Many years ago when I got started as a fitness coach I made a huge mistake. Now it wasn’t anything related to technique where somebody got hurt. And it wasn’t an inappropriate comment or action that I made. Instead it was more of a case of something I didn’t do.
I had been hired by a lady to help her get ready for a marathon she was going to compete in. And so I did all the relevant assessments and tests. I made sure she had the right nutritional approach to fuel her workouts and recovery. And I made sure her training was geared towards success in the marathon.
I was proud of myself. I felt as though we had the best plan going forward to allow this client to achieve their goal in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible.
And then I found out I was wrong.
Here’s what I mean.
During one of our training sessions I engaged this client in some conversation related to the training. And it went something like this.
Me: Have you run many marathons before?
Client: No this will be my first one.
Me: Are you doing the race with friends to make it more fun and enjoyable?
Client: No it’s just me.
Me: Oh, so it this like a ‘bucket-list’ type of thing?
Client: No, not really.
Me: Well, do you just really love running and want to get and do what you really love for 26.2 miles?
Client: No, actually I can’t say that I love running.
Me (after scratching my head for a while): Remind me again why you’re training for a marathon then if you don’t really enjoy this, you’re not doing it others and it’s not a big goal of yours.
Client: Well I need to lose 20 lbs and everyone knows running is one of the best ways to lose weight.
Once I felt like I could speak again I asked this client if she was ok with using a different approach to lose 20 lbs. It wouldn’t involve as much running. It would involve more lifting. It would include a slightly different nutritional plan. And it would require 4-5 hours per week of training instead of the 10-12 she was currently doing.
I think her knees almost buckled and she looked as though as she might cry.
Client: Let’s do that instead.
This client went on to lose more than 20 lbs, was able to achieve her goal with 4 hours of training per week, has kept the weight off and runs 1/2 marathons whenever friends ask her to join them.
So what’s the point of all this?
Well, unless we get down to core of why we’re doing what we’re doing we can get off-track. We can use the wrong approach. We can get started on an approach that isn’t as efficient as it could be.
As a coach I need to remember to dig back the layers when sitting down with someone to discuss training. After someone states a goals i.e. like losing 20 lbs, than I need to find out as many details about this goal as possible. The more information and details I have, the better.
But it works both ways.
Clients need to be as open as possible. When something is held back it limits progress and sometimes prevents results entirely.
So how does a client hold back?
It might be refusing to give a best effort. It might be missing or skipping sessions. It might be showing up late or leaving sessions early. It might be under-reporting nutritional indulgences or over-reporting exercise done outside the gym. It might mean getting to bed later than is required to achieve a goal.
It might be a number of things. And it’s not always an attempt by the individual to deceive. It can be that a client forgets to tell you about the 3 beers and nachos they had Tuesday evening. Or they believed they had given their best effort but still have potential available. It not always an attempt to deceive or mislead.
What’s the solution?
As a coach, we need to take the time to really get to know our clients. We need to know what makes them tick and what sets them off. We need to know how they learn? Do they want lots of instruction and demonstration or do they want to get in there and do it? When they fail do they need to be challenged to do better or reminded that everyone fails and to simply get back up and get at it?
As we build a rapport and develop a relationship with a client they are more likely to trust us. They are more likely do what we want and divulge their fears and what’s holding them back.There is as much value in this, and possible more, than writing the perfect training and nutritional plan for someone.
Looking back at the marathon program I wrote for that client many years ago I know this to be true.
Going forward make sure you don’t hold back. If you work with a coach let them everything that is relevant to your goal so they can do the best job for you. And if you are a coach make sure you invest as much time in getting to know your client as you do in their programming.