Thomas Plummer

The business of fitness

Finding the humanistic side of coaching


(Three minute read)

It is easy as a coach to hurt people. Young coaches do it every single day by over training the client or by using the old, “I only know one way to train people and if it doesn’t work for you tough, you are going to train this way no matter what.”

It is much harder in this business to get maximum results, from the largest number of clients over time; a skill that takes years of patience, education and finally the ability to see the client as a truly unique experience.

Most coaches seems to pass through three stages as they progress through their careers: you become completely enamored with a methodology, you move to becoming a technical nightmare and then you finally, if you survive and if you haven’t killed any clients, arrive at the humanistic stage of training where you can truly individualize the vast tools you have accumulated in your arsenal to help a client succeed with the most simplistic approach necessary.

It should also be pointed out that a training business only makes money when the majority of its coaches, or at least the owner who spends his time coaching coaches, arrives at the last humanistic stage. Overly technical, over initialed behind the name and overly zealous to prove you know it all absolutely kills client retention. It is not how much you know that impresses clients; it is how much you can help me get what I want or need using the least stressful process.

Clients seek results, but the majority that stay longer and pay longer in your business want it as simple as possible, entertaining, and well coached, meaning is it safe and can you keep me from hurting myself? Nothing like coming from a hard day at work and having your coach take you through nine different exercises that have to be repeated for three full rounds.

Then add that there are five in your group that day and we are all doing the exercises at a different rate so our coach is now all over the gym trying to keep a herd of people who are now doing nothing but free styling doing their own workout on track and in good form.

In this example, we lost the power of the group dynamic, we lost the ability to coach because we lost control of the group and most importantly, we have annoyed a paying client who feels he or she is paying for coaching, but finds himself standing in a corner doing an exercise on his own with his coach on the other side of the damn gym. Let’s look at the three stages and what they do to your coaching business:

The methodology stage

This is the easiest trap to fall into in coaching. You are new to the industry, know nothing, spend a day or two at a certification, and now you have a fully developed system that apparently provides all the answers to any training issue. This is sort of like a teenage boy who falls madly in love with his first girlfriend. She is the one, and always will be, because she was the first and only one this guy has ever known.

Methodology madness eliminates the ability to solve problems you encounter with individual clients. You own a hammer and now everything you see is a nail. One size does not fit all in the business of fitness. If you want to build a house that stands over time, you have to acquire a variety of tools.

The technical stage

Our intrepid coach now realizes there is more to life than a single methodology. He or she now starts the endless process of acquiring initials behind the name. Add a certification here, one over here, and yet another this weekend and a few years later you are a technical master of too much information to breathe.

You have learned it all, know it all, and have the collection of diplomas to prove it, but you haven’t trained enough clients, and never will, to use it all. But the mistake here is that the coach at this level has that innate need to over complicate everything by trying to use too much of a good thing. I know it all and this week my clients are going to see yet another seismic shift in my coaching as I incorporate everything new into this week’s workouts.

This is the coach that has to write a workout that the average human being can’t do, or on his best day, has doubts about doing. Too much, too complicated, unnecessary and boring. Yes, boring. Too much in a workout just leaves a client numb mentally and didn’t she come to you suffering from too much stress in her life, with the need to get into better shape? Let’s make the workout so complicated that one round feels like a week of mental stress.

The humanistic stage

You have arrived. You now have done enough sessions, touched enough souls and aged enough mentally that you realize maybe simplifying a workout keeps the client happy, showing up more because he is happy and getting in better shape because he is showing up to the gym more often.

We forget that sometimes just showing up to the gym is a major mental victory for the client and that has to be celebrated. Sometimes we have to realize that his standards for fitness at 50 have nothing to do with your personal standards at 26. Maybe four people working as a group, building friendships and keeping the workout effective but simple is the best gift we can offer a paying client.

Humanistic means you understand that the coach and the environment he creates is more important than overloading anyone with too much technical crap. Humanistic also means you are now a master of progressions and regressions that allows you to keep a group moving as a group and celebrating the power of the group dynamic.

And maybe humanistic means you have finally learned enough to realize you don’t know it all, never will and now at this stage of your coaching life just the learning process itself is magical. Congratulations, you are now a fully functioning master trainer and industry is better off because you are in it.

2 thoughts on “Finding the humanistic side of coaching

  1. Too bad that often only time can teach you that… Thanks for you great articles Thomas.

    • Thank you for stopping by Robin. One would hope self awareness might shorten the process, but you are probably right, only time might be the answer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s