Looking back on our lives, I’m sure each one of us can think of a teacher we had in school that really impacted us in a different way than the others. That person was someone we looked up to, wanted to impress, taught us lessons, and made us ultimately feel good and empowered.
I also would bet that there was at least one teacher you had that you just didn’t jive with at all. It didn’t necessarily mean they were a bad teacher, it just meant that there was something that didn’t work between the two of you. Maybe the way they taught you wasn’t the way you learned best. Or maybe their way of giving criticism had a negative effect on you.
Just like academics, this holds true in health and fitness as well. There are literally 10’s of thousands of coaches out there. Some good, some bad, and plenty in between. If we narrow it down to the good coaches out there, we can safely say that there is someone out there for everyone.
A Good Coach
A good coach is someone who has education, experience, and a genuine interest in helping their clients succeed. They have spent their time researching and learning best practices, put them in action successfully, and grown a business that allows them to help others.
The Right Coach
While there are plenty of good coaches out there, the right coach will be different from person to person. The right coach is someone who has all of the qualities of a good coach, but in specifics to you, has some additional qualities. Their values align with yours, their way of operating feels good to you, their methods are something that you can manage, and most importantly, you get along well.
Coaches Benefit from Coaches
I’m a firm believer that coaches need coaches too. I don’t care how well educated you become, there is always more to learn and an added accountability from having a coach that you don’t get on your own. I actually would shy away from any trainer or expert that tells you they don’t “need” a coach because they are a coach. They may prefer not to have one, which is totally fine, but if they claim that it wouldn’t be useful or that it isn’t necessary because they know everything, they probably don’t know very much. A teacher never stops learning. In fact, I’ll take that one step further and say that any intelligent person will never stop learning because they are smart enough to know they don’t know it all.
With that said, even before I was a trainer or coach myself, I had many coaches. It started with my flag football and baseball teams growing up. I had several different types of coaches. Oddly enough, my favorite ones were the type of coaches that yelled at me when I made an error. They weren’t total dicks, but they definitely let you know when you weren’t doing your best. I could appreciate that because at the same time, they gave me praise when I did well. The coaches I didn’t like were the ones who didn’t take the games very seriously. They were the “don’t worry, you’ll get it next time!” type of coaches. I didn’t learn anything from them because all they cared about was making everyone feel good. I hated feeling more competitive than they were and those teams never did very well (shocker).
My first personal trainer gave me the best foundation I could ever ask for. Even though I was a total pain in the ass, he was always (and still is) there for me whenever I needed anything. THAT is a good coach. He was never one to just “give me a trophy”. If I did something well, he told me. If I was sucking it up, he told me.
My next trainer was at a different gym since I had moved and it was during a stage I like to call the “I’ve been training for a year so now I know everything” phase. Seriously guys, I got a little ahead of myself. (Side note: Bret reminded me just a few weeks ago about the time I went back to his gym with all the “cool new things I learned from my new trainer”. I think I actually told him that I was thankful for the “beginning stuff” he showed me, but that my new trainer was showing me more advanced stuff. I cannot believe he didn’t slap me! I think I’m lucky I was cute.) Anyways, this trainer was the type of trainer that just pushed me to my limits every workout. I really liked training with him and he was a big help in getting me ready for my first NPC Bikini Competition. He didn’t make it easy and he never let me give up.
This is where things went down hill. The next trainer I had (about 3 years later) was an IFBB Pro (which shall remain nameless). She actually didn’t even charge me beyond the 1st month she coached me and was quite honestly the worst coach I’ve ever had. She gave me a restrictive diet to follow that was about 1200 calories per day and consisted of mainly veggies, chicken, fish, and egg whites. Surprisingly, I couldn’t stick to it. The workouts I did with this coach were “fancy” but didn’t make me work very hard. It felt more like she was trying to show off than anything. I would leave the gym sweaty, but the constant “you’re doing great! great job!” got old quickly.
Because of this lackluster experience, I moved on to another trainer that was recommended to me. This might have been even worse. The workouts we did were cookie cutter and involved constant high reps with no consideration for form. I seriously felt like a bunny rabbit jumping from station to station (literally…these workouts were about 80% plyometrics) and I’m not even sure my trainer was in the gym half the time I was doing these workouts. Bye Felicia.
The last trainer I had before moving to LA was Karl. He is a former competitive power lifter and has really helped me to perfect my squat and deadlift form. He is so in tune with the human body and so practical that sometimes I wonder if he’s human. Talk about giving it to you straight. There were times I’d be working out on my own and Karl would grab my workout log and just look at me. He’d say “why are you doing this?” and I’d feel myself stumbling with my words to try to find out the answer he was looking for. Needless to say, NOTHING is sugar coated with Karl. He tells it like it is and I know I’m in good hands with him.
I’ve since had 3 different online coaches and this is where the idea for this post came about. All 3 coaches are fantastic coaches. I don’t have one poor thing to say about any of them, but I can clearly see why 1 of the 3 has helped me actually see results and progress. Yes, I realize that me not seeing results or progressing is on ME, but there is also a correlation between the coaching styles. While I don’t want to get into their coaching styles since it is irrelevant, I do want to highlight the attributes that I believe are making me successful with my current coach.
1. Trust. I’ve been following him online for a long time. Probably 5-6 years, actually. I’ve read multiple articles written by him, seen his personal FB posts that resonate with me, and chatted extensively with him before signing on with him. Because I know his track record, I feel a compelling urge to impress him. Knowing he has had so many clients come in and out of his life, I want to be one that he remembers. This has helped me to push myself harder than I have in a long time.
2. Honesty. In our first conversations, he was extremely realistic. He didn’t try to massage me into being his client or tell me what I want to hear. In fact, he told me the opposite. He gave me the harsh realities and expectations. He didn’t leave anything out and told me just what it would take for me to achieve what I wanted. He also helped me refine my goals, as what I had in mind wasn’t totally realistic either.
3. High Expectations. He doesn’t allow me to be anything but my best. Great example: I sent a video to him of my front squats last week. I was really proud of this video and was excited to hear his feedback. Unfortunately, I had not followed what he had told me and he called me out. So what did I do? The very next workout, I made corrections and sent it back over. I appreciate this completely. High fives are EARNED, they are not handed out.
4. Methodology. While macro counting is a fantastic method for fat loss (and oddly enough what I do with 90% of my clients), it actually wasn’t right for me. I found it harder to manage and instead, I eat a pretty simple meal plan each day, with flexibility in my post workout meals. It’s the best of both worlds for me. There is consistency, ease of preparation, and I do get to fit in treats each day, so I don’t feel deprived.
Applying this to You
While these traits are specific to me, it can help YOU in the search for the right coach. Along with seeking out someone who is experienced, educated, and has a proven track record, ask yourself these questions:
- How do you learn best?
- What is your current lifestyle like?
- How do you handle praise and constructive criticism?
- What did your favorite teachers/coaches have in common? Look for those qualities in a coach.
Just like in love, there is someone for everyone. What’s right for one, may not be right for the other. Take your time when looking for a coach and don’t base your decision off of progress pictures or testimonials. Read that coach’s material, spend time messaging with them to see if your personalities work well together, and get an idea of their methodology before you jump in. Having a coach can be a GAME CHANGER, but if you don’t have the right coach for you, it can be a giant flop.
Have you had a good or bad experience with a coach? Share it in the comments.
Liked this article? Check out Who Should You Trust?
Lizzy Ostro is a NASM and AFPA Certified Personal Trainer with over 8 years of experience. She is currently working on her NASM FNS Certification and currently trains clients out of Santa Monica, CA as well as providing online coaching to clients across the U.S.