Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast Episode 69: Starting CrossFit Spring Hill with Nutrition As The Foundation

Abby Cooper is a seasoned nutrition coach but brand new to using the Healthy Steps Nutrition platform. In this episode, she talks about how her and her gym owner worked together to launch a comprehensive nutrition program in their gym.

Instead of wasting time building a nutrition program from scratch, Joe and Abby, owner and coach at CrossFit Spring Hill, have partnered with Healthy Steps Nutrition to offer nutrition coaching in-house!

Within a few short months, they have over 30% of their members doing nutrition coaching and have truly built nutrition into the foundation of their gym.

Abby talks about how she has established herself as the expert and how her gym owner supports her role as a nutrition coach. You will love her story, and you are guaranteed to be inspired to become a better coach.

Topics Discussed In This Episode

How Abby established herself as a nutrition coach

The year Abby was turning 30, she got inspired in her own life to make some changes. After making nutrtition changes, she decided that she wanted to align personal interest and professional. She started down the path of trying to find how does one become a coach and what does that look like.
Abby has done a blend of coaching education including, an integrative medicine coaching certificate program and the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.
Since finding HSN, Abby has embedded nutrition in the culture of her gym and she is a full-time nutrition coach.

How her owner supports her role as a nutrition coach

Owner, Joe has been supportive since day one of implementing a nutrition program into CrossFit Spring Hill.
Abby and Joe meet weekly to stay connected and on track. 
Joe’s buy-in has made all the difference in terms of Abby feeling supported. This has also helped with consistent messaging of pairing nutrition with fitness.
Over 30% of the members at CrossFit Spring Hill are on some type of paying nutrition program. It’s truly a part of their culture.

Abby's tips for new coaches

  • Know what your strengths are. Do the Coach’s Evaluation to find out where your gaps are and what your strengths are. The most authentic version of yourself needs to show up, and clients respond to that.
  • Continued learning – if you are not reading, attending continuing ED events, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice.
  • Repetition makes a difference – embracing the awkwardness of those first couple of appointments. If you just go into it, knowing that that gets better with practice, that can be really helpful. 

What Abby would say to someone considering HSN Mentoring

Don’t hesitate!  She is continually impressed by the content that HSN puts out.
She always has the constant support from her mentor and the members only Facebook group.
The structure of the HSN program is scalable, the infrastructure is in place and this is something that can be replicated and grown in your own gym.

Additional FREE Help Related To
Building A Nutrition Program In A Gym

Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast Episodes:

  • Top 3 Podcast Episodes For Gym Owners HERE

Nutrition Made Simple Podcast:

  • Episode 20: Identifying Nutrition Related Triggers and How To Manage Them HERE
  • Episode 19: From Competitive Eating & Macros To Nutrition Coaching Using A Habit-Based Approach To Help Clients See Amazing Results HERE
  • Episode 16: Meal Prepping For Beginners HERE

Free Course:
Building A Nutrition Program Into A Gym

Earn Three CrossFit CEUs By Taking This Nutrition Course

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

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

Episode Transcript:

Nicole Aucoin (00:04):
Welcome back to the Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast. At Healthy Steps Nutrition, we believe something as fundamental as nutrition shouldn’t be complicated. We help gym owners and independent coaches to build wildly successful nutrition programs without reinventing the wheel.

Nicole Aucoin (00:23):
I’m your host, Nicole Aucoin, registered dietitian and founder, Healthy Steps Nutrition, CrossFit HSN, and HSN Mentoring. I’m also the author of the Basics of Nutrition Coaching, CrossFit Preferred Nutrition Course. I am 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 communities.

Nicole Aucoin (00:48):
Today, I’m so excited to be talking to Abby Cooper. She is the nutrition coach at Spring Hill CrossFit. She’s a seasoned nutrition coach, but brand new to using the Healthy Steps Nutrition platform. In this episode, she talks all about her and her gym owner and how they worked together to launch a comprehensive nutrition program in their gym.

Nicole Aucoin (01:12):
They’ve truly built nutrition as the foundation. Instead of wasting so much time building a nutrition program from scratch, Joe and Abby, the owner and coach at CrossFit Spring Hill, have partnered with Healthy Steps Nutrition to offer nutrition coaching, an ongoing program beyond the challenge, in-house. In just a few short months, they have over 30% of their members doing nutrition coaching, and it’s just built into the culture.

Nicole Aucoin (01:42):
Abby talks about how she’s established herself as an expert and how, most importantly, Joe, the gym owner, supports her as the nutrition coach. You’re going to love her story. She’s so passionate about nutrition, and I’m excited to have her on the podcast. We will get to this episode right after this message.

Nicole Aucoin (02:03):
Are you loving the Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast? Are you looking for more support to help you build a nutrition program? Do these two things: First one, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already. And the second one, make sure you click the link in the show notes so that when you are listening to the podcast, you get all of the additional resources and support that we provide you in the show notes. So go ahead and click that link in the show notes so you can get all the additional support.

Nicole Aucoin (02:32):
Lastly, please do me one favor and leave us a review on the podcast. It’ll really help this podcast reach more people. All right, let’s get to this episode with Abby from Spring Hill CrossFit. Abby, welcome to the Grow Your Nutrition Business Podcast.

Abby Cooper (02:48):
Hi, thank you for having me.

Nicole Aucoin (02:49):
I’m so excited to be doing this in-person.

Abby Cooper (02:52):
Yay.

Nicole Aucoin (02:52):
We are at CrossFit Spring Hill, and I’m so excited to just talk to you and share your story. You are so inspiring.

Abby Cooper (02:59):
Well, thank you. We’re so glad to have you here.

Nicole Aucoin (03:02):
Well, let’s kind of go back. So you guys have been running the program for a couple months, but one of the cool things about CrossFit Spring Hill is you guys started with nutrition really at the foundation. When you guys opened the gym, you were running a nutrition challenge.

Abby Cooper (03:17):
Yeah, pretty close. The gym opened October the first, and by December, we were already diving into wanting to offer nutrition. We didn’t really know what that was going to look like necessarily. Joe, our gym owner, approached me and asked would I want to get involved because I have a background in this area. So we started with something that I would describe as a little bit kind of homegrown. We were trying to develop something internally, and kind of quickly found out that we needed some help and we needed something that was going to be scalable for the long term.

Nicole Aucoin (03:52):
Which is why we started talking.

Abby Cooper (03:54):
Yes, exactly.

Nicole Aucoin (03:55):
The cool thing is is you jumped on a call with Joe for a free call. We chatted. And I looked at Joe, I go, “You have a rock star person. This program is going to be amazing.” And it has been nothing short of amazing since you guys have started with us and grown your program.

Nicole Aucoin (04:12):
I want to dive into… Tell me a little bit about your background with nutrition coaching. You have a pretty extensive background as a coach and nutrition coach.

Abby Cooper (04:21):
Yeah. My background’s a little bit varied. I got into coaching probably, gosh, I guess now it’s been almost 15 years ago, to some degree. My undergrad and master’s is not anything related to this world, it was in business and kind of the healthcare industry was kind of my background. The year I was turning 30, I got really inspired kind of in my own life to make some changes and then decided that I wanted to kind of align personal interest and professional. So at that point, started down the path of trying to find how does one become a coach and what does that look like.

Abby Cooper (04:57):
So since that time, I’ve done a blend of coaching education. I’ve done an integrative medicine coaching certificate program. I hold the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Wellcoaches is another program that I’ve done as well. So yeah, just sort of piecemealed my education together and got started. So I’ve worked in a variety of contexts and kind of environment since that time.

Nicole Aucoin (05:24):
I love it. So you have all this knowledge, and now it’s like, “Okay, let’s put this into a usable format to help clients and provide a consistent experience for these clients in the gym.”

Abby Cooper (05:34):
Absolutely. One of the things that we believe, I believe specifically, especially in a gym context, is if you have a client that’s not working in nutrition, they’re really not maximizing their investment. That’s one of the things that I stress all the time is we want to align. If you’re going to invest not only your resources in terms of financial resources, you’re paying to be a member here. You’re investing your time. You’re making this a priority to show up. How you feed yourself and fuel your body is the other side of that equation. And if you want to maximize that investment, these two things go hand in hand. So we try to really help people make that connection so that they can get the most from their membership here.

Nicole Aucoin (06:17):
And it truly is embedded in the culture. I’m looking at a nutrition board right behind you. We were talking about numbers before. 50% of the members here are on some type of paying nutrition program. It’s a part of the culture here. What are you guys doing to help it become a part of the culture?

Abby Cooper (06:37):
Good question. I’ll have to affirm my own or not, because he’s here today, but he does a wonderful job. The way that we’re sort of structured, he does the majority of the free intros. It literally is embedded into the conversation that it is the preferred option. Meaning that when a program or a package is presented, it’s not either/or, fitness or nutrition, it is, “This is what we suggest. They go hand in hand.” Now, of course, if a client says, “I really need one versus the other,” then we dive into those different options. But it is presented as, “This is the number one best option for you to take.”

Abby Cooper (07:14):
So yeah, visually, it is like here in the gym. If we have a challenge, we’re in a challenge right now, and so all the coaches did a great job of making sure that before classes, that was being talked about, it was written on the whiteboard, who was signed up. Yeah, we just really believe wholeheartedly that it’s a requirement to get the most out of their membership.

Nicole Aucoin (07:42):
I think that’s awesome. And it really is embedded in the culture. What I asked you originally come on this podcast for is you and Joe have such a great relationship and support. He is fully supportive of you and is so on board with it being the best option. He told me before, he keeps getting people to sign up for nutrition and fitness because that is the best option. And he’s like, “Hey, I got someone else for you to get started with.” When you understand the value, you’re not upselling someone on nutrition, you’re really guiding them to help them become the healthiest versions of themselves the fastest way possible.

Abby Cooper (08:18):
Absolutely. Yeah, and he does do a great job and he has been incredibly supportive. Even from when we went through the training program, of course we went through it together, but it’s been from the beginning. It’s not been something that I’m over here on the side, managing. We meet almost weekly right now to go over stuff together. We are constantly brainstorming new ideas of like, “Okay, we may not be able to do this thing now, but…”

Abby Cooper (08:47):
A specific example of that is we really want to get out into our community and start doing lunch and learn events and that sort of thing. So we are constantly thinking about together, what’s this going to look like long-term, and his support and his buy-in has made all the difference in terms of me feeling supported and also consistent messaging, right? This is not just, again, to your point, this side thing that is one part of the gym. This is one kind of front that we present, right? Where everything is consolidated and we don’t separate those things out.

Nicole Aucoin (09:29):
I think that’s awesome. You and I talked before we started recording and you said, “I love being part of a team.” When you can bounce ideas back and forth with the owner, you have different context to go and do lunch and learns. He has different context. Now you guys can work and have a bigger pool of people, companies that you guys can go out and do those things. So it just is helpful to help scale the program when you have the owner bought in.

Abby Cooper (09:53):
Yeah, no, absolutely. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing it in an environment where I didn’t have the support of the owner. Yeah, that’s a huge part of why I feel like that we’ve been as successful as we are.

Nicole Aucoin (10:07):
And it’s just the beginning for you guys.

Abby Cooper (10:09):
Yeah, we just got started.

Nicole Aucoin (10:09):
Which is amazing. No, I think you guys do such a great job working together. I love that you said, “We meet almost weekly.” I think that is one of the secrets for success. When we look at gym owners who have gyms who have such amazing nutrition programs and have coaches that stay around for a long time and are really doing such an incredible job is that they are meeting consistently and regularly so that they’re on the same path.

Abby Cooper (10:36):
Absolutely. We have a standing meeting that’s on the calendar the last Friday of every month, but then we do a lot of, “Hey, this is something that we need to go over. Can you pop in maybe an hour before you train this week and let’s go over something?” A lot of texting, a lot of communication. Communication is something I think that we do really well. But again, we do have those formal touchpoints, but then we also have a lot of informal ones that happen throughout the week.

Nicole Aucoin (11:04):
I love that. One of the other pieces of culture with building a nutrition program is your staff here. So your husband coaches, right?

Abby Cooper (11:13):
Yes, he’s a fill-in coach that… He’s a firefighter full-time, and so he doesn’t have super regular availability. But yes, he’s our sub-coach, I guess you would say, if somebody is out.

Nicole Aucoin (11:24):
So he probably knows a little bit about nutrition.

Abby Cooper (11:27):
Just a little bit. He laughs and says he’s introduced as he’s a coach, but first, he’s Abby’s husband. And everybody’s always like, “You’re Abby’s husband. We love her.”

Nicole Aucoin (11:36):
I mean, you just give off this aura of you want to help people. And everyone around you knows like, “Hey, Abby is the person that can help you with nutrition.”

Abby Cooper (11:47):
Yeah. I mean, that’s my heart. I want them to think of that. And I want them to know that, again, that their story is interesting to me. I want to know what’s getting in their way. I always laugh and say I get genuinely excited for other people’s success, and so I get really bought in to them doing well and I want to be a resource for them. So yeah, we have a really special environment here, I feel like.

Nicole Aucoin (12:15):
That’s amazing. Part of being a great coach is connecting with your clients, right?

Abby Cooper (12:22):
Yes.

Nicole Aucoin (12:22):
And you do such a great job connecting with those clients. One of the things that you guys do awesome is you are posting on social media. If anyone follows you, they know that you’re passionate about nutrition. It’s obvious. It’s not just in the gym, it’s really your whole life that translates into, “Hey, I want to help you with nutrition.”

Abby Cooper (12:43):
Yeah, I try to make sure that even in a social media context, that people understand that this is also something that I’m living. It’s not just something that I’m trying to sell them because I’m the coach here and I want them to sign up for this program. It is actually something that… I laughed and told you if there was no money being exchanged, this is the thing that I would be talking to people about anyway, because I love it and I’m interested in it. So yeah, that is reflected, especially from a social media standpoint, because that’s just part of kind of who I am.

Nicole Aucoin (13:17):
You were sharing a story before we started and you said someone had posted like, “Looking for some nutrition help,” and you had members commenting on this feed that’s like, “Hey, go to Abby. She can help you.” It’s part of you. It’s part of the culture here. So many gym owners and coaches want to build a successful nutrition business, but if you don’t really build it into the culture, you’re never going to reach the level that you want to reach.

Abby Cooper (13:40):
Absolutely. It can’t feel, again, like this thing that’s over here on the side. It has to be truly embedded into multiple aspects of your environment.

Nicole Aucoin (13:51):
It’s funny because I was in a gym, I worked in a gym where I was on the side, right? I had this thing on the side and it didn’t work well. It was really frustrating because I knew all these people needed help with nutrition, but they never came to me, because it was like, “Go see Nicole.” But it wasn’t like, “Hey, this is the best option. We can include nutrition and fitness, and here’s how you get started with both. And let me go ahead and sign you up for your initial consultation with Abby so that you can get started and have the best results possible.”

Abby Cooper (14:19):
Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole Aucoin (14:20):
Awesome. With all of the experience you have working with clients, what would you say is some tips for new coaches?

Abby Cooper (14:30):
That’s a good question. I think one that I feel pretty strongly about… Well, there’s a couple. Number one, I think knowing what your strengths are. So if you have never either done the coach’s evaluation where you know where you have gaps, or you know like, “These are the things I do really well.” If you’ve never done any kind of personal growth and development strengths assessments so that you know like, “I’m really strong in empathy,” or, “I’m really strong in connecting.” Knowing what those strengths are so you can see how those… Humor can be a strength for a lot of people, right?

Nicole Aucoin (15:02):
Yes.

Abby Cooper (15:02):
Knowing how that is showing up for you in your coaching, I think, makes you feel connected. Also, the most authentic version of yourself will show up, and clients respond to that. So I think that’s important.

Abby Cooper (15:15):
I’m huge on lifelong learning. So if you are not reading, attending continuing ed events, that sort of thing, I think you’re doing yourself a disservice. I think that even if you come from a background where you have experience or you even hold certifications for coaching, that does not mean that you’re done, right? None of us are finished. So I think it’s really important to continue that education process.

Abby Cooper (15:42):
And I think maybe the third piece of advice is repetition makes a difference. So embracing the awkwardness of maybe those first couple of appointments. They may seem uncomfortable, because you don’t really know what you’re doing yet, or maybe that client isn’t giving you a lot to work with in terms of conversation. But if you just go into it, knowing that that gets better with practice, I think is something that can be really helpful. And as long as you are being genuine and authentic and thinking about this as a conversation with this person that’s in front of me, that I am genuinely interested in helping them finding out what’s going on, it takes sort of the pressure off, “I have to be the expert and I have to have all the answers.” And I think sometimes as a new coach, you put a lot of pressure on yourself to think you need to know everything.

Nicole Aucoin (16:33):
I think that’s such a great piece of advice. So many things to unpack there. The last thing you said with it’s a conversation. So many times in a gym setting, we’re used to coaches telling us what to do.

Abby Cooper (16:44):
Yeah, being prescriptive, right?

Nicole Aucoin (16:46):
And nutrition coaching is the opposite.

Abby Cooper (16:49):
One of my favorite things I tell almost every single client I meet with is, “In nutrition coaching, you’re the boss of you. I am not the boss of you. So I’m not going to take things away from you or tell you that you’re going to do X, Y, and Z. This is collaborative.” I think sometimes that helps set the stage. Because if a client has had negative experience where, “Well, somebody told me I can’t ever have or eat X, Y, Z again,” and they feel very… That causes the brain to be like, “Well, that’s the one thing I want now. Thank you.” So I try to remind people, that’s not what coaching is about. And again, if you’re a new coach and you’re thinking that you need to be directive or prescriptive, that’s not what we’re aiming for, it’s the opposite.

Nicole Aucoin (17:31):
I love that. I think it’s really important. But a lot of times, you don’t even know where your gaps are because you haven’t had that coach’s development. You don’t have those evaluations. I think in a CrossFit setting, owners and head coaches, it’s easy to give coaches evaluations, because you know exactly what to expect. But nutrition coaching, sometimes there’s only one nutrition coach. They’re the only expert at the gym. Owners might not feel super comfortable giving coach evaluations. You need to have someone else do it. I mean, you went through a coach evaluation with us.

Abby Cooper (18:00):
Yes, I did. And I mean, I found value in that. Because I think, again, even if you have coaching experience, a coaching background, number one, again, feedback is always part of the improvement process, right? If I’m not open to hearing here’s the areas that I could strengthen.

Abby Cooper (18:18):
And then again, at HSN, there is a model that we learn, right, in training. Going through that evaluation helped me understand that not only was I coaching well or where were gaps, but I understood the training that I had gone through, and I actually was applying it the way that it was supposed to be.

Nicole Aucoin (18:36):
Yeah, I think you got the top score of anyone that’s ever done coach evaluations, so way to go, Abby.

Nicole Aucoin (18:42):
I think at the end of the day, you have a genuine passion for helping people and you have a passion for nutrition, and it’s really awesome that you took the leap of faith to combine both of those things to now be doing this in a full-time career. And now here at CrossFit Spring Hill, to help so many people. Because at the end of the day, we know people are confused. They have no idea what diet is right for them, and you can be that guide for them. You can help them. Thank you for trusting us to help you. I am inspired by what you guys are doing here. You and Joe have such a great relationship, and I am so excited to watch you guys grow this program over the course of months to come.

Abby Cooper (19:23):
Yeah, we’re excited.

Nicole Aucoin (19:25):
One last question for you. What would you say to someone considering HSN Mentoring?

Abby Cooper (19:32):
Oh gosh. I would say don’t hesitate. Probably Joe and I’s biggest regret is that we didn’t find you on October 2nd when we opened on October 1st. Because even though we only got two or three months in before we discovered you, I really wish we would have started day one. I think it would have made things even better than they are right now. So I would say don’t hesitate.

Abby Cooper (19:59):
I would say the training process is something that Joe and I have reflected on. I’m continually impressed by the content that’s put out. As a coach, there’s been times, whether it’s a post a question in the members only Facebook group, or I reach out to my mentor, I’ll always get support and I get my questions answered, and I feel like, yeah, I’m not an island. I think sometimes when you try to launch a program like this, you feel alone. And when you do it in the context of HSN, you’re not, and you have that structure. It is scalable. It actually feels like we really can do this, because the infrastructure is in place and this is something that can be replicated and grown. It makes us really excited about what’s in store.

Nicole Aucoin (20:49):
Well, thank you so much for trusting us. You guys are doing such an incredible job. Thank you.

Abby Cooper (20:55):
Thank you so much.

Nicole Aucoin (20:55):
You’re amazing. Keep up the hard work and keep helping all these people in Spring Hill, Tennessee getting healthy. [crosstalk 00:21:02].

Abby Cooper (21:02):
Thank you, Nicole.

Nicole Aucoin (21:09):
Abby stands out to me because she has such a passion for helping people. It’s so obvious that she’s easily relatable and she has those great soft skills to help build that relationship with clients so that they can really love and trust her and understand how she is going to help them. She had all the education and knowledge to become an effective nutrition coach. And now, with the help of HSN, they have the systems to build a scalable nutrition program in their gym.

Nicole Aucoin (21:39):
Abby and Joe, the gym owner, worked together to set their program goals and to crush them. They don’t spend a ton of time behind the scenes, reinventing the wheel when building a nutrition program, because they’re using the turnkey solution that HSN Mentoring provides.

Nicole Aucoin (21:55):
Whether you are a gym owner looking to add a nutrition program or a coach looking to start your own nutrition coaching business as an independent coach, HSN Mentoring will give you all of the business support and systems to build and scale a nutrition program. You can take years building these systems from scratch, or you can just use everything that we have created.

Nicole Aucoin (22:21):
It’s pretty easy to get started. Click the link in the show notes, and you can learn more about how it works. It’s pretty simple to get started. You’re going to book a free call so that we can learn more about you and ensure it’s a great fit. From there, you sign up for the training course, which includes online modules, homework, and mentoring calls. And you work with a mentor one-on-one to not only understand what you are going to do to build a nutrition program in your business, but how to apply it. Because we know every gym and independent coach runs their program a little bit differently, so we want to make sure that you are set up for success. So if you’re looking to save time and not reinvent the wheel when it comes to building a nutrition program, we would love to help you. Click the link in the show notes, and don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast.

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About the author

Nicole Aucoin, MS, RD, LD/N

Founder, Healthy Steps Nutrition
Home of CrossFit HSN & HSN Mentoring

Author of Nourish & Healthy Kids Cookbook

Author of The Basics of Nutrition Coaching Course, CrossFit Preferred Nutrition Course

CrossFit Level 2 Trainer