Christian Thompson, Ph.D., our July Trainer of the Month, is an industry vet who has been making a difference for the last 16 years. His work in the industry spans from working in the trenches leading group exercise classes for older adults to publication of peer-reviewed academic research at a Division I academic institution. This diversity of experience has enabled Christian to provide both programmatic solutions for fitness professionals as well as strategic guidance to two of the fastest-growing organizations in the industry (Functional Aging Institute and the MedFit Education Foundation).
Certifications/qualifications: Ph.D. in Kinesiology (Exercise Physiology), Graduate Certificate in Gerontology, ACSM EPC
Studio/Business Name: Thompson Fitness Solutions, LLC
What inspired you to start your business?
When I went to University of Oklahoma as a graduate student in 1993, I initially planned to work with athletes. But when I got there, I was recruited by my advisor, Dr. Mike Bemben, to assist with a strength training study for older adults. I LOVED IT! The immediate effect that training had on their quality of life was eye-opening. Within 8 weeks, they were back to doing things they had not done in years like traveling, dancing and playing sports with their grandkids. I was hooked! Ever since then, I have been working with older adults in the community, involving my college students to have the same “aha” moment as I had and educating fitness professionals to construct the most effective training programs for their older clients.
What is one hard lesson you’ve learned in business you believe has been most valuable?
Be open-minded and adjustable. My senior fitness consulting business has improved on its deliverables by listening to what the client needs before presenting solutions. Every situation is different. Just because a program worked well in one setting does not mean it will be successful somewhere else. A recent project I did at a senior living community in San Francisco started out as a simple fitness assessment deliverable and morphed into developing a comprehensive wellness program for the facility including a fitness room redesign and programming coordination with the on-site therapy department. Listen carefully and involve as many stakeholders as possible who will become the champions of your business.
If I asked one of your clients why they choose you over other places/gyms/trainers, what would they likely say?
They find me through my numerous community partnerships throughout the Bay Area. They choose to train with me due to my academic qualifications and my years of experience. They stay with me because I approach training with a “Jack (or Jill) Of All Trades” approach where they are constantly engaged in a highly diverse multi-modal training program that keeps them from becoming bored and builds overall resilience. That and my Soft Rock Faves playlist that belts out the Bee Gees and Fleetwood Mac while they exercise!
Name one or two ways you are trying to raise the bar in the industry?
Collaborations are key! Our industry is always seeking ways to been seen as an adjunct to healthcare. The best way to do that is to learn from their industry model and emulate what works well. Effective healthcare is all about a team approach where various specialists work together to best treat the patient. I am very excited to be part of the AgeWell Collective, an education initiative where I collaborate with Dr. Evan Osar, Robert Linkul and Ryan Glatt to guide fitness professionals in developing the most effective integrated fitness programs for posture and pain management, strength and power, balance and fall risk reduction and cognitive health. By combining our expertise into an integrated education and training model, we believe that we can move the fitness industry forward by working together.