October 9, 2015 by Darlene McC
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of teaching habit coaching to a group of 35 trainers on the LES. These are all technically knowledgeable professionals who work with “GenPop” ~ general population clients. I kicked off with the idea that we have 3 types of clients (while also recognizing that we have more than 3 types):
1. Highly Motivated & Listen to everything you have to say like you’re a training god (or, as husband put it “you don’t have to convince them to be there, just tell them what to do”)
2. Wish They Were in Group #1 (or pretend they are) – inconsistent, cancel or reschedule often, but keep showing up; at least for a little while
3. Don’t Want to be There on some level – but feel they have to for all kinds of reasons. This could go any number of ways and highly effected by the coach
As trainers the first things we learn are rules of form and function – anatomy, mechanics, maybe some programming, how the heart works, etc; so you focus on those things. I spend a lot of time working with trainers in their first year who struggle when clients start to drop off or lose focus. I also know dozens of trainers who, 5 or 10 years in, get so frustrated working with “GenPop” (in their minds the 2nd & 3rd groups) that they throw their hands up and move on.
But if we’re real with ourselves, most people who come to us aren’t “fit people getting fitter” ~ they’re moderate to low on the knowledge scale and possibly even lower on the motivation scale. They want the results; but they’re often scared, confused, and sometimes really unaware of how their own behavior and pre-conceptions are holding them back.
John Berardi at Precision Nutrition (one of my fav blogs as a pro, btw) has pointed out in a few lectures that it’s a small population who gets to work with professional athletes, or even high level college athletes, and get to coach high skill, high motivation, who don’t deviate from program. Most of the people any trainer works with will need reframing, refocus, adjustment, and sometimes tough love. And the difference between a trainer and a high quality coach is how well they can take someone new to fitness who is struggling and support them through to success.
Part of this process is disillusionment. Built it with being human are our illusions about ourselves. We all have them; some helpful for getting through day to day life (clearly, mine is that I’m actually Wonder Woman), and some harmful when it comes to where you’re trying to get as a person. The illusion that you “know how to eat well” is a good example (I get this one a lot in the consultation room). Until recently I honestly thought I was an okay listener…turns out I am with my clients but I suck at it in other professional contexts. And I really struggled to accept it at first.
The disillusionment process; the becoming “aware” of ones self, can be very painful. It’s often embarrassing or uncomfortable. That moment when you realize that who you thought you were is disconnected from how you actually are in the world and how other people might perceive you. But a skilled coach is deft at slowly shaving away little challenges, sometimes so the client doesn’t even realize they’re doing it and later sees they’ve completely changed their own self-image. It’s great to watch and even better to be the coach!
It starts with picking “doable” things you (or your client) know can be conquered and building on success. Changing habits over time and being willing to be easy on yourself (emotionally; not from an accountability perspective!) It also begins with being honest with yourself about where you’re at and where you want to be ~ there’s no shame in recognizing you want to change. It’s how we grow and evolve as people!
Post in the comments your journey of self discovery and how you got past that “stuck” moment where you really had to accept where you were at. I’d love to hear from you.