Coaching is a people business; it’s built almost entirely on relationships.
Do coaches need technical ability and deep knowledge of the body?
However, having the knowledge isn’t enough, especially in our digital world, where you can find the answer to anything in a few Google searches and a glance through YouTube.
What sets world-class fitness professionals apart isn’t the size of their certification wall. It’s how well all of that knowledge can be boiled down into something that’s not only usable but relatable to individual clients.
What does that mean?
It’s not just building individualized programs that meet the specific needs of your clients, although that’s a big step in the right direction.
It’s about creating a human connection with the person coming to you for help.
If they just wanted or needed a program, they could’ve found a great one online that pointed them in the right direction.
They need and crave more than that.
They want to feel seen, heard, and understood.
Those are deep human needs that most people aren’t getting met on a regular basis.
Does that mean you should become a pseudo-therapist when clients come in, and they’re having a hard day?
But it does mean that you need to be capable of adapting the work you do with them in the gym to the struggles they’re going through.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your client Tina comes in, and you can tell she’s struggling. With some prompting, she tells you that she dropped the ball on a big account at work. She thought she had everything buttoned up and ready to go before a big presentation, but something slipped through the cracks. She was embarrassed in front of the executives at her company, and now she’s confident she’ll be passed over for a promotion she’d been working hard to get.
She’s been beating herself all day for the mistake and, while telling you the story, referred to herself as “stupid, such an idiot, and incompetent” many times.
What’s the best course of action?
Do you put your hand on her shoulder and say, “I hear you, that sucks. Now let's sweat it out.”
Or do you do something else?
This is an opportunity to meet her where she is and provide massive unexpected value, which could look like this.
“Tina, I hear you; that sounds incredibly difficult and disappointing. Let’s go for a walk for our warm-up and talk about some things that will help you bounce back from this. Are you ok with that?”
That conversation would start with the way she’s talking to herself and the story she’s telling in her head.
If she’s telling herself she’s stupid, an idiot, and incompetent, her brain will look for evidence that the story is true.
In the state that she’s in, highly sympathetic, latching onto that information and accepting it as truth will be frighteningly easy.
Next, if appropriate, we would talk about how she’s managing stress, how it’s showing up in her body, and how it’s affecting her behavior. This portion of the conversation wouldn’t be deep. It would, however, be enough to give her the tools she needs to get herself back on track.
Later conversations would go deeper into stress management, but that’s probably not what she needs right now, nor would she have the bandwidth to digest it.
This process could take 10-15 minutes, leaving plenty of time to get in some good, hard physical work, which would likely be a great way to reset her nervous system.
That kind of interaction does two things: it helps clients feel seen, heard, and understood. It also gives them the tools they need to confront the problems immediately in front of them.
Clients who feel seen, heard, and understood will run through walls when things get tough.
They will rise to the occasion when the inevitable setback comes their way.
They will trust you wholeheartedly and apply every drop of education you give them.
Clients who feel seen, heard, and understood achieve their goals and refer their friends and family.
And in this case, clients like Tina can bounce back 10x faster than they would’ve if they just came in to “sweat it out.”