This lesson is brought to you by Faction Mentor Wes “ShoDub” Showalter. We thank him for sharing some hard truths that will help us all kick a little more ass.
Early in my career as a fitness professional I had a basic understanding of movement, training, and program design (and I do mean BASIC) but I made a big mistake that was not only frustrating but not worth it. I was relatively fresh out of college and I would do anything I had to in order to gain/keep a client. At the time I was a big box gym and I was hungry to be the best, which in my opinion at the time best ment number 1 trainer in Chicago and top 5 in the company (which did happen). When I say I would do anything to get a client I was sacrificing my coaching philosophies/values in order to make potential client x happy and purchase training with me. I had just moved to a bigass city from central Pennsylvania and needed the money, in my own head at the time I needed to “prove myself” to the other trainers in my environment by competing for the top spot trainer.
I realized about 6 months into banging out sessions morning, day, night and weekends that I was not happy and that the juice may not be worth the squeeze. It wasn’t the lack of sleep or the shit loads of training I was doing that was making me unhappy, but a handful of clients I had that were not quite the right fit for me and my training style. I started including bullshit “programming” that went against my own training philosophies and education, and was well aware of it in the moment but also thought I HAD to do things that way to keep making money. Now when I say bullshit programming I don’t mean I was doing fantasy exercises or having people do single leg bosu ball fart squats, more so the exercise selection, volume and intensity. Everyone has a client or knows the people who want the entire 55 min-60 min of their session to be agonizing and leave the gym soaked, or the ones who aren’t happy if they aren’t so sore that going number 2 in the bathroom isn’t an easy task. I would do what I thought I had to in order to keep a client even if it was something I knew/thought I knew wasn’t efficient or right for them, until one day.
Once I identified what was making me unhappy about the training I decided to have a come to jesus meeting with the handful of clients where I thought my true approach may not be the best fit with their expectation.. Essentially I explained what their new programming and structure of training would look like and if they didn’t want to continue that I had 2-3 other trainers to potentially line them up with that they may enjoy better, but I wanted them each to attempt it for 2 weeks. Needless to say I managed to still keep all those clients except one, which benefited both parties, and was MUCH happier staying true to my training philosophies. In retrospect this could have all been avoided if I had confidently stood my ground and not “caved” to the premeditated ideas and expectations of the potential clients, which these days I do and life is much better.
Although I suggest never breaking your own training philosophies and practice as a coach, we are in the people business and do need to cater to individuals, notice I say cater and not cave. Example here is the coach/trainer with years of experience, knows the science, has the certs, the education and has the attitude of “my way or the highway” with shitty people skills. My way or the highway coach may have the smarts but if he can’t deal with people he won’t be successful or happy either. Meeting people in the middle and with constant communication is what I discovered is the solid solution for maintaining your principles but catering to the individual. Most common example I can think of is Donna Jean who wants to feel the burn and isolate her biceps, if we have a session and knock out the bulk of what I want Donna Jean to get out of her program I don’t see the harm in throwing in a drop set of hammer curls or some other frat boy friday esq lift at the end of a session to make them happy.
Trust is the bottom line here, because although you may have lots of success and education you won’t be able to practice jack shit on a client if they don’t trust you, and you damn sure won’t keep them around long. I won’t go off on a tangent about earning a client’s trust because that’s a shit ton of information that can be interpreted and performed on many different scales. Always be authentic in how you coach and how you communicate, no manipulation or B.S just raw and authentic real deal holyfield. Starting off by staying true to yourself and what you are about in your coaching is a much easier path than trying to re-establish yourself as a coach.