The first thing that I do with each new student is to sit down with them and ask what they want to achieve. What’s the goal?
As a coach I know of hundreds of exercises, routines and training plans.
They all work. But they will take you to completely different places.
There are certain exercises or protocols that I really enjoy working on with students and particular tools that I love working with, but that doesn’t mean that they will be suited to the student I have in front of me and the goals that they want to achieve.
When I ask people what their goals are the first answer I normally get is usually pretty general and vague, an ‘Alice’ answer. It’s not until we go through a bit more discussion that the real motives and desires start to emerge, this sometimes doesn’t full happen until a few session in when the student has become a bit more comfortable with me to share their dreams and motives.
This is totally fine and natural, it takes time to earn a student’s trust.
If you are reading this as someone potentially looking to start working with a personal trainer (PT) or coach it’s really important that you know what your goals are.
I’ve seen a lot of people who have put their trust in a personal trainer or coach (not to mention investing their hard-earned money and energy) only to be put through some ‘cookie-cutter’ programs or worst of all, just being trained exactly as the coach likes to train himself.
In my opinion this is just lazy, weak and/or ignorant coaching (you’re pick!) and it isn’t acceptable but to be fair it is easy to slip into if students come to you with vague, undefined goals.
If you go to a trainer and give them an ‘Alice’ goal, like “I want to get a bit fitter”, well then the Cheshire cat of a trainer could do pretty much anything physical with you and legitimately claim that it will get you ‘fitter’. But it might not actually move you closer to the goal you had in mind.
To give an example:
Geoff goes to his local Personal Trainer and says “I want to get a bit more in shape”.
“Great!” says the PT, let’s get going.
Now in this example the PT has a background and interest in Bodybuilding. It’s what he knows and he’s used it to get ‘in shape’ himself so he figures that it will help get Geoff in shape.
The PT puts Geoff through a fantastic bodybuilding style ‘Chest Day’. Geoff’s chest doesn’t know what’s hit it, he does so many variations of bench press and chest flyes that he loses track and he certainly feels well worked when he leaves the gym an hour later.
Let’s take a look at what really happened there.
Firstly Geoff didn’t clearly define his goals, what did he mean by “Get more in shape?”
A triangle is a shape! Is that what he wanted? Probably not.
He assumed that the PT would know and then even worse, the PT assumed that he did know what Geoff meant!
Maybe Geoff’s actual, unspoken desire was to lose 5kg of body fat so that he could more easily play football with his kids. Maybe he used to play rugby when he was younger and has ambitions to get back onto the field. Or perhaps his wife is a keen runner and he would like to enter a 10km race with her. We will never know because Geoff didn’t make it clear but one thing is for certain, a bodybuilder style split routine probably wouldn’t be the best way to get Geoff to any one of these potential goals.
So how can this be avoided?
Well, firstly do you’re research and pick a descent Coach or PT, one who looks at each client as an individual and trains them in a way suitable for them and their goals. It can be difficult to cut through the marketing BS so before you sign anything ask them some questions.
What kind of people have they worked with before?
What approach do they take when training someone?
How often do they attend training courses themselves or further their knowledge?
What is their training background?
You are looking for sensible answers. This coach may not have worked with someone like you before, that might not be a problem but it is something to bear in mind.
You want to hear that they go through some kind of movement screening process with new students as base their training approach on the results, combined with the student’s goals, training age and medical history.
It’s also good if they regularly update their knowledge on training, no one knows everything and even the best coaches out there need to sharpen their saw every now and then.
I’d also ask what their training background is, if you then notice that you are being trained in this exact manner then it might be time to start questioning their methods. It doesn’t necessarily mean that its wrong, but they should be able to point you towards legitimate research showing why they are training you as they are.
The second, and possibly most important thing to do is clearly define your goals.
Here’s a good method.
Sit down in a quiet place with piece of paper and a pen and think about what you want to achieve from your training.
What changes do you want to achieve in your body and your life by starting this journey?
Try to write down five things that you want to achieve, being as specific as you can.
Don’t rush this process, really think through what your dreams are, if necessary taking a couple of days to mull it over. It’s important to be focused on why you are training because these reasons are going to be your fuel.
Everyone walks around with dreams, things that they would like to achieve but why do so few people actually achieve them? Because for most people they remain as just that, dreams, ephemeral notions that are never brought into reality.
When you think through exactly what you want to achieve and why, then write them down its easier to stay focused on them, to chase after them.
While thinking through your goals consider the following;
Why is that goal important to you? What’s your motivation for achieving it?
Think about the thing you want to change, on a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with that at the moment?
Think about how you will feel when you achieve this goal. When you get further up that 1-10 scale, how will you feel? Close your eyes and really try to visualize it.
When do you want to achieve this goal by?
How do you want to measure your progress?
What do you think it will take to achieve this goal? What are you willing to do to achieve it?
Once you have figured out your goals, write them down and take them along to your consultation, the more information you give a good coach, the better they will be able to guide you on the path to achieving your dreams.
So where do you want to go? Whats the goal?