By Jason R. Karp, PhD, Special AFS Contributor

When I was a high school track and field coach, it was often difficult to get the teenagers to focus on one event. With so many options in the sport, many want to run and jump and throw. I tried to convince them that it’s better to be very good at one event than mediocre at multiple events.

As adults, little changes. I often hear personal trainers say that they train all types of clients—weight loss clients, elite athletes, clients who want muscle toning, seniors, and so on. For their areas of expertise, they list specialties such as “weight loss,” “athletic performance,” “metabolic conditioning,” “senior fitness” and “post-injury rehabilitation” and obtain certifications for every specialty.

First of all, no one can be an expert in all of these areas. Secondly, you shouldn’t even try. That’s not the path to success. It’s tempting to train all types of clients because it seems that you could make more money with a broad focus than with a narrow one. Many of the parents of the high school athletes I coached told their kids to do several extracurricular activities to increase their chances of getting into college. Well, their parents are wrong.

Successful people are not well-rounded. They don’t do many things. Successful people and successful fitness studios do one thing and do it better than everyone else. Choose a niche to specialize in and become as educated and as skilled in that niche as possible.

For example, if you’re passionate about helping people lose weight, become a weight loss expert. Read every scientific study on weight loss. Open a biochemistry textbook and understand metabolism and hormones and everything that affects weight gain and loss. Volunteer for weight loss studies. Talk to scientists who have devoted their lives to researching weight loss. Learn how much, what type, and what intensity of exercise result in significant weight loss.

Learn the documented habits of successful weight losers. Know the role that nutrition plays in weight loss. Know the data from the National Weight Control Registry as well as you know your parents’ names. How many trainers do you think know all this, yet still claim to be weight loss experts?

After you’ve done all your homework, become known in your community as The Weight Loss Expert. Speak to weight loss groups, give weight loss tips on TV, write a weight-loss column for a local newspaper or magazine. When people ask about your services, charge a lot of money because you’re The Weight Loss Expert and they can’t get your expertise anywhere else. The same is true for any other subject. Riches are in the niches.

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A competitive runner since sixth grade, Dr. Jason Karp quickly learned how running molds us into better, more deeply conscious people, just as the miles and interval workouts mold us into faster, more enduring runners. This passion that Jason found as a kid placed him on a yellow brick road that he still follows as a coach, exercise physiologist, bestselling author of 10 books and 400+ articles, speaker, and educator. He is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and two-time recipient of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Community Leadership award. His REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification has been obtained by fitness professionals and coaches in 23 countries.

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