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.
New Ebook.The above is a screenshot of the cover of a short ebook I have written and made available over at my Facebook. It's only short, 8 pages or so I think. I wanted to offer a quick explanation for things like -
Please give it a read, maybe give me a review too?
P.S - It's free.
Whether you’re a new trainer to a gym, or a gym goer who has just hired a trainer.
The main things – empowerment and accountability.
One of the first pieces of advice I was given as a personal trainer was to “never give a client something they can do without you.” I hated this idea. If they see me once a week but need to train by themselves 2-3x a week then how could I expect them to get results if they could only train optimally with me breathing down their neck? God help them if they were online clients! To answer this I decided to go a different path. I wanted to offer every client the confidence and the accountability to train efficiently.
I always went into a session, whether that be with a new client or an old one, with the idea of giving them the power and the confidence to continue in the gym with or without me.
Some people in my position would assume that the more sessions they can have a client do with them per week the better, however, the majority of people can’t afford this. The way around this is to train them, either in how to do the movement, increase their confidence in the gym, or both, to a level where they can walk into a gym and be comfortable enough to workout with the same efficiency as if you were there with them. What we offer then, is more than just our knowledge, it is the double edged sword of empowerment and accountability.
I believe that there is almost of a scale of how much accountability a client needs as opposed to empowerment. A confident gym goer might just need someone to keep them in check, a shy gym goer might need someone to really raise their self-esteem to the point that they feel that they belong in a gym.
Imagine doing your first powerlifting competition and really enjoying it. You can’t wait for your second. Then it happens, and it’s the worst one you’ve ever done. The build-up was terrible, you barely slept or trained. You felt weak and unfocused on the day. Worst of all, you failed four out of the nine lifts and did not beat any of your own gym personal bests. Something had to change.
Embarking upon a new plan, or trying to incorporate a new habit into your life is a difficult venture. To do it alone you will need a great amount of determination and commitment. To be fair, many people do just fine by going it alone.
However, a lot of people benefit from an external source of accountability. A good coach can offer various sources of accountability, and they can be one in themselves. Having someone else look after your training means there is someone else there to keep you in check, they may also introduce you to other clients who will provide you with a sense of community. In some cases they may use a variety of systems or apps to keep on top of you.
My own uses of Accountability –
You might know most of this already if you follow my site and social media but I’ll go over it again. I have been training people since 2013 and I’ve been competing in powerlifting since late 2014.
I’d always managed my own training myself but in the space of time between September 2014 and June 2015 I was working two jobs, going to college and training for competitions. I got to a point where I knew something had to give.
In 2015 I was training towards a competition in May, and this coincided with exams and coursework deadlines in college. Time was low and my energy levels were lower. About a month away from the competition my training was going really well in the gym as I had hit a squat personal best of 190kg, a bench press best of 130kg and a deadlift personal best of 240kg. All appeared to be going well, I had gotten stronger and still had a month of work left to get a little bit stronger and work on a few technical issues here and there.
However, in the weeks leading up to the competition my workload had gotten to the point where I could only train two, at best three, times a week. As opposed to the five times a week previously. The increasing workload also led to me losing sleep and getting migraines. So when it got to the competition I was burnt out.
The Competition Itself –
I don’t like talking about this competition as it was the worst one I’ve experienced, and it was only my second. I failed my first squat (twice, don’t ask) on depth and then by the time I had gotten to my second my head was gone and I lost all concentration and stepped forward before the judge said “rack.” On the third I took a risk and went up 12.5kg and got it as I knew I was my own worst enemy there.
On bench, I realised how different the warmup bar was to the competition one and failed my opener. Then adjusted my grip and the second flew so I added a conservative 5kg to it and failed it completely.
Deadlifts went well, but I still got less than my gym personal best (I hit 237.5kg) just to make sure I got the qualifying total for the British Championships.
In hindsight, I got a competition squat, deadlift and total personal best at the time but my preparation and management of the day was horrendous.
What had to give -
This experience made me realise that maybe I could get some help with some elements of my training. As well as this I quit one of my jobs, which was a massive risk as it left me purely self-employed while paying an extortionate rent in a commercial gym.
I realised that one of the main reasons for me allowing the build-up get so out of hand was that I was letting myself get in my own way. I decided to contact a coach and let them deal with me. I remember my first message to him being – “I’ve qualified for British and do not want to embarrass myself.”
My results –
The benefits were shown when I next competed 5 months later with a total increase of 35kgs. As well as this, I also managed to be more confident in all of my lifts to the point where I could open on a squat personal best. As well as the obvious strength and confidence increases, having someone tell me exactly what to do and not allowing myself to mess around with the training was a major difference in my training. It gave me less to worry about as any concerns in my training were just passed off to him in trust. This allowed for me to use training as a break again, I could just switch off and follow the plan.
In terms of empowerment, my own case is a little different. I was already confident in a gym setting, I just found that I could not be objective over my own training and any adjustments I’d need to make. The majority of clients that a coach will deal with would not have my background.
I take this into account when dealing with a new client, in that I assess what their confidence level within a gym setting is and take it from there. A client who feels under-confident in the gym would need more empowerment and less accountability and vice versa for a confident client.
I feel that this emotional aspect of training is one that is hard to teach, easy to miss and often underappreciated in the fitness industry. We can read e-books on anatomy, nutrition and aspects of business but this skill is rare. Coaches and trainers who connect with their clients on an emotional level like this will find that they form long and prosperous relationships to the point that its common to have clients stay with them for years at a time.
How to do it –
You can tell a lot by how confident the client is in general, such as by how comfortable they are with you or when the gym is crowded. Granted, the better you are at reading people, the better. We can’t all be a Derren Brown or a Sherlock Holmes, but learning to pick up on certain cues will work wonders here.
You will need to be receptive, and maybe even a bit manipulative. Not quite Machiavellian, but knowing how and when to push buttons will help you encourage your client and their gym bravado. Treating every client the same won’t work. Of course, they’ll all get the same level of treatment but the finer points will vary.
The gym goer who has just started with a trainer should be with a trainer they trust to make these decisions. A lot of this will be trial and error too, so in regards to this relationship of client/trainer, make sure you give each other a break occasionally. You’re only after the best for the other.
Author - Danny Lee
Owner/Coach/Writer of Daniel Lee Fitness and Daniel Lee Media.
Ben is the final lifter for this series this week. Big, blond, looks a bit like Hunter from Gladiators.
I know Ben through Charles. He was one of Charles's students in his martial arts class and was interested in powerlifting, and so the connection was made.
Luckily, Ben hasn't had the injury issues that the other two guys have had. Which means that our training has basically been focused on just getting him stronger.
So far, Ben has competed at the North West Bench Competition, where he got a 132.5kg bench press and a silver medal. Following this, he competed at the North West Novice and Masters with Charles and Karen where he got: a squat of 137.5kg, a bench of 132.5kg and a 200kg deadlift.
The video above shows Ben tripling 135kg on squat, 120kg on bench and 185kg and deadlift. All of this is positive and he's definitely on course for some personal bests this Sunday.
I hope you've enjoyed the Lifter series of the client round up. I may return with some other clients.
Now for the 'Girl' of '2 Guys, a Girl and a Gym' - we have Karen. While Karen is now a powerlifter she has come a long way. She came to me with bad pain in both of her knees and she's now on her way to doing her second powerlifting competition. So if you have an injury, or have had a few niggles over the years, this maybe a good one for you to read.
The problem that Karen had was that she had pain in the knees of both legs but was given next to no advice on how to improve it. This meant that she would struggle to deal with the pain from simple acts such as walking. One physio going as far as to tell her that she should "see walking as a leisure habit, rather than an every day thing."
She decided to try the gym to see if that would help her, however, she did not have a good experience at first. Her first experience with a personal trainer was one who didn't listen to her issues and only compounded the problem. -
"When I first started training with Danny 2 years ago, I was in pretty bad shape. I had bad knees that had been made much worse by a previous PT. I couldn't squat, and using the stairs (or at times even just walking) left me in a lot of pain. I was told at physio that I would always have pain and should avoid all exercise except walking! So I switched physios and was told that I could improve my knees by strengthening my legs."
We spent a long time working purely with machines so that we could strengthen her thighs without putting undue pressure on her knees. It was after doing this for a while that Karen enquired about starting powerlifting and she hasn't looked back since.
We still have the occasional issue with her being worried about her knees mid squat, but the improvement has been massive this far. However, with some care, a lot of hard work (both from her and myself, at times) and some self belief she has improved massively and the knee issues are largely a thing of the past.
If you want to know more about this or get into the team training sessions, why not send me a message at - firstname.lastname@example.org.