Cooper Mitchell of Garage Gym Reviews: “Become a lifelong student”

Being welcomed into people’s homes and seeing what they created with the help of our platform has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my platform. It has given me a lot of perspectives and is an invaluable part of the job. It’s the community that wakes me up in the morning and the […]

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Being welcomed into people’s homes and seeing what they created with the help of our platform has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my platform. It has given me a lot of perspectives and is an invaluable part of the job. It’s the community that wakes me up in the morning and the impact we have that keeps me going.

The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15 billion dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?

In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cooper Mitchell.

Cooper Mitchell is a fitness coach and influencer who started his platform, Garage Gym Reviews, with the mission of making fitness more accessible. Through his dedication to connecting with others, he was able to leave his day job and pursue his calling to coach full time and scale the business to where it is today. Now, with his community of over 288K Instagram followers and 251K YouTube subscribers, and features in Business Insider, NY Magazine, Men’s Health, and, Coop has helped people around the country create their own home gyms and meet their fitness goals.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?

Growing up, my dad was a competitive powerlifter. I remember being a little kid and going down to our family’s garage to watch him work out. Over time I learned the different types of equipment he used. The garage was like a jungle gym with colored kettlebells and bright steel power racks. I grew up spending most of my time there, and garage workouts became the standard for me, but I never thought it would inspire my career path.

Fast forward to 2014. I created Garage Gym Reviews to fill a need. As I was getting my own home gym started, I saw that there were thousands of people out there, like me, who were ready to commit to a home gym but held their breath when they saw the price tags of those big-ticket equipment items because they didn’t know where to start.

So I founded GGR to provide unbiased resources for folks to get information about products and share insight on all things home gym related. When I graduated college, I started working as a financial advisor, but Garage Gym Reviews grew into a profitable business, and I was able to quit my job and pursue my website full-time. Now I have the freedom to tour the country and advise home gym owners.

My goal is and always has been to provide people with the type of community they would get at a commercial gym but from the comfort of their own homes. If you take a look at the conversations between our users in the comment sections on social or see our 92K Facebook group members catching up on the latest home gym trends, you can see that we were able to do just that, which is incredibly rewarding.

I felt called to start something that I didn’t see out there in the industry already, and the best part about it is that I love reviewing gym equipment and talking to people about my findings. When I test and review a new product, part of me still gets that same excitement as that little kid playing around in the family garage gym.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three character traits that I think were instrumental to my success are curiosity, ignorance, and perseverance, or, as I like to call it, stick-to-itiveness.

I’ve always been curious. Growing up, I was the kid that could never quite put a lid on it. I was notorious for asking questions and bugging my parents every two minutes by following up on everything they said with “why” or “how” at the dinner table. That annoying habit turned out to be a great asset for me in the long run.

Every business I’ve founded started with a basic google search. Knowledge can be power, and there’s a lot of insight you can gain from asking the right questions to the right people and knowing when to sit back and listen; this relates to the second trait I attribute to my success, which, oddly enough, is ignorance. I know this may sound odd, but the ignorance and naivety I had when I started GGR are how I was brave enough to start the platform in the first place.

Let me back up here by saying that being ignorant is not a master plan for success and can actually be harmful. I absolutely think people should stay informed on what is going on around them. But here’s the thing, what you don’t know, you can’t fear.

When I started Garage Gym Reviews, I had no idea there was a potential monetization opportunity. I started it because I was curious about home gyms, and I wanted to help make fitness accessible to people. The best way to learn is by getting out there and doing it. When I started this business and began to build my community, I had no idea what the other guys were doing. My competitors were not my priority, and I had no foresight into the problems I would eventually have to overcome. I dove in headfirst and never looked back. Since then, I have been able to help guide young entrepreneurs to pursue their wild ideas and encourage them not to fear the idea of taking risks.

My final trait that played a pivotal role in the success of GGR is my ability to go after something and stick to it. When I first started GGR, there weren’t many people helping others turn their homes or garages into training facilities. I had few examples to follow, but I had to forge my own path for the most part. Similar to setting a PR on the bench press or running a marathon, creating a platform is a mental challenge. You have to stay diligent to get there.

The thing that kept me going was the level of impact I knew I could have in this community. I saw the ways fitness and mentorship changed people’s lives, and I wanted to make that more accessible to folks, so I stuck to it. I put my head down and did the hard work

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

What I have learned over the years is that a lot of habits that help get me in the gym are the same habits that helped shape the GGR platform.

The first habit is consistency. When it comes to your fitness goal, shortcuts rarely give you the results you want. To see any growth in the gym, I know I need to make working out as easy and accessible as possible. To do that, I get very consistent and granular around my schedule. I wake up at the same time every morning, lay my clothes out the night before, and take my pre-workout with my water when I wake up. These little rituals shaped my daily rhythm.

When I started building the GGR platform, I took the consistency I had at the gym and applied it to the business. I created regular posting schedules and streamlined my videos so that we recorded them on specific days. I started every video with the same introduction, and it became regimented. This consistency allows me to improve my writing and show up for my community day in and day out.

The next important habit I implemented was regularly exposing myself to difficulty. In the fitness community, we practice failing forward. We do things to challenge us, even if they scare us too. When we want to grow, we pick up heavier weights. We often fail and get back to the bench the next round and try again. The same goes for starting a platform. There were so many times when I messed up or had hurdles that felt like mountains along the way, but I know that when there is difficulty, there is growth, so I continued to give it my all and show up for my community.

This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

The small things you do in a day and your habits add up to be your life. Think about all the times you wake up, and the first thing you do is check your phone. I did it the other day, and what felt like mindless scrolling set the tone for the rest of my day. Suddenly, those three minutes spent checking emails turned into 30 minutes of Facebook updates, and I looked up at the time and saw it was already 9 am. At that moment, I was no longer in control of my morning, my morning was in control of me, and I fell behind before I could even get started.

Life is a series of small moments and little habits, and to be intentional around your goals, you have to pay attention to what practices are taking up most of your time and how you can pivot and develop approaches that align with what you want in life.

When it comes down to it, habits are a roadmap for how you want to live your life and the legacy you leave behind. When you develop good physical habits, like waking up early in the morning to work out, you fill up your own tank and fuel yourself to have the energy to show up for the people you care about and the things you love.

As a fitness coach, it probably comes as no surprise, but I recommend that people take the time to get up and get going, wherever that looks like for you. It is all about finding the most accessible ways to reach your goals.

I also think it is important to center yourself. For me, that’s taking a few extra minutes in the morning when the house is quiet, and the kids are asleep to do some reflecting. I like to look back on what I have achieved to get a better idea of where I am going next. These short self-checks take 10 minutes, but they can make a huge difference in optimizing your life.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

When I was little, my parents made me “eat my greens” before getting up from the dinner table. Instead of just eating the brussel sprouts, I would put the vegetables into my napkin until it filled up, and I could no longer ignore what was right in front of me. I always felt a sense of shame knowing that it would have taken me five minutes to eat them.

Now that I am older, I like to think that developing good habits is similar to eating your greens. Habits aren’t always fun or easy, but if you ignore them, they pile up, and eventually, you will have to face what you have been avoiding one way or another.

When it comes to developing good habits, it is all about getting started and holding yourself to them. A lot of people hit a barrier right off the bat when starting a new habit. They come up with the idea, feel good about it, and then procrastinate starting it. They plan to begin next week or come up with an excuse for pushing back the date when they need to start right now.

I always tell folks in my community that if you want to start a new habit, start it immediately. Half the struggle is just the dread people face leading up to a challenging task.

Another critical aspect of starting good habits is follow-through. Often in my profession, I see people tell themselves it’s OK to “cheat” this one time, but that self-talk and exception making is enough to derail a habit entirely if you let it. So, you have to do whatever it takes to hold yourself accountable. For me, that’s setting three alarms and getting up before sunrise. For other folks, it could be as simple as posting sticky notes on the bathroom mirror as reminders or having a friend on stand-by as an accountability partner.

On the other side of the coin, there’s stopping bad habits. I have always found that stopping bad habits is what people struggle with the most; this is because we all have a natural daily rhythm, and when we stop a habit, our rhythm shifts, and we can feel lost or deprived. A good way to manage this when quitting a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. This way, you’re occupying your mind and filling the gap from whatever lousy habit you decided to give up; this can be a big shift or just a simple switch in routine. For example, lately, I’ve been using my afternoons to take my kids out to the park. By taking that part of my day for intentional quality time with my family, I am not thinking so much about the phone notifications I have turned off or the afternoon snack I’ve been trying to avoid. It sounds simple, but small steps lead to a significant impact.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“It’s remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” — Charlie Munger.

One tip for success that resonates with me is avoiding big mistakes instead of accomplishing big wins. Having lofty goals and striving for perfection sounds good in theory, but the pressure that comes with those impossible expectations can discourage folks from even getting started.

Smaller, bite-sized goals allow you to make incremental wins and build up to something great. I think this resonates with me because the idea of gradual improvement is how you are supposed to train in the gym. You should never grab the heaviest weight and go for it. Instead, you should incrementally increase your weight and the number of reps you perform; this is also the kind of advice I give the people I coach. You’re not going to transform overnight. Instead, you need to take it one day at a time and make minor adjustments. Focusing on the little things adds up to make a big difference in the gym and in life.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re working to build GGR beyond a niche following of people primarily focused on strength training to be a resource and community for all different kinds of athletes and fitness enthusiasts around the country. With that in mind, I am excited to take on new content and reviews that venture more into the cardiovascular side of fitness. I think this will continue to help us make fitness more accessible across different communities because everyone deserves to take better care of themselves.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need To Create a Highly Successful Career As a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Become a lifelong student: The world is constantly evolving, and if you’re not, you’re getting left behind. In the fitness space, there’s constantly new equipment, exercises, and trends. To best serve my community and contribute to the conversation, I need to stay up to date with all of this so I don’t give outdated information on outdated equipment that is no longer serving people; this applies to the business side of coaching as well. The internet was a very different place in 2014 than it is today. With our growing emphasis on digital and social media, I am constantly changing our site and broader platform to better serve my audience. You can also see a considerable change in my videos on YouTube. In old videos, I’d talk to a camera and give my two cents about equipment. Now I am constantly coming up with ways to start the conversation around different topics and keep the community engaged. Listening to the comings and goings around you, being curious about ways to optimize processes, and being receptive to feedback are all factors of being a lifelong student. They are essential ways to stay relevant.
  2. Listen to your community and tailor your teachings to them: When it comes to speaking to your community, delivery is everything. It doesn’t matter how good the advice is if it doesn’t land with the people you are trying to reach.
  3. Share your mistakes: People listen to those they trust. They won’t trust you if you don’t share the whole story. Someone who comes to you for coaching is implicitly admitting they don’t know everything and need help. In a way, they’re opening themselves up to you. So, to build trust, you need to do the same. Once you’re both on the same page and showing humility, you’re able to grow together.
  4. Know your strength: When you’re good at something, do more of it and let the world know what it is. I’ve found in life that being successful is all about being really good at a couple of things. Many people try to be great at everything, but this isn’t possible and will wear you down. Specialization is key. Everyone has natural strengths and dedicating yourself to these strengths is going to provide the most growth. Folks also tend to look for specialists when they need help in life. If they have an issue with their wrist, they’ll go to a wrist doctor. The same goes for coaching. So, it’s ok to have a niche because people are looking for folks who are the best at the one thing they do.
  5. Utilize your personality: I know it may sound like a bumper sticker quote, but there’s only one of YOU, so leverage that and share your quirks and what makes you different proudly because those genuine characteristics you bring to the table are what your community will remember about you and what will keep them coming back. People can feel authenticity in their bones. It’s funny to say, but a lot of my success is due to me becoming an influential figure. I never thought I’d be one, but I stayed consistent with who I am as a person and what I want to bring to my platform, and through that, people started to trust me in the fitness space and build connections. People turn to others who they like and being likable is just about being yourself. That quote we heard a lot in elementary school does hold a lot of weight, and showing your personality will attract like-minded people, which will build your community.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Many businesses start without any long-term vision or foundation. You don’t have to pinpoint exactly where you’ll end up, but you should have some idea. Just like building a house, you need to have a firm foundation for your business, or it will come crumbling down. With that, it is important not to overlook the boring stuff. Set up the proper filings and get the right people on your team so you’re not backtracking later on. One of the most common mistakes I see people make is when they try to go from zero to one hundred right from the get-go instead of having a gradual and sustainable plan for growth.

Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.

The two most important things are really knowing your stuff and remembering that it’s all about helping people. I’m lucky to work in a somewhat niche industry where I’m super passionate about what I’m doing. So, I know everything about almost every barbell, dumbbell, and rack out there. No matter where I am or what mood I’m in, I’m always down to talk about gym equipment; this allows me to connect with others in the garage gym space because they’re just as pumped about this stuff as I am.

I started this business to fill a need and provide people with reliable information on home gym equipment, but I stayed in it because of the immediate impact it’s made on people’s lives.

I remember when I started my first home gym tour within my community. The intention behind this was to go out and meet people face-to-face and see what they created; this was an opportunity to connect with folks who only knew me through our online content.

Being welcomed into people’s homes and seeing what they created with the help of our platform has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my platform. It has given me a lot of perspectives and is an invaluable part of the job. It’s the community that wakes me up in the morning and the impact we have that keeps me going.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

The number one thing I would recommend is to simply put in the effort and do the best you can with what you have. My day one mission was to help out folks as much as possible, and this has carried my business. People notice the effort I put in and the quality I deliver, which keeps them coming back. It also inspires them to tell their friends, and their friends then become customers,

For more technical lead generation, I would recommend boosting your presence online by putting in the hours and creating quality content based on the needs of your community. Making a website, creating videos, or just getting quoted goes a long way in allowing people to see who you are and what you’re all about. By doing this, you can create a community of interested people in your area, help them virtually, and eventually translate this to coaching customers.

Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?

Working in a field you love is energizing, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get tired. The name of the game is consistency, not constant work. Think about it like training. You would never recommend someone go to the gym every day and work out all day. Instead, you would create a consistent regiment where they work out several times a week, take some rest days, and eat well. Any good trainer will tell you that rest and recovery are vital components to success in the gym. So, you should apply the same principles to your coaching business. Work consistently, but also rest consistently. Though you may have the urge to work yourself to your limits, you’ll work more efficiently if you let yourself rest.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Move more. We’re so glued to our devices, our chairs, and our cars that our bodies are hurting and our minds are paying the price. You don’t have to go to the gym to move. Move where you are.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to have a conversation with Walter Isaacson. He synthesizes the greatest performers’ stories in history into massive novels that leave me wanting more. I think there’s a lot he could teach me.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find all of my reviews on my website, watch my videos on YouTube, and follow me on Instagram @garagegymreviews.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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