7 Things You Need To Know About Working With a Coach or Trainer
Today’s article is a fun one for me to write, since I get to lay out the important things that a client should understand and consider when they hire or decide to work with a coach, trainer, or team of individuals who are helping them achieve a goal.
I have now worked with thousands of clients in a variety of environments and settings. I started in the personal training environment for a few months, while still in and immediately following university. After graduation, I worked in the military system as an Exercise Physiologist, administering fitness testing and leading group fitness and rehab programming.
Finally, I have spent the past 7 years owning and running my own facility, where me and my team created our own system for how we assess, program, manage and coach our clients and athletes. My clients have ranged from 60+ year old women who have lost over 100lbs, to National and International athletes from a variety of sports. I have worked with all ages, experience levels and so many medical conditions and injuries, I couldn’t imagine listing them all.
So, needless to say, I have gotten to encounter so many different people, personality types and situations that I am able to identify some important points for anyone to consider before hiring and while working with a coach or trainer.
Here are 7 points to consider when deciding to hire or work with someone in the sports performance or fitness industry:
- It is not your coaches job to make you work hard.
I think this one deserves to be #1, since I see so many people not achieve the results they want. When we get into discussions as to what they think are the reasons, I will hear various responses such as:
“I just wasn’t motivated”
“I feel like I need more coaching”
“I find it hard to push myself”
ALL of these responses are redirecting attention from one primary thing…the actual effort and work that the individual needs to put into achieving their own goals.
Remember that you are entering a relationship with your coach, and their efforts have to be matched by yours. In fact, the actual work and commitment to your success has to be greater on your end. No coach in the world can give you results, they can only guide you and be there for support.
As long as both of you know your roles and it is laid out in the beginning, there shouldn’t be any issues along the way. Ask questions and understand what is involved, then do the work.
- You are not always going to be motivated, no one is. And it is not your coaches job to motivate you.
This one is talked about a lot in various circles regarding productivity. Simply put, no one is always motivated. Some of the most successful people you know are not the ones who can crush it in life when they are motivated, we can all do that. When you are motivated, you want to accomplish things, you want to do the work and you want to achieve success.
The challenge for many, comes when they use motivation as an excuse for skipping necessary work or not stepping up and just getting it done. Successful people get up every day, and do what they have to do, regardless of how they feel about it. And the reality is, that most of the time you won’t want to train hard, do your extra sets or reps, or cook and prepare healthy food, etc…
This will likely never change and the motivation will ebb and flow like seasons throughout the year. The sooner you choose your goal and accept that it is going to require consistent work, the sooner you will see and feel appreciable results.
Likewise, although your coach or trainer is there to motivate you in a training session, push you to go up in weight and give you feedback, it is not their job to text you, check in daily and make sure you are doing what you have to. They are your feedback, your educator and someone you can confide in and who supports you in your road to achieve success.
Just don’t think that hiring someone to help means that you are going to have a new source of long term motivation, it just doesn’t work that way and is what often separates mediocre from incredible results.
- Your coach’s world does not revolve around you.
Technology has made this one become a main point to discuss. At the end of a coaching day, after all training is complete, it is easy for people to instantly connect with their coaches. This is a great thing and builds a faster connection, trust and a solid bond in the relationship. This is important, especially in the early stages.
Sometimes though, it gets abused without anyone meaning to do so. Texting or messaging your coach or trainer 6 times every day, just to tell them you ate the salad you were supposed to, gets really old, really fast. They are trying to not only provide energy and a positive experience when they work with you, but they also have their own lives to live, down time with friends and family and other clients to take care.
My main point here, is to remember that you hired them to help with your goals, so try to keep communication on point and relevant.
If you need to discuss something with them, definitely do so, but save the rest for when you are in the gym and they can focus on you and your needs appropriately. They will be in the right head space at that time and both of you will be able to be more productive and focused on your goals.
- Coaches need feedback in order to grow and create effective programming for you.
This one is crucial for long term success for a few reasons. One being, that without subjective feedback from someone, a coach can only rely on objective feedback. How you feel goes a long way, and your coach can use that feedback to make your experience more productive and focused.
For example, from a strength & conditioning standpoint, an athlete may tell you what they initially feel is their weaknesses in a sport, yet what is objectively seen in your assessment may point in a different direction. There is no right or wrong here, but rather mutual input. The coach can listen to your feedback, and as your training and programming evolves over time, you will both be effectively helping to fine tune the process and playing considerable roles in making that success happen.
My longest term clients and those with the most success, know what they enjoy and what feels good for them. It is not my job to impose my beliefs or training methods in a fixed manner. I have to listen to them and work with their feedback. Paying attention to yourself helps tremendously with this process!
- Your efforts will directly reflect your results.
I have touched on this already, but I’ll mention it briefly again. In my initial meetings or consultations with potential clients, I explain one thing clearly and am open and honest with them- their consistent efforts will directly reflect their results.
As long as someone understands the work that is needed from their side, results and progress shouldn’t be a problem and it gives a clear understanding as to the roles of everyone involved.
- Do your part to retain information. You are paying to learn from someone, so be the best student you can.
For me personally, this one is huge. You have paid someone to teach and educate you, and that is a constant ongoing process that will empower you and make you more efficient for life!
Listen intently to your coach, take notes if you have to, ask for clarification, etc…. If however, you follow blindly and never retain anything, moving forward and adding layers to your learning process become impossible and you are always at square one or at least moving forward at a snails pace.
This is frustrating for the coach and the client. You never get to move on to new challenges, training may feel mundane and progress is slower. All of these are less than productive and can be remedied by making an active effort to learn and develop your skill set and ability to effectively complete your programming.
I think a great strategy is to go over all questions before a training sessions starts, or if it suits better, do so at the end. Asking questions should be welcomed and a huge part of the relationship. Not everything can be covered every day, since actual training has to take place. Asking questions and making an active effort to learn will benefit everyone involved.
- Your coach is not there to be your new best friend.
I have always thought this, and when I heard world renowned coaching expert, Brett Bartholomew say it, it rung even more true. A coach is not a new best friend (although they certainly can be). Some people may read that and think it means something negative, but it is far from that.
Coaches are there to push you, educate you and guide you. They are not there to ask about your day, tell you that you did a good job when you didn’t or be your cheerleader. They should be open, honest, blunt and stern if appropriate.
I have some clients who are literally my best friends, and others whom I do not know their children’s names. Both of them get incredible results if they show up and put in the work. They trust me, listen to me, try to learn and ask questions. I give feedback, write the programs, communicate with them and listen to how they feel.
It is my job to continue to educate myself, my job to know who to trust if I need to outsource and get help, and my job to provide a safe and proper environment for them to succeed in. My clients are cool with our respective roles, and so am I. Sometimes you will connect on a personal or friendship level, and that is always awesome. It is not mandatory though.
Some of my clients are high profile business CEO’s, parents with multiple children with busy schedules or high level athletes with sport practice to get to. They need to be in and out of the gym and are in straight up get shit done mode when they are in there. There is no opportunity for us to become best friends and it is a business interaction every workout.
All of this is normal and expected when people work together, and as long as you allow your relationship with your coach to grow organically and do not assume they are now your best friend who will never come down on you, the better off you will both be.
Coaches play a role, but it is not for the client to determine what that role is, yet more so to understand it and together make success happen.
I hope this article sheds some light on some points to consider when hiring or working with a professional in the fitness industry (and perhaps other industries apply here). My goal was to be honest and give you clarity on what to expect and how to find the person who is best for you.
Remember to ask questions, give feedback, tell your coach what you need, know your personal responsibilities, understand that motivation is not an absolute and let things flow from there!
Keep communication open and be a student!