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Interview with Pedro Sun

Pedro is the founder of Feel Good Fitness, a San Diego independent personal training business that aims assists those looking to move comfortably and without pain, regardless of their current fitness level. In addition to running his own business, Pedro works with Catalyst Physical Therapy and Wellness Center which offers a wide range of services from highly experienced staff of therapists, coaches, and trainers.

Note From Matt: This interview was recorded from a phone call and then transcribed by me. Some parts may be edited slightly for an easier read.

Matt: What inspired you to pursue a career in the health and fitness industry?

Pedro: I was a really active kid and I was always interested in nutrition. Just like everyone else at a young age, I read every fitness book and magazine I could get my hands on. Eventually I wanted to get more scientific with it so I ended up going to school for nutrition and dietetics. When I finished I really wasn’t interested in doing a nutrition internship to continue to pursue that path. I realized I liked working out and helping people so I went and got my CSCS cert. I thought I was going to work with athletes, but when I first started out I was working with general population clients at a rehab facility. It was a really interesting coaching experience for me. What I soon found out was that these general population clients pretty much didn’t exist without aches and pains (laughing) so I had to dive down even further. There was always more to learn so I just kept on going down that path.

Matt: You touched on this a little bit, but I want to expand on it a bit further. What else really surprised you about working with general population clients? What else did you have to add to your arsenal as a coach?

Pedro: Well I think it’s all good that we learn the theory behind exercise, physiology, and movement. However, when you get in there with a client it very rarely goes by the books, you know? Everyone is very unique and you have to keep an eye on what people are capable of. Not just from the movement perspective, but psychologically and where they are are in their personal fitness journey. I’m really interested in the process of coaching others. I really don’t think you can just follow a cookie-cutter approach with anyone or at least I haven’t seen an approach out there that I would use.

Matt: So when you realized you had these knowledge gaps what resources or communities did you reach out to so that you could learn more?

Pedro: I quickly realized I needed more hands-on experience so I interned at a physical therapy and sports performance facility. I was able to be exposed to many different coaching situations and environments doing this.  Just like anyone else, I started to search social media to find other coaches with experience so I could learn from them. It was surprising to see how many different methods there were out there so I just started reaching out to everyone I could find. I was able to start expanding my mind and recognize the different fitness groups and approaches out there. You really have to work hard to distinguish the good information from the bad. Leaning on what I learned in school really helped avoid most of the bullshit. Even with a scientific background you could still get swindled or confused every now and then because there’s so much out there. That’s the hard part as a young professional.

Matt: To give the reader some context, Pedro and I actually met through some Facebook Groups for Fitness and Health Professionals. We were commenting and asking many of the same questions. Eventually we became internet friends and were also able to meet and hang out in person. Pedro, what was that process like for you? Did you ever think you’d be connecting with fitness professionals around the world through the internet?

Pedro: Oh man not at all. Facebook has been a huge help for me. I’ve been able to meet and get exposed to fitness professionals from around the world and have developed some great friendships as a result. Everywhere I go I’m able to meet up with people I’ve chatted with online. It’s not even weird to me (laughing). I don’t know if you felt awkward or not, but I’ve had great experiences with it.

Matt: No, every time I meet someone in-person I’ve had a great experience as well. To add to that, are their any current online fitness or health communities that you think are particularly helpful these days?

Pedro: You know, when I first started I would go into as many of these groups as possible. I don’t do that as much anymore. I’m starting to get more into the psychology side of coaching. Now that I’ve done this for a while I realize how important it is as a coach. You’ve studied fitness and nutrition, but if you can’t get your client to continually show up it doesn’t really matter, you know? In the past I would go into FB groups like Fitness Conversations or Education Of A Fitness Professional run by Will Levy. I’m also part of several Pain Science groups because that’s what a lot of my clients deal with.

Matt: So right now you work for Catalyst Physical Therapy and Wellness in Mission Valley San Diego. Can you tell us a bit about how it all got started and what services Catalyst offers? How’d you get involved with this company?

Pedro: So I met Brian Wilson, the owner of Catalyst, while I was interning at another physical therapy facility. He had a cool vision of starting his own location that was very different than other PT centers. You walk in and it feels very hipster. Some of our clients call it the hipster PT place (laughing). It’s very relaxed vibe; cool and professional, but it doesn’t feel uptight or uncomfortable. If you’re a consumer and have to go to a PT location you usually aren’t excited because of the pain or discomfort you’re experiencing. Anything we can do to create an environment where the client enjoys coming will help, so Catalyst is designed to do this. Brian wanted to make it as comfortable as possible and he wanted to connect physical therapy to personal training or massage all under one roof. That’s how I came in. Brian liked my passion for my field and wanted me to do personal training and strength training in their facility. It’s a really cool working environment. The entire team, from physical therapist to massage therapists to personal trainers, all talk to each other. We share ideas and are able to work together to help clients reach their goals. If I need help from someone they are right there, only five feet away.

Matt: So you have a super smooth transition between services under one roof. Can you give me an example of what the onboarding experience for a client might look like?

Pedro: So clients come in predominantly for physical therapy and it’s usually up to the therapist to decided whether personal training can benefit that client or not. If the client needs basic help, or are already doing there own thing, then they don’t need me. But, for the clients who keep on getting injured and don’t know why they get connected to me. Maybe they have been a runner for a while, for example, and keep on getting hurt. The physical therapist and I will do an hour-long evaluation with the client to see what’s going on. After that I do my own evaluation to see where they are at comfort-wise with different exercises. We’ll move forward together from there. The client can see that both sides of the facility know what’s going on which is very reassuring.

Matt: Right on. So if a client has reached the point where they are ready to go out on their own how does Catalyst handle the transition?

Pedro: Yeah, so if a client is moving well I’ll just tell them they don’t really need to continue working with me (laughing). If things are going really well and they like the service then we can set something up. I’ll set up them up with private or semi-private training. I’ll write a program for them to do either with me , outside of the gym, or a combination of the two using the hybrid training service model. I’ll see them maybe once a week and they will do one or two workouts on their own. When we meet we will talk about progress and work to reach their goals. If the client has a lot of movement issues that we need to work on we will even simplify the programming to the point where they can do it from home with very easy exercises. I’ll keep in touch with the clients through Facebook or email.

Matt: There’s a lot of gyms that I talk to that really make an effort to connect with other health and fitness professionals outside of training such as physical therapists, doctors, dietitians, and more. I think it’s a great practice and hope to see more of these various professions working together and communicating. Do you see this a lot in your area?

Pedro: Yeah, this is pretty common in the San Diego area. I do see Crossfit Boxes and Small gyms starting to recruit physical therapists to be on staff or on location several times a week. It also works for massage therapists and chiropractors. It’s not a standard practice yet and will take some time, but I’m hoping it continues to grow more and more popular over the next 5-10 years.

Matt: What is the team at Catalyst working on improving right now?

Pedro: Right now we want to get better on marketing our services online. Referrals and in-person customer service are on point for the Catalyst team. We get great feedback from customers and online reviews. We’re mostly just trying to continually improve the level of service that we offer instead of adding and testing out lots of new ideas at the moment. We are definitely working on improving our marketing education so potential customers are aware that we offer much more than physical therapy. We want them to be away of the personal training, massage services, and more.

Matt: What are you excited about learning for your own career and also on the business side on the next 6-12 months?

Pedro: Well, this is the first year I’m taking my personal trainer career very seriously. I’ve been slowly transitioning into making this my full-time career over the last several years. I’ve got my website set up, Feelgoodfit.net and am working on improving that. Many fitness professionals out there don’t enjoy the process of marketing, but in order to reach people you have to work and get your message out there. On the knowledge side, it’s never going to stop (laughing). I’m digging further into pain science, biomechanics, and the science of behavioral change. As a fitness professional you have to explore a lot of different areas to do your job well.

Matt: Where do you think the fitness industry is headed over the next several years? What are you excited about?

Pedro: It’s starting to get easier to distinguish what’s bullshit and what’s not as a fitness professional. There are some great communities, that we mentioned previously, that curate and create content to help fitness pros get started. There is so much information online and you can pretty much learn whatever you want to if you know where to look. That’s completely different than it was ten years ago, or even five years ago. I’m excited to see these communities and educational resources improve so our industry can help more people.

One thing I’m also really hoping to see develop is for doctors to start connecting with fitness professionals more than they do now. I don’t think enough doctors utilize the benefits that increased exercise can have with their clients. I’m working to build relationships with doctors for Catalyst and trying to do whatever I can to get the information we need from them to do our job well. If the information can be shared between us it will lead to better results. Fitness professionals are so much more than just a bunch of guys who can get you buff. There’s a lot of potential here so I can’t wait to see what happens.

Matt: A big thank you to Pedro for sharing his story with us. If you’d like to connect with the dude check out the links below:

Personal Website – FeelGoodFit.net
FB Page – Feel Good Fitness
Catalyst Website in San Diego

Matt McGunagle

Matt McGunagle

CEO & Founder of StrengthPortal. Working hard to help you in between deadlifts and jiu-jitsu!

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