Coaching and Personal Training:
or Polar Opposites
by Phil Kaplan
Phil, I read your article about the 3-bases assessment
and hoped you could share some insight into how you know how
to motivate and coach your clients. I have a B.S. in Exercise
Science, I have N.A.S.M. and N.S.C.A. certification, and I
have a pretty strong reputation. I just get frustrated when
clients drop out, strike out, or find excuses for a lack of
adherence. I want to accept "respons-ability" as
you suggest, but . . . I sometimes feel I can only provide
the map, I can't get people to follow the road. I want to
believe I can get better at delivering results, but I need
a bit of direction from the master.
A: I remember being
asked at a Club Industry conference several years ago in Chicago
to cover for a speaker who failed to show up. I don't remember
the precise title of the session, but it was built around
the word "Coaching." The program summary spelled
out the curriculum as if a wonderful new profit opportunity
was going to be revealed. The message seemed to be, "you,
as a personal trainer, are missing out, if you fail to find
credential as a Wellness Coach."
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS
admit, 16 hours before the session, when I was first asked
to replace the missing speaker, I had no idea what the term
"Wellness Coaching" meant. I mean, the term appeared
to be self explanatory . . . but the vague and alluring session
description led me to believe there's some element of this
specialty that required a new type of knowledge.
I made some phone calls.
I searched on the web. I found my way to people who offer
Coaching certifications as well as to people who advertised
themselves as Wellness Coaches. I interviewed them, trying
to distinguish what the difference was between an effective
Personal Fitness Trainer and an effective "coach."
Here are a few of the
answers I received:
prescribe exercise, coaches assist people in making better
incorporate psychology and deal as much with the head as
with the body
listen and use the client's words and expressions of goals
and frustrations to initiate action
I sat in my hotel room
scratching my head, still trying to identify the difference.
Then it hit me. There isn't a need for a new credential as
much as there's a need to identify where even well-educated
personal trainers may be falling short.
and the trainers I employ, not only prescribe exercise,
but we begin by identifying motivational triggers, goals,
and desires. We examine outlook and history and we assess
how solid the link is between the desired change and the
perceived plan of action. We then assist the client in making
and the trainers I employ, not only prescribe exercise,
but we identify false beliefs, we teach, assess, and ask
the clients to playback ideas and concepts to ensure comprehension.
We are in our clients heads. We must be in our clients heads.
After all, we guarantee results and we understand that mindset
may be the predominant determinant of adherence.
and the trainers I employ, recognize that we cannot effectively
prescribe exercise unless we smoke out the client's challenges,
and provide strategies to overcome obstacles.
What hit me wasn't a sudden
understanding of the distinction between personal training
and coaching, but rather the commonality between effective
trainers who recognize the need for a holistic overview and
the new breed of individuals who are adding a Coaching certification
to their list of credentials.
the hours before the session I continued to search the web
and pulled up statistical promises that held various types
of "coaching" up as the next wave. The articles
I perused had nothing to do with the image that came to my
mind when I thought of a coach. No clipboard. No whistle.
No screaming on the sidelines. Business coaches, life coaches,
and wellness coaches were supposed to emerge as great saviors
helping mankind address the stresses and struggles inherent
in the 21st century.
My intention is not to
in any way downplay the virtues of any coaching credentials,
but I do hope to stimulate thought and conversation that helps
escalate the power and the perception of those who commit
to earning their livings by bettering the lives of others.
Whether or not you opt to study "coaching," if you
fail to integrate psychology, motivation, goal setting, and
ongoing direction into your exercise-based business, results
will be severely limited. I don't intend, in a single article,
to provide you with a foundation of knowledge that will allow
you to expand the scope of your perceived client responsibility,
but I do want to inspire you to enhance your knowledge incorporating
the mental, nutritional, emotional, and physical elements
that unbreakably connect with exercise programming.
As trainers we think of
the assessment as a physical measurement of present ability
and body composition. We assess strength, flexibility, coordination
and balance, and percentage of bodyfat. For most trainers
it stops there. The assessment is used as a tool to confirm
results. The hope is that a 90-day follow up will reveal body
composition improvements and enhanced performance ability.
I begin the assessment
with an uncovering of emotion and an exploration of perspective.
In fact, I'm usually 30 minutes into the consultory conversation
before I find the radial artery and begin the physical component
of the measuring process.
I'll share a few of the
elements I assess and a handful of the methodologies I've
learned to use to gain complete perspective and ensure the
client moves toward desired results.
A New Way To
Approach the "Goals" Question
Before I get into any
discussion of exercise, I want to understand the new client's
goals and want to make certain expectations are mutually accurate.
I begin with the following question:
you get everything you want from our trainer : client relationship,
what specifically will be different in your life?"
That's a very powerful
question. It opens up a dialogue. It allows me to identify
a perspective that I'll either need to embrace or modify.
It typically evokes a specific response identifying primary
goals and aspirations. The next step is to pinpont perceptions
of time frame and to assess whether anticipated achievements
for me the specific changes that will take place over the
first six months."
After they respond, I
prompt another response with two words.
With the beginnings of
"goals" now on the figurative table, I begin to
explore precisely what will motivate or demotivate the client.
Should I Push?
I plan on releasing a
book toward the end of 2007 sharing the complete strategy
I've developed over the past 20 years for eliciting motivational
types, but for now suffice it to say I want to learn whether
they are more driven by moving toward a specific outcome or
away from a specific pain. Questions and continued dialogue
help me understand what verbal, auditory, and kinesthetic
triggers will serve as allies in facilitating adherence and
Next I use a simple form
with a 1-5 rating system that the client will use to evaluate
perspective on each of the following concepts:
Just as you'd establish
a baseline for your physical tests, this establishes a perspective
baseline. The answers are objective and in a follow-up, assuming
I live up to my responsibilities, they will always be higher.
I immediately proceed
to the next questions:
What do you believe
is the primary obstacle that might make "stick-to-it-iveness"
What do you believe
might most hinder your results?
By recognizing early on
what the challenges will be, I can immediately begin directing
self-talk to help the client persevere beyond what might have
previously felt like crippling obstacles.
in mind, we still haven't touched skinfold calipers. We sit
face to face, eye-to-eye, bringing out the thoughts that have
the potential to limit or facilitate "results."
I have two more questions
I want answers to before I count pulse beats or strap on a
blood pressure cuff.
is your most pressing fitness goal?
You might think this is
repetitive, but it many cases it reveals a previously unclarified
priority. As an example, when I ask how life will be different
six months from now, I might hear about energy changes, fitting
in clothes better, and developing the confidence to pursue
new undertakings. when I ask for the most pressing goal, that
same individual might grab a handful of bodypart and say something
to the effect of, "I want to get rid of this." Clearly
they don't want to get rid of a bodypart, but the answer reveals
that if I can help evidence progress in the perceived "trouble
spot," I've got a hooked client.
The final pre-physical
assessment question is:
specific changes would you like to see in the mirror?
I realize, at first glance,
this may also appear repetitive, but in many cases it provides
We all communicate and
learn using visual, auditory, and kinestethic interaction,
but each person is unique in how they subconsciously prioritize
these stimuli. In other words, some people are more visually
oriented, but others are more driven by "feelings."
Visual people will typically answer the earlier questions
by including some aesthetic changes, but auditory and kinesthetic
folks might omit how they want to "look." We are
so conditioned to use visual stimuli, such as before and after
photos, to market ourselves that we may tend to assume everyone
has a primary goal based on the camera lens. That is an example
of short-sighted thinking. I make certain to integrate all
three elements into my client interaction, but I also attempt
to identify the mode in which the client is most comfortable
Kinesthetic and auditory
people may not share aesthetic goals, until prompted. Thus,
"what specific changes would you like to see in the
mirror" tends to at times be a vital question for
determining how the before and after photo will ideally look.
I've taken a long and
winding road toward providing the insight you seek, but I
hope my response offers some value in helping you refine your
presentation and connect with client motivation at a higher
level. The assessment is not the key, but it's the first step.
After the preliminary dialogue, a program can be designed
along with an establishment of milestones that serve as stepping
stones toward the long range goals.
That brings us full circle.
We listen, we assist in decision making, we inspire, we direct,
and we motivate. That's how we go beyond providing the map.
That's how we get people to follow the road.
I now realize that translates
to two simple words, "we coach."
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