“Keep on Smiling” isn’t just a name; it’s a philosophy. Meet Michael Kuhar, the charismatic fitness expert who has earned his unique title through a heartfelt commitment to making people beam, even in the midst of strenuous workouts. In this engaging interview, we explore the origins of his inspiring moniker, delve into the intricate psychology of his coaching techniques, and uncover the remarkable journey of transformation that he embarks upon with each client.
FAB: You go by the name “Keep on Smiling”. What is the story behind that name?
Michael Kuhar: Sometimes people struggle with exercises, and you see those sweaty faces, and it’s hard for them to smile. I just walk by them and tell them to keep smiling. Sometimes I say, “Keep on smiling even if you are dying,” and it makes people laugh. We want them to have a happy place inside our studio, of course. So people started to call me Mr. Keep on Smiling, and I decided to take it because it is good to have such a reputation for helping people get into a good mood. It is also vice versa; they help me get into a good mood.
FAB: Beyond “keep on smiling”, what are some other frameworks you have developed to help push people?
Michael Kuhar: We have different categories of people in the studio: athletes, total beginners, moms, and single moms who have to take care of their kids and have only about forty minutes a day to work out with us. Everyone has their own boundaries and limits. As a coach, you just have to see what the boundaries and limits are and find out how much you can push them. I found out that if I put in a little bit more weight, for example, and I see them struggling and tell them to keep smiling, they will push more for the last 30 seconds that they have to go. I don’t know why they do it, but I think something about the end rush helps them.
FAB: You left a well-paying job to pursue your passion. What motivated you to make that decision, and how did you handle the uncertainty that came with it?
Michael Kuhar: I was not happy. I had money but couldn’t spend it because I didn’t have time for it. I was not enjoying what I was doing anymore, and I felt my mental health going down. The only time my mental health was good was during the couple of hours I spent at the gym every day. At some point, I realised I wanted to make a change with something I loved. Be inspired, explore “I never saw myself as a ‘head of something.'” – Susanne Hoffmann and Vienna’s Success Ladies.
FAB: Mental health is a big thing. How do you incorporate mental health and well-being into your own personal training?
Michael Kuhar: I am always reachable for my clients. During the COVID lockdown, we were still in contact with our clients. We tried to keep it as a family even though we have a lot of members, and I told them to always text me whenever something came up. I get messages as early as 2 a.m., and you’ve gotta be a friend and a coach. You have to motivate them. All these come together when you’re a coach; it’s not just about lifting and doing one more rep. Sometimes personal trainers just sell their programmes and meal plans on the internet. It can generate money, but I don’t want that. I want to be personal with them. I want to be next to them as a real person who is actually trying to help them on their journey.
FAB: What’s your typical day like as a personal trainer?
Michael Kuhar: I wake up by 4 a.m. in the morning because our classes start at 6 a.m. I get ready and feel fresh for the day. Right away, I go to the studio to prepare everything. I turn on the music; trainers don’t need to use earphones at our studio. Then, I turn on the screen so that everyone can see the exercises. I mentally prepare and go all out for these people. I give them my biggest smile and make them happy. And I do my classes.
On days when I don’t have evening classes, I go eat something, go to the gym, and have my own workout there to get all the stress off me and be a role model for my members. Coming back from the gym, I eat again to get my protein and nutrition, and then, after replying to emails and calls, I just spend some time on the couch, watch some YouTube videos, educate myself on being a trainer, and read up on new studies. That’s my everyday life; it’s really simple, but I love it.
FAB: Speaking of Nutrition, do you incorporate nutrition plans into your training programmes for your clients?
Michael Kuhar: We have Zoom calls where we talk about nutrition and the amount of calories each client should take based on their weight. We figured that people take in calories but not enough to reach their goals. Most importantly, we don’t allow steroids in our studio because they are generally not good for your body, especially when you’re young. We make sure they have the right nutrition.
FAB: So far, is there an inspiring client or a success story you’ve had in your career as a personal trainer that you hold dear to your heart?
Michael Kuhar: Yes. There was a lady who came in; she was not the fittest when she got here, but I can tell you now that she’s been with us for three years, and last week she told me she had climbed to 680th class. This means she’s had almost 700 classes with us. She has totally changed, and she’s thinking of going on stage as a fitness model in a bikini. It’s interesting because she was not that fit, but she got fitter and fitter, won one of our challenges, and just kept on going every day. It’s beautiful, and it makes me happy when I see that I can help people.
Sometimes you doubt if you’re doing your job right, but then you get amazing feedback. One time I saw a person lifting weights, and one of her shoulders was higher than the other. I approached her and asked if she was in pain; she said yes. She was quite impressed that I had noticed. I advised her to roll out her shoulder blades with a small ball, and the next day she told me it was much better. The doctor couldn’t help her, but I could, and for me, that is a success, and it makes me happy.
FAB: What’s that particular thing that sets your group workout apart?
Michael Kuhar: The special thing in our studio is our community. People come together and talk after the workout, and that way, they are able to motivate each other, support each other, and even be accountable. We bring people together.
FAB: As someone who has experienced the corporate world and the entrepreneurial world, what advice do you have for someone looking to start their own enterprise?
Michael Kuhar: First of all, find your starting point. It is very important. For me, it was getting my diploma as a personal trainer. I was writing to different fitness centres, and when you get employed there, you are usually put at the counter waiting for people to come and complain about something or to clean. You have to stand out, so what I did was get my diploma as a personal trainer. This was my starting point, and from there, just keep working hard and stay focused on your goals.
Even if you don’t like the job you have now, use it as a career step. I started at a normal fitness centre, then went to another fitness centre where I was an actual trainer. I wasn’t cleaning, but I was really training people. Although I was shy at the beginning because I was not sure if I was doing it right, I kept going from client to client. You learn every step of the way, and at some point, it will get you to where you want to be.
FAB: What does the future hold for you and your career as a personal trainer? Do you have any goals or upcoming projects?
Michael Kuhar: I am starting slowly, but I am on my way to starting YouTube just to get in contact with more people. People that work out with me really like me, and I think I can make my audience a little bit bigger. I want to work with different people and spread my wings. I am happy with what I’ve achieved, but I know it’s not the end of my journey.
Fun Zone: #FabFastFive
- FAB: If you could go back to being a child, what would you do?
Michael: I would enjoy the time more.
- FAB: What is your all-time favourite TV show?
Michael: Ninja Turtle
- FAB: What is your favourite colour in the rainbow?
- FAB: What’s your favourite food?
Micheal. Meat, all kinds of meat.
- FAB: Summer or winter?