It’s important to identify what you cannot do.
This post is NOT a comparison of private sector coaching and collegiate coaching. I have not worked in a collegiate setting.
This post is NOT a comparison of training athletes and general population clients.
What’s the biggest change I’ve had to make? How has my career shifting after leaving the private sector (and Indianapolis) and moving into corporate wellness (mostly).
You’re Always Selling
I no longer have clients that are legally bound by a contract. My clients can (and have) quit with a moment’s notice.
There is now a need for continuous selling. It never ends.
It’s kind of like the difference between marriage and a relationship. Marriage “locks” someone down — or at least makes it more difficult for them to leave — but is that what you want? Do you want to stick it out with someone who doesn’t want to be around you? One of the draws putting off marriage is that you constantly sell yourself to the other person. This selects for a level-headed human who knows that you can be bad and you can be good. Instead of trying to force their hand, you trust them with information about the “real you”. Eliminate your anxiety about relationships or else this one is over. Share your insecurities so they know you’re human.
Don’t hold them down into a contract. Show they how great you are together. Show them the amazing things you both can make.
I’m not shunning marriage, but you can learn a lot from learning how to sell yourself. What is it that really matters to the other person? It doesn’t matter if that person is your significant other (hi babe) or a client.
What Motivates Someone?
I used to think it was stupid to put energy into motivating someone. But I was wrong.
My initial reaction was: I am not a rah-rah! coach.
My conclusion was: Motivating someone is stupid. If they aren’t motivated, then training isn’t right for them.
Though I still believe in the latter sentence, the former is fallacious. The conclusion is not that motivating someone is a waste of time, but that forcing my energy into someone will not be enough to change them.
Progress > novelty
Take the person in front of you and measure what matters. What gets measured gets managed. Use your expertise to decide what matters. Ask for their help in measuring it. Have them track their workouts (because that progress is easy). Tell them what a good job they’re doing.
DO NOT make everything all fluff. I am a positive person, but I’m also a realist. And I need people to trust me. Do you trust Instagram? Not everyone’s butt looks like that. Let’s be real for a minute.
Tell people when their reps are excellent. Tell them when they suck. “Most of those were great. You obviously know what I was asking for. You fell forward a little on the last rep, though, so just be cognizant that when you get fatigued, your body will want to revert back to what it knows best.”
CLEAR GOAL: Stay focused for my last rep.
Measure what matters because progress beats novelty.
Force People Into Autonomy
There’s only so much of me to go around. Mostly gone are my days of thinking I have the time and energy to solve every problem I think of. Plan ahead and know what is important.
Sometimes it’s important to set up someone’s weights. Increase the density of their session by letting them move on to their next exercise if you’re sitting there caught up on your note taking. This is common in one-on-one.
But if I have a free 5 seconds to put weights away in a small group, I need to remember that IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN FIVE SECONDS. This is just like the person who has a meeting in 15 minutes, knows it takes 15 minutes to get to the location, and still sits down to check their email before they go. We are irrational. Understand that and plan for it. Going to put those weights away might mean you can’t answer a question for the OTHER client that’s there working out with you.
Resist the fear of appearing lazy. Ask them nicely to put their weights away. Explain general physical preparedness to them. Tell them about how the worst part of deadlifting heavy is putting all the weights away after — it’s way more work. This shows them that they’re your kind of person. You’re like them. You like them. You respect them. And people like us clean up after ourselves.
Let’s Be Real Here
Though selling is important, don’t force it. It’s okay if someone has to leave early. It’s okay if they stop training with you. It’s okay if they aren’t going to bed at the right time. Just make sure they understand that all actions have consequences. And don’t take things personally.
Most “attacks” are not attacks at all. They’re just reality. If a client doesn’t like your program, it doesn’t mean they don’t like YOU as a person or as a coach. They just want a different program. If a client wants to hear why they’re doing an exercise, it doesn’t mean they don’t trust you. They just want to know the why. Can you blame them? I know I can’t.
This has been difficult to get over. I can’t blame “the system” anymore. I can only blame myself. But, more often than not, blame is irrelevant (and therefore a waste of emotional labor). Spend your time fixing problems instead of laying blame.
It would be easy to fill my schedule here with 60 hours of coaching. It would be impossible to sustain, but it would be easy to get going. I need to set limits on work. I still want to write posts like these for my website. I still want to have the chance to go to seminars (and even put on my own). I still want to read books. If I don’t strictly protect my schedule, I can’t do these things.
To revisit attacks from the previous section: some attacks are indeed malicious. Most of these attacks come from within (I’m stupid for saying that; I can’t help this person; Nobody likes my coaching). This war is never over.
There are other attacks, though, that come from others. Common here in Silicon Valley is, “Feedback is a gift.” This is not always true. Sometimes you’re just being mean and insensitive. People do that because they don’t know any better. There is no reason to take these attacks personally because they don’t come from a level-headed mind. Even if that person is someone you respect, they must have been extra emotional to give you feedback in that manner.
So when someone tells you that you’re just like the inexperience trainers she used to have… or you’ve stolen work from other people… or they don’t believe they should pay for their session because they didn’t know they had to pay for their session… cut them out. As best you can, distance yourself. Talk with a friend you respect. Let them help you evaluate the situation objectively; after being attacked, you’re too emotional to do so.
And understand that this isn’t something you’ll think about on your death bed. You’ll think about the great people you spent your time around, the impact they had on you, and all of the change you’ve made in the world.
Good luck on your next journey.
This post was inspired by a question from Dan Hechler.