How Coaches Can Change the Gym Expectation

The following is an excerpt from our P360 FCC Coach’s Manual. 

Attending class at a gym carries with it certain pressures and expectations. There are goals on the wall, a PR board, and people often performing amazing physical feats that quickly ignite goals within us just by being present and absorbing it all. Most gyms aren’t outwardly pressuring people into a certain type of fitness mold, but the writing for what path most go down is quite literally on the wall as soon as we step in. 

A new athlete might walk into the gym and say to you, “I want to be able to lift like those women over there”, as she points to the competitive athletes and those with a few years of training experience. Make no mistake about it. As a coach, this is the moment where we calibrate this person’s entire expectation. We either give in, reject, or inquire in one of three responses.

The first of which involves facilitation. “Great!” Let’s get you started down the path, you’ve come to the right place!” Immediate validation and accommodation. Too positive. The compounded daily outcome of this type of coaching usually results in processes being jumped and important steps bypassed. For the longest time, I was a facilitator.

The second involves resistance. “Well those women have been lifting for years, so I wouldn’t expect that outcome.” Immediate rejection. Too negative. Compounded daily, this outcome usually pushes the athlete away from you and towards another coach who will either facilitate or inquire. 

The third involves in inquisition. “Awesome. Strength is a great goal. What are some of the reasons you want to be strong?” From here, the game is on. We might find out that she has no idea why she wants that goal, she just sees it on Instagram every day and thinks that’s the purpose of fitness. We might find out she’s been weak her whole life and is ready for strength, or that she has diabetes, or that she just had a kid and wants to be a positive role model for her son.

The point is, there are a variety of deep “whys” a person might have for their personal fitness journey that spur the outward goal, and very rarely is the main objective the actual physical accomplishment. Knowing what the main goal is when we peel back a layer or two we’re able to calibrate and frame the expectation and create an understanding that there might be a better way to go about reaching the goal than the standard path. The goal is often an emotional reflection of where they think they should be based on subliminal gym pressures and the expectation we have managed to create for athletes in the landscape of today’s functional fitness.

Very rarely do you get this insight on day one, but more of an ongoing dialogue throughout training, where you’re maneuvering your athlete into training that better suits them with each conversation.

Maybe she will end up following a progressive barbell strength training regimen with you, see amazing results, and get exactly what she came for. In all honesty, that is the most likely outcome. However, maybe as her coach you quickly find out that healthy back squatting is not on the horizon due to a life of dysfunctional movement prior and a job where she sits all day, so you call an audible and are able switch her excitement to another form of strength training than the barbell. Perhaps you get her jazzed on working with a kettlebell and bodyweight strength goals like pull-ups and push-ups, and nudged her course deviation away from potentially corrosive barbell lifting. You’ve kept her focus and excitement on strength, but as a coach, you’ve made course adjustments on the map that better suit her movement. Same final destination. Safer route.

Don’t just immediately give in to the superficial goal. You must have the tools and preparation for many routes to arrive at the emotional goal, for if all you do is facilitate, you’re a concierge, not a coach. Facilitating is often born out of a lack of confidence in really going deep with people on why they are here. 

  1. Facilitation →  Too positive skewed. Unrealistic expectation and excitement. 
  2. Resistance →  Too negative skewed. Excitement and expectation dampening. 
  3. Inquisition → Collaboration. Realistic expectations and excitement. Set up for success.

If I have learned anything, it’s that coaching is just as much art as it is engineering. Leonardo Da Vinci achieved his genius for two reasons. One, he was a master of tools. He could sculpt, paint, journal, engineer, invent, and draw in equal brilliance. Two, he had vision for his application of said tools. How else could a man paint a ceiling on his back for four years and end up with mastery, if not for both the skill of an artist and the vision of an engineer?

See gym expectations through this similar lens. See every person as a unique organism prone to different adaptations and unique genetic characteristics that require a unique approach. Possess the tools and skills to know what’s best for their goals and the navigational vision to help them arrive.

That’s the future of great coaching, and our current aim. 

Dave Thomas Performance360 Coach Trainer-Dave Thomas
@VirginiaDave 

Coaches, our FCC certification will be open to the public for the first time in our gym’s history this November. To join our invitation list for when Early Bird Pricing goes live, visit the official FCC page.

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