15-Year Coach Trevor ’T-Bear’ Lindwall Reveals The Secret to Long-Term Success

One of the biggest shortcomings in the fitness industry is that it’s a young man’s game. Seldom  do fitness coaches pursue lifelong careers in the industry. More often than not, personal trainers are young 20-somethings, who leave the industry in two or three years. It’s a problem, because as it stands right now, the industry has completely failed the coach. 

Not only that, but imagine if engineers or electricians all left the industry after three years? Or any other professional? There would be no experts to pass on what they have learned to the next generation?

This is pretty much the case in the fitness industry: Best practices haven’t gotten much of a chance to be passed down and improved upon by the next generation.

This is exactly what we have been changing in the last decade or so.

Proof: Trevor ’T-Bear’ Lindwall, a coach at MadLab School of Fitness for 15 years and counting—the Guinea Pig of what has become the MadLab apprentice coach diploma program.

T-Bear is a former civil engineer who left the corporate world and started coaching at what was then CrossFit Vancouver (now MadLab) in 2005.

He was used to the idea of performance-based pay, so he was immediately sold when owner Craig ‘Patty’ Patterson told him he’d be getting paid a percentage of revenue off his clients.

T-bear knew this would mean humbling down and starting out small. He knew it would mean temporarily taking a big pay cut from his engineering salary, but he saw where the road could eventually lead. So he moved in with Patty—the couch was his bed—and he got started learning how to coach. 

“I think my first paycheque was for $200 and my second for $600,” he said, laughing at the memory. 

But pretty soon, though, those monthly cheques were consistently above $2,000. A few months later, $3,000. And before long, he was consistently earning $4,000 to $5,000 a month. 

While he only earned $10,000 in 2005, by his third year coaching T-Bear hit $60,000 annual pay and it has only gone up from there. In short, he has been making a professional wage as a fitness coach for 12 years. 

Today, T-Bear earns similar to what he was making as an engineer and has way more job satisfaction that working the 9-5 corporate gig could have ever provided.

“I really like having a flexible schedule. I love not having to sit at a desk. After what I went through working 75 hours a week as an engineer, the constant stress, this is way better,” he said.

This flexible schedule allows T-Bear to take a couple three-week vacations each year, as well as a handful of shorter vacations, something that’s really important to him.

To earn his professional wage (in the expensive city of Vancouver, B.C. we consider this to be above $85,000), T-Bear spends a manageable 20 to 30 (on a big week) hours a week on the floor and has approximately 70 of his own clients.

And he has every intention in continuing on the path he’s on for years to come.

The reason he’s still coaching after 15 years: The MadLab system, he explained.

Would you still be coaching if you were getting paid $35 an hour?

“Not a chance,” he said without hesitation.

“In this system, if you perform well you get paid. I have always believed in that system,” he added. 

T-Bear’s tips for anyone looking to start a career in the industry and eventually become a professional coach:

1. Humble down and be willing to learn

Learn as much as you can from anyone who has been around longer than you. Any chance you get, surround yourself with anyone you can learn from, T-Bear explained. 

2. Get good at sales

Get some formal sales training and learn to embrace the fact that you’re in sales.

3. Compensation

Seek out a compensation model at a gym that pays you a percentage of revenue. You do NOT want to be paid by the hour, T-Bear urged.

If you do the above, you’ll be successful, T-Bear said. 

And the more young coaches who follow this advice, the more chance we have of changing this flawed industry and creating professional, career coaches. And ultimately, the better chance we have at helping the next generation build from what coaches like T-Bear have learned in the last decade-and-a-half.

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