YourSite.com

Stress – AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

It’s fairly well-known and accepted, and knowable by anyone who does a basic search, that stress and it’s associated hormone in the body – cortisol – are not super productive things when it comes to building muscle and losing weight.  At a very basic level, that’s true.  As always though, if you want to really understand something you have to dig past the superficial layer and accept that there are grey areas – that things aren’t always cut and dry.

The first thing to accept is that there are different kinds of stress.  How you categorize and divide them doesn’t really matter – you could look at where they come from in your life, whether it’s short-term or long-term, or whether it’s energizing or crippling.  Essentially, some of it productive and some of it is not.

Anyone who has worked with me knows how much I love using a good analogy to drive a point home (or a bad analogy…I don’t really discriminate).  So let’s try an easy one here.

Take a balloon.  It’s untied, empty, and lifeless on the ground.  Doing nothing.  You add a little helium to it and pinch the bottom, and you can see the shape of the balloon start to form.  You add a little more helium, and the balloon starts to rise – it’s going somewhere now!  This is what the balloon is supposed to do.

But if some is good, more is better right?  So you add more helium, until – sadly – you are now balloon-less, as it has popped.

Fido is losing his gainz...

Fido is losing his gainz…

In this example, you are the balloon and your total stress is the helium.

Stress comes in numerous forms, just like helium has several different isotopes (aaaaaaand that was the point where I lost most everybody, I think.  Note to self:  leave the chemistry in the ‘drafts’ folder next time).  Some of the stress, you need – think of the acute, physical stress of an intense workout.  Without that, your body is given no stimulus, no reason to grow, adapt, or change in any meaningful way.  This is the stress you can easily control, by working out more/less or with lower/greater intensity.  We want this, and need it for our goals.

The other stress, though, is what often causes our balloon to pop.  Rather than literally bursting (ewww), our body simply shuts down and stops cooperating.  In some cases, acute stress from working out can pop your balloon all by itself (though this is not common enough to be a concern and, frankly, is really hard to do with conventional training methods).  More commonly, the long-term stresses are the ones that cause your balloon to pop.  This long-term stress can show up in many different ways:

  • Job-related stress
  • Emotional stress (relationships, family issues, etc)
  • Financial stress
  • Diet-induced stress
  • Physical stress
  • Success stress

That last one is a biggie.  You are so consumed with succeeding that if change doesn’t occur at the rate you expect it to, you compound the issue by getting mad at your body for not living up to your expectations.  Stress goes up, balloon approaches ‘pop’ status a little faster.

So what can we do about this stuff?  Obviously you need to go get a cortisol-blocker, available from my online store if you just….ok ok, kidding.  I don’t have a store.  Those products exist, and they are band-aids at best.  To solve long-term problems, you need a long-term solution – in this case, that means changing habits, thinking patterns, expectations – whatever is generating the stress that’s overloading your system.

A lot of this is internal brain processing – it helps to sit down and really think about what is causing stress in your life.  Here’s a tactic that can help:

Make a thorough and complete “to do” list.  Everything that you need to get done that’s more than a 3 minute task goes on this list.  Add things to it, cross them off when you complete them, and after 1-3 days (depending on how much stuff you end up adding to this list), look at two main things-

  • What category most of the items fall into
  • What types of things don’t get completed

I did this some time back when I could tell I was getting stressed out but couldn’t easily explain why in conversation.  I noticed that 80% of my own to-do list was related to work – things for clients, organizing files, book keeping, writing, etc.  It was getting done, but obviously there were things I could do to streamline a lot of my processes.

Interestingly enough, the majority of the remaining items on my list were hobby-related – woodworking and home renovation stuff, two things I really enjoy doing.  I felt so overwhelmed by the amount of projects I had started that I couldn’t keep everything straight in my head, and it felt like I had more to do than I really did.  I ended up creating a separate project board so I could visualize every ongoing project, what stage it was in, and what came next – easy to wrap my head around, and I could feel the stress that comes from being “behind” start to fade away.

These are examples, but the point is that you can attack stress in an intelligent way if you are first able to identify what’s causing it.

It seems weird from a bodybuilding coach, but I have a lot of conversations with clients that are along these lines.  Being able to manage your stress – the good and the bad – is a big part of continuing to make the kind of progress you’re working so hard for.

6 Traits of a Successful Online Client

Today I’d like to address a question I am never asked, but one that I wish I was.

What does it take to be successful with your program?

Wow, excellent question!  With all the various ways I could answer that, I think it’s most valuable to distill it down to the traits of someone who not only wants results but is willing and capable of working with someone in an online capacity to get them.  It absolutely is not for everyone, but if you fit these criteria it’s likely for you.

  1. You are prepared.  This applies to your plan (meal prepping, scheduling workouts in tight windows if necessary, etc) and to our weekly call as well.  Some clients spoil me with bullet-point questions sent via email before our call so I can see them early and get some time to think about them, some have questions written down in front of them and refer to those during our call, others can give me a definitive “I have no questions this week” – all of those are great.
  2. You communicate well.  This means responding to emails that have questions in them, letting me know in advance if you need to reschedule a call, and getting your thoughts out clearly via email as well as over the phone, among other things.  Since we likely won’t be meeting face-to-face, your ability to communicate effectively via email, text, and phone is absolutely critical.
  3. You are precise.  This means tracking things well and using the word “about” as little as possible.  If you tend to eyeball your portions, count 8oz glasses of water throughout the day while losing track of how many you’ve had by mid-afternoon, or like to do cardio sessions based on the number of songs you listen to at a time – expect those things to change when we start working together.  Precision is efficiency, which means spending less time and effort to achieve the same result.  Stop swimming upstream!
  4. You are honest.  I can’t do my job correctly if I am being led to believe the plan I have created is being followed when it is not.  I’m not here to get angry, be judgmental, or make you feel bad for doing something “wrong” – I just want to identify “why” and then help better prepare for the next time a similar situation comes up.  Without honesty I can’t do that.  You also need to be honest with yourself – if you’re following a flexible plan and fail to log something because, well, you didn’t mean to eat it – I’m sorry to say that it still counts!
  5. You are open to feedback.  Because I will give it – whether it’s on your form, on your progress photos, or posing work – without feedback you can’t improve.  I am a terrible “in your face and yelling at you” trainer, it’s just not my personality.  My approach to feedback is the same way.  You’re a human being and I understand that.  Also, we’re usually talking about your body, and this is something that, understandably, people are sensitive to.  I take that under careful consideration when providing my thoughts.
  6. You are willing to do what must be done.  By this I’m referring to the stuff that may be less fun, perhaps even tedious.  Progress photos, form check videos, posing videos, weigh-ins when appropriate, completed workout logs and weekly macro logs when requested, etc.  Not only that you get it done, but get it done on time.  I understand that this stuff takes time, but I wouldn’t ask for these things if they didn’t have a purpose.

Even if you don’t feel that all of these traits are innate things you possess, I’ve found that they can be learned over time if it’s in pursuit of a goal you think is important enough.

Beyond these 6 items, everything else can be taught easily.  Yes – even being clueless in the gym.  We can work through that.

Clean eating vs. flexible dieting: not so different after all?

There’s a lot of debate going on in the fitness/health industry about dieting styles.  I figured it’s worth a couple minutes to cut through the garbage and propaganda and have a reasonably intelligent conversation about the options.  At the extreme ends of the spectrum, there are two distinct camps:

  • Clean eating.  This means whole, unprocessed, natural foods from sources that are familiar.  Lean meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, oils, etc.
  • Flexible dieting.  This does away with the concept of “good foods” and “bad foods” and says that anything is ok, provided your daily macronutrient numbers (protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and total calories) add up correctly at the end of the day.

Each camp fights this battle as if there is actually something to win or lose.  Clean eaters refer to the “opposition” as lazy people who just want a “diet” that allows them to eat McDonald’s and Pop Tarts every day.  The flexible dieting group says that all clean eaters are miserable, jealous of the awesome stuff that they eat, and are all one cheat meal away from an eating disorder.

Flexible dieters are often asked “how can you put that garbage in your body if you claim to be worried about your health?”  Clean eaters are told that, in 2014, there’s no such thing as “clean, unprocessed” food.

Both groups are full of completely insufferable fanatics that are impossible to take seriously.  As always – in dieting, in politics, whatever – the truth is always somewhere in the middle.  But the middle ground doesn’t sell a lot of books or get asked to do interviews, so no one stands there.

Both concepts are fundamentally sound and work well for weight loss, gaining muscle, and competition prep.  Let’s state that clearly right now and get it out of the way.

Finding which one is right for you is more of a challenge.  I find that most people who hire me are looking for a plan.  Someone telling them what to eat to provide structure.  I think this is fine.  I encourage everyone who follows a plan like this to tell me if they’re feeling like they are restricting their choices excessively.  There’s a certain amount of flexibility and substitution freedom inherent in the plans I create, so I think they are better than a lot of available options.

Often times, these people choose that option out of fear:  fear that too many options will mean failure, or that if they can have literally anything they want, they will binge on it and kill their macros.  Those are very real concerns and ones worth addressing.  Forcing someone into a flexible plan that isn’t ready for it is just as bad as forcing someone to eat broccoli 87 times a week.

As with any decision, you should look at the pros and cons of both options.  Again, these are pros and cons of extreme, rigid versions of each option.

Clean Eating

  • Pros:  fairly easy to ensure appropriate micronutrient intake by mixing up fruit and vegetables; typically low in added or artificial sugar which keeps people sensitive to those things feeling optimal; plans typically involve eating the same foods every day which makes prep easy
  • Cons:  plans typically involve eating the same foods every day which makes life tedious; typically restricts foods that many people crave which leads to binging patterns, makes social eating and functions difficult

Flexible Dieting

  • Pros:  eat anything you like as long as you make it for your numerical targets, makes eating out an option so long as you can get a reasonable estimate on your calories; typically keeps cravings to a minimum as you can satisfy them responsibly and routinely
  • Cons:  requires excellent self-control to not go overboard on certain foods, logging your food daily is a tedious chore

Again, these are pros and cons of the extreme versions of both plans – which, by and large, is what people are adopting.  People often ask me what kind of plan I follow, and it’s really a hybrid of the two.  I follow a plan that would typically be defined as “clean” most of the time – I eat 3-4 clean meals daily, and they are usually the same thing day in and day out.  I leave a generous block of my daily macronutrients for dinner open, and then feel free to experiment with different ways to fill it.  I like to leave a large enough block that I can enjoy a nice meal at the end of the day without worrying to much about going over my numbers.  I tally up dinner, see what’s left, and put together a small snack in the evening.

Realistically, I think this is what “flexible dieting” was intended to be.  With a plan like this, you get the benefit of flexibility when you need it (dinner with the family, social options as well) without over-burdening yourself with logging your meals all day, every day.

And just like both of the extremes – this plan works, too.

By popular demand!

I am asked on a daily basis if I offer anything besides my standard monthly online coaching program.  Soon, I’ll be able to say ‘yes’!  I have a couple projects in development now that I’m very excited about.

It seems everyone these days is offering generic workout plans for people who don’t want (or don’t need) hands-on coaching with additional customizing and accountability.  In my research, I’ve found that these plans vary wildly in quality from “lousy” to “mediocre” – what I’m currently developing will set a new standard for quality and detail.  I’m excited to share more details about this and samples from these plans in the weeks ahead!

Also, I’ve noticed that there is a huge block for many people when it comes to getting the most out of their workouts.  They are great at going in to the gym, moving quickly, and working up a great sweat – but struggle when it comes to reaching muscle failure and pushing their body in the right way to get it to respond and grow.  My upcoming e-Book will aim to address that particular problem – focusing entirely on training principles, philosophies, and techniques to maximize your workout.  Stay tuned for excerpts!

Whoops!

If you’ve contact me through this website recently and I haven’t responded, it’s due to an overly-aggressive spam filter setting that I just discovered.  Changes have been made, the responsible parties have been sacked, and I’m working on responding to everyone now.  I apologize for the delays!

Keys of Success – Patience

Welcome to installment #1 of what will be an ongoing blog series:  the Keys of Success!  It should be noted that whenever anyone asks me what the key is to success, I always tell them that there isn’t one.  This is a much easier answer, since the person asking usually isn’t looking for the honest answer.  But there are several things when, put together, will give an average person a significantly higher statistical chance of hitting their goal.

The first of these keys that I’ll talk about today is patience.  Totally not sexy, I know.  I don’t promise they will all be riveting, just important.  Future keys will take us into the kitchen, into the gym, and deeper into our heads – so keep watching!

When I say patience, what do I really mean?  The most obvious interpretation is to wait for your results.  And that’s true – this takes time.  You didn’t go from 10% body fat to 20% in a week, it’s going to take more than a week to get back down there.  Just because you decided 2 weeks ago to be a bodybuilder does not mean your body will respond at a speed commensurate to your desires.  You’ve got to put in the work.  It takes time.  The counterpoint to this I get asked about are those 19 and 20 year old guys and gals with great bodies – “they didn’t have to wait!” – I refer you to this post and remind you that you know nothing about their story, their experience, where they’ve been or where they’re coming from.

The other side of patience is possibly even more important:  patience with yourself.  Give yourself the opportunity to fail.  Give yourself time to learn.  Give yourself the chance to enjoy the process you’ve initiated rather than simply being irritated that you’re still closer to point A than B.

When people hire me they often do it with the expectation or hope that having me on their side will mitigate the need to patience.  To a small degree, this is true.  I can help remove uncertainty, and if you would have spend years following an unproductive plan and going through the motions with low intensity in the gym, then yes – I can accelerate the process by years!  But even with the right plan in place, it takes time.  The more ambitious your goals, the more time it takes.  Want to gain 3 pounds of muscle or lose 10 pounds on the scale?  Great, you will need a lot less patience than the guy who wants to gain 20 pounds or lose 60.  This is where short-term goal setting becomes important.  For those of us who struggle with patience, being able to hit a new, legitimate milestone more frequently is important.  Also important to note, those short-term goals do not exist simply to placate the impatient – they are real, valuable, and an indication that the long-term goal is attainable.

Me telling people to “just be patient” works oh so well, as I’m sure you can imagine.  Patience is valuable, but infinite patience is setting yourself up for failure just the same as no patience.  You’ve got to have a time frame by which you can measure progress to be sure that it’s happening, and it’s got to be a time frame that is reasonable.  Let’s take the following goals, for example:

“I want to lose 30 pounds”

Awesome, any coach in the world can do that for you.  It may take 10 years though, so hopefully you’ve been working on that whole patience thing.

“Ok, ok, ok, I want to lose 30 pounds in 4 weeks”

Perfect, there’s a 4 week waiting line in the OR to have a leg amputated, so that’s about right.  Outside of losing a limb, that ain’t happening.

“Fine, how long should it take for me to lose 30 pounds?”

Now we’re talking.  You tell me your goal, I’ll give you an idea of the time frame.

The actual length of time in this hypothetical situation isn’t important – that number would be different for everyone anyway.  What is important is your ability to mentally buy in to the time it will take to reach your goal.  That is patience, and that is one of the most valuable and universal keys to success.

Time for some new rules

I recently saw on Pinterest (yes, guys…it’s ok to be on Pinterest.  You’re girlfriend might even respect you more for it) this graphic titled “The Skinny Rules, by Bob Harper”.  Regardless of your opinion of The Biggest Loser, it is very popular and this guy is seen as an icon in the industry.  So I’d like to take a moment and dispel some of the bullshit myths spreading under his name, or at least offer my take on this list.  Let’s dive in:

Drink a large glass of water before every meal.  No excuses.

The reason behind this is to drink more water.  There is no practical reason to doing this before a meal to be “skinny”.  Also, how many times are we eating per day?  Three?  How big is a glass of water?  Eight ounces?  Is 24 ounces gonna cut it for the day?  No.  Advice is helpful only if it’s specific.

Don’t drink your calories.

An arbitrary rule with no reasoning.  Milk, juices, protein drinks, etc can have productive and useful applications.  If he changed this to “don’t drink caloric soda” that would be more helpful, but you can still do that and be “skinny” if you play your cards right.

Eat protein at every meal – or stay hungry and grouchy

Finally something I agree with!

Slash your intake of refined flours and grains

The only reasoning behind this that makes sense is that it’s easy to overeat on these items.  Slashing your intake of anything will likely have the same effect.

Eat 30 to 50 grams of fiber every day.

Do this.

Eat apples and berries every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Why?  These are not magical “skinny” foods.  Nothing amazing is going to happen if you do this.  Yes, these are good and fine foods – but they do not possess some secret that is going to melt away pounds.

No carbs after lunch.

1998 called and wants it’s weight loss theory back.  STOP WITH THIS GARBAGE CRAP ALREADY.

Learn to read food labels so you can know what you’re eating.

Smart advice, I like it.

Stop guessing about portion size and get it right.

Distill the entire list down to this one item and it would be a great list.

No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones.

Not a bad idea I suppose, but zero calorie sweeteners aren’t making you fat.

Get rid of those white potatoes

I understand it’s easy and convenient to say all white foods are bad (rice, bread, potatoes), but there is nothing inherently evil about a white potato.  EAT THEM, I DARE YOU.

Make one day a week meatless.

To accomplish what?  You’ll take in fewer calories that day likely, unless you say “I’m not having meat, so I’ll double my carbs!” in which case your plan has backfired.  Whoops.

Get rid of fast foods and fried foods.

These are definitely calorie bombs and a good place to start, especially if it’s a regular thing.  You can, however, get/stay skinny eating these things if you are meticulous with your diet.

Eat a real breakfast

Great, but can we define that?  Cheerios and a banana doesn’t count.  Get a protein source, get a fat source.

Make your own food and eat at least 10 meals a week at home

This is a good habit but if you don’t know what to make this isn’t necessarily going to help you.

Banish high-salt foods.

Other than the fact that high-salt foods are often processed (another fictional devil in the weight-loss world), this is pointless.  Salt doesn’t make you fat.  I salt the hell out of my food.

Eat your vegetables.  Just do it.

Yep, good plan – but don’t treat them as though they don’t have calories.

Go to bed hungry.

Great plan.  Also how eating disorders are born.  But, you know…if you aren’t miserable, it isn’t working.  Or something…

Sleep right.

How?  What does that mean?

Plan one splurge meal a week

Ah yes, the binge to justify all your hard work.  Trust me, this has the ability to turn into the most unhealthy habit you can develop.

So, how would I re-write these rules?  And what would I call them?  It sure as hell wouldn’t be the “Skinny Rules”, because I don’t think that’s a particularly appealing goal.  How about the “fit and healthy rules”?  That sounds lame and cheesy, but let’s run with it.

  1. Monitor your intake carefully.  Track it.  Adjust it – in small increments – only if you don’t see progress over a 10-day period.  Be consistent.
  2. Lift weights (funny how nothing on the above list was activity-related)
  3. Get a variety of foods.  Experiment.
  4. Drink a ton of water.  100 ounces a day is a good starting point for an active person.
  5. Avoid foods that make you feel physically bad.  Everything else is ok.  Yes, everything.  Wrap your head around that, then see point 1 again.  Moderation, people.  Oreos don’t make you fat.  A package of them a day does.
  6. Take up a hobby that requires you to be active.
  7. Take naps when your body wants them.  If it doesn’t want naps, work harder until it does.
  8. Be honest with yourself.  Completely and wholly.
  9. Learn patience.

There you go, that’s the list.  Do those 9 things, learn about yourself, and refine your activity and intake to really get to know your body.  THAT is the real secret.

No one matters but you

Ok, listen up – I’m giving everyone reading this permission.  Permission to be completely self-centered, absorbed, and borderline narcissistic.  You are the center of the universe.  Block everyone else out.  Picture yourself, alone, on top of a mountain somewhere.  You, and nothing else.

This is the prism through which you need to assess your progress.

You are the only one who can stand in your shoes, both literally and figuratively.  The sum of your parts – your genetics, your work ethic, your commitment, your experience – is what makes you who you are.  Those variables are different for everyone, and when you’ve got that many variables in an equation you can make damn sure there’s going to be a wide variety of “answers”.

I see so many people who struggle with the comparison game – wanting to be better than the next person, etc.  And really, for those who engage in physique competitions, you’d think it’s pretty much inevitable – but it’s not.  Or shouldn’t be, at least.

Compare against yourself.  I see a lot of people say that, but I wonder how many actually stop, think about what it means, and reprogram something in their brains to help them make that shift.  And how many go back on Instagram 2 minutes later thinking things like “his arms are bigger” or “she’s got better legs” – it doesn’t matter.

Even as competitors, we are trying to bring a better version of our physical selves (note the added word there) each time we step up on that stage.  Our reasons for doing this can be very different, and that’s ok.  And it’s foundation, I think competing is a very effective way of setting time-based goals for yourself.  Ask yourself why you’re doing this.

I want to win.  Why?  What is winning going to do for you?  If you have plans of making a career out of this I genuinely wish you the best of luck, but I’d suggest you just go get a degree (or 2nd degree) instead.  It’s likely to be cheaper (ha!), less frustrating, and more successful.

I want to get up on stage and do something!  Ok, now we’re getting somewhere.  As a performer myself, I get this.  It’s fun to be under the lights, have your moment, and show off what you’ve been working on to a crowd.  It’s the act that matters, not the accolades.

I want to improve.  Bingo.  When you get up on stage, you are defining a moment.  At this exact moment, this is how I look.  At the next arbitrarily defined moment, I want to look better than this.  Many people advocate waiting/training for years before getting up on stage, and to that I say:  why?  Unless you’ve got a serious and legitimate need for the additional time (major imbalances, metabolic deficiency, etc), get up there and establish a baseline for yourself.  Train, diet, go through the process, and enjoy learning about yourself along the way.

A final note about results:  seriously, I cannot stress enough how unimportant show placings are.  I have seen so many things that can only really be classified as bullshit I don’t know where to start.  People winning natural shows who later fail drug tests.  Someone winning a class when their coach is a judge.  The top 3 finishers in a class all being sponsored by the same company, who happens to sponsor the show.  Pre-judging that last for 6 hours – do you really expect me to believe the judges are still awake or seeing straight by the end of that?  And in the end, shows aren’t even consistently judged by the standards published by the organizing body.  Different looks are rewarded differently at different shows.  If you let your worth be determined by a system that lets itself be described by the above terms, you are going to be unhappy.

So take those progress photos.  Get up on stage.  Define your starting point, and define your steps along the way.  Improve some each day, improve some more each month.  Change yourself each year.  Just keep looking straight ahead.

Emotional thinking

People often ask me where I stand on certain topics.  What I think about this training style, that diet, some product, whichever method of cardio, you name it.  I live and exist in this industry, so it’s good to have opinions on things and be able to explain and articulate those opinions to others.

Something I think we need less of in this industry is emotion.  Specifically when it comes to taking a position, developing a vested interest in the advancement of that position, and shooting down challenging theories without engaging in an honest debate or taking the time to really learn about them.

The flexible dieting movement is a great example.  For those unfamiliar, this is the concept that you can eat whatever you want and, as long as your macronutrient numbers add up at the end of the day, you’re good to go.  When this theory just started to gain mainstream attention, the traditional bodybuilding community was in outrage.  “YOU MUST EAT TILAPIA AND ASPARAGUS EXCLUSIVELY AT 4 WEEKS OUT,” they cried – otherwise you are not a real bodybuilder, or something.  Eventually there was a large enough body of evidence that this theory actually produced results, and it started to gain acceptance.

Then, something funny happened – the pendulum swung the other way around.  Now people who chose to eat clean were suddenly slaves to their diets, miserable, and living a life of dietary prison in which the only possible outcome was the development of an eating disorder.  Clean eating had become a villain, and coaches who advocated that approach – even those who did so responsibly – were becoming “old school” at best, or “stuck in the past” and “ignorant of science” at worst.

The problem is that people have taken these dieting theories and turned them into positions.  With a position, you have – for some reason – developed an emotional attachment to a particular philosophy.  While emotion and passion are good things, they do little to further honest debate and assessment.

Whatever the dietary strategy – old school clean eating, flexible dieting, low carb, paleo, high fat, intermittent fasting, blah blah blah – I don’t care what it is, there is likely a place for it.  Maybe not for you or me, but for someone out there.  The same with training styles, with different types of cardio, with various cleanses, with every potential variable you could have when it comes to fitness and changing your body.  A responsible and intellectually honest coach will not take a hard position on something, because doing so means you become unwilling to listen to the needs of your clients.

One of the hardest things I do is listen to people and determine what approach is going to work best for them.  Often times we start out with one strategy and then – either because I’m not happy with the rate of progress or because the individual I’m working with wants to try it – we’ll switch gears.  I have a lot of clients who choose to figuratively bury their head in the sand and trust whatever I tell them to do.  They get results, it works, they’re happy, no need to complicate the issue.  I work with others who read incessantly and always want to try new stuff – I like that too.  It’s my job to keep things from getting too A.D.D., to make sure that if we try something new, it’s under the right conditions and we stick with it for long enough to give it a chance to do it’s thing.  I’m a fan of experimentation.

So if you’re searching for a coach, ask them what their philosophies are.  If they give you concrete answers, you’ll know what to expect – exactly that, and probably not a huge degree of flexibility if that doesn’t end up working out for you.

Online coaching – do it right, or get out.

As I browse through various fitness-related pages on Instagram or Facebook, I come across a lot of trainers, fitness celebrities, and…well, I guess you could just say “personalities” that have a lot to tell the world.  Usually these people are personal trainers, often times they hold down other jobs but have a passion for fitness that they want to share.

I often see a blip show up from these people whether in a post or an updated bio that they are “now offering online coaching!”  Ohhhhhhh, boy.

Let’s first talk about why this happens.  From my own experience getting my footing in this industry, I can say I’ve been through this process.  I’ve found what works and what doesn’t.  The proliferation of online coaches is largely due to some combination of:

  • The well-intentioned desire to diversify your business model as a personal trainer
  • Your inability to keep yourself busy with in-person clients
  • Your dissatisfaction with your current training arrangement
  • Thinking it’s an easy way to make some extra cash

I believe the thinking is “hey I’m good with people in-person, but why should I limit myself to people that are within driving distance of where I train?  HEY EVERYBODY, I DO ONLINE COACHING TOO.”

The problem is that these are completely different, separate, and basically unrelated services.  Sure you’re concerning yourself with the health and well-being of another human, but that’s where the similarities end.

You’re typically concerning yourself with a different type of client.  The way you go about handling each individual is very different than if you were seeing them in-person.  You have to have systems in place to account for the fact that you will likely never have face-to-face contact with this person.  It’s a lot to think about it.

Most importantly, online coaching requires a totally different skill set than training someone in a gym.

You need the knowledge, yes.  It helps to be able to motivate someone, yes.  But you also have to be able to teach someone how to do something without being able to demonstrate it.  You have to be able to convey the idea of intensity from afar.  You have to be a great communicator, which means more than just responding to emails (though many people can’t even do this).  It also means knowing what questions to ask, and hearing the answers that aren’t given to get a more complete idea of what’s actually going on in someone’s life.  Yes you’ve got to care about each individual person you’re working with, but caring isn’t enough – you’ve got to be able to identify problems and then have the ability to do something about it.

And then there’s the technology.  Oh, the technology.  Online coaching means you need a firm grasp on technology, or you’re going to confuse the hell out of your clients (best case scenario) or drown yourself (worst case).  How is your program being delivered?  I’ve seen online coaches who legit write up plans via email and just send them over, stream of consciousness style.  I’m sorry, how are you tracking this?  Are you keeping any records?  What’s your process, your methodology, your workflow?  How do you keep anything straight?

All that being said, let’s find solutions rather than just listen to me rant all day.  Here are some things to ask an online coach you are looking at:

  • How long have you been doing this? (experience)
  • What percentage of your work is online coaching? (dedication to the process)
  • How many clients do you work with?  (too many = spread too thin or very little detail)
  • What format is the program in?  (organization)
  • How are updates handled and what is the frequency? (some do not offer updates and that’s ok, just a different service – be aware of what you’re getting into)
  • How do I know I’m doing the exercises correctly? (is there a feedback mechanism for correction?)

Also look at response times on email, and be fair.  If I get an email from someone on Friday night it’s entirely possible I may not respond until Monday morning.  I see trainers with comments on the Instagram photos all the time along the lines of “I emailed you two weeks ago and haven’t heard back, please respond.”  Here, I blame the emailer as much as the coach – if 2 weeks pass and you haven’t got a response, move on.  It ain’t worth it.

To the online coaches out there, step up your game.  Do better.  Know if this is your thing or if it isn’t.  If it is, act like it, and commit to it.  If not, stay in the gym and find other, easier ways to diversify your business that are in line with your strengths.

The all those seeking a coach, all I can say is this:  expect more.  One marketing expert I heard once said something that stuck with me:

“Make big promises, then over-deliver on your service”

Is your coach doing that?

  • FiveStarrFit @ Instagram

     
  • FSP on Facebook