First of all, let’s be honest: most coaches are not so much professional as they are amateurs. Well, at least if you’re talking about self-training I would have to agree. Amateurs they may be, but that doesn’t mean they are crummy at what they do. No, those aren’t their training mistakes I’m talking about. I’m referring to the four biggest coaching mistakes that health and fitness professionals make every day without even realizing it.
Want to know what a health or fitness professional should NOT do on the platform? According to their peers, these are the biggest mistakes that they make.
Fitness and health professionals are tasked with inspiring individuals, helping them meet their goals and achieve results they are passionate about. With so much focus on the big picture, it’s easy to forget that much of the role of a coach is to provide feedback and critique on an individual’s daily habits and progress. Often, this means taking the time to be explicit and direct about what you are seeing.
Almost every health and fitness professional I’ve trained has made the same four coaching errors with their clients over the years. You’ll stand out as a real great coach if you can be one of the few to avoid them.
Is it true that I’m an excellent coach?
Every day, most health and fitness experts — some of them quietly, maybe — worry about this.
You want to know whether you’re as talented as you believe you are.
You want to know whether you’ll be able to stand out in the business one day, as you hoped when you chose this route.
What I’ve realized is that it’s not a case of “good coach” vs. “poor coach.”
In fact, even among the reasonably excellent health and fitness instructors, some of the worst behaviors in the business are the most prevalent.
The vast majority of the thousands of fitness professionals with whom I’ve worked have made the same four major coaching errors.
They’ve made mistakes that have set them back in their careers.
Errors that cause clients to fail or leave.
Fortunately, you can correct these errors.
Here’s what I’ll show you:
- ways to spot the blunders;
- how to deal with them; and
- how doing so will put you on the road to being a really outstanding coach
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So you go to the doctor’s office…
You murmur, “I have a stomach ache.” The wall of medical degrees in front of you is intimidating.
Your doctor is engrossed in her papers and does not glance up.
“Is it your esophageal sphincter or your jejunum that’s causing the problem?” Please be specific. Also, please hurry up. Today I have a lot of patients to see.”
You say, “Um.” “Um.”
You have no recollection of high school biology. Your belly button is poked. The ache is a little hazy. You’re not sure where the pain is coming from.
“It makes no difference. “It’s stomach cancer,” your doctor says quickly. She is still not looking up. She continues to write. She then proceeds to give you a stack of medications.
She adds, “Here are the medicines you’ll need.” “Please be aware that there are three dozen in all, each with its own set of adverse effects. Good luck deciphering that – I hope your pharmacist studied cryptography as a minor.”
“We’ll put you through chemo and radiation as well. You know, you shouldn’t have eaten all that bologna. Bye!”
Your doctor rises and exits the room. You’re alone in a chilly workplace, dressed in a robe with your buttocks protruding.
You examine the documents.
Instead of your name, it reads “Stomach Cancer Case #DZ/015” on the top.
You think to yourself, “Forget about it.”
I’m simply going to take some Pepto-Bismol at home.
So you go to another doctor’s office…
Here’s a situation that’s a little unusual.
You enter the physician’s office.
She welcomes you cordially and by name, and her demeanor indicates that she intends to offer you her undivided attention. She takes a seat next to you, keeping eye contact and a kind attitude.
You remark, “I have a stomach pain.”
She replies, “Tell me more in your own terms.” “How is the discomfort? “Does it have a sharp or a dull edge?”
You ponder. “Sharp.” She nods and scribbles something down.
“Does it appear out of nowhere, or is it constantly present?” You reply, and she continues to scribble notes.
She continues to probe carefully until she gets a complete picture of your problems.
“Well, that sounds like heartburn,” she replies after a thorough examination.
“Now, in my experience, the basket of chili fries and five pounds of death wings you consume on a weekly basis may be contributing to the problem.”
“I think we should talk about it. But it’s all up to you.”
“How would you want to continue now that you have this additional information?”
You pause for a moment. “I don’t want to give up all of that.”
With a grin, she replies, “I understand.” “I like chicken wings as well.”
“How about we start with a couple of basic steps, one from me and one from you?” I’ll give you an antacid that’s easy to swallow. Also, instead of 5 pounds of wings, you might get 4 pounds.”
“OK,” you reply, a smile on your face. “I think I can handle it.”
“And, regardless of how you feel,” she continues, “I’d want you to come back and see me in a week or so.” It’s critical to make certain you’re on the correct road with this strategy.”
“Please make an appointment on your way out so you don’t forget it. I’ll accompany you to the front desk and put you in touch with our appointment scheduler.”
You feel understood, a bit more confident, and relieved when you leave the office.
Maybe I don’t even need those fries, you reason. Salad with chicken wings That sounds appealing. Yeah.
Are you a coach who focuses on the coach or the client?
The examples above depict two distinct approaches to working with customers used by fitness experts and nutritionists:
Coach-centered coaching is the first method.
Client-centered coaching is the second method.
What’s the difference between the two?
The coach is at the heart of coach-centered coaching.
Clients of coach-centered coaches, like the patient in doctor scenario #1:
- are often frightened and self-conscious. They are prone to feel inadequate when they compare themselves to the trainer/coach.
- aren’t quite sure what they want. They often have just a hazy notion.
- may not be familiar with fitness and nutrition lingo They’re less likely to comprehend their “nutrition prescription” and are more likely to feel overwhelmed by it.
- may seem to be uninterested in following the coach’s directions.
This is because a coach who is focused on the coachee:
- does not conduct a comprehensive or careful evaluation of the customer Coaches are often hurried and overworked, working with a high number of customers at big gyms.
- inclined to make snap judgments based on their own areas of knowledge and interest.
- Inundate the customer with instructions and data. They may criticize the customer for being “lazy” or “unmotivated” either directly or implicitly.
- Changes that are excessively large or complicated should not be recommended. They may abandon the customer without the necessary assistance to make the necessary adjustments.
The coach identifies the issue and then advises the client what to do in a coach-centered approach.
The focus of client-centered coaching is on the client.
Clients of client-centered coaches, like the patient in doctor scenario #2:
- a sense of belonging They get the sense that their coach “understands” their situation.
- Clearly state their objectives. They can tell you what they want to achieve and why they want to get it.
- have a better understanding of their own bodies As a result, they are aware of the consequences of their decisions.
- seem to be energized and enthusiastic They have the ability to make the adjustments that their coaches suggest.
This is due to the fact that a client-centered coach:
- offers a warm environment and undivided attention To get a deeper understanding of the issue, the coach listens and asks meaningful questions.
- follows the instructions and schedule of the customer. The coach is adept at assisting the client in determining important objectives.
- enables the customer to become a “expert” on their own body. There will be no judgment.
- respects the customer as a whole person A client’s diet and fitness are influenced by a variety of factors in their lives.
- take into consideration “professional” knowledge and the client’s own objectives As a result, effective and manageable solutions emerge.
- Make clear, specific follow-up strategies.
The emphasis of a client-centered approach is always on the client.
This is very useful for a customer. And it’s very effective.
Being a great professional requires client-centered coaching.
Decades of study in the fields of education, counseling, and coaching have backed up what we’ve discovered with over 45,000 Coaching clients:
Client-centered approaches are far more likely to result in a successful coach-client relationship and long-term success.
Coaching that is focused on the client:
- reduces client resistance
- makes things simpler for you; and
- assists both the client and the coach in feeling positive about the transformation process
To put it another way:
Client-centered coaching does not imply a laissez-faire attitude or an open mind. It simply means respecting and assisting the client in developing their dignity, self-determination, self-efficacy, and self-expertise – they, not you, are the experts on their own life.
In fact, client-centred coaching makes clients more accountable and responsible, not less. You put them in charge. Now they’re accountable to themselves. You’re just there for reinforcements and guidance.
Four major coaching blunders and how to prevent them.
As I previously said, you’re in excellent company if you’ve been using coach-centered coaching. It also doesn’t imply that you’re a poor coach. It’s a natural aspect of a trainer’s or nutritionist’s development into a seasoned, stand-out coach, in my opinion.
Correcting these errors requires practice, which takes time. But the methods I’ll show you below are simple to implement, so you can start utilizing them right away… like at your next client meeting.
Coach-centered blunder #1: The solution is self-evident.
A customer may provide you with an issue that is pretty simple to address. You feel like a little child in a school, your arm extended high in the air, saying, “I know this!” This is something I am aware of!
Here’s how it could go down:
- The client’s issue is that they aren’t losing weight.
- Coach diagnosis: After reviewing their meal diary, you determine that they are consuming too many starchy carbohydrates.
- “Replace your carbohydrates with vegetables and you’re good to go,” says the coach.
Here’s another illustration:
- Client issue: They are unsure about what to eat after an exercise.
- Coach’s diagnosis: They need to increase their protein intake.
- “Eat protein after your workout,” says the coach.
In some cases, your diagnosis may be correct.
However, you are solely responsible for the prescription.
How likely do you think a customer will obey your guidelines if they aren’t involved in the process of setting the agenda? (Hint: it’s very improbable.)
Furthermore, you cannot guarantee that your prescription will be effective for that particular customer. While the inquiry may seem straightforward, you may have missed some important variables that influence their capacity to implement and/or profit from your advise.
You were being coach-centered with the greatest of intentions.
A client-centered coach could tackle the same “simple” question in the following way:
- Client issue: After a workout, a client is unsure about what to eat.
- Questions for discussion may include the following:
- “Could you tell me a little bit about your training program?”
- “Can you tell me about your energy levels before, during, and after you exercise?”
- “After a workout, what do you prefer to eat?” What is comfortable and simple for you, and what do you like doing?”
- “Given what you’ve previously told me about your schedule and capacity to prepare some meals, what would you do if you were to contemplate making a change here?”
- “Let’s discuss some ways you might add protein to your post-workout meal that suit with your preferences,” you offer.
The client-centered coach isn’t in a rush to provide a recommendation.
They’re more interested in figuring out what’s wrong and knowing more about their client than in making a diagnosis.
When it’s time to take action, a client-centered coach will guide their client to a decision they’ll be happy with.
Second coach-centered blunder: You’re the expert.
It’s easy to get your coach’s job mixed up with your expert’s position.
So, here’s something to think about: a coach isn’t an expert.
A “sage on the stage” is an expert. Experts have something to say, and they are the center of attention. They’re either lecturing, speaking, presenting, or writing. Speaking with an expert is a one-way street.
A coach is more like a “sidekick” who helps you comprehend, support, and back up. Speaking with a coach is much more like having a conversation… where the client speaks a lot more and the coach listens a lot more.
Many fitness and nutrition experts attempt to be both an expert and a coach at the same time. That, however, never works.
It’s impossible to speak and listen at the same time.
Expert vs. Coach: A Comparison
|Talks and informs||Listens and considers|
|Knows already||Is interested in learning more.|
|Responds to inquiries||Poses inquiries|
|The client is led by him.||Allows the customer to take the lead|
|identifies and directs||accompanies and guides|
|Takes the center stage||Allows the customer to take center stage|
For the record, being an expert is not a bad thing.
For example, I sometimes give lectures or workshops. I put on my “expert” hat when I enter the stage: I’m there to offer my knowledge, views, and expertise.
When I’m coaching someone, on the other hand, I adopt a different mentality. I’m not much of a talker. Instead, I ask questions, listen, and try to lead that individual in a manner that is respectful of who they are and where they are.
Do you see the distinction?
It’s all too simple to revert to expert mode. So, take a look at yourself.
Before you meet with a customer, consider the following questions:
Is it today that I am an expert or a coach?
Coach-centered blunder #3: You want to share what you’ve learnt with others.
Your work entails a significant amount of learning. You value information and expertise because they enable you to excel in what you do.
However, there is a difference between what you should know and what your customers need. You’ll need to understand a broad variety of nutritional (and coaching) ideas, theories, techniques, and terminology as a coach. You may use terms like “oxidative phosphorylation” or “cognitive dissonance” in your writing.
This information isn’t necessary for your clients to know. They also don’t use jargon and speak in simple English.
All your customers need to know right now is what they should be doing.
They just need to know enough of the “what” and “how” to act. The “why” and the specifics are largely up to you.
Here are several technical messages you should be aware of, as well as some practical, teachable take-home messages for your customers.
|Message of technical nature (coach-centered)||Adaptation (client-centered)|
Most clients should consume 0.7 to 1.0 g protein per pound of bodyweight to maximize protein turnover, protein synthesis, thermic impact of feeding, and muscle repair.
|Do you see your hand? As a serving size, we’ll use your palm.
At most meals, eat 1-2 palms of higher-protein foods. This includes chicken, fish, meat, lentils, tofu, and so forth.
Here’s a list of high-protein foods. Simply choose from the menu each time you dine.
Consume carbs with more complex structures, fiber, and resistant starch to help regulate hormone and blood glucose levels, aid recuperation, and fuel exercise.
|Make a cup with your hand. We’ll take it as the serving size.
Eat approximately 1-2 cupped handfuls of minimally processed carbohydrate-dense items at most meals.
Here’s a list to get you started. Fruits, entire grains, legumes, root vegetables, potatoes, and other foods are available. Simply choose from the menu each time you dine.
A person attempting to lose weight will have fewer kcal flexibility. As a result, reducing carbohydrate and/or fat intake may aid in calorie distribution and management.
To increase total kcal consumption and establish a more optimum metabolic and hormonal profile for weight growth, someone wanting to build muscle mass should increase carbohydrate and/or fat intake.
Let’s attempt to consume a bit less food because you’re trying to reduce weight. Here’s a simple way to get started: Examine your typical portion sizes and see if you can reduce them by 2/3 to 3/4. You may also try eating in smaller portions.
Let’s focus on getting you to eat a little more because you’re wanting to build muscle. Here’s a simple way to get started: Let’s add one more little lunch to your schedule. Are you familiar with how to create a Super Shake?
The best macronutrient composition for metabolic improvement and lowering chronic disease risk is still up for debate. A variety of dietary profiles may result in weight reduction, metabolic benefits, and general health, according to a number of comprehensive study studies. The most important element in determining the best result is consistency.
What is the healthiest diet? Well, it is debatable. I can provide you with some basic guidelines. But the most important thing is that we discover something you like and can stick to in the long run.
In client-centered coaching, you convert more complex, theoretical knowledge into practical information that your clients can comprehend and act on right away.
You bring handouts (grocery shopping lists, etc.) to client meetings, as well as infographics and perhaps even how-to videos on your tablet.
You’ll come up with a lot of ideas for meeting your clients where they are and helping them stick to their goals as you continue to use the client-centered coaching approach and maybe opt to further your education in nutrition, client psychology, and other areas of your company.
(Listen to this webinar to learn about the types of continuing education that are most beneficial to fitness professionals.)
At, we’ve discovered that the quicker you can get a customer from thinking to acting, the more likely they are to remain motivated and inspired.
Coach-centered blunder #4: Your client believes they know everything (when they don’t).
When you’re working with a “tough” customer, things become even more complicated.
Assume you and your customer collaborated to develop a fantastic program tailored to their needs, enhanced by your years of expertise and knowledge, and centered on their aims and ambitions.
You’ve only been working with the client for a few weeks when they inform you they want to abandon your strategy in favor of the advise of a TV doctor who recommends a new weight-loss product.
It may be quite tempting to argue with your customer at this stage. (To say we disagree is an understatement.)
My recommendation will most likely surprise you at first:
Don’t advise the customer to stay away from the TV doctor’s poor counsel.
Client-centered coaches understand that it is not their duty to convince, debate, or show why their approach is the better.
Remember that a client-centered coach listens, asks questions, offers their best suggestions and ideas, and then allows the client decide – even the “difficult” client who thinks he knows everything.
So here are the actions I teach coaches to prepare for these scenarios:
- Consider why that piece of advise appeals to that customer. Frequently, the client is attempting to satisfy an underlying need, such as gaining control over an uncontrolled process or seeking “The Answer” that would make everything okay. Or they may want the assurance that “a doctor said so.” Or for a variety of other reasons. Try to figure out why that specific piece of advise is grabbing your client’s attention. Why is this happening now?
- If at all feasible, look for the client’s fundamental requirement. “It sounds like you enjoy that structure, with the food plan,” you say. Is it beneficial to you to have anything written down for you?”
- If you can, speak to that underlying need: “OK, so if you’re looking for a little more structure, I might try X. That is simpler for me to accomplish and keep to, and it gives you the same results as you want.”
- Allow them to learn, try new things, and see what happens: If your client still wants to attempt “Dr. Whoever’s” wacky advise, allow them. In their own lives, treat them as knowledgeable observers and experimenters.
- Turn the “Dr. Whoever” experiment into a learning opportunity for the client, allowing them to get real-time feedback on what works and what doesn’t. “I’m interested to hear how the Dr. Whoever plan goes for you. Would you mind taking some notes for me on what happens on a daily basis if you stick to the plan? I’d want to know how your energy levels are and how your hunger levels are.”
- Inform the customer that you would be keeping a tight eye on them to ensure their safety. “As your coach, I’d want to keep an eye on you to make sure everything is going well. I want to make sure you have all you require.”
The most important thing is to remember that your customers are in control of their own life.
They are far more likely to achieve their objectives if they are held responsible to themselves (and give you your deserved credit for it).
Change in behavior begins with you, the coach.
Coaching may be a difficult task. It may sometimes entail going against what seems natural or usual (for example, when you simply want to shout, “Do not listen to that TV quack!”).
Furthermore, it may be difficult to see — and alter — our own habits. Nobody wants to be thought of being a “coach-centered” coach.
Switching to a client-centered strategy, on the other hand, may be the single most important thing you can do for your clients and your career.
Learn it, practice it, and improve your skills.
The outcomes will be self-evident.
What to Do Next: Some Suggestions from the Experts
Knowledge and passion are incompatible.
Here’s something you probably didn’t expect when you chose to work in the fitness and nutrition industry:
It may be difficult to get inside your client’s head if you have a lot of information.
It may be difficult to stand aside and let your customers lead the agenda when you have a lot of love and care for them.
Effective, top-notch coaching entails understanding the textbook fitness and nutrition material so well that you can interpret and modify it on the go for a specific client’s requirements.
Ironically, your expertise may become a crutch that holds you (and your clients) back until you have enough experience to conduct client-centered counseling on a regular basis.
Because here’s the thing: here’s the thing. (Excuse me; I know you worked hard to get that knowledge.)
It’s not your duty to know a lot of information and then dump it on the customer throughout that encounter.
It’s to take all you know and interpret it for them so that they can act right now.
That implies just providing them:
- what is vital, relevant, and significant to them;
- what they are able to comprehend and assimilate; and
- What will enable them to take action right now?
Here’s how to get started with your new client-centered strategy.
1. Recognize your areas of development.
Be conscious of your blind spots, assumptions, and places for future development as you acquire expertise in the sector. (Hint: You may be on the incorrect track if you have a strong feeling of conviction about “how things are” and a strong desire to “be right.”)
Based on what I’ve stated, how “client-centered” are you on a scale of 1 to 10?
What percentage of your time do you really spend…
- Are you actively listening to your customer (rather than interrupting or waiting for them to finish before you speak)?
- examining their standpoint and attempting to comprehend their viewpoint (rather than presuming you already know what they require)?
- encouraging them to come up with their own possible solutions or next steps (rather than simply offering them advice)?
- Rather of simply giving them directions to follow, ask them what they believe they could realistically attempt.
Consider a moment when you made one of the blunders mentioned in this article.
Make a mental note of such instances, and jot down a client-centered alternative strategy that you may use the next time.
2. Right now, assess your own client-centeredness.
On a scale of client-centeredness, where do you think your clients would rank you?
Is there a specific customer you could practice being more “client-centered” with?
Write out some client-centered answers to issues or concerns she may bring before your next appointment with her:
- What are some questions you may ask to get a better understanding of the client’s life and goals?
- What dietary jargon can you convert into ordinary language?
- Is there any way you might modify your suggestions for this customer to accommodate for the reality of her life? (How could you find out what her life entails if you don’t know?)
- The suggestion you’re going to make… Could you make it clearer or more simple?
3. Use your client as a channel.
How would you feel if you were in your client’s shoes? How does it make you feel? How would you want to be approached?
Craig Weller, a great coach, utilizes a visualization exercise to get himself out of the coach-centered mindset:
I picture myself stuck on a muddy dirt road in a rented vehicle in the middle of nowhere in the Costa Rican forest, with a flat tire and no gasoline or mobile phone service.
Then this one individual comes up behind me with a functional car, complete with a spare tire and a working mobile phone.
What would my reaction be?
How do I wish that individual, who has the ability to assist me, will treat me?
Your customers are in desperate need of your assistance; it is your responsibility to lead them out of the jungle while making them feel secure, appreciated, and supported.
4. Watch an experienced client-centered coach in action.
Don’t attempt to accomplish everything by yourself. It’s difficult to see your own blind spots or comprehend what you need to grow.
Get input from a seasoned mentor who can assist you in navigating your own coaching journey.
Find a client-centered coach who is willing to meet with you once a month for a few hours to go through some of your client work.
It’s like having a time machine because it enables you to glimpse into the future of your coaching career.
If you’re a coach or wish to be one…
It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.
Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.
It’s no accident that we say things like “health and fitness professionals” or “health coaches.” If we see them in the gym, it is because they are there to help us improve our fitness and health. But that doesn’t mean that health and fitness professionals are immune to some of the same coaching mistakes that other professionals make. For example, here are 4 coaching mistakes that health and fitness professionals make every day, and that can impact their clients.. Read more about precision nutrition philosophy and let us know what you think.
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- what can a health coach legally do
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