A Truth About Coaching and Personal Training

Where most people really need to work on themselves is in:

  • The Kitchen. The oft cited, never sourced adage is that 80% of your body comp depends on your diet, and abs are made in the kitchen. Debate the stats all you want but this is the truth. You can’t outwork a sub-optimal diet.
  • The Bedroom. (I don’t mean hanky panky either.) People need to get better sleep. Even well-trained athletes struggle to get consistent, high quality sleep. A lack of high quality sleep produces a snowball effect of stress, hormonal deprivation, and general fatigue that follows you wherever you go.
  • Their own minds. We all have our motivations, insecurities, anxieties, that drive us or hold us back. For many people, whatever they think they’re going to find in the gym or in therapy/medication is something they need to reconcile within themselves. It can be a general insecurity, something bad from the past, etc.

This is a fundamental issue I discovered with the use of personal training, even as I was studying to become a CPT. For the vast majority of people I could end up working with, I could only address the at-best ancillary concern of developing a workout program. I could not address let alone solve the underlying problems behind why they felt they needed it. And I cannot reconcile the salesman’s mindset to take their money because those underlying problems ultimately don’t matter as much as the need to train.

This is not totally the industry’s fault by any means. Trainers are just trying to earn a living. You paying for personal training pays their bills. Don’t take this as a fundamental indictment of personal trainers. Hell, all trainers are battling the exact same challenges I just listed. These needs and challenges are just as true for CPTs.

At the same time, even with the liability risk, if someone were to personally ask me for coaching or training, I’d have to seriously question and address the other stuff… beyond the customary Q&A of PARQs and assessments. It’s not anywhere close enough to ask, make a note, and give rudimentary lip service to the issues while pushing a client headfirst into a stabilization training program.

It’s not even enough to add extra certs, e.g. become a certified nutritionist (and yes, I’m working on earning a CN anyway; to mirror what I just discussed, I have my own important thought-through reasons).

The Nutritionist’s Problem: Diet errors are far easier for a client to lie about and cover up than their exercise habits. At least with exercise, a client can’t bullcrap their way through a CPT-led workout. But a client can claim they eat clean/right/healthy in front of a CN or RD, actually eat like garbage the entire other 6 days and 23+ hours of the week they don’t see said CN/RD, and there’s nothing a professional can do about it.

Then… never mind the psychological and emotional complications, most of which are beyond the scope of any fitness or diet professional.

Even professionals trained in psychology, psychiatry, or other mentally therapeutic practices aren’t necessarily taught the best practices for reconciling people’s hang-ups and demons. Many just try to drug the problem, and in fact many clients with these issues go to these professionals primarily to get a prescription for those drugs.

Usually, deep down, neither side is truly interested in reconciling the problem: The medical professional only gets paid as long as the client has the problem (unfortunately they are fundamentally trained as a business practice to do this: that’s where the money is). Usually, the client simply wants to drug their way through/around/past the problem, and the professional is a means to that end.

I’m not writing this to conquer or provide solutions for these problems. Most are beyond all of us, and most can only be totally reconciled by the person in the mirror.

I make the point because it’s helpful to point out that what you’re looking for may go beyond hiring a coach or a trainer.

A coach or a trainer is definitely useful for fulfilling a specific, tangibly addressable, future-foreseeable need that they are trained to handle.

  • Getting in better shape for a contest or wedding
  • Maintaining top condition and performance improvement if you’re a practicing athlete
  • Rehabbing after an injury
  • Preparing a diet plan when you immediately need to improve your health and you as a client literally have no idea where to begin
  • Training for an Army Fitness Test
  • Learning to do something brand new that you want or know you’re going to need to practice

However, your true underlying need behind why you’re seeking coaching may go beyond their scope. Actually, it usually goes beyond their scope.

If you’re trying to improve your self esteem or prove something to yourself, there’s probably some real-talk-level homework you need to do personally, psychologically, with yourself to reconcile the truth… before you throw $30/50/100+ an hour at a professional.

Not to mention, in this economy, with how much most people in society are financially struggling (yourself probably included)… you probably can’t afford to throw that kind of money each week at somebody, unless you know for damn sure it’s necessary (the way paying a mortgage or an electric bill is necessary) or going to return your investment (e.g. you buy a car because you need one to get around and you won’t have a car otherwise).

You have other bills to pay, and they’re not going to pay themselves or just go away. In fact, those bills may be the source of whatever anxiety of driving you to seek help. Perhaps the work you need to do is on budgeting, dialing back your spending habits, and finding the inner peace that will keep you from frivolous spending.

I’m thankful I don’t need to coach and train to pay the bills… not that you can do much of either in our current Coronavirus lockdown climate.

But even if I readily could coach and train today… if I’ve learned anything in the last year or two about coaching and training, it’s that the help most people need, the issues most people need to address to get what they want out of life, go way beyond coaching and training.

Trainers absolutely have their purpose… but recognize when their purpose serves your purpose, and when it doesn’t. It can be an expensive decision.

P.S. Notice I didn’t say much about sleep. That’s the easiest item of the above to address, and one that will probably low-key improve most people’s struggles if sleep-deprived. Turn the devices/lights off at night early and get some good sleep. Eat a big meal a couple hours before bed if it’s hard to do. Getting better sleep will improve your health and your energy. You don’t need a coach or a therapist for that. There’s not much to discuss there for now.

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