When it comes to the world of S&C coaching, we are incredibly fortunate to have such tremendous access to all of the latest science, research and information, which can help both trainer and client alike. Currently, no stone is being left unturned for those in the know, on a mission to educate the general population on lifting and its benefits; gone are the days of ladies fearing the ‘bulk’, and now, the demand for evidence-based fitness has never been higher. Scam-laden companies, promoting magical potions and adhering to wacky claims of detoxes and body transformation shakes, are finally being called out by leading figures in the industry in a way that was never being done before. In short, the industry is changing – for the better, with a focus on ethics, science, and helping people to become the best versions of themselves.
As someone in the industry who prides themselves on being science-based, examining the evidence, and changing my mind whenever the facts present a contrary idea, this is music to my ears. Education equals empowerment; and when armed with the latter, I truly believe that people become confident enough to form their own destiny, both inside and outside of the gym. From my experience, both with myself and with my clients, it’s not only physical strength which is gained from consistent training and discipline in one’s routine – it’s mental fortitude, too.
The subject of mental health and mindset can sometimes be overlooked in favour of marble-slab abs or rounded gluteal muscles, but it is something so pivotal in one’s fitness journey – both in its application, and its endpoint.
In the same way that you wouldn’t start building a house on sand (Biblical reference unintended) without a solid foundation to support its bricks, there’s no feasibility in trying to get fitter, change your physique, or improve your health for the long-term, without the appropriate mindset and mental attitude.
At the epicenter of every fitness routine lies the potential for human folly; to shirk responsibility, get lazy, eschew discipline, and allow negativity to cloud one’s thoughts. All of these can get in the way of our fitness goals in one way or another – be it through changing eating habits, reducing activity levels, or in general, blurring the focus of the initial long-term goal. It is no coincidence that athletes continuously have counseling or life-coaching to supplement (man, I really am rocking the puns in this article) their hard training; the concept of visualization, manifestation, and self-belief are incredibly powerful tools in the context of pushing yourself past physical limits and imagining the victory of an ever-coveted medal place.
Taking a quick scan at your standard coaching program, you’ll see the hard science is all there: the periodised lifts over weeks and months, tailored perfectly to fit the client’s lifestyle and needs; an immaculately-calculated macro spread, explaining the intricate details of carbohydrate timing and the importance of protein; and an array of well-researched literature all compiled into easy-to-understand summaries for your average fitness newbie. While at first glance this may seem like the best thing since sliced bread (full of delicious, delivishly mischievous gluten, as luck would have it), there is one aspect missing – one aspect, that, if not supplemented with the hard science, could mean that all this coach’s hard work and detail put into this program goes to waste.
Mindset and mental wellbeing of a client are two huge factors when it comes to training, as mentioned previously. Not only does it entail how an individual will see the plan and their fitness journey, but it will – hopefully – mark the beginning of a new mental transformation in the way that they see themselves; that is, transcendent of physical vanities. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that exercise in of itself, independent of holistic factors, has been shown to correlate to alleviated symptoms of depression, in some mild cases even proving to be as effective as some forms of medication. And for many people, this improvement in their lifestyle transcends that of their original aesthetic goals.
The mindset of sticking to an actual routine is also cumbersome to so many who have been conditioned to society to ‘accept what will be will be’ in their lives, and thus being encouraged by a good coach to change their attitude and outlook to life is something that will prove invaluable to the – not only in the perspective of their program, but also in relation to the way they live their lives, personally and professionally. When the going gets rough, the client can’t just refer to their weekly lifting schedule and think ‘all is well’ – they require a holistic, quasi-therapeutic approach. So many habits, for instance, whether they are diet or fitness based, are borne from psychological tendencies, emotional ties and associations in the brain, which can help or hinder us with our goals.
A good coach should know all of this, and seek to help either tighten those knots in the good habits, so they stay firmly in place – or seek to loosen those ties, and replace them with new neural connections for each new habit; something more life-affirming and positive for the individual.
Indeed, the mindset of an individual before embarking upon a new routine is of the utmost importance, and sets the tone for their attitude not only to their fitness routine, but also to their entire life in general. For instance, a person who tends to be interested in physical self-improvement and setting their own fitness goals also tends to be attracted to certain schools of thought surrounding mental and emotional self-development and life coaching a la Tony Robbins, (or Gary Vaynerchuk from a business perspective) or even fields like Eastern philosophy for the more obscure approaches. This in turn will mean that instead of binge-watching Netflix for hours on end, an individual who falls into this category will tend to be more productive, have a better attitude towards life in general, and see working hard as a means to a greater, more satisfying reward rather than the instantaneous gratification one gets from less stimulating activities.
This same principal can be applied towards leading a fit lifestyle; the better the mindset, the less likely an individual will veer towards this ‘instant gratification’ of short term pleasure and happiness, i.e. bingeing on junk food or sitting on the sofa watching the TV for hours on end.
Beyond the scope of self-development and life coaching comes the more serious topic of mental health as a whole. It is firmly my belief not only from my own experience, but something that is also indicated by various studies, that fitness can help an individual improve their mental health vastly – and not just give them a nice set of abs.
This necessity for an examination of our mental wellbeing has never been more urgent. In Europe, it is estimated that around 83 million individuals suffer from a mental health issue of some sort.
Couple that with busy, modern day stress and inactivity, this new rise in mental health issues can only end in disaster if left unchecked. Some studies have even signaled, for instance, the correlation between increased physical exercise and reduced symptoms in depression. Surely, if we are to be good coaches and inspire our clients to be healthy, it cannot just be on the basis of physical health alone? Indeed, if we are to be the figureheads for leading a good example to live a healthy life, the mind cannot be left untouched; it forms part of our entire centre of wellbeing, in addition to our body fat percentage.
It might not be the most thrilling of topics to talk about, but it is an important one – and one that the fitness industry seems to be neglecting as of late.
Sophie is a personal trainer, nutrition coach, blogger, and model from London, basing her coaching and fitness philosophy on both science-based methods and holistic, self-empowerment approaches. It is her belief that the body and mind form as one; in other words, you cannot neglect one or the other and expect to live a fully fit and healthy life. She works as a new trainer at Dan Roberts Ltd and is learning from highly-respected London-based professionals to ensure she prides herself on being a well-respected, knowledgeable trainer with integrity, and can help her clients be the best version of themselves.