How personal trainers develop world-class careers off the gym floor: Inside U.P.

When Nick Mitchell founded Ultimate Performance he wanted to create the most effective personal training model on the planet, while also enabling trainers to build fulfilling, long-term careers.

Nick pioneered the U.P. Trainer Development Program which has given hundreds of trainers the platform to master their craft and become world-class, results-producing professionals.

But as U.P. has expanded to become the world’s only global training business, it has opened the doors for trainers to explore a range of exciting careers off the gym floor too.

While the average industry turnover rate for personal trainers is over 90%, U.P. has turned this on its head by giving trainers rewarding career opportunities that no other fitness business can offer which hardness their unique skillsets and talents.

This might be becoming trainer mentors or gym managers, but increasingly it can be entirely new roles across technology, marketing, education, sales and business development globally.

Here we talk to our personal trainers, hear why they joined U.P., and how they have developed purposeful careers off the gym floor.

Mark Bohannan speaking at a Q&A with Olympic gold medalist, Rebecca Adlington.

 

How did you transition to starting a career as a personal trainer with Ultimate Performance?

Aroosha Nekonam – Personal Trainer/ Social Media Executive, Head Office

“Before I joined U.P., I was working in a hotel gym, doing a high number of hours as I could only P.T. outside my shift.

“The type of clients at hotel gyms are typically very short-lived; as soon as I thought we were starting to make progress, they would leave, which was really disheartening.

“I had been following U.P. for a while, so when I saw a job opportunity, I was really excited – I thought there was probably no chance I would get the role. I expected they were looking for someone with a high level of experience on the gym floor, but I thought I had nothing to lose.”

 

Mark Bohannan – Global Director of Sales, Washington D.C.

“I had known about U.P. for several years before and had heard the gym mentioned on numerous courses, including Charles Poliquin’s.

“I followed the U.P. Facebook page and noticed a job advertisement for Manchester, so I applied.

“I had been a trainer for just over eight years; I had a reasonably successful P.T. business in commercial gyms and smaller private gyms later. I also run a small online personal training business (before everyone else was doing it).

“I was attracted to the possibility of progression as I felt I had hit a ceiling in my career.”

 

Jenny Nim – Trainer/ Gym Floor Photographer for London

“Before I joined U.P., I had 10 years’ experience career in an office-based role working in design and product development. I worked for two years as a group fitness instructor before working full time for seven years as a personal trainer.

“I was attracted to join U.P because I missed working as part of a team, and I was attracted to U.P.’s high standards.”

 

Emily Schofield – Gym Manager, U.P. Los Angeles

“I had been working as a personal trainer in Sydney, Australia, for two years. I always wanted to live and work overseas and decided to make the move over to the U.K.

“I was aware of U.P. through Charles Poliquin and his seminars, where he had spoken directly about U.P. and Nick.

“I knew U.P. was the only place that I wanted to work. I liked the idea of results, the serious and approach to health and training, and the opportunity to expand my knowledge base.”

 

Emily Servante – Trainer Education Manager, Head Office

“I studied modern and Middle Eastern Languages at the University of Manchester before qualifying and working as a translator. However, I didn’t find it particularly rewarding as a career, and I missed being around other people. I only started lifting weights when I was around 25, and a couple of years later, I took my P.T. qualification.

“I worked in a commercial gym for around two years before applying to U.P. I saw the standard of the trainers, and I honestly thought I had no chance of getting the job. But, I got the email to submit a case study and then a call for an interview, and the rest was history!”

Female dumbbell shoulder press

Emily Schofield training client. 

 

What was your experience of the recruitment process at Ultimate Performance?

Chris Richards – Managing Director Asia Pacific & Middle East

“I had completed the Poliquin courses where I first heard about U.P. I followed Nick and U.P. on Facebook, and my interest grew in the potential opportunities in the company.

“Nick announced that there would be a junior program, and I applied. I made it through the various stages and was hired as the second-ever junior trainer at U.P. I finished my degree and started in September 2012.

“I was motivated to learn and be surrounded by others with more experience. Having had relative success early in Edinburgh, I didn’t want to settle, and I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.

“Nick and Phil Learney interviewed me at the time. The environment was undoubtedly sink or swim and I learned a lot very quickly upon joining, but this was invaluable.”

 

Chris Beavers – Business Development Manager, Head Office

“The interview experience exceeded all my expectations. It was clear the level of education and knowledge in the gym far exceeded any environment I’d been in before. The team were all in shape (which makes a change to some gyms), and when I performed the practical session, all the trainers on the gym floor were fully focused on their clients: no phones, tracking their workouts, and it was clear U.P. was a different kind of gym.

“The recruitment process was very tough; Sean Murphy (U.P.’s Global Director of Personal Training) and another trainer interviewed me. I left feeling like I had a mountain of knowledge to learn and figure out how to apply to my clients. It was a very humbling but motivating experience.”

 

Matt Milles – Gym Manager, U.P. London City and U.P. St Paul’s

“The recruitment process at U.P. was the most intense and detailed I had ever experienced. From being asked to complete an in-depth case study to providing evidence of my ability to achieve life-changing transformations and, finally, doing a practical assessment on a packed

“Mayfair gym floor with Charles Poliquin training next to me. This was the complete opposite to any other recruitment process I had experienced, where all they cared about was whether I’d be able to afford the rent.”

 

Aroosha Nekonam – Personal Trainer/ Social Media Executive, Head Office

“The recruitment process was not what I expected. I thought I would be questioned on the science behind my case study, biomechanics, etc.

“Instead, it was very much Mark Bohannon and Steve Chambers taking the time to understand my background in the fitness industry and whether I had the right attitude and passion because at U.P., we take the clients’ results personally. I think that drive and desire to change people’s lives was what shone through and secured me the job above anything else.”

Aroosha Nekonam on set filming a U.P. project.

 

How have you developed your career at Ultimate Performance and transitioned into a role off the gym floor?

Aroosha Nekonam – Personal Trainer/ Social Media Executive, Head Office

“I volunteered to take on the North UK social media page and enjoyed being able to share the dynamic, ethos and the many inspiring stories of U.P. clients.

“I love training my clients (it’s why I entered the industry), but I soon recognised that I had a way with words and expressing the company message. I was excited to be a part of spreading the word about U.P. because it is so unique and we have changed many people’s lives for the better.”

 

Emily Servante – Trainer Education Manager, Head Office

“I was approached by my manager at the time, Matt Milles, about whether I would like to take on the responsibility of managing the London social media channels. As I had a background in translation and copy editing, I jumped at the chance to use my creative skills alongside working on the gym floor. Sean Murphy then asked me whether I would be interested in supporting him in developing the internal trainer education.

“At that time, all the educational material was individual documents shared via Google docs. Since then, we’ve built a unique learning system specifically developed to enable our trainers to deliver the best personal training service to their clients and progress their careers.

“In April 2021, I moved into a full-time office-based role in Manchester, building and developing the internal trainer education and working closely with the marketing team to produce educational content for clients and the general public. One of the best things about this opportunity is that I’ve also had the chance to contribute to external media sources, from The Times and the Daily Telegraph to Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health.

‘I was and still am incredibly grateful to Sean and all the other senior management team who have supported me from day one and provided such an incredible range of opportunities that I honestly never thought possible when I applied.”

 

Mike Turnbull – Gym Manager U.P. Kensington

“I was presented with a fantastic opportunity to manage U.P. Kensington after two and half years of working at U.P. London City. I had previously taken on the Deputy Manager role at City. Taking on the role was a huge challenge.

“I had an opportunity to help build a brand new U.P. gym – that was pretty exciting!

“There is pressure in any role within U.P., but I think it’s a big step up in responsibility. You need to absorb and manage many more challenges that need constant attention.”

 

Chris Beavers – Business Development Manager, Head Office

“During the pandemic, I worked at U.P. DIFC; my wife fell pregnant (planned!), and we decided we’d like to move back to the U.K. I emailed Nick to let him know I wanted to continue working for U.P. Nick replied within 10 minutes of my initial email congratulating my wife and me, reassuring me the move would happen and we could work out the details over the coming weeks and months.

“We brainstormed different possible roles and gauged my excitement for them before concluding that I’d be assisting the senior leadership team with projects. It was a very exciting prospect, learning new skills for a completely different environment I had been working in for my entire working life.

“It’s very different to being a one-to-one trainer. As with any change, there are pros and cons. I find the work incredibly interesting, finding solutions that drive real value into the business.

“I love my conversations with colleagues in different departments; there is always something to learn about marketing, customer services, H.R. or technology. It also gives opportunities to gather different perspectives on my work.”

 

Jenny Nim – Personal Trainer/ Gym Floor Photographer for London

“I was working as the gym floor photographer as a side role for around six to eight months before moving into the position as a confirmed role. I did this for about a year and a half before this new role was created for me.

“I was excited because it allows me to be creative. I also get to know the trainers and their clients better, so I feel like I’m part of all the London teams! I have picked up lots of different coaching cues, simply watching other trainers through the lens, and I’ve been using them on my clients at Mayfair!”

Jenny Nim with client, taking blood pressure measurements.

 

What does your role entail?

Emily Schofield – Gym Manager, U.P. Los Angeles

“My role is pretty mixed. An average day consists of a range of different things – client sessions, trainer meetings, recruitment calls, sales/consults, and generally supporting our team.

“I’ve had so many opportunities working for U.P. I’ve worked in three different locations across two continents, and I’m from a different country entirely. This has allowed me to experience various cultures with the security of a career that I enjoy. It has also allowed me to travel Europe and the United States, which I couldn’t have done if I still lived in Australia. Moving to a different country or city provides its own set of challenges, so in terms of personal development, the experience provides you with a lot.

“My professional development has also been vast because of the opportunities U.P. has offered me. I’ve worked across different areas of the business including personal training, online personal training, mentoring trainers, delivering business presentations, alongside day-to-day general operations and trainer management.”

 

Chris Richards – Managing Director, Asia-Pacific & Middle East

“I have overall responsibility for the Middle East and Asia-Pacific region. My role includes trainer performance, business growth and operations. This is a broad remit, so I work very closely with all the managers across these teams to support them and hold everyone accountable to our business objectives and goals.

“I have weekly meetings with these managers to discuss and overcome challenges, set actions to work towards and drive the business forward. I also work closely with Nick (CEO) and the other senior management team to align strategy and implement this.

“Being exposed to these different countries has provided a fantastic opportunity to learn and get to know the different teams. For me, learning about growing a gym from the ground up or ensuring that a long-established site continues to be successful are two different but equally challenging experiences.”

 

Emily Servante – Trainer Education Manager, Head Office

“Day-to-day, my role covers three main areas. Firstly, I help develop and improve our internal education system, starting from the trainer’s first day and continuing throughout their time at U.P., including a year’s foundation education. Over the last two years, I’ve worked with other trainers to produce further education modules on various topics, such as cholesterol, thyroid, mental health, and working with female clients. I’m also really excited about a suite of virtual courses and workshops that we will soon be launching for senior personal trainers within the business to deliver value to them as trainers.

“Another key part of my role is helping to advise the tech team on the design of new technologies for our trainers and clients. This might include the workflow of how a trainer might use a piece of software or advising on the features clients need or might want to see in the technology we develop and release. I also help provide supporting educational material that sits within these technologies for users.

“Since 2020, I’ve also been involved with Aroosha in building an internal program designed to explore what it is like to be a woman working U.P. and consider ways to make it even better to be a female trainer. Our work in this area has resulted in a new role – a women’s representative – and us launching a new women’s podcast.

“My role is a bit like a bridge between the educational and marketing departments. I oversee, edit and write educational material that sits on the blog on everything from major health concerns to common fitness myths and gender-specific concerns. I also provide advice and content for external media outlets on behalf of U.P.”

 

If you are interested in a career with Ultimate Performance, click here. 

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