Do I even need a coach?

Do I even need a coach? 

This is a really common question and my general response over the years has been pretty much the same. If you get sick do you go to see a doctor or rely on Google to provide you with enough detail to sort of, maybe, get you better? You go see a doctor, right? Of course you do. And why? because getting it wrong when you get sick can either prolong an illness, or worse, you could miss something really bad. Same goes for almost everything else;  fixing your car, building your house, doing your taxes. Unless you feel really brave or have serious amounts of time to learn you’re probably going to need an expert to point you in the right direction.  So why are so many people so inclined not to call in an expert who could help them build a structured plan of attack that will better equip them with the tools and knowledge needed to set them up for long term success?

So, do you need a coach? Here are a few ‘people types’ who definitely need a coach:

  1. Have you been training in the gym for a number of years without changing your routine beyond the traditional body building style of working out (Monday: Chest and Bi’s etc)?  If this is you then you probably need to have a think about your goals, and if that answer isn’t “to be a body builder” then why are you training like a body builder? I would imagine that your bench press is the same as it was 5 years ago and that you probably miss leg day at least 3 or 4 times a month. I personally love these people. So adamant that they know best, they are normally the loudest haters of all other training formats (as a CrossFitter I take shit from this crowd on a regular basis).  Coaching notes: Severe mobility issues, poor to non existent aerobic power , major muscle imbalances, especially posterior chain weaknesses. I could go on…..
  2. You are untrained, have lived a sedentary life and you’re getting into fitness after the age of 40 with a training age of zero. Chances are you have either had a major health scare, a family member has hit you up with some ‘fix your shit” speech, or you’ve looked at your kids and realised that you probably won’t be around to see them graduate high school. Coaching notes: Not wanting to be a downer, but why have you waited this long to get started? You have a long road ahead of you. If this is you then you represent a massive and growing population within the fitness market that needs to stay the fuck away from globo gyms at all costs. You NEED a PT from one of these places like I need a hammer in the face. If you don’t seek out a decent coach who will ease you in properly – layering your fitness, fixing the problems and dealing with your many, MANY failures, then chances are you will be back to your old self within 6 months of starting. Not wanting to be too brutal, but you guys prop up the careers of terrible PT’s who WANT TO TAKE YOUR MONEY, but don’t give a shit if you succeed or fail.  And these charlatans are everywhere. I implore you (on my knees if necessary) not to take that 1 month free membership at the local globo gym. Quick declaimer: There are some awesome trainers out there working under the banner of some corporate machine. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for the newbie to navigate the fitness landscape to find one of these gems. You may simply find yourself in a cycle of Zumba classes and spin – which is neither going to fix your health or keep you motivated past the first 3 months. 
  3. You are fit, strong, knowledgeable and dedicated to getting better as competitive masters athletes.  You are either working in the health and fitness World right now, or you have previously. You might be ex military or an ex athlete who doesn’t want to go quietly into the night. You are experienced, have a high training age and you may even coach other athletes. Coaching notes: You guys definitely need a coach. Some of you probably think that you know enough already. That you are above being coached by a 20 something S&C Coach. Believe me you are not! Having a great coach who has a particular expertise in training Masters athletes is the difference between longevity and burning yourself out super quick. How many times have you over-trained this year already – are you getting sick, plateauing or worse, going backwards? A good coach will program rest and will focus on your lifestyle outside of the gym. Also. Programming for yourself is tough. It’s hard being objective and having someone else dictate your training allows you to focus on the rest of your life. 

Selecting the right coach for you, and what to look for:

  1. Your goals: Whether your goal is to lose a bit of weight or compete in a masters power-lifting competition you need to find a coach who specialises in this and only this. There are plenty of amazing trainers out there who have changed the lives of their clients forever it just takes a bit of time and effort on your side to do a bit of due diligence before you commit. What to ask?: Be sure to ask for at least 3 referrals from clients this potential coach has already succeeded in helping. You wouldn’t hire an employee on face value alone, so why hire a trainer/coach.  Ask to speak face to face with a current client. Maybe even ask to observe a couple of sessions.
  2. Their expectations: You will have a goal in mind, but you should remain open to the suggestion of your coach. A good coach will not be afraid to  give you advice that you might not want to hear. Tough love should be at the forefront of every coaches approach. If they just tell you what you want to hear then they are not doing their job.  Remember, a good coach is not just a paid best friend for and hour. 
  3. Approach: A good coach will build a program based on testing and goal orientation. For example: A new client with little or very limited training experience would be tested on a very regular basis to gauge how the training stimulus has been effecting them. This information is then used to direct their program going forward. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there is no saying how different people will react to training or how well they will recover. Especially when they are brand new to exercise – as we now know gene expression is not the same in all people, and some new clients progress much faster than others. This point also re-enforces the need for training programs to be highly personal if the need to reach a goal is either time dependant or previous experience of fitness programming has not heralded much success. If you are a much more experienced athlete with a good deal of training behind you (mature training age),  then you will have a much better idea about how certain training will affect you. As such testing will be done less regularly. This being said, your program should be designed to specifically target your weaknesses regardless of whether it aligns with immediate goals or not. Your long terms success depends of fixing the holes in your game.

There are many more factors which effect your long term success and we will be getting into these in depth over the coming weeks. Specifically I want to take a detailed look at different types of programs and to make some suggestions based on both personal experience and anecdotal evidence.

Next week: Why your diet might be limiting your success.

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