True Story: Imagine going to your doctor for a yearly physical and the next day while training clients, one of your staff members informs you that your doctor is in the front of the studio wanting to speak to you. When this happened to me, I was completely perplexed. Why was he there? Did he find something in my blood work? Should I be concerned about my EKG? I slowly walked to the front of the studio to greet him.

"Mike, I forgot to ask you yesterday, but can I have more of your business flyers to pass out to my patients?"

My own personal internal medicine doctor refers patients to my fitness studio. We have received countless referrals from him and many other medical professionals in our community. How did we accomplish this? Here are some guidance and tips on how to receive referrals and add a new stream of qualified clients from the medical community.

Personal fitness professionals have the advantage of developing long-term relationships with their clientele, but many forget the opportunities to partner with other health and medical professionals with whom their clients and potential clients have relationships. If we are doing our part to ensure our clients' health, their doctors and care providers should know about us. Building a relationship can mean future referrals and a thriving fitness business, and more importantly it lends to more credibility for our industry in the eyes of the medical community.

Who makes up the medical community?
- Medical doctors (family practitioners, internists, cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons)
- Holistic practitioners
- Physical therapists
- Chiropractors
- Registered dietitians
- Health educators

Why should you create a partnership with the medical community?
- Build more trust within your community
- Increase your marketability and credibility
- Gain access to a greater number of referral sources
- Increase resources to create more programs for your community (e.g. creating your own foundation)
- Increase your media attention
- Have an upper hand compared to other fitness professionals in your community
- Be viewed as a local fitness expert and the go-to "trainer" and "coach"
- Increase your clientele base
- Increase your bottom line

Here are eight tips to implement immediately to begin building relationships and receiving referrals from the medical community:

1. Teach your clients how to "communicate" with the medical community for you. We tell our clients to remind us one week in advance when they visit their medical doctor. We then give the client flyers and information about our studio, but more importantly, we provide them with their latest fitness evaluation to let their doctor know how they are improving. It creates an instant credibility for the fitness professional in the eyes of the doctor.

2. Attend or become a part of community health fairs. Local hospitals usually hold health fairs once or twice a year and they are always looking to fill their booths. This is where you come in and provide the fitness portion for their health fairs. Do your research online and contact their community development director. Offer body fat testing and demo some cool and unusual fitness equipment that will be fun for people to try to create a buzz during the health fair.

3. Partner with a local registered dietitian. Plan seminars, workshops and grocery tours for your clients as well as for the community. This partnership is a win-win situation for both parties, but the true winners will be the clients who will benefit from the outcome.

4. All you need is one motivated and inspired medical doctor. You just need one doctor who sees the benefits of fitness, exercise and healthy nutrition. I have spoken to many fitness professionals who are often disappointed when they try to reach out to medical doctors in their area and are unsuccessful. You do not need to spend many hours trying to get the support from one doctor. Start by asking your current clients how close they are with their doctor and see what kind of relationships you can develop. Also, talk to your personal doctor and see if you can garner his/her support.

5. Give back to your community. Hold food drives, toy drives or charity boot camps. Far too often, many fitness professionals are so caught up with the amount of money they need to make per month, which is obviously very important in making fitness a career; however, by focusing your efforts on helping your community on a larger scale than simply offering free classes, the return has great potential. Our studio has raised more than $25,000 for local elementary PE programs, donated more than 2,000 pieces of fitness equipment to local schools, and collected more than 15,000 canned goods for our local food shelters. We have also received support from the Lakers, Dodgers and Angels toward our mission in helping the children in our community. What better way is there to stand above and beyond other fitness studios in your community?

6. Offer free lecture classes and seminars at your local medical facilities and hospitals. Title your classes to appeal to their patients, for example, "Exercise for Diabetes Patients," "How can exercise improve your stress?" or "Exercises and stretches to help with low back pain." Did you notice that the titles did not include "Lose 10 pounds of fat in 10 days" or "Exercises that fit and tone your butt?" The classes that you have to offer are more medically-based and are reaching out to patients, as well as the medical community.

7. Check what kind of specialties your local hospital is known for. For example, if they are known for their "Spine Center," you can formulate a marketing plan to that department specifically. Obviously, make sure you are well versed in the specialty. Some hospitals are known for their cancer research department so you may be able to create a fitness program geared toward cancer patients.

8. Always include a testimonial from a respected local medical doctor in all of your marketing materials. What better way to let people know of your relationship with the medical community than by having a testimonial from a well-known doctor in your area? This will also build your credibility with other doctors in your community.

Once you receive a referral from a medical professional, what do you do next?

1. Keep a detailed assessment and evaluation of your new client.
2. Keep a line of communication open via email or phone to the referring medical professional.
3. Send a handwritten thank you note with a gift card to the medical professional.
4. Send monthly emails and handwritten notes every four to six weeks to the medical professional providing updates on their patient (your client).
5. Ask your client to let you know when their next appointment is with their medical professional.

As with all partnerships, communication is key in maintaining a rewarding, continuous relationship. Receiving a referral is great, but maintaining this partnership will be an ongoing process. Focus on the process instead of the results and you will reap the benefits of working with the medical community.

Michael Seril is the owner of Michael Seril Fitness Studio and founder of the Excellence Through Exercise Foundation in Whittier, California. He is the 2006 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year and 2011 ABC 7 Jefferson Award Recipient. Michael earned his Master's and Bachelor's degree in Kinesiology from California State University Northridge. Check out his website at