Fitness Freedom: The Honest Truth About Coaching and Autonomy...
One of the main reasons I write this blog is to share my honest thoughts about coaching. I feel it’s important as a coach to be absolutely transparent with people because my whole job is built on trust. When people sign up with me, they trust me with their time and money to help them solve a problem; In this case, finding and achieving their ideal version of health and fitness.
As we’re on the topic of honesty, I’m going to be upfront and say this, ‘Not everyone needs a personal trainer.’ Some coaches might read this and think by posting this I’m actively discouraging people not to get a PT/coach (I will use the terms interchangeably as titles of equal footing btw). However, as I’ll explain, all I’m trying to do is relay an open minded, honest opinion. The fitness industry has a habit of putting itself on a pedestal at times so it’s time to show folk not all of us place ourselves on high planes of such importance.
A few years back I was in a rather toxic business mentorship group. According to them, everyone needed a personal trainer. We were encouraged to push the notion that people who didn’t have a PT were ‘the unenlightened’ and weren’t fulfilling their true potential. Their whole mantra reeked of arrogance and personally I thought it was highly condescending to those we sought to help. Their M.O was to make people feel dependent on us and fearful of what would happen without our support.
It was like being in a cult. No room for nuance, no room for acceptance, understanding or compassion - the exact opposite of the kind of qualities you look for in a coach.
The truth is some people are doing just fine the way they are. Not having, showing no desire to have or having never had a trainer of sorts does not mean someone is inferior. To this day it still makes me feel a bit sick that I got roped into the cult-like business mentorship group I mentioned above, but that's another story for another day!
Like love, ideal fitness is in the eye of the beholder. Nobody can tell you what it should look or feel like, it has to come from you. Just because someone else can see a way to optimise or improve an aspect of your training or health and fitness, doesn’t mean you have to take it on board. If you’re happy, healthy and are genuinely content going solo with it all, do you need someone to help you?
In today’s society though we’re constantly being pushed to improve, to be better, to consume more, to do this and do that… For what?
To satisfy what you think is expected of you? Living like this sounds like a recipe for disaster. There’s a fine line between genuinely highlighting pain points and using sleight of hand to convince people of the need to hire someone to help them out with their health and fitness.
Some are lucky though. There are many who have never really struggled to embody their ideal version of health and fitness. You know the ones… those that just seem to “do fitness” consistently?
Whether consciously competent or unconsciously competent, these people adapt to whatever life throws at them. They don’t over think progression, structure, whether they’re doing ‘enough’ or if they’re doing things ‘right.’ Their mental acuity, energy, strength, aerobic fitness and lifestyle factors are all pretty balanced* too, but more importantly the gym doesn’t confine how they express fitness. These people are autonomous and living ‘fitness freedom.’
(*By balanced I don’t mean free from ups and downs, volatility exists here too. It’s more that the ‘on/off,” extreme nature of living doesn’t play a part)
Some have never needed a coach to get to this point. Their upbringing and life experiences have added up in such a way that they’ve naturally arrived at such an equilibrium.
I’ve met countless people like the above and in my opinion, these are the folk who want a coach more than they need one when mulling over hiring one. I see having a coach at this point as a purely self development thing rather than a problem solving thing. The value here leans more towards having someone act as a consultant in the exploration of physical expression and the convenience of having a program being written up for you.
I currently work with quite a few people who are at this point. Some came to me this way, others, we worked together to get to them here, but the point is to get people to this crossroads.
I want people to feel the freedom that comes with being autonomous and thus giving them the choice to go solo or keep on rolling with me. Helping people at this point, when they are free from worry, free from frustration and fear of taking wrong turns is the ultimate privilege. To be told, “Hey I’m not dependent on you, but I want you to be around to help me keep on exploring this cool fitness thing because it makes me feel great.” - is pretty awesome. It’s a real privilege to be included in someone’s life when they feel this but if they chose to go lone wolf from here, honestly I’m just as happy!
Not everyone wants that person when they’re at this point though. Nor should they feel like they’re beneath those that choose to have someone along for the ride. It’s simply a choice, a choice of what you value.
Fitness freedom, autonomy, whatever you wanna call it - there’s nothing better than truly being the captain of your own ship. This freedom is one we all deserve and one that coaches should work towards giving their clients. In my opinion it gives our work more meaning. After all, have we really helped someone if in 20 years time a client finds themselves having the same problems?
As a result, I really do stand by the phrase “not everybody needs a PT,” but what everybody does need in my opinion is to not be dependent on others for their health and fitness.
Thanks for reading,