Ackerman. All right, Jason Ackerman, welcome to the Grow Your Nutrition Business podcast.

Jason Ackerman (02:47):
Thank you for having me.

Nicole Aucoin (02:49):
I’m excited to chat with you. When I think about people who’ve been in the CrossFit space for a really long time, your name pops up, you’ve been this space, coaching, owning affiliates, now helping other coaches. I’m excited to chat all about coaching today.

Jason Ackerman (03:06):
I think that was just a really nice way of saying you’re getting old.

Nicole Aucoin (03:11):
You’ve been in this space for, how long have you been involved in CrossFit?

Jason Ackerman (03:15):
Involved? Coming up on 15 years, which is a little bit of a mind mess when I think about… You have periods in your life that don’t seem like forever ago, like high school, oh my goodness that was forever ago, college. But CrossFit it’s like, I found that yesterday, no, 15 years.

Nicole Aucoin (03:35):
Right. It’s amazing just to see how everything’s evolved and as coaches, we always want to be better. I’m just excited today to talk about what you’ve done to better yourself as a coach and what new coaches can do to better themselves. But at first I want us to talk about what’s the biggest mistake you think new coaches make when starting their coaching career?

Jason Ackerman (03:59):
Specifically nutrition or any coaching career?

Nicole Aucoin (04:02):
Let’s talk about the CrossFit coaches.

Jason Ackerman (04:04):
I think obviously there’s overlap, right? Coaching is coaching, be it fitness, nutrition, lifestyle. It is something I work on every day. I think the biggest mistake coaches make is that there’s a lack of empathy.

Nicole Aucoin (04:18):
You have to be empathetic to build that relationship with clients, so that they trust you. I think that’s a really good point.

Jason Ackerman (04:26):
Did I say that for the first time? Have you heard that? I couldn’t tell by your reaction-

Nicole Aucoin (04:30):

Jason Ackerman (04:30):
… you’re repeating, because duh, everyone says that. By the way, can we talk about how your nail polish perfectly matches your logo on your shirt?

Nicole Aucoin (04:41):
I do that on purpose when I record videos.

Jason Ackerman (04:43):
Is it?

Nicole Aucoin (04:43):

Jason Ackerman (04:44):
Is it video? Are we recording video?

Nicole Aucoin (04:46):
Well, we did record a bunch of video content for the HSN app last week. So yes we did. And my nail polish does match, you’re right. I have not heard you say that before, and I would have never guessed that you would have said that, but I think that you’re right. A foundation of an awesome coach starts with the relationship. We say that with nutrition coaching, but it really does go with fitness coaching too, absolutely.

Jason Ackerman (05:12):
I was having a conversation this morning, you could be the best coach in the world. You could know the most about the snatch, the squad or whatever you’re coaching. If people don’t like hanging out with you and being around you, which comes from empathy, because no one just wants to be told, do this, do this, do that. Maybe higher level athletes. Sure. And you’ve gained that respect and you’re the top of the world coach. But for the average person coming into your gym, that empathy is what’s going to get them to come back tomorrow. Developing as a coach is great, but until you can connect with other human beings, it’s the old adage of, I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care.

Nicole Aucoin (05:49):
So true. I was listening to a podcast this morning with John Maxwell and he said, I don’t want fans, I want friends. I really liked that because it’s true. If is someone thinks that you’re too far ahead of them they’re not going to approach you for help. And as a coach, you’re there to help and guide people. Right?

Jason Ackerman (06:09):
Yeah. I’ve read a bunch of John Maxwell’s books and it’s, any of the best leaders out there, that’s really what it comes down to. To your original question, the mistake is made by novice coaches, they’re newer and it’s not bad or wrong, they just have to learn to grow there. You talk about my journey in CrossFit, that’s what it was all about, especially those first few years were zero empathy.

Nicole Aucoin (06:39):
Well, I think as a new coach, you want to establish, hey, I’m the expert in this area and I can help you. But first you have to have that relationship before you can connect the dots of, hey, I can help you too. Right?

Jason Ackerman (06:54):
Yeah. I think there’s that balance. I think a lot of people, oftentimes when they’re newer, they’re like, I have to show you how smart I am. The truth of the matter is, all you have to do is stay a day ahead of your clients, anything else, but it’s not only to show them that, there’s this concept of simple, complex, simple. They’re simple, I don’t understand it, so let’s keep it simple. You can relate it to nutrition. There’s complex, I’m in the middle of it. And then you battle through that complexity and you’re like, okay, we need to keep it simple again. I think for a lot of those newer coaches, it’s like, I got to show you everything. I got to get out. I just took my level one or I just took this course and I got to teach it to you, where it’s like, no, no, no, slow down, let’s keep it simple and let’s connect.

Nicole Aucoin (07:38):
I love that. I think I relate this to coaching all the time, right? You want to show people that you’re really knowledgeable. As a fitness coach, as a CrossFit coach, you might be giving cues, talking insider language that people have no idea what lumbar curve is and all these different things like, hey, squeeze your stomach. Hey, send your butt back to the wall. Hey, we don’t want our back to be all curved, and you’re going to not feel well tomorrow. Right? The more simple you can make it, the more actionable people can interpret. Right?

Jason Ackerman (08:11):
Yeah. The best cues is, A, the one that works. It can be anything, but typically they are short, specific and actionable. Take this body part, do this with it and do it in less than three words. Everything you were saying was great, how about chest up?

Nicole Aucoin (08:28):
Yeah. Right. Keep it so, so simple. What have you done to help yourself improve as a coach? For those people that are listening that don’t know you, you’re on Seminar Staff. So you have taught a lot of people, how to be really great coaches, and now you own a business helping develop coaches. But what have you done earlier in your career to help better yourself as a coach?

Jason Ackerman (08:53):
Boy, the most important thing I’ve done is matured and probably gotten married. Those are probably the two best things I’ve done as a coach, because nothing will force you to learn empathy, quite like getting married.

Nicole Aucoin (09:05):
Oh goodness. Right?

Jason Ackerman (09:09):
Every day, you’re just like, okay, I live with this human being, I need to get along with this human being, I need to understand she has a different point of view than me. We were talking this morning about politics. And not to get completely off topic, Nicole, I’m not going to talk specifically about politics, but I was like, I said this to her. I was like, you know what it really comes down to? Is people just don’t understand other people have opinions. That’s what it is. I was like, because people are fighting over Biden, over Trump. I’m like, whatever you believe, that’s fine, but understand other people have their opinion and whatever you’re thinking, that person is thinking about you, as much as you hold to the truth of this person is a better president than this. It’s like, that person thinks the exact same thing. That’s basically, I don’t know how I got onto that topic Nicole.

Jason Ackerman (10:00):
The point is, I learned that through maturity because back in the day in 2007, you came into CrossFit and it was like, eat meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar, keep intake to levels that support exercise, not body fat. If you’re not willing to do that, guess what, you can’t come here. That was it. It was like, by the way, yoga is dumb. Stop doing that. Stop hanging out with your friends that don’t do this CrossFit thing. Part of it was simply just maturity, from that broader perspective. Now, specifically, if you’re saying what made you get better? I think for me, it was the desire to get on Seminar Staff and the willingness to take feedback as I tried to get onto Seminar Staff.

Jason Ackerman (10:45):
So going to multiple internships and hearing feedback and being willing to accept that feedback and immediately try to implement it. A lot of coaches just maybe want to get better. And then you’re like, hey, you didn’t see that that person was squatting on their toes? Yes I did. Something I think that I learned early on was, listening to other people and I’m sure that obviously it relates to that whole empathy piece, but listening to other people’s feedback and just smile say yes and do your best to implement it.

Nicole Aucoin (11:16):
I love that. Which means you have to surround yourself as a coach with other people that are a few steps ahead of you, so that you can get that feedback and be able to be open-minded. I think with the maturity aspect, empathy aspect and what you’re saying now with evaluations and getting feedback, we’re talking about having this growth mindset and being open to the opportunity to learn more and become better. Just because you have your level one or level two or level three does not mean you’re the best coach ever. You have to be open to feedback and things change and evolve and you have to learn different cues, because the same thing is not going to work for every single person.

Jason Ackerman (11:51):
I think I accidentally stumbled into growth mindset over the years. It wasn’t my intention. I think it just happened. I certainly believe you’re an average of the five people you surround yourself with, for sure. I’ve left jobs, businesses and relationships because of that. I also think you should try to find three people in your life, in whatever you’re trying to get better at. Those three people, one should be better than you. One should be equal to you and one should be below you, and you can learn differently from all of those. As a coach, I’m always teaching coaches, but I learn on every single call that I’m on. I think we forget that. You have to always be willing to learn.

Nicole Aucoin (12:38):
I think it’s funny when you get so far ahead in your career, it’s almost you forget what are the very, very basic questions that people are asking that I might not even be thinking about anymore. And now let’s simplify the process even more, talking about what you were saying at the very beginning, simple, complex, simple, you really keep going back to how simple can we make this and be really effective.

Jason Ackerman (13:00):
Well, once you’re involved in this, it becomes your world. It’s consuming. Everybody thinks, I want to buy equipment, go to Rogue. Still, most of the world doesn’t know about Rogue Fitness or even what CrossFit is. So then somebody walks into your box or you’re training someone for the first time and you’re teaching at this level, because you assume everybody knows it. I’ve taught over 200 seminars and I still have to remind myself, bring this down, as Michael Scott would say, pretend like you’re teaching it to a five year old.

Nicole Aucoin (13:32):
Which is so important, because then it’s actionable, right? You’re not saying any insider language and people know exactly what they need to do to be successful.

Jason Ackerman (13:41):

Nicole Aucoin (13:42):
What do you think it is that separates really great coaches from your standard CrossFit coach?

Jason Ackerman (13:51):
Truly, I think it’s much of what we’ve already discussed. I think it is that empathy piece. I think it’s the ability to connect. And not just, if you’re truly talking about the separation of it then, it’s not only your ability to connect, but the speed in which you can do so. Can you meet someone for the first time and connect with them to the way that they want to stick around or that they want to come back tomorrow? Because when someone’s willing to do something, it’s to strike while the iron’s hot. So someone shows up to your box today, if it takes you two weeks or two months to connect with someone, they might not come back. But if you connect with them immediately, those are the little things, eye contact, smiling, mirroring, things like asking them questions, repeating what they say.

Jason Ackerman (14:45):
Your ability to connect, again, going back to, it doesn’t matter how great you are, if that person doesn’t come back tomorrow, they’ll never know your ability to coach the Olympic lifts.

Nicole Aucoin (14:55):
They don’t really care about that though. They care about how you can get them from point A to point B, and keep them safe and not hurt. Right?

Jason Ackerman (15:04):
That goes back to us getting lost in the world of CrossFit. Even your members that are already there, yes, they want to see their performance improve. But if you really dig deep into most of your members, like no, why? No, why? Continue to answer those why’s, it’s like, I want to look better naked, right? Foundation, and then secondly, be healthy for my family.

Nicole Aucoin (15:29):
I think for a lot of what separates with CrossFit is the community aspect. If we ask our members why they keep coming back, it’s because they have this community, this support system of people that’s there to be that positive influence.

Jason Ackerman (15:43):
Absolutely. My partner and I we’ve been having this conversation a lot, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, where box owners rely on that community as their selling point. We try to educate them, keep doing that. But community is not unique to you. Community is unique to CrossFit. Every CrossFit, HSN, whatever box you go to, you have a community and no one really knows what that is until they’re a part of it. Community is what made my boxes great, but when somebody new would walk in the door, I wouldn’t tell them we have a great community.

Nicole Aucoin (16:20):
They don’t get it. They haven’t drank the Kool-Aid yet.

Jason Ackerman (16:23):
It’s two fold. One, the box down the road is saying the same thing. So what separates you from them? And two, the average person, if you’re the first CrossFit gym that they’ve experienced and they’re used to global gyms. They’re like, I don’t want to talk to anybody, that creepy dude on the elliptical, I want to avoid him. I don’t want a community. Then they realize this is a unique community. I don’t know about you, but over my three affiliates that I’ve owned, I would guess 20 marriages came from it. But if I would have told those people on day one, hey, you’re going to be-

Nicole Aucoin (16:57):
Your spouse.

Jason Ackerman (16:57):
… your significant other, right. They’d be like, what are you talking about? I just want to get in shape.

Nicole Aucoin (17:02):
You’re right. It’s funny. We did an interview. We had a bunch of testimonial videos from our members and one of the members, she said, my husband was coming to the gym, our gym, and he said, he wanted me to come. And she said, I already have enough friends. I don’t want any more friends. She literally said that on the video and then later she was like, but I really made a lot of friends and it’s great here. But it’s funny because people don’t think that the community aspect is so important, but I would say it’s a great, it’s the retention, right? If you foster an awesome community, people really get bought into what you do.

Jason Ackerman (17:38):
Yeah. That’s it. Again, I don’t want anyone that’s listening to think they should stop that. That is probably the most important thing. It’s just that new people, don’t understand that.

Nicole Aucoin (17:50):
1000% agree. You have on your sweatshirt, best hour of their day.

Jason Ackerman (17:56):
Brand new hoodie. Just got it last night.

Nicole Aucoin (17:59):
I like it. I think that is really what we tell our coaches when we onboard new coaches, we want our clients to be smiling. We want them to be happy. We want them to feel like, hey, you’re having the best hour of your day when you walk into the gym. That’s what our goal is when our clients come in. Right? I assume that’s why your sweatshirt says best hour of their day.

Jason Ackerman (18:21):
I don’t know how I got lucky enough that no one had claimed this. I don’t think I came up with this phrase obviously, but no one had bought the domain name or the social media handles, but that’s really what it’s all about. It’s somewhat facetious, I hope you have a better hour of your day with your husband, with your step children. I would hope that that’s… But for a lot of people, unfortunately it’s not true. It’s, yes, we want this to be the best hour of your day. Dopamine is kicking, endorphins are going. It’s a cliche statement, but the point is, if you worked your butt off to make that happen and it’s the second best hour of people’s days, that’s pretty great too.

Nicole Aucoin (19:07):
Awesome. That’s amazing. Right? They’ll keep coming back, because they know that they feel good. They know that they feel welcomed and it’s really going back to what we said at the beginning, what you said at the beginning, showing empathy, it’s connecting with your clients, so that they know that you care. I want to dive into something that you mentioned, that’s really helped you as a coach and now a mentor helping other coaches, is evaluations. As a gym owner, we have a lot of gym owners that listen to this podcast. Some gym owners do evaluations for their coaches, and I would say many do not. What would you say about owners evaluating coaches?

Jason Ackerman (19:45):
Mandatory. It needs to happen. The first thing I would look at is this. If you’re a box owner and you listening to this podcast, you’re probably not paying your coaches a ton of money, 20, maybe $30 an hour. Some of them are bartering for memberships. Two hours a week, they have busy lives full-Time jobs, like we’ve said, families. They do this because they love it, and most of the things you love in this life, you want to improve that. You’re doing them a disservice and eventually that passion that they have for coaching will wane if you’re not giving them feedback, they want that feedback. Sometimes you feel I don’t want to burden them. No, no, no burden them. They want to get better.

Jason Ackerman (20:32):
Secondly, if you’re a business owner, what other business can you think of where there’s not training? Even if you work at a fast food place, they get training. Right? And not to belittle McDonald’s employees, but I would imagine coaching humans, I’ve never worked at McDonald’s coaching humans is a little more complex than flipping burgers. So they have to go through mandatory trainings. Your coaches should as well. I mean, trainings, I’m using synonymously with feedback and evaluations. If you work at a fast food restaurant, I apologize. I didn’t have…

Nicole Aucoin (21:11):
No, I think you’re right. I think gym owners wear so many hats. You were a gym owner for a long time and if you don’t make time to evaluate and sit down with your staff, it’s not going to happen. Right?

Jason Ackerman (21:23):
Well, I’d say, if you’re a super busy, as we all can be as box owners, maybe it isn’t you. Ideally, it’s the best coach there. So maybe that’s not you at this point. A lot of box owners, I know box owners and you probably do, that are their level one, and their coaches that they’re all two or three, that’s totally acceptable. Maybe your level two trainer does the feedback. Of course you have to establish, hey, this guy is in the position to do it. Or else it’s like, why is Johnny telling me what to do? You have to establish those boundaries, but you’re absolutely right, either way feedback needs to happen.

Nicole Aucoin (22:01):
No, I think it’s important in a CrossFit space, at least at our gym. I want there to be a consistent experience with my clients, whether you’re coming in the morning or at night, I want there to be a consistent experience. And if you’re not evaluating, if you don’t set standards to have that experience be consistent, it’s not going to happen.

Jason Ackerman (22:20):
Yeah. I’ll be honest. I was going to say your members will feel it. They probably won’t. Your members, they won’t understand or know it until they go to another box, a box that’s ideally or not ideally, but a box that’s better. I say this a lot when I show up at boxes or I do things with other boxes, I remind the members that if they’ve never experienced other affiliates, they don’t realize how good they have it, but it works both ways. You may be the box that’s getting complacent with their coaching and the box down the road is really pushing it. And all of a sudden, one of your longtime members goes there and gets coached for the first time in months and PR is so lift, and all of a sudden they’re like, why am I going here when I could be getting this?

Jason Ackerman (23:08):
Community, coaching, programming, all of those things are things we know are important. Again, they’re not part of your sales pitch, because most new people don’t grasp it, but it’s what you need to do, like you said, for retention.

Nicole Aucoin (23:22):
Absolutely. What is one tip that you have for gym owners who are getting started with evaluations or listening to this, and like, all right, well, 2021 is the year that I’m going to start evaluating my coaches and let’s go, what’s one tip that you have for them?

Jason Ackerman (23:40):
Keep it to yes or no answers. Leave out the subjectiveness. Did you show up 15 minutes early to be at class? Was your whiteboard brief five minutes or less? Did you end class on time? Did you say everyone’s name at least three times? Just super yes, no. Yes, no, and then you can start with that. Then as this progresses over 2021, ideal aging, I would say in an ideal world, every coach is getting evaluated monthly. If you really struggle for that, make it quarterly. But no less than that, but if you’re new to it, simple yes, no questions, maybe 10. Did you run a general warm up, a specific warm up, just did this happen? And then start to dig into the more challenging and more objective type of things. What could have been better about the whiteboard brief? Did you cue some so-and-so when they were making a fault?

Nicole Aucoin (24:47):
I like that. I love that you said, a few minutes ago, you said, did you say everyone’s name at least three times? That is a standard that we have at our gym that we are so specific with, because I think it’s important. People are there, you’re a part of this community. People need to have that connection with the coach. And sometimes as a coach, you might go to the people you feel most comfortable with and someone might not have all of the attention. You might not spread your attention out to everyone in the class, especially if it’s bigger.

Jason Ackerman (25:18):
And that might seem one of those things where it’s like, is that measurable? Yeah, it’s measurable. If I were evaluating your class, I would write down everyone who’s in there. And I would just put a hash mark, every time, you may miss one or two, but if everyone has three next to their name and one person has two, maybe missed it. It is certainly measurable. That’s a mistake I used to make as a more novice coach, when I wouldn’t ask someone their name. I’d be embarrassed to ask them their name. Well, now I could have met them 10 times, I’m like, can you remind me your name, it’s easy these days with masks. I know Florida doesn’t have COVID, so it’s a little different there.

Jason Ackerman (26:01):
People show up with their masks here and sometimes it’s truly just hard to recognize them. Once they say who it is, I realize. You have to get over your ego and be like, hey, I forgot. It’s way better to say, I forgot your name in the beginning of class and not say their name at all. Or if you truly ask somebody what their name is, but don’t completely neglect them because you forgot their name.

Nicole Aucoin (26:27):
That’s a good tip. We do a question of the day, every day at our gym. People go around and say their name and they answer the question of the day. With our setup, there is no way that someone is not saying their name if you forgot it, you make sure you listen what they say when they answer their question of the day. I think that that’s a great little tip for sure. Any final thoughts for coaches? And then before we get off, I want to talk a little bit about your coaching program. I recently went in to your coaching program and talked about nutrition coaching, but you have a program to help develop coaches, right?

Jason Ackerman (27:04):
Yeah. We have a coaches development program that’s specifically for any coaches, whether you’re brand new, we have people in it that don’t even have… We have a guy in India and they’re not doing seminars there now. He’s not even taken his level one. And then we have people that have taken it since before they pass their level three and now are on level three and continue to do it. We have that, and then we have affiliate university, which is coaching for box owners. To help grow boxes. I think, different than most box coaching. Our goal, obviously boxes need to make money. That’s a big part of it. We help people increase their rates, all that good stuff, but we want it to be a place you love going to, again.

Jason Ackerman (27:49):
Because for a lot of box owners, the passion burns out and it’s like, I don’t like doing this. And it’s really evident when you don’t like doing it. Our goal is to make it a business that’s thriving, but also one you truly look forward to going to.

Nicole Aucoin (28:04):
That’s so important and I think what causes the burnout is wearing all of the hats. Right?

Jason Ackerman (28:10):
Somebody asked me, I had a call with German affiliates this morning and they said, “What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a new box owner?” And I said, take care of yourself first. Sometimes my answers take me off guard. I didn’t know what I was going to say, and I said that, and it’s true, because wearing all the hats, I think is just another way of saying it. Because if you’re not taking care of your self first or you’re trying to do everything, you’re not able to do that. I’ve spoken about my journey, which is, part of my nutrition journey. I would say I got that. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that word on your podcast. What’s BC or what’s not BC anymore.

Jason Ackerman (28:54):
I don’t think most people would call me that, but I wasn’t happy with what I saw in the mirror. It stemmed from, workouts would take a back seat, staying up too late, because I would get home late and try to do more work. So you’re eating food that’s not ideal, or you’re eating out a lot. I don’t believe you have to be in the best shape or the fittest human being to be a coach, but you can’t show up tired and you have to show people, hey, I’m preaching this to you, I do it as well. Leading by example in all aspects of life.

Nicole Aucoin (29:29):
I think that is so important when we’re talking about coaching in general, coaching CrossFit, owning a gym. I remember being in season of my life CrossFit and owning the gym and I was spreading myself way too thin. There was probably a three month stretch where I worked out six to eight times the entire month. How do you only work out six times when you’re a gym owner and your office is literally in the gym? Like, could I not make an hour for myself to go work out? I got to a point, probably the same point that you did when you’re like, okay, I don’t like the way my body looks. I need to start eating better.

Nicole Aucoin (30:08):
Same thing happened with me. I’m like, I do not like the fact that I’m not working out, I’m setting a goal and I’m going to work out 16 times a month and two and a half years later we’re still on that kick. You have to make yourself a priority and you have to schedule that time for yourself.

Jason Ackerman (30:25):
I think that’s key, the scheduling. In my calendar every day, is not just my workout times, but it’s walk the dogs because that’s my mental break, or I have a sauna, use the sauna. Putting things in your calendar for you, but then not replacing them with business stuff. I look at it and I’m like, okay, this is a non-negotiable time, at 9:00 AM every day. I need to be on a podcast or I need to coach someone, it doesn’t take away from your own time. Something you said was, 16 times. I think we also forget the same balance we want with our members, because people get crazy with cross, we start this thing to help life and then it becomes your entire life. 16 workouts a month is great. You don’t have to do 30 workouts a month.

Nicole Aucoin (31:12):

Jason Ackerman (31:13):
And it’s healthier I think, not just physically, but mentally. If you want to work out, I don’t want to get off topic, but if you want to work out 30 times in a month, I would argue you may be physically healthy, but emotionally you’re not, because I have so many other things I want to accomplish in this world, some of which is just spending time with my dog here that’s sleeping at my feet, working out takes away from that. So finding that balance, because you don’t want to burn your athletes out by pushing them to workout too much and you don’t want to burn yourself out.

Nicole Aucoin (31:44):
I think practicing what you preach is really important. We want our athletes to take a rest day or they’re going to be at increased risk for injury, right? We have to practice what we preach, not only with fitness, but I think nutrition too. For gym owners listening to this, I say this all the time, if you want your members to make nutrition a priority, you have to make nutrition a priority.

Jason Ackerman (32:08):
When I started doing that, I don’t know if we’re going to talk at all about nutrition, but when I started doing that myself, for those listening, that’s why I started my nutrition business at the time. Because all of a sudden everyone’s like, what are you doing? Right? We’ve all been there. You’re not going to get many nutrition clients if you’re eating chicken chow mein over on the floor, but you’ll get some clients if you’re eating clean foods or eating some foods and showing them how they can incorporate it into their life.

Nicole Aucoin (32:40):
We can talk from experience so much better. Right? We talk about when gym owners are going through our training, be the first test client if you don’t want to coach clients. Have your head coach be a test client for your nutrition program, so they can talk from experience, because I truly believe no coach would not want to help their members see great results, but you’re not going to talk about something you don’t feel comfortable with.

Jason Ackerman (33:04):
It goes back to that empathy piece, where you don’t understand what it’s like, you and I have talked nutrition before, I’ve done macros for a long time and I would eat foods I enjoyed. But there was never a night where I was like, okay, I had Oreos and that was the perfect amount of Oreos, I am completely satisfied with those four Oreos. Right? You have to understand when someone’s maybe indulging and enjoying something, a trait, that they’re still going to want more. Right? Or it’s Saturday night, I’m going out to dinner with my significant other, how do I manage that? Leading by example and figuring out how this works for you, is going to give you insight into how it works for other people.

Nicole Aucoin (33:52):
Setting your clients up for success with simple and actionable tips. If our members ask me what they should go and have when they eat out, I’m going to guide them to restaurants that we’ve partnered with, where I know that it’s really easy for them to find things that are dietician approved, because our stamp is on the menu. Like, hey, go to these places and find these menu items. It was the same thing at the games last year. Right? You were at the games last year, we talked during the games.

Jason Ackerman (34:19):
I was thinking, it seems like two years ago, because it was.

Nicole Aucoin (34:21):
Yeah, I guess it was two years ago. But when you went anywhere in those restaurants, in Madison, there were CrossFit stamps around every healthy option.

Jason Ackerman (34:33):
I went to Ian’s pizza.

Nicole Aucoin (34:36):
Maybe not at that place.

Jason Ackerman (34:38):
But hey, right. It’s also teaching your clients when it’s okay to enjoy themselves and splurge and when not to feel guilty.

Nicole Aucoin (34:48):
Have a treat and move on. But if you’re practicing what you preach, if they’re seeing you eat mostly whole foods and having that balance and prioritizing your nutrition, they’re going to prioritize nutrition. I get questions from gym owners all the time. How do I get my existing members bought in? When you had a gym that you owned for a long time, for a while you maybe didn’t preach or didn’t have a nutrition program. You launched this nutrition program and it grew because you were practicing what you preached.

Jason Ackerman (35:18):
It didn’t take any work. It was just them seeing a difference. As you know, for a lot of people, what are you doing? I want to try that. That’s how many nutrition businesses begin and that’s exactly what it was. Really when it comes down to it, the movements, the workouts, that’s great, it tricks people into thinking Crossfit is the key. Really nutrition is the key.

Nicole Aucoin (35:47):
You’re 1000% right?

Jason Ackerman (35:49):
I would have hoped you would agree with that. I’m not just saying it. I would say that on any podcasts, on any platform. If you go to your level one, it’s the foundation of fitness. So if you’re not implementing that in some capacity in your box, you’re making a mistake and your members ultimately won’t get the results they should. What I always tell boxes is, when you’re getting them to do nutrition, they just make the connection that it’s happening at the gym. They’re not making the connection that it’s actually what I’m doing in my kitchen. The gym is just supplementing that, but then they won’t leave your gym, because that’s where the progress was made to them.

Nicole Aucoin (36:27):
You’re right. If you make it easy for people, they can stick with it. But it has to be a consistent message. There can’t just be talk about a nutrition during a challenge, which is the problem in 99% of CrossFit gyms, they run nutrition challenges and support after the challenge is over is gone. You got to plan, this podcast will get launched when probably most challenges are wrapping up. You want to plan, what does support look like after that nutrition challenge is over for our members and for people that join your gym and you don’t have a challenge going on.

Jason Ackerman (37:00):
I’m sure you guys talk about it a lot as we do. That’s also just another revenue stream for your box.

Nicole Aucoin (37:07):
1000%. You’re adding revenue when you add nutrition. You’re helping your clients see better results. What we’ve seen from COVID shutdowns, especially with our European gyms is, they’re able to add nutrition only clients. They’re not even having people come into their physical locations, which are closed. They’re adding nutritional only clients, because they’re creating a message that nutrition is the priority and they are the nutrition experts in their area.

Jason Ackerman (37:33):
As we learned during the shutdown, gyms may close, but people still eat. There’s a quarantine 15 or something like that going on, and COVID 20. People are not leaving their houses if the gyms are closed or even if they’re reopened, they’re training less, nutrition is even more, not even mentioning overall health.

Nicole Aucoin (37:57):
You’re right. You’re 1000% right. Where can coaches who want to become better coaches find out more about the coaches development programs that you guys have?

Jason Ackerman (38:08):
Everything’s online. I’m sure a simple Google search will do it. I think everything is on our website,, which is also our Instagram. And then on my Instagram, coach Jason Ackerman. I know the link is in my bio for the coaches development course in there. Like I said, if you’re just a coach and you want to improve, that’s great. We have monthly calls. We have great guests like Nicole. Chris Hinshaw is coming on. Thursday, James Hobart, those types of people, if you like them. And then we have our box owners coaching as well, you can find that on best hour.

Nicole Aucoin (38:46):
Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on. So many great tips that can be applied for nutrition coaches, fitness coaches. Empathy and connecting with people is the foundation of being a successful coach. You are in the relationship business. So many takeaways. Thank you for coming on today. Your wife is about to have a baby, so excited to see pictures coming soon of your little nugget.

Jason Ackerman (39:12):
Talk about empathy. When she wakes me up at two in the morning to pee, that’s where the empathy needs to be strong.

Nicole Aucoin (39:21):
I love it. I hope you enjoy that episode. While we talked a lot about fitness coaching, everything we discussed applies to becoming an effective nutrition coach as well. One of the things that I do at gym owners on free calls is discuss, who is going to play this role as a nutrition coach. The last thing you want to do is force someone on your staff into a role as a nutrition coach that they’re not passionate about. Not all fitness coaches make great nutrition coaches. In order to find who would be a great fit to run a nutrition program, the first thing I look for is a passion for nutrition. If you aren’t passionate about nutrition, if you don’t walk the walk, it’s going to be really tough for you to be relatable to someone and for you to build that authority as the nutrition expert.

Nicole Aucoin (40:13):
The second thing we look for is all about what we talked about in this podcast. We need people, people, we need someone with empathy. We need someone that has those good, soft skills that can relate to clients. As a nutrition coach, it’s so different than coaching a regular CrossFit class any fitness class, because nutrition coaching is all the other 23 hours of the day. You have to be able to build that relationship and provide support and accountability to your clients, which takes me to the last thing that we look at when picking an amazing nutrition coach, and it’s follow through. If you are not good with follow through, it is very tough to be able to provide accountability and support for your clients. Just because they come in for a follow up visit once a month does not mean that they’re going to have the support to handle all of life throws at them during the course of a month.

Nicole Aucoin (41:04):
You have to have really good follow through if you want to be an effective nutrition coach. Usually after we talk about these things during free calls, I take a pause and ask the owner, if anyone on the staff comes to mind, and they think for a second, and sometimes they say yes, and I say, awesome, set up a meeting with that person, ask them to write a short paragraph about their why, why do they want to become a nutrition coach? When we work with clients on the fitness side, we always ask them their why, why not ask the coach the why behind becoming a nutrition coach. This is important for you to understand, but it’s also a test to follow through. Are they actually going to do what they said they were going to do? If a gym owner tells me no, no one on my staff is passionate about nutrition or no one has the same nutrition philosophy that I do, I don’t have anyone on my staff.

Nicole Aucoin (41:57):
Then it’s time to look at your membership. Do you have a member who is a nurse or a teacher or someone that’s been through their own transformation themselves? Recently on the Nutrition Made Simple podcast, we had Mary Cook, who’s the owner of CrossFit Swarm on there. She’s lost 200 pounds. We talked about her journey to losing that 200 pounds, but also the journey to becoming a nutrition coach and how rewarding it is for her to help others do what she did. Someone who’s been through their own transformation themselves, is so relatable to someone who’s struggling with trying to lose weight. So finding a great person to help support the role of a nutrition coach is a huge factor that separates nutrition programs from amazing and thriving nutrition programs.

Nicole Aucoin (42:43):
If you are a coach or an owner listening to this and looking to build a nutrition program, Healthy Steps Nutrition and HSN Mentoring has built a CrossFit preferred nutrition course, which teaches you the fundamental skills to become an effective coach. If you are truly looking for a turnkey solution to offering a nutrition program, the mentoring route is the way to go. You receive everything that you get with the basics of nutrition, coaching CrossFit preferred course, and all of the business support that we’ve created through Healthy Steps Nutrition, that has helped over 3000 gym owners and coaches build successful nutrition programs.

Nicole Aucoin (43:22):
If you are interested in learning more about Jason Ackerman’s coach’s development program, which I would recommend for any new CrossFit coach and seasoned CrossFit coach for that matter, click the link in the show notes and you will have a link. You will find the links to get in touch with Jason. He mentioned it on the podcast, I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. Please make sure that you subscribe so you do not miss another episode. We’ll see you back next week.