Two Problems with Traditional Personal Training when it comes to creating lasting change in clients' lives.



One of the problems I found working out of a health club in London and indeed in one of the largest PT studio chains in the world in Sydney, Australia was finding the space to "coach".


Even when I ran my own small fitness studio, everything tends to squeeze towards providing an optimal "training" experience with relatively little time spent "coaching" nutritional and lifestyle change.


Even when we do include nutrition and offer guidance in terms of clients doing more cardio work, for example between sessions, our ability to permanently influence behaviour becomes limited, especially when we "educate" or "prescribe" nutritional or cardiovascular choices.


This whole problem is exacerbated when we conduct back-to-back sessions of course.


Why is "coaching" important?


Coaching is the aspect of our jobs where we empower clients. It's where we help them become more aware about what they truly want for themselves and what obstacles stand in the way.


It's where we help them anticipate and therefore avoid or better manage such obstacles (as opposed to removing them for them) so that they leave our programs more prepared to sustain an active and healthy lifestyle forever.


Coaching is about listening and understanding versus instructing and making sure we are being understood. It's the part of our role that is most influential with those clients who feel most vulnerable in a fitness environment, with a fitness professional, doing fitness things. And so if we wish to reach out to those who can most benefit from exercise and healthy eating, it is the catalyst that makes everything else work.


All too often clients can expect a diet plan or we find ourselves stating as a matter of fact what the best way to lose weight is, when the truth is there are many different ways to exercise and many different ways to eat to lose weight or be healthy.


The key, of course, when we "coach" well, is to find the approach that will most likely serve a particular client at any a particular point in time collaboratively to ensure maximum buy-in form them.


When we do we create results for life. When we don't, all too often, the results clients do accomplish can be short-lived since they were really complying with our program as opposed to creating their own changes in their own lives.


So, if the first problem is finding the space to "coach", the second problem tradition Personal Trainers face is about actually coaching well.




Most good trainers today recognise the importance of mindset and behaviour change in their work. The best, however, possess the specific skills to coach a stronger mindset and optimally influence lasting behaviour change.


Although I have had the opportunity to develop my own skills in this area by virtue of my Masters degree in Sport Psychology, my study of Motivational Interviewing and working as a Coach, I have to say this aspect of our role can be quite challenging.


Once we create the space (an extended induction and on-boarding session for new clients, period strategic reviews, the flexibility to permit breakout coaching interactions to troubleshoot as you go and dedicated motivational or nutritional orientated coaching consultation for example) we need to then coach.


As a coach we must ask great questions (a skill in itself), listen reflectively for content and meaning, tune into the body language also communicated consciously or not, and all whilst training them answering their questions about protein and supplementation or whether kale is better than broccoli.


Dealing with more negative patterns of thinking, emotional-based eating, environmental cues that reinforce old behaviours and social influences that can easily send a client backwards are all part of being a great coach.


Asking more than telling, assuming a collaborative approach borrowing from both party's expertise, and backing off from any pre-determined solutions can all contribute to a truly coach-centred approach.


What about online coaching?


Whether blended with your face-to-face training, or delivered as a stand alone service or indeed created as a complete business solution, online coaching can provide the space and assuming you have the skills, can provide the perfect way to genuinely change lives whilst enjoying the flexibility and profitability of working from your laptop. anywhere in the world!


Darren T.

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