(We’re doing something a little different with this lesson–we’re going to tell you a story. Below you’ll find the story of Giana and Vance and one of their coaching sessions. There’s a lot to be learned from this dynamic duo. Give it a focused read and catch up with the takeaways listed at the end.)
Vance, wiping his feet and yelling sorry, hurried through the door into Giana’s personal training studio—The G Spot Fitness Results. He was late about once per week since signing up with Giana—but usually just a few minutes. This time he rolled through the door at a quarter past the hour for his top of the hour appointment. Giana was understandably frustrated—she likes to keep things popping frequently, and on time, at the G Spot.
Giana was at the squat rack, back to the door, as she finished setting up for their session. She heard Vance as he came in, but she didn’t see him right away. G, as her clients call her, turned to find Vance a few feet from her looking frazzled and hustling her way. Though Vance was often late, he was never this delayed and he always greeted G with a charming smile and a well-spoken excuse. Today he just apologized hurriedly and asked what they were doing today.
G knew something was up, so she didn’t jump right in with training talk.
“V-man, how you doing today, amigo? Is something up?”
Vance replied, “No fucking sleep and I nearly shit my pants on the way here. I had to stop at the 7-11 on Cambridge Ave and violate their porcelain.”
Clearly, G and Vance have an open discussion type of relationship.
He went on, “And my company fired my boss, so I’ve absorbed all of his work and all of his direct reports fall on me now. I’m not bitching about an impromptu promotion, but it’s so sudden and I’ve had zero time to prepare.”
“Whoa. Well, first, thanks for not shitting your pants in my gym. That’s always appreciated. Second, congrats on the promotion! You work like a maniac already, so you deserve that. Third, so you’re out of sorts today. I’m glad you still made it, though. What can I do to help you today?” G replied.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure,” Vance started, “I’m tired but wired as a mother. You know the stress rating scale we set? I’m at like a 41 out of 10.”
“Got it. That’s totally normal,” G began in reply, “You just had a lot of stressful shit dumped on you and, truthfully, it seems like you’ve responded pretty well so far. And I’m pumped that you’re here! So what do you think about using the forty-five minutes that we have left to de-stress a bit. I had a heavy squat and row workout planned, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea considering that you’re so stressed out. I think it may do more harm than good—what do you think?”
“I totally agree. I feel like I might actually shit in your gym and then pass out if we squatted heavy today,” Vance quipped.
“Vance, ya ain’t shittin’ in my gym, man!” G shot back. “What do you think about doing some light goblet squats for a few more reps today and working in some inverted rows instead of our heavy front squats and bent over rows?”
“Sounds like a plan, homegirl.”
Vance picked his favorite warm-up from the warm-up boards and got started as G broke down the equipment she set up and grabbed a kettlebell off of the rack and placed it near the TRX. Moving around a bit made Vance feel a little better. He liked that G’s warm-ups started on the ground and progressed to the feet. Vance felt like they gave him a chance ‘work up’ to feeling ready to train while also making his body feel better.
G was waiting for Vance by the TRX and the kettlebell as he finished his warm-up. She gave him some space to get his head on straight before starting the workout. Vance flashed his signature, charming smile as he walked over to meet her at their chosen equipment for the day.
“Alright, dude. Ready to go?” G welcomed Vance.
“Yep, let’s do this shit,” Vance returned.
G made sure she stayed vigilant. She knew that stress and fatigue do funny things to the nervous system and that his form would probably be off—even though they regressed the movement and decreased the load. She kept her cueing toolbox in the forefront of her mind as she let Vance perform the first set of squats undisturbed. G noticed that he was having a hard time staying upright in the bottom position and that his feet were pointed straight forward rather than at the slightly angled position that they decided worked best for him.
“How’d that set feel?” G asked.
“Alright,” Vance replied, “I felt ok, but something didn’t seem right.”
“What do you think it was?”
“Felt like I was going to deep and the front of my hips felt tight, so something was off with my form. I felt strong, though.”
“Cool. Strong is good. And you did a great job maintaining tension and position with the kettlebell and your upper-body. Did your feet and your initial descent feel off to you?”
“Shit. Yea. I forgot to angle my toes out and I didn’t reach my ass back as I started to squat.”
“Word, good catches. Just remember the mantra this time, cool?”
“You got it, G-Money, R.S.D. Reach. Spread. Drive.”
“You nailed it, V-Man.”
G and Vance did their secret fist bump handshake and moved on to inverted rows where Vance had a hard time keeping his body straight and rigid as he pulled. During his first set he continually pulled himself into an overly extended position at the top of his row. G noticed immediately, but let Vance get a few reps in before she offered any coaching. She started with a question.
“Feeling a little Macho Man at the top of your rows?” She asked.
“Shit. Yes,” Vance replied.
Vance immediately posteriorly tilted his hips so that his rib cage and hips were facing each other and he was in the “tall” position that G coached him on during their first session together. G starts each first session with a new client by using the plank to create context for position. Macho man is an overly extended spinal position and sad dog is an overly flexed spinal position. Tall is a neutral spinal position. Taking the time to create this context helps her coach every other exercise in the gym.
Vance finished his rows and thanked G for catching his bad position. He remarked on how he remembered their talk about how important good positions are especially when tired. They moved back into squats and carried on that super-set for two more sets, then they called it a day so that Vance could leave the gym feeling refreshed instead of wiped out.
“How ya feelin’ now, V-Man?” G asked.
“Better—a lot fucking better. I’m really glad that I came, I was in rough shape before I got here and now I don’t feel quite so much like a bag of smashed assholes,” Vance returned.
“I’ve smashed assholes in a bag, that shit isn’t pretty,” G quipped in reply.
“You’re not kidding!” Vance fired back.
“Well, listen, man. I’m so happy for you and your promotion. That’s killer. I know that you’re going to a great job. And great job with your session today. I know it’s tough when you have to dial back a bit—especially as you’ve been making solid progress. But you did a good job catching the little things today and correcting them, and I appreciate how well you respond to my coaching,” G thanked Vance.
“G! Thank you. I’m a little nervous about the job so I appreciate the vote of confidence. And thank you for all of your help today. I know my day would have been way worse if I didn’t make it in,” Vance thanked G in return.
“I’m always happy to have you here!” G said as she gave Vance a hug.
Vance hugged G back and then hurriedly made his way out the door and toward the few hours of meetings he still had left for the day. G made some notes about the day’s session on the back of Vance’s program spreadsheet and filed it away. She sat down at her desk to decompress for a minute before having her pre-training snack. She took a deep breath, let it out, and sunk into her chair as she cleared her head so she could prepare for the rest of her workday.
We hope you enjoyed this brief coaching fable about Vance and Giana’s session. Let’s list a few takeaways in bullet form.
- Although G was frustrated that Vance came late, she used context to understand the situation. She realized he needed her help, not a lecture.
- She validated and affirmed Vance and how he feels. Then she asked him an open-ended question about how she could help.
- She monitored his situation via conversation and made changes rather than just being stubborn and sticking to HER plan. She adapted and was a client-centered coach.
- She regressed movements because of Vance’s stress level.
- She asked questions to help Vance coach himself rather than making declarations.
- She found the bright spots before offering a correction.
- G built context early in their training relationship so that Vance had deep understanding and could coach himself. Examples are the squat mantra R.S.D. and the plank to build positional context.
- She’s obviously spent the time to build a relationship with Vance.
- She congratulated Vance and ended the session on a high-note and by thanking him.