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Coach vs. Trainer

August 1, 2018 by Richard Cohen

The problem with trainers is that they are just too damn good at giving advice….

As a health and fitness professional and business owner, I’m constantly asking myself how I have contributed to people, how I helped them and what we can do to be even better after every class or training session, upon meeting new clients or when strategising the business.

In the past, ruminating on these questions has gotten excessive; only to now realise that striving for perfection and control can often feel like failure when things do not go the way you expect them to.

Thankfully, I now view this reflection exercise as a great opportunity to improve my own experience, not everyone else’s. Why? Because I believe that the most crucial part of a coach’s job is to empower our clients to create and take ownership of their own goals.

As a new generation of leaders step-up, they are moving forward amidst a wellness movement; where work/life balance, exercising regularly and eating well takes precedence. Thus, the approach a coach takes with their client has never been of greater significance. Now, we are understanding more and more that living our best life comes down to our own choices and coaches must be able to help clients clearly identify their goals in coming to you. Where choices are plentiful and loyalty demands personalisation and immediacy, skipping this process will result in a fast decline in active member rates and missed opportunities to grow your business.

Trainer vs. Coach

Imagine this scenario:

It has been a year since you last had a gym membership but you know you ‘need to start /working out more’

Feeling apprehensive and self-conscious, you try to justify not committing to your fitness;

“Why should I bother? It’s too late”
“Is this worth it? I’m not going to learn anything new”
“I know myself, I never manage to stick to anything I try, so why am I doing this again?”
“I’m tired and I’ve had a hell of a day, it’s easier to go home, order some food and get some sleep – I deserve the rest.”
“I’ll do yoga tomorrow night.”

After battling the voices back and forth, you get yourself over to your local gym.

From the outside, it is every nightmare you imagined; bright fluorescent lights, mirrored walls, techno music and even worse, a bunch of energetic, muscle bound men and women in tight clothes and skimpy outfits.

Along comes Mr. Personal Trainer;

“Hi there, my name is Mr. T, nice to meet you, are you wanting to join the gym? Let me tell you how it works…

You will get…and…. Then, you pay…and you will get …unlimited.Then, you should lift weights, do more cardio, stretch before each session, stretch after each session, eat high protein, eat plants, try intermittent fasting…blah, blah and blah.”

And this is where the problem begins.

The problem with trainers is that they are conditioned (pun intended) at positioning themselves as an expert in their field. Their main role is to give advice and fit clients around their own training methods. Clients may leave feeling unheard and trainers will probably end a consultation knowing the client wants to lose weight but without knowing why.
I recently attended an ICF coaching course where we spent four intensive days learning how to connect with clients, bringing awareness to both yourself and the client by asking powerful questions; a simple craft so easily missed in the early stages of a new coach-client relationship.

I experienced how powerful this process can be first-hand, now reflecting on my previous behaviour and identifying a number of holes in my own client-handling skills.

It is also worth noting that right now, executives with high spending power (aka, likely to be your target market) are now from Generation X, the pre-Millennials (my generation), and we have a different notion to the Baby Boomers who were a lot more conservative (and also known as the privileged generation). (I might get into trouble with my Mum here; apparently, they got some lucky breaks with property prices.)

We, Gen X’ers, are a little more liberal and if something does not look or feel right or make sense to us, we are more likely to challenge it. Gen X’ers like to know that whatever we invest our time and money into, will return a result and that result will be viable, sustainable and easily maintained. Otherwise, we will see what the competition has to offer.

On another note, if you think our attention span is short, do not get me started on the Millennials who grew up playing Angry Birds.

Clients demand more value, more faster than ever before and they want to feel secure about their investment. They are no longer looking for general advice on whether or not to lift weights or which new diet promises a 5% drop in body fat. 2018 clients want to know what is best for T-H-E-M and providing an individualised training and diet plan will inspire them to take responsibility for their own results… appealing to their actual wants and needs is game-changing stuff!

So, how do you know if you are talking to a trainer or a professional coach?

A coach will be present, focused on you and have a high level of awareness to your situation.
A coach will make you feel comfortable to your environment and your surroundings.
A coach will listen, ask intelligent and thought provoking questions
A coach will guide and assist you finding out what you want from within yourself which is even more powerful than someone else’s suggestion.
A coach will be there to catch you if you fall and encourage you to continue.
A coach will give you tough love and hold you accountable to your actions
A coach will help you create and action your best plan your way.
A coach will honour the relationship with the client by commanding respect and commitment from both sides.

When shopping for a new place to train or seeking out a coach, be sure to look for a level of professionalism that you deserve.

  1. Always insist on a written and signed contract between client and coach to support any verbal agreement on type of training, services and terms and conditions.
  2. Your initial consultation should identify your goals clearly, using a SMART format or similar
  3. Measure your starting weight, body composition, fitness level and take a reference photo
  4. Discuss your workout schedule, nutritional guidelines and an accounting system that can be easily communicated with your coach
  5. Ask your coach how you will track progress and record training sessions together

Lastly, finding and hiring the right coach should be like finding your soul mate. At first, there is a bit of give and take, then when the trust is built on agreed mutual goals, both parties do their part in maximising time together and creating long lasting success, having fun and continuing to overcome obstacles along the way.

Raise your standards and stay curious, get involved with your progress whilst always looking to improve yourself; your potential is limitless.

Richard Cohen
CEO & Founder The LAB
Author FITpro to PROfit
ICF ACSH, NLPTLT


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