Ask the Expert – The Personal Trainer “Balancing Act” (Pharoah Kafele)

Pharoah Kafele

Of the 253,702 personal trainers in the United States (as reported by IBISWorld – February 2014) only a small percentage possess the experience, knowledge, drive, and characteristics to be true “role models” of fitness and health.  Pharoah Kafele is one of the rare few who dedicates his life to being an eternal student to his craft, is passionate about helping his clients be the best version of themselves, and practices EVERYTHING that he preaches (from exercise to nutrition, rest and recovery).

With a degree in Sports Medicine from East Texas State University (and a background as an accomplished athlete), Pharoah has spent the last 15+ years representing the most reputable fitness clubs in Colorado.  In addition to being a leader among his peers and a motivating fitness specialist to his loyal clients, he also participates in physique competitions at the state and national level. got a chance to catch up with Pharoah to find out how he manages to balance both the responsibilities of his career as an exceptional personal trainer and his passion for his sport and maintaining his own health and wellness.

1.  What was your first fitness experience (what got you interested in fitness)?

PK:  My experience with fitness (as an athlete) showed me the effect and affect that I knew I could instantly have on a person’s life through fitness. I can’t really say where it started. Wait. It was in the tenth grade. I had a coach that took a special interest in me and made sure I came and lifted with him and others after school. I was able to get stronger, which allowed me to play ball (and other hobbies I loved) at a higher level.

2.  As a personal trainer, what are three things that you do everyday that make you successful at your career?

PK:  Three things that I do daily that (I guess) make me successful are:

  1. Show up
  2. Be consistent
  3. Challenge (my client and myself)

I honestly love training so I hardly spend time away from the gym. I’m very consistent with my clients so they know what to expect. I’m passionate and, although it is sometimes read the wrong way by new clients, the clients that stick with it soon realize I’m there for them (I’m all in). I also challenge my clients according to their goals, which we spend a lot of time formulating the RIGHT way. My goal is to show them that they can be more (and want more from themselves than being just “good enough”.

3.  What do you do to continually grow, improve, and evolve as a personal trainer?

PK:  To continually grow and evolve, I try to immerse myself in different areas of development … to make me a better trainer and mentor. I enjoy the process of learning and being challenged, myself. I make an effort to regularly participating in different certifications (and educational practices) and asking my peers what they are doing outside of training right now. Staying current is important to me as a personal trainer. However, being able to filter out what is useful (or not) to any particular client is and essential.

4.  What are the three things (not under your direct control) that make it difficult to be successful as a personal trainer?

PK:  Good question! Let me take a stab at this:

  1. Not owning my own gym is the biggest challenge I face. I have worked for fitness clubs my entire career, but having my own facility would truly give me an opportunity to truly do my best work (I believe).
  2. Clients who are not being honest with themselves (or me) and do not reach their goals in the manner we planned. This is simply due to being distracted by unnecessary thoughts/concerns and their lack of effort (or unrealistic expectations regarding the amount of the time it takes to reach their goals).
  3. Working for a gym and/or a manager that does not see you as an individual. You are simply a number or an employee that is expected to bring in numbers. It’s hard to be successful when your employer doesn’t invest time and effort into their staff.

5.  What do you find most rewarding about your career as a personal trainer?

PK:  The most rewarding thing about being a personal trainer is (again) seeing the effect/affect from the exercise and nutrition prescription come to fruition. The client is happy because they are doing something they thought they couldn’t or could no longer do. It’s all about their success (no matter how big or small).

6.  What would words of advice would you give a new personal trainer wanting to build a successful business?

PK:  If you’re a new trainer:

  1. Be prepared to do a lot of things the veterans don’t have to do to market and get/keep clients.
  2. Offer up personal training services, assessments, etc. for FREE.
  3. Be visible.
  4. Keep learning.
  5. Workout with members (and prospective clients) as much as possible.
  6. Don’t be afraid to walk a new path in order to separate yourself from the pack.

7.  What is your greatest achievement as a personal trainer (to date)?

PK:  My greatest achievement is being truly “liked” by my clients (REALLY)!

But I don’t go into a training relationship to be liked … it certainly doesn’t start out that way. I earn the respect of my client when they get the results both of us are looking for … when I push them outside their comfort zone and they see results. I challenge them and they know I am there to help them. That “buddy buddy” relationship takes time … but is well worth the wait. In the end, most of my clients stay with me for a very long time.

8.  What one thing do you need to continually work on each day as a personal trainer (to build your business)?

PK:  I need to constantly work on my relationships with each client in order to stay relevant. I need to pay attention to detail and consistency in their successes. No one wants to work with a “nice” failure yet they will tolerate a successful “asshole”. Not that I am one … but I know I can be at times. I’d rather people know that I’m genuine and I give a damn rather than see me as a “nice, fake and awful trainer”. It sort of weeds out the type of clients I train. Everyone has a purpose that works with me. They know I’ll attack that purpose. I will also hold them accountable to what they have asked me to help them achieve.

Pharoah Kafele (Denver, CO – 2014)

9.  What got you interested in physique competitions? What do you enjoy most about the sport?

PK:  The interest in physique competitions came because of three things:

  1. A break up
  2. Boredom
  3. An old surgery

I’m competitive and I couldn’t play sports anymore due to a bad knee. I really enjoy the challenge, discipline, the change in my daily routine, and meeting new people. The travel and the competing are exciting for me!

10.  How do you find balance between your career as a personal trainer and a physique competitor?

PK:  The balance between the two is easy now (although it wasn’t at the start). Once I made the decision to compete, I simply said to myself, “Okay. I’m in it.” And now I just program my day around it. The lifestyle has made me focus a lot more on myself (versus just on my clients). I realized that I had to make the time for “me” and that I needed to be fully dedicated. The hardest part was truly listening to my body and knowing when to take breaks, when to grind, when to get extra sleep, and everything in between.

Pharoah Kafele is an accomplished personal trainer at Pura Vida Fitness and Spa in Denver, Colorado.  He is also a regular contributor to’s weekly Fitness Insight Podcast (available on iTunes).

Written by TodaysFitnessTrainer (

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