From getting abandoned in South Korea to attending University of Portland, Creating his own job at Onnit, How to succeed as a fitness coach, and more.
Guest: Sam Pogue
Sam Pogue is co-founder of Fitness Break Room and co-host of Fitness Break Room Podcast. Fitness Break Room is an online fitness community that specializes in telling the stories and strategies of some of the industry’s most successful players. He specializes in helping fitness trainers and fitness professional pivot into the industry.
Pogue is also the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Senior Coach for the Onnit Academy Education Team. He spent the last nine years in the fitness industry as a membership counselor, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and fitness educator. Originally from Portland, Oregon, he was in search of personal development, which led him to his current HQ of Austin, Texas.
Who is Sam Pogue?
Sam Pogue is the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Senior Coach for the Onnit Academy Education Team. Pogue on bringing unique partnerships between Onnit and other organizations. Onnit is a supplements, foods, and fitness equipment company aimed at helping people achieve a new level of well-being we call Total Human Optimization.
Fun fact: Pogue was the first stop on The Bledsoe’s 2018 nomadic travels.
From getting abandoned in South Korea to attending University of Portland
Sam Pogue was born 3 months prematurely, in South Korea, was abandoned, and spent his early childhood in an orphanage house somewhere in South Korea. He was very sick and unresponsive as a child, which made his caretakers think he had down syndrome. He spent 8 months in an incubator because of health issues.
Fortunately, he was later on adopted by an amazing family and grew up in Kelso, Washington (an hour north of Portland). Pogue’s adoptive parents are both caucasian and he was raised in a caucasian environment in rural Washington. Although he looked different than most kids, Pogue didn’t feel different, profiled or judged by others. He grew up playing tennis, baseball, taekwondo, basketball, etc. like all the other kids in his neighborhood.
Pogue grew up to a blue collar family, but knew he’d go to college. His parents taught him how hard work can give him the power to be who he wants to be. He is forever grateful for the opportunity he had to to be empowered to succeed.
Coming all the way from getting abandoned in South Korea, he graduated from the University of Portland, majoring in Business. He was also on the rowing team, where he learned a lot about team sports.
Creating his own job at Onnit
Pogue got into the fitness industry in 2008 by selling fitness memberships at 24-Hour Fitness. He then became a fitness trainer at 24 Hour Fitness, and within a few months made $10K in sales per month.
Although it wasn’t a straight path to become the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Senior Coach for the Onnit Academy Education Team. Before joining Onnit, Pogue kept trying to get out of fitness, looking for a “real job” at Nike, Adidas, or an advertising agency. He ended up as a recruiter for tech positions, doing 120 cold phone calls a day, and he was good at it. He even became #7 employee of a startup that offered a lot of benefits, including lots of vacation days, great 401k matching, and beer at the office.
Although he loved working for the startup, his heart wasn’t in recruiting. He actually hated it. Pogue always had a desire to move away from the NW and thought about moving to New York, Boston, Chicago or Austin. Eventually, he chose Austin and became the very first member at the Onnit Academy gym in December 2014.
At the time, he was following Joe DeFranco, who partnered with Onnit to create the Onnit Academy. When he first joined, his now boss, John Wolf (episode 11), emailed him about coming to work out at the new gym. After talking to Wolf every day for 5 months as a gym member, he came on board by creating a position for himself to do engagement management for Onnit, helping increase ROI for trainers.
What sets Onnit apart with the coaching staff
Joe DeFranco created a non-dogmatic culture at Onnit around movement based and recovery based systems. The idea is to have no real rules and to empower coaches to personify their message, and to bring various unique experiences to the pool of knowledge.
“Empowering your coaches to say ‘Hey look, I’m not going to tell you what to do… I’m going to trust that the #1 goal that you impact your classes is that your students, your athletes, your clients, can’t walk out more fucked up than they walked in.’” — Sam Pogue
Mike has been training for over 20 years and he discovered the #1 most important thing to his fitness level is frequency. Mike moves everyday for at least 60 minutes, which are broken down to 2–3 workout sessions. Most of his sessions are “easy”, simple movements, and he works out hard ~3 times per week for 30–45 min.
Since he keeps the intensity low, Mike can have a pretty high total training volume, moving 7 days a week, without getting destroyed. On the rare occasion, he does things big physical things that fuck up his body, like Spartan races (episode 40).
How to make the most of networking events
Networking is not about how many people you know, else how many times your name comes up in other people’s conversations. Every single person brings value to your life, which is not necessarily tied directs to financial value.
Both Pogue and Mike are focused making only one meaningful connection at a networking event. It’s better to find one person to have dinner with and connect on a deeper level, than meeting 100 people on a superficial level.
How to succeed as a fitness coach
To succeed as a fitness coach, you need to start small, and focus on getting experience and building your minimum viable product. It’s important that you show to your clients and yourself that you can do it first and it doesn’t matter if it’s at 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, or a CrossFit box.
You don’t need a 7,000 sq ft studio, else a 500 sq ft space with a client list that blows out the seams. Then you should get a 1,000 sq ft space. Morgan Gillis (episode 52), who was an intern at Mike’s gym in Memphis, TN acted like she owned the place herself. If you work at another gym and act like it’s your own gym, you’re either going to learn how to run your own gym or decide that you’re not interested in it. The point is to learn without taking a big risk, and avoid drowning yourself when you don’t know what to do.
Fitness Break Room Podcast
Sam Pogue partnered with Jessica Webster to do marketing webinars for the fitness community. Over time, they created Fitness Break Room and started co-hosting Fitness Break Room Podcast, which is about empowering the young fitness community. The podcast focus is not about training or nutrition, else about telling a story of why people got into the industry and learning from the trials and tribulations they went through.