By Erica Bray
Ron Betta is a personal trainer with the soul of an artist. For nearly 20 years, he enjoyed a career working on films, theme park attractions and video games for the likes of Walt Disney, Premise Entertainment and EA Sports. He worked on six Disney films, including “Lilo and Stitch,” “Tarzan,” “Beauty and the Beast.”
But Betta had another calling: personal training. He answered the call in 2002 and has since helped thousands of people get fit; authored two books on the subject; and served as a trainer on NBC’s "The Biggest Loser" – where his client James Crutchfield lost 128 pounds.
All of this has culminated in Betta this year opening his own fitness studio in Orlando. Its name: Art of Fitness.
Betta spoke with Name.Kitchen about his new business, how its name fuses two passions and why a ‘dot-fitness’ (.fitness) domain reflects a lesson he learned while at Disney.
Your creative career sounds amazing. What prompted you to get into personal training?
I was sitting on a train one day, and there was a guy sitting across the train from me in a personal trainer outfit. And I decided the next day I wanted to get into fitness.
Wait, just like that? Why that specific moment?
Oh, very, very simple. He was the only one on the train who was smiling. As I looked around, every single person on the train was wearing a suit and tie, or shirt and tie, and nobody was smiling – except this one guy. And as everybody kind of like walked off the train, this guy was sitting there, and he was listening to music, and he was in comfortable clothes, and he was fit and he was confident. I yearned for that.
But you kept your day job while pursuing a career in fitness, at least initially?
Yes, I would study as I went to my regular job. I would study every morning and every night on the train, until I got certified. And I became a trainer.
Why did you ultimately dive into fitness full time?
The challenge with a job where you’re in the movie industry is that they’re temporary. You work on a film, and then when the film is over, you’re out of work until they have another film. I decided that I could help a lot of people, and I really enjoy helping people, lose the weight or get stronger.
What inspired you to combine your love of art with your love of fitness?
I was working with a client, training her privately at her house, and she has two little girls. One of the little girls gave me a finger painting, and she said, “This is for you, coach. I made it. “ It was this cute little painting, and I thought, “Why can’t I combine my love of fitness with my love of the art world and everything I did in my past? Why can’t I bring that forward into fitness?”
That painting is hanging on the wall in my studio. It is one of the centerpieces of the studio – that little girl’s painting.
Tell me about your studio.
I decided to create a fitness studio, where the clients are the work of art. The client is the masterpiece. The trainer is kind of chiseling away at the person, whether it’s with the way they exercise, or the way they feel about themselves, the way they think about themselves, the way they look at themselves.
There are six mirrors in my studio, and each mirror is framed like a work of art. So when the client is standing in front of it, the focus is on them. The focus is on, “What do you see in the mirror? You’re the masterpiece.”
Your studio name, Art of Fitness, is beginning to make sense …
Well, the very first name I thought is Ron Betta Fitness, because I want people to know who I am. But if I had just come up with ‘Ron Betta Fitness,’ just using my name, that wouldn’t have been very effective because every Joe Trainer wants to do the same thing. I also looked at other studios’ names, and some of them were just ridiculous. Some of them didn’t make any sense. They all have the same approach.
You wanted something different.
It mattered to me that the brand I created would accessible to the average person – where they understood it was fitness, but they also understood that it’s a little different. That it’s not just a regular name. So I started looking at what I liked to read that’s motivating to me, what inspires me. And "The Art of War" [a 6th-century book about how to motivate soldiers to succeed in battle] was something that I’d read. I thought that would be cool to borrow from that.
How did you choose the domain Artof.fitness? Did you know that ‘dot-fitness’ (.fitness) was even an option?
I literally went to Go Daddy and typed in ArtofFitness. com, and it said that was not available – but that Artof.fitness came up as an option. When I saw that Artof.fitness was available, I scooped it right up.
There were others options out there, like ‘dot-net,’ ‘dot-org,’ ‘dot-whatever.’ And I said no, I don’t want any of that. I wanted it to be unique.
And I wanted a simple website name. Simplicity was key to me. One of the things we did at Disney with all of our films is we had to keep simplifying things to make it more efficient, to make that characters look more efficient, so that they could get more drawings done. One of the things I do in fitness with my clients is I try to simplify their lives.
Do your clients get the simplicity of your “not-com” domain?
People keep putting in Artof.fitness-dot-com. So I had to come up with a solution to that, and the solution I have is this: Even our website is on a diet.
It doesn’t have ‘dot-com.’ We got rid of it. We lost the ‘com.’
Why is your website important, especially as you're just starting out?
Professionalism, just looking polished was key. [When a website] looks second-rate, I just think, "Do I want somebody like that fixing my body?"
My clients book everything online. They pay for their training. They can pay for it online. They can see how many sessions they have left when they’re scheduled. They can schedule with me or any other trainer. When somebody walks into my studio and picks up a flier and walks out and does not buy training, I want them to look back and say, "That’s a professional website."
And then there's the artistic side it demonstrates.
Just about everything I’ve done in terms of building the studio has incorporated people from the art world that I worked with at Disney and my clients. For example, the guy that did my logo was the director on Princess and the Frog. The lady I have doing work with me in the studio on some of the wall, on some of the wall art, has worked with me for ten years at Disney. It’s been fun to be able to incorporate people from my past into my current work, because I’ve brought the artistic feel that I loved about that, about the Disney studio, into my job here at Art of Fitness.
To learn more about this business, visit the website www.Artof.fitness.