If there’s one thing I’ve seen through the years of being a coach, is that there are some really great ones and then some really bad ones.
Knowing the difference can help you make decisions on who to work with while also giving you the best chance for results and success.
I’ve been very lucky to work around some really great coaches at LIFW and am very proud to be part of a gym that strives to provide the best coaching experience for it’s clients.
Super coaches are rare to find since it requires the individual to be deeply passionate about their work, very knowledgeable on subject matter, as well as a great communicator. This list will help give you an idea of what really works in the coaching field and can open up communication to your current coach if things are missing. Let’s see how your coach ranks up to this!
1. A good coach knows their stuff
I want to start with what I would see as the foundational skill in coaching - knowing the science. As personal trainers we have the opportunity to get certified through various ways. Some people take online courses, some go to in person classes. Regardless of the medium trainers use - the science behind anatomy, physiology, and bio mechanics are of high importance to perform coaching at a high level.
You need someone who can see your individual anatomy and bio mechanics to better provide exercises and modifications that work for you as an individual. Everybody is there only unique snowflakes and having the understanding of these sciences are a must when trying to program exercise.
On the nutrition end - a good coach understands how metabolism works, how different nutrients and vitamins get utilized as well as what foods provide you with the best possible results. Knowing the differences between macro and micro nutrients is key.
Good coaches are always on the lookout to learn new methods and increase their toolkit to help clients get exactly what they need. Knowing the science helps to build those good coaches up on a sound base.
2. A good coach is always prepared
When you enter a training or nutrition session you should always feel that your coach has prepared for you. Coaching people is a very unique and personal experience and that should be reflected in each and every session. It’s part of our job as coaches to formulate a plan of attack to help get you the best results possible in the most efficient way possible.
Having a plan is paramount in clients success because change happens over time, therefore as a coach you need to prepare to make those steps each time towards that change. If you are working with someone who just throws workouts together, or appears to work off the cuff - you probably aren’t progressing as fast as you can be. You should feel like every session adds value and progression to what you are doing. That is our job as coaches!
3. A good coach knows how to connect with you
In a world that is so focused on quick bits of information and surface small talk it’s even more important now to find a coach that knows how to connect with you.
The feeling of being heard, listened to and supported are factors that enhance the coach-client relationship. When the relationship is built with the intention of connecting, the experience is much more enjoyable as well as productive.
If a coach isn’t asking questions to get to know you better often, they are missing out on valuable information that can be used to better plan for success. I find that this is a harder skill for coaches to exhibit because the fitness and health industry has been filled with egocentric coaches who care more about showing themselves off, than showing off their clients successes. If you find that your coach is always talking about themselves and how hard they workout without relating anything to you as an individual...you need someone better to connect with.
4. A good coach can assess what kind of motivation you need and when
This factor plays into connecting with clients because us coaches need to know who our clients are as people. Everyone gets motivated in different ways. Some people want to be constantly pushed, some people want to be gently encouraged.
Some people take feedback differently than others so it’s very important that your coach is providing you the most effective feedback channel as possible. For example if you are someone who needs constant reminders to perform a daily habit such as eating more vegetables, a good coach might set up some type of system where those reminders are helpful and productive.
Everybody has times that they tend to doubt themselves or feel down about performance or progress. A good coach is able to remind and motivate you to feel that you are still on the right path and push you past those doubts to re-balance and get on the right track.
5. A good coach knows how to actively listen
Listening to our clients is probably one of the biggest keys on this list today. A coach cannot be effective if they do not hear where you are coming from. If you find that you are being talked to more than talking this might show a problem with the relationship. Being a great listener has many advantages.
For example truly listening to a client will provide important details on how they are doing with the training or nutrition program. Sometimes I have found that shutting up is one of the best things I can do when a client is describing a roadblock, a fear, or just expressing something that made them feel good!
As experts in the field of anatomy, physiology and nutrition it’s very easy for us as coaches to go off on tangents showcasing our expertise. While it’s important to know this stuff (see tip 1!) it’s more important to meet you where you are at and only talk about those things that will help you immediately.
For example if you as a client are asking “What kind of food is best for muscle gain?” you should get a response such as “What type of foods do you normally eat?” rather than “The best protein for muscle gain is ..”.
This is but a small difference but the former response begs to dive deeper into something that is unique to you. It would do us no good as coaches to recommend 6 oz. of chicken if you are a vegetarian!
For me as a coach, it’s always so important to wait and listen to your client so that they lead you into the direction that is right for them. Actively listening helps with this profoundly.
6. A good coach knows how to encourage and express optimism
We are in the business of making people feel good about themselves. There is no better way to create a positive experience than for a coach to cheer you on and keep you on the track for success.
There have been so many times that a client will tell me “I can’t do that” meanwhile I know that they can do it since they’ve shown me time and time again that they can accept and break down challenges in front of them. It’s in these times that you as a client need a good coach to help you past those doubts.
In times of perceived failure it’s also important for us as coaches to stay positive and keep you excited about next session. No session is ever perfect and problems and perceived failures will happen. The magic of a good coach is to be able to reframe the situation and remind you of the positive things you’ve done as well as how this failure will inevitably lead you to success.
We as coaches should always strive to make you feel really good when finishing a session. One of the biggest disservices coaches can do is to allow people to feel they haven’t accomplished anything and feel bad about their time spent with you.
7. A good coach is always teaching you
The goal of any good coach is to give you the ability to eventually not need a coach to keep your fitness and health on point.
I know that this sentiment actually puts the business of trainers and nutrition coaches at risk but in reality a good coach is teaching you how to formulate success for yourself, on your own.
For example you should be able to understand how to formulate a full body workout properly after working with a trainer so that you can successfully perform such things at your own accord. Having this knowledge is not sacred and is not something that a good coach keeps to himself. The information behind exercise science as well as nutrition science is easily read and can be found after a simple google search.
A bad coach might try to keep these “secrets to success” to themselves feeling like they can’t give away the information and knowledge that makes their profession necessary. When you are working with someone that has your best interests at heart - they will teach you ways to one day be flying on your own without guidance. This is all about the long-term and a good coach knows that knowledge is power when it comes to one’s personal fitness and health.
8. A good coach provides accountability throughout the program
If there is one tip on here that can point towards the clients individual success - this might be the one. Accountability has the magic ability of letting you push past those days that “you don’t feel like doing anything”. If we talk about an exercise program - a good coach knows that there needs to be an ongoing check in with how people are doing with their programs. Training in person makes this easy as clients come to the trainer to help motivate and solidify the habit of working out.
There are also times in nutrition coaching where you can go a week or 2 without ever having a meeting with your coach. For us here at Forever Fit we meet with our clients every 2 weeks but have accountability checks throughout each day, and each week. These are musts for the ultimate success of the program.
A good coach will ask the necessary questions and check in with you to make sure you are doing the right things. It’s very easy to start to fall off if you are being coached by someone who does not have any set rules and boundaries in place that directly lead to pushing this accountability process. You always want to be reminded of and feel that you need to report on your progress.
9. A good coach is adaptable
There will always be times when progress seems to halt, things aren’t working or a new injury arises. The ability to adapt a program is so very important and allows for flexibility. Being a flexible coach is being a realistic coach.
If you find yourself running constantly into a brick wall, not making the changes you wish to see then it might be your coach who isn’t willing to adapt and change to what is necessary for you at that moment.
We as coaches work with people from all different backgrounds, injuries, and lifestyle habits. The power of adaptability cannot be overstated because it’s so vital in producing results no matter what the circumstances might be.
For example if you find yourself with an injury in your shoulder that prevents overhead pressing - you better have a coach who is going to modify the necessary exercises and revert the current plan. Sticking to the same plan will only lead to further injuries and decrease motivation as well as progress.
This works similar in nutrition programs where someone might be stuck at the same weight. A good coach can identify what the potential problems or roadblocks are, coordinate a new path to success and then execute that plan with the client’s wants in mind. There are no universal truths when it comes to progress for each individual. This takes a bit of self awareness on the coaches part as well as a realization that you as the coach might have been wrong to program X, Y, and Z. A good coach knows when to put aside their ego and adapt to what will work best for their client!
10. A good coach outlines what is expected of clients
As a client you should never feel like you aren’t sure what you are expected to do in any given situation. Knowing what is expected of you makes it that much easier to coordinate and work together on your goal. For example one of the first things I tell people when I meet them for training is how the flow of each day will go. I always tell them that each workout will be between 30-45 minutes and will include a mobility portion, strength portion, cardio portion. I let them know that it’s expected that they work hard and give their best effort each day. This helps to set the foundation of how a training session operates.
In terms of nutrition coaching it’s super important to set guidelines such as check in times, habits that are expected to get done each week as well as any type of measurements, pictures and progress markers taken at specific times throughout the program.
This takes out any guess work through the process and allows for a smoother communication between coach and client.
If your coach has never outlined expectations for you - you may feel a little lost, confused or unsure of how you know if you are doing things correctly. This makes it that much harder to ultimately find progress since you won’t be on the same page and feel that you are in a program that is well thought out and cared for.
11. A good coach is supportive and doesn’t judge you (BONUS!)
There are so many factors that make up a super coach and here’s just one more to add to the list!
This is probably one of the most important factors and it's quite simple. Having a coach that is there for you and doesn’t judge you for who you are is one of my personally biggest strengths when it comes to coaching.
Everyone has their own struggles, their own baggage and past demons when it comes to health and fitness. Some of you might have had bad habits that have become commonplace for you (an example might be having a soda with lunch everyday).
A good coach knows not to make you feel bad about these past habits or current roadblocks. If you are ever meant to feel bad about yourself after working with your coach, it’s not your fault but the coaches error.
The old school way of coaching that showcases screaming heads, demeaning words and an overall lack of care are NOT ways to successful coach people. All this does is make you as the client feel bad about things that you probably already feel bad about. This isn’t productive and will more than likely produce a relationship that isn’t long lasting.
It’s a shame that some of these bad coaches have put out this image of the jacked up gym trainer who leads by intimidation as the standard. This is not what I support or believe in. If you’ve trained with me you already know that I am far from a militaristic drill sergeant.
A good coach will see you as a person who has feelings, fears, hopes and dreams! When a good coach is able to recognize these things we enable ourselves to give you as the client the best possible outcome.
Do you have a super coach?
So the million dollar question...does your coach exemplify these qualities? A good coach is able to do some of these things but a super coach is someone who puts these actions at the forefront of their practice as a coach.
I for one like to believe that I am a super coach, I take pride in my work and I care about my clients successes. I have a great passion for helping people see things about themselves that they don’t yet believe. I love bringing out the best in people and showing them that they have the ability to be far greater than they would have previously thought.
No one person is perfect and I know that I can improve on some of these attributes myself. It’s in this realization however that a super coach is born - always wanting to improve their craft and help as many people as I can.