Coach -vs- Gym Instructor: What it requires to really help people

Over the 11 years I’ve spent in the fitness industry, I’ve come to understand what the people who come to me want when they start a fitness journey. It’s to feel safe, know they are getting guidance that is beyond their own knowledge level and have someone that can empathise with their current journey in terms of fitness and health. These key elements are not necessarily offered by your local gym personal trainer or class instructor. Now, this isn’t a blog to bash local PT’s and the helpful chaps at your nearest leisure centre. Instead, it is intended to be an interesting commentary on coach -vs- gym instructor and what it requires to really help people. After all, helping people is what we are all about here at LiftOff.

Scenario 1: Coach -vs- the gym instructor

Picture this. You walk into a new gym where a bright-eyed, cheery fitness instructor greets you and starts your induction. They make some small talk, if they have the flare of personality for it. They show you a couple of bits of equipment, maybe write down some programming for you and send you on your merry way. Fast track to a couple of weeks later. You’ve not seen the results you were looking for and therefore lost your enthusiasm. Maybe you’ve started to dread going to the gym. What has been the role of the fitness instructor during this time? Maybe a wave from across the room (or not in my experience). Did this instructor tick off any of the needs I identified at the outset of this blog; safety, knowledge, empathy?

Scenario 2: Coach -vs- the group class/boot camp instructor

You know the deal! Equally bright-eyed and cheery instructor, possibly just a bit louder. Maybe he/she sings along to the music or has a slight military demeanour. You walk in and initially get some encouragement and motivation. The class has 25+ people in it. The instructor is doing their best but they don’t even know your name. They tell you to “squat a little lower” and that “you’re doing great”. Safety is being covered a little, but the level of knowledge being imparted is minimal if any. As for empathy, there just isn’t the time and there are too many people.

Scenario 3: Coach -vs- Local gym personal trainer

Now to the big one, the daddy (and the expensive one too). PT (personal trainer/training) sessions at a local gyms are generally superficial. There, I said it! If your new PT has you doing a programme the first time they meet you, without, at the very least, getting some understanding of your background and ability, then they are doing you a disservice. Now, I’m not saying this is all PT’s out there, but if you went to see a doctor, they would sit down and ask you some questions first. They would check your notes and try to get a good idea of what you need before agreeing medication or lopping something off! My point is that empathy, and often knowledge, is sometimes lacking in the PT world.

Scenario 4: The professional coach

Now imagine scheduling a call with a professional coach. At the outset, they ask you some important questions to check they are the right person to help you. If they feel they can’t, they tell you on the spot and recommend something or someone else more appropriate. Next you meet them in person. They give you an hour of their time to find out a lot about you, what you want from your health and fitness along with what motivates you. Exploring your background, they query what you’ve tried before, how many times you tried it and why it didn’t work.

At the end of all this you make a decision, together, as to whether this is what you want and whether you’re ready to begin. Once you start you get to know your coach more and more. They in turn build a better understanding of your ability and help you make appropriate choices of exercise. They monitor your progress and explain what you need to do to keep getting better. Sounds like a better approach right?

Coach -vs- Gym Instructor: What it requires to really help people

So, in the battle of coach -vs- gym instructor, what is the key difference? Relationships! Building a meaningful relationship between a coach and a client takes patience. It requires one-to-one time away from the training floor and all its distractions. But these relationships are essential in providing real help to someone and not just with their training goals but with their nutrition, sleep and management of personal commitments. Most importantly, a quality coach provides the support network that helps keep their client training.

If you think you would benefit from receiving high quality, one-to-one coaching, please contact the team at LiftOff and we’ll look forward to building that all important coach/client relationship to help you succeed.

Coach James