May 15, 2024

Zipper Podcast Episode 2: Altitude Endurance Coaching: Tips for Success in Ultra Running Coaching

Brian Passenti, Owner at Altitude Endurance Coaching, specializing in ultra marathon coaching, shares his story and tips starting a run coaching business

Zipper Podcast Episode 2: Altitude Endurance Coaching: Tips for Success in Ultra Running Coaching


Brian Passenti started Altitude Endurance Coaching in 2018 after his wife suggested he turn his passion for coaching into a business. He initially started part-time while working a full-time job in Parks and Recreation. He found his first clients through word of mouth and online communities. Brian recommends jumping in and working hard if you're interested in becoming a coach. He also emphasizes the importance of finding your niche market and leveraging online platforms. Brian's ideal athlete is someone interested in ultra running, particularly 100 to 200 milers. He advises coaches to know their customer and focus their marketing efforts. Brian also recommends using platforms like Zipper to streamline coaching tasks and maximize time for coaching.

Main Takeaways

  • Consider turning your passion for coaching into a business
  • Start part-time while working another job
  • Find clients through word of mouth and online communities
  • Focus on a niche market and leverage online platforms
  • Use tools like Zipper to streamline coaching tasks


Chris Alto (00:02)
Hey, what's going on? This is Chris with the Zipper Podcast, where we talk about the business of fitness and wellness. Today we have Brian Pecenti from Altitude Endurance Coaching. Hey Brian, thanks so much for coming on.

Brian Passenti (00:14)
Thanks for having me, Chris. It's a pleasure to be here.

Chris Alto (00:18)
Amazing. So obviously we've known each other for a little while now, but we'd love to just hand it off to you and hear a bit about Altitude Endurance Coaching. how you get started. and a bunch of questions that we can start hammering off from there.

Brian Passenti (00:34)
Sure. I started Altitude Endurance coaching in 2018 based off of my wife's suggestion. In 2018, I was already in the ultra running space and I had just given up about eight years ago a full decade of triathlon racing. I have just a library of books I was reading about training to coach myself, to be self -coached. And...

I was creating plans for the neighbor, for the guy in the cycling club down the street. And they, all these people kept coming over to my house and I print out all these spreadsheets and we talk about training plans and then they'd leave. And my wife finally said like, are you, are these people paying you? And I said, no, I said, no, they're, they're friends. You know, they're, they're part of the cycling club or the, or I met them in the pool swimming laps or something, you know? And so, so my wife's like, you should really consider that. And I thought, well, gosh, that's a.

Chris Alto (01:19)

Brian Passenti (01:31)
That's a harebrained idea, but, uh, you know, the, the, she planted the seed. And, um, and so I went online and I looked up, um, coaching online coaching and it was a thing. I didn't even know it actually was a thing. Um, here I was just trying to help out my friends. So, um, so I threw something together, um, for a part -time gig, it was, um, pretty much a side hustle. I just wanted to see if it was possible to grow business in this space online, um, at that time. And then.

In 2018, I kicked off Altitude Endurance Coaching with a handful of athletes. And that's kind of the roots of it.

Chris Alto (02:09)
That's great. So when you started, you started part -time, correct? So were you doing your own thing? How did that process work? Starting part -time and then also juggling. Sounds like I just did another full -time job.

Brian Passenti (02:23)
Yeah, that's right Chris. I had a full -time job with Parks and Recreation here locally in the western slope of Colorado. I was doing nights and weekends, mornings, just kind of filling in the gaps whenever I needed to and having athletes text me when they needed assistance and I'd help them out when I could outside of my regular job. I don't know if it was nine to five, but roughly whatever I was doing for work at that time. I was

growing the business and seeing if it was a thing or not, yeah.

Chris Alto (02:57)
Right. And so for other folks who might be interested in getting into coaching, specifically maybe Endurance coaching, ultra coaching, do you have any key lessons that you learned from those early couple of years and you're testing this out, seeing if it was feasible to go full time that you recommend other folks to think about or any advice you'd have for somebody who's thinking about dipping their toe in the water of becoming a coach?

Brian Passenti (03:22)
Great question, Chris. I started the business in 2018, as I mentioned already, in 20, let's see, we're at 2024. So in late 2021, no, 22, in late 2022, I went full -time with my coaching business. So I was able to make the leap and kind of commit to full -time coaching online. And I really think...

hindsight's always 20 -20. I really think that I could have made the leap earlier, but I did have some hesitations. I did have a pretty nice town government job in parks and recreation. And I was able to transition over to full -time coaching, but I had to work out the details of like insurance and coverage. I have a family and kids to support and a mortgage to pay. And so I was really hesitant, but I think my advice would be,

If you're interested in doing it, I think you just got to jump in and push as hard as you can. Eventually I started to get momentum after 2018. During COVID, quite honestly, all of us started to get momentum online. And I really, in 2020, I really believed that it was definitely possible to grow an online business and stay in this space full time. So I'd say, you know, go all in and work really hard at it if it's something that you're.

really wanting to do. I tiptoed around it for a while and I don't know if that was the best idea and I might have just prolonged the process.

Chris Alto (04:57)
I'm sure it's normal though. It's a big risk to go full time with anything and especially when you have a family to make sure you're taken care of. It's a lot. You have a really interesting backstory. So you're a veteran and you also, you know, sounds like you had a major lifestyle change. So can you talk a little bit about that journey and how it's affected like the branding of Altitude Endurance?

Brian Passenti (05:23)
Sure. So I've been clean and sober for over seven years. I think December 10th of this previous year, 2023, I celebrated seven years of sobriety. Thanks. I appreciate it. And it's an ongoing process. There's never an end game, I don't believe, for me in sobriety. I'm always working on myself to be better. I think, you know, I started the business after that, quite honestly, but I think...

I think getting sober helped me realize the potential that I have outside of the athletic space. I've always been an athlete, but I've never been a business owner. And so I feel like sobriety helped me grow the confidence I needed to succeed in whatever I put my heart into. And Altitude Endurance Coaching is one of those things that has transpired from sobriety, for sure.

Chris Alto (06:20)
That's such a cool story. Amazing. So in terms of getting those first athletes when you're getting started, it sounds like there's a lot of friends and family, word of mouth, I'd assume, but any tips or things that you found working in the early days to get your first cohort of athletes or any marketing tactics that you found to be particularly effective?

Brian Passenti (06:45)
Yeah, that's a great question as well, Chris. I, um, Initially it's friends and family. It's a word of mouth and, um, and it got me going in the business in the space. Um, I think in an online, uh, presence, um, is always kind of nice and whatever your niche market is, whether it's ultra running or weightlifting or swimming. Um, I, I seeked out those communities online through like Facebook and Instagram, and I joined the groups.

Um, I didn't, and I didn't solicit the business that I'm a coach and I'm looking to hire, um, athletes or, or looking at gain business or traction that way. I just shared my experiences on those platforms. Um, and people started to recognize me as somebody that might have experience in this. Um, and then of course, when they click on my name and my bio, they realize, oh, he's, he's an ultra coach. He's, he's an endurance coach. And so he does have experience here. So I never really, um, solicited the business specifically. Um, but I leveraged online.

Facebook groups and just shared my experiences answered questions that came up to newbies or people looking for different advice or experience. I think that's a great way to get started and that's how I got started myself.

Chris Alto (07:55)
Makes a lot of sense. So just getting involved in the community, being helpful, showing your expertise, and then naturally people will likely get in touch with you and want to.

a lot of sense. Okay, great. In terms of certifications or areas that you've doubled down on to, I guess, improve your knowledge to be able to become a more effective coach, are there anything that you'd recommend for other folks who might be trying to become a coach or might be a coach and might want to improve their knowledge to be more effective?

Brian Passenti (08:31)
For sure. I think training and knowledge is something that I'll always be involved in. I love learning more about the space that I'm in. I'm wearing a UESCA shirt right now, coaching certification company called United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy. They have running, triathlon, cycling, I believe, and ultra running coaching certifications. So that's the spot that I'm in. That's that niche market that I'm in.

Um, and I would suggest trying to find those niche markets in the space that you might be trying to, um, to work towards, um, whatever that is. I didn't think that certification would actually bring in more clients. I thought it would just make me a better coach. Um, I think that's a good clarification. I wasn't looking for certification to prove to other people that I have some sort of knowledge base. Um, I did have a lot of knowledge coming into the sport, um, prior to certification and certification has definitely helped me grow though. Um, as a.

as a business owner and as a coach.

Chris Alto (09:30)
Probably also helped with your training. You got a 250 -mile cut -off this week, huh?

Brian Passenti (09:34)
I do have the Cocodona 250 coming up May 6th. I'll be starting there in Black Canyon City, Arizona making my way to Flagstaff So yeah, it definitely has helped me coach myself and be a better coach for myself. Although I'm not I'm not my best client by any means

Chris Alto (09:52)
Amazing. Cool. Let me just take a pause here.

Brian Passenti (10:01)
Cough cough

Chris Alto (10:06)
If you could go back into 2018, is there anything that you'd change to, it sounds like maybe diving in a little bit sooner is one thing, but is there anything else that you might change or any other key advice you'd have for someone who wants to get into ultra coaching, run coaching, triathlon coaching?

Brian Passenti (10:28)
I don't know, Chris, I think those lessons were hard learned, but needed to be learned to some degree. But I'd also say that there are valuable resources out there now that I may not have found at the time or may not have been available at the time. One of them being your platform, JoinZipper. And the Zipper platform that you guys have created was not around in 2018 when I was getting started. I used spreadsheets and I tried to create my own site through a different company.

And it just wasn't that effective. I was doing a lot of work for a little bit of return. I really want to be a coach and work with the athletes and Zipper has really allowed me to do that. It's taken a lot of the, the behind the scenes work out of Zipper has really maximized my time to be a coach and not work on behind the scenes efforts.

Chris Alto (11:21)
appreciate the shout out. That's great. Cool. And then thinking about your ideal athlete and like crafting your ideal athlete persona, what has that process been like? Do you have any recommendations around how someone else might be thinking about? Because I know there's, I'm sure there's different distances, there's different ages, there's different, you know, all sorts of factors that can go into finding an athlete. Have you, do you have a specific athlete that you've narrowed in on and -

Brian Passenti (11:23)

Chris Alto (11:49)
What was that process of finding that person and any advice for anyone else looking to get into the space?

Brian Passenti (11:57)
Yes, for sure. I think that, um, as a coach or as a business owner, you have to find your customer and what you're and you have to market to that customer. Um, and so taking a step back to kind of figure out who that customer is for you. For me, it's the hundred miler runner. It's the 200 mile runner. Um, it's, it's also people wanting to get into that space and learn more about that space. Um, I typically don't have, um, triathletes.

or marathoners anymore. I do have athletes that do marathons, but also dabble in ultra marathon as well. But I think finding my customer helped me drive the focus of the marketing brand and where I want to be in the space.

Chris Alto (12:46)
So it sounds like for you, it's, it's narrowed down to that a hundred to 200 miler. Do you focus on like beginners versus expert? Does it not really matter? Like what is that?

Brian Passenti (12:57)
I don't have a major focus. I tend to get the beginners. I think the sport is new as well. So I think especially 200 milers, 100 miles have been around for a while, but it's still a growing brand and fairly new in the scene. The 200 milers are even smaller niche markets. And that space is just hasn't grown as it's growing fast, but it hasn't grown to the...

to the level of the 100 milers. So I think that the athletes typically come in as being a new to that space.

Chris Alto (13:38)
Shocking, there aren't more people who want to run 200 miles. I don't get it. Cool. I guess last question, we've wrapped things up. Just any other overall advice for folks who want to get into coaching, whether it be part -time or full -time, any other big lessons learned that you'd recommend?

Brian Passenti (13:42)

Again, I think it's know your customer and be sure to seek out that customer, put all your energy into finding those customers in that space. I think the broader your customer, the more watered down your content becomes in search of those customers in any space, and particularly my space in the ultra running world. I'd also...

I'd also suggest spreading yourself across a couple different platforms of social media content and just trying to reach out to different audiences in different spaces. I think that's, that's worked for me in this space. And as well as finding those, those apps, those sites like Zipper that can really maximize your time to, to be an effective coach. Coaching is the job that I want to do.

the stuff behind the scenes is secondary to that. And I need to remember that as well.

Chris Alto (15:07)
All right, Brian Pisenti at Altitude Endurance Coaching. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing some insights. It's been awesome.

Brian Passenti (15:14)
Thanks Chris, appreciate your time.

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