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John Izzo Interview – One of the USA’s best personal trainers

Monday, September 14th, 2009

John Izzo is a role model for many personal trainers out there, he has lead the way in the industry for a number of years being top of his game in both the technical aspects of personal training but also in the business side.  For a number of years John has also helped to teach the next generation of personal trainers and help to give them a solid foundation of education and application to allow them to go out and make a positive impact in the lives of their clients.

john_izzoJohn Izzo

Tom Godwin: First of all may I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.

John Izzo: Tom, I’m flattered to be asked. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

TG: What first got you interested in the Personal Training industry?

John: Geez…I think it was my passion to better myself with these crazy looking metal things called plates and barbells…hehehe. When I saw improvements in my strength, appearance, and performance—I felt better physically and I had an optimistic outlook on life. That feeling was –and still is– addicting and I truly believe, what separates people from “living” their life versus “life living them”. When I was in my first fitness-type job, I was a YMCA fitness instructor working part-time while I was finishing up my undergrad degree. As for weight-lifting, I started weight-training at a local Boys Club, and then I joined a neighbourhood health club called Body-Force (no longer around). So by the time, I got my first “fitness job”, I was pretty familiar with exercises in general. During my stint with the YMCA, members were approaching me constantly for advice, opinions, and assistance. This was around 1998-99, and the personal training industry, as a whole, was just starting to take off. I enjoyed helping people in the gym with exercises or simply feeding them my advice. When I researched what a ‘personal trainer’ was…I kind of fell into it. I think you discover that the things you are good at seem to find you—rather than you find it.

TG: You are a very influential person in the world of personal training, maybe you could give us a brief outline of your background in the industry?

JI: I started lifting weights when I was 15. I purchased my first weight set from a department store and it contained cement filled plates. I built a pseudo-gym in my attic and worked out with my cousin. About a year later, I started lifting weights with my friend at a local Boys Club. I was a sponge to constantly learn the newest and latest techniques to make me stronger and leaner. I was working out constantly and taking numerous supplements, and reading tons of magazine articles. By the time I got to college, I had grown to 175 pounds and bench pressing 315 and squatting 420. I was athletic and decided to pursue a “health” degree because I wanted to learn more and more about how overall health is something that we can “control”.

Growing up, I saw old people become sick, or become sedentary. I thought that was part of life and that health was an aspect that we as a human species could not control. So with my undergrad studies, I wanted to learn more about how communicable disease, nutrition, physical activity, stress, and health-care affect our overall being. I figured if I can control certain factors in my life, my health and life could further be enhanced. In 2000, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health Promotion. Shortly thereafter, I picked up my personal training certifications through ACE and NASM.

TG: Who have been you major influences within the industry?

JI: Oh gosh…there are so many. I actually started a blog post for the month of August outlining my top 10 most influential people in my life. As far as fitness industry—I would have to go with firstly, Juan Carlos Santana. When I first heard and saw JC speak –I knew he was the type of trainer we all wanted to become. He was energetic, compassionate, motivating, and empathetic. He was strong, knowledgeable, and he had a presence. He is the total package when it comes to being a trusted fitness professional. He knows how to talk to clients, deal with different people everyday—from MMA fighters to grandmothers—and he is a loving family man. I was fortunate enough to interview him and he was a great contribution to my website:

Other influences include Coach Mike Boyle. When his book “Functional Training for Sport” came out, it made me look at my own training in a different light. I really bagan to understand that you can train general population clients like athletes, as long as they are progressed appropriately. I’ve seen Mike speak 5 times and every time, I take something away that makes me shake my head and say “yeah, that’s it or that’s why”.

I really like Gray Cook. His FMS screens make my job easier. His work really influenced me to look at the ENTIRE body—not just the working muscles.

From a business standpoint, I think Alywn Cosgrove has really intrigued me. He has an undeniable business savvy about him and alot of it has to do with his content, his research, and how his audience digests his information. Year after year, Alwyn puts together great products that work and are scientifically sound. That is great for business and you can’t beat that.

I also like Eric Cressey—I love his writing! He puts out great info that is backed up by research and his real-world experience—and he practices what he preaches.

I also have some personal influences that have helped me be just an overall better person and professional.

TG:  Of your many achievements in the world of fitness, what would you say has been you best to date?

JI: I think my contributions to NASM’s (National Academy of Sports Medicine) textbook for the Introductions to Personal Training course. I think what makes it sweeter to me, is that I was contacted by NASM because they found some of my writings online—mainly through my book ‘Secret Skills of Personal Training”, and they enjoyed the information that I provided to entry level trainers. That is what I set out to do, is simply educate new trainers that step foot into the industry with really no clear “map”. I try to set their right foot forward to lead them into the direction that leads to long-term success as a professional. And to be recognized by NASM to help out with its mission was an excellent honour. It is a solid organization with really knowledgeable people at the helm. I support NASM as an education provider and advocate their curriculum because I believe it is the most complete and concise way to develop training programs.

TG:  What would you say is the most important attributing factor that a personal trainer must possess and why?

JI: I think it is important for trainers to become fitness professionals. And by that I mean is act professional. I meet too many trainers that have not become fitness professionals yet, because they carry themselves in a lackadaisical demeanour within the business. Many trainers—even online—make too many jokes, show less and less compassion, ridicule, or don’t carry a sense of understanding towards the general public—which consists of many of their potential clients! Many trainers are too engulfed with their looks, cell phone, texting, relationships, or they simply don’t know how to carry themselves around public. And lot of them, go into the field thinking that they can make their own hours, live freely, and become millionaires. But the sheer truth is, most live pay check to pay check and they don’t know why that is. If they can simply “tune-up” their character, and act in a more dignified professional manner, I guarantee their business will take off.

In order to become a professional and be referred to as a “professional”, it takes performing some self-inventory AND a little coaching. The situation with the industry today is, many trainers become certified and go off to work on their own–creating their own business. So, these new trainers don’t have anyone there to provide comparison, feedback, or critiscm. So I ask you: how do you grow as a professional when you don’t have a “business mirror”? Every working stiff needs a scale to measure their value in a profession. It is how you grow towards success.

I think I learned the importance of projecting a professional image when I became a manager. It made a world of difference, when I sat across a table with 4 different trainers and noticed that the education and passion to train was there—but the attitude was not.

TG: You have released a number of great Personal Trainer Education products, such as your ‘Eye of the Trainer’ and ‘Moving More Muscles’ DVD’s.  I understand you are in the process of releasing a new DVD, ‘The Shatter Proof Spine’ can you give us a little more information about it?

JI: Thanks for asking. Shatterproof Spine is my latest DVD product and my first in 2 years. I conduct workshops for trainers that are interested in learning information from reputable sources, and maybe are not familiar with seminars like Perform Better or big names like Cook, Boyle, or Cosgrove. So, I created a smaller-scale workshop format that typically gets up to a dozen trainers to attend. In my latest product, Shatterproof Spine, I talk about the issues I come across daily working with golfers with bad backs. I’ve seen it time and time again—where desk workers become prone to back pain and it robs them of life. It robs them of playing golf, playing with kids, or simply mowing their lawn. So, after reading alot of the materials put out by Start McGill, Shirley Sarhmann, and Dr. Larry Foster, I decided to condense it down into an easy to understand lecture and practical. During the video, I show slides of actual clients of mine, assessments, and exercise drills that I put together to help those with bad backs.

I think from a personal standpoint, it shows my growth from say 2 years ago. My public speaking skills have improved over the years and my use of powerpoint makes it easy for the attendants to firmly grasp the concept. You can check out a one minute video preview of the DVD here:

TG: You have a hugely successful blog (, where do you get your ideas for posts from?

JI: Thanks. My blog is really—exactly what I think about on a daily basis. It is a collection of things I deal with from exercise programming, client issues, meeting with other trainers, or personal thoughts that I put on paper. Sometimes, I get an idea for an article and it comes out in a blog post—and it usually consists of a topic that I find many people having a hard time digesting. In the age of the internet, so many of us are quick to recite word for word what “so-so” wrote or the latest research—but many don’t realize that once the program is developed, delivering it to the client, executing it, and maintaining it are a whole different story. I want to show that side of it. I’m not the only one, there are tons of fitness professionals that do what I do—and I think it’s important to show the “trenches” side of personal training. It seems there is too much emphasis on glam and money in this industry. If you really put your heart into something that you love, its not always sunshine’s and rainbows.

TG: What does the future hold for John Izzo?

JI: Well, I’m working on another project with NASM focusing on the business aspect of personal training. I can’t say too much about it, but I am co-writing some material with them. With the release of Shatterproof Spine, I’m hoping that the fires will really catch in the industry and consumers will find that my products are educational and there is nothing I make that “promises” you millions. I give you the tools—to make you better. If you can make yourself a better professional, the millions will follow!

I will continue to write articles for my website and other online publications. I am putting together a calendar for 2010 of interviews I will be conducting. I’m going to try to get some pro’s back on that really gave me a good stuff this past year. I would like to also follow up with another book. Secret Skills of Personal Training is gaining some steam, so I’d like to add more information to it with a follow up book. I am getting married in 3 more months, so my time has been dedicated to clients, lifting, and wedding plans—but as soon as things settle down, I plan on pursing my NASM-CES certification (corrective exercise specialist). So, things look…busy. But I don’t mind it. I like hard-work. It makes me feel like I accomplished something—just like snatching a heavy weight or hitting a PR. You feel good afterwards…

TG: Thanks for your time John!

No problem. Thanks!!

Now that you have heard a little about John, why not have a look at his awsome range of DVD’s and books that are a must in the collection of any personal trainer, or fitness enthusiast.  Find out more here.