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Don’t Let A Fitness Coach Coddle You


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You have decided to invest in a personal trainer, or you are considering it. Finding the right personality, style, location, and rates that meet what you are looking for is important.

S/he or they should listen to you about what your goals are. There should be a bit of digging to unearth what you really mean. The reason they should do some digging is –  let’s be honest you may be saying something you have read, someone has told you or you don’t want to look dumb. Usually, there is a bigger reason why you chose this moment in time to move your body more or differently. That is part of the psychology of working with someone as their personal trainer. We as fitness professionals have to listen with more than our ears and ask some probing questions.

After the initial meeting especially during the first couple of sessions your trainer should be paying attention to things like how you move, your range of motion, body awareness and what your actual fitness level is (compared to what you may have said…because sometimes people overshoot or undershoot). During that time it is understandable if your trainer is cautious or wants to focus on creating things like stability before moving to a heavier weight. You should “earn” the right to add more weight or do an advanced movement if you have not mastered a foundational movement. 

Side note…if your coach is not listening to you and your goals or instead of paying attention to how you move they just give you a cookie-cutter workout that is not tailored to you…that is another reason to move on and find someone else to work with!

But is your trainer coddling you? Are they so focused on your age, gender or other factors that they are not really “listening” to your current fitness level? They should be meeting you where you are at…not making assumptions about who you are. 

Two examples of this coddling are: a 75-year-old client walks into the gym without any serious issues walking or balance. That client asked to sit down for the majority of the exercises, always physically “helped” across the gym? At least from those few facts, I would argue – that client is being coddled.

Another example is if a female client is told to stick to the lighter weights after showing that she has the strength and stability to do more than 5lb. Again, she is physically strong enough to do an exercise with a heavier weight. She can do heavier. She wants to go a bit heavier. She enjoys getting and feeling stronger.  Why is that trainer holding her back? It is not about trying to do some dangerous amount of weight when a client is put in an unsafe place. It is about helping someone get stronger. 

A fitness professional should meet you where you are at and introduce some challenge into your sessions over time. The challenges don’t have to be ridiculous.  Subtle changes or options to an exercise can provide the opportunity for a client to have a goal to practice something so they can perform better at it. You don’t need to be (and honestly should not be) crawling out of the gym after a session. 

What should not be happening is a trainer that is “protecting” you in ways that are only holding you back. This coddling can be one of those if-I-see-it-I-know-what-it-is things. It is not about comparing your workouts to other clients in the gym or asking your friends what you did with their trainer. This is about an individual giving you enough respect to see potential in you. 

A fitness professional regardless of how accomplished they are or how many letters after their name should find that sweet spot of safely working with you and at the same time challenging you. It may be a bit out of your comfort zone but nothing unsafe. Obviously, they keep in mind any restrictions you may have when working with you and creating your program. However, treating you as if you are fragile, not strong or capable is only doing you and your body a disservice. 

If you feel this is the case give that professional a chance to explain their process of your sessions. Perhaps there is a rhyme to their reason and progressions are around the corner. Maybe they are working on improving an aspect of your movement and strengthening a foundational movement is a priority. After that conversation, you feel as if that lack of respect is continuing it is time to start shopping around. That relationship needs to end regardless of how much you may like them.  At this point, there is no value to you personally of the services they are providing to you. Clients’ goals and aspirations can differ as much as the next person’s. However, goals of different shapes and sizes all intersect with the idea of progress. Even if you want to maintain your current physical abilities, challenges will facilitate that, coddling will not. 

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