Here’s a small list of questions you can ask your prospective coach, lifestyle coach, trainer, mindset coach etc. before signing up. Understanding some of these things will help make sure as a client, you are prepared for what you are signing up for, but also take ownership for what you are signing into. I've seen far too often the argument between "shitty coach and shitty client". If you have these questions up your sleeve, and you still sign up to the coach who turns out to be not what you wanted, well it’s not just the coaches fault in the equation. This also empowers you to know more before you sign up to a service or system. Which in our opinion is never a bad thing.
If you claim to coach mindsets, how do you do this?
One thing you’ll find all too often within the online or fitness coaching realm, is the claim of 'mindset' coaching. A blanket, generalized statement thrown out with no real understanding of things like behavioral science, or the way in which a mindset can be set, encouraged, nurtured, built or more often than not, damaged. I often find that mindset is used in conjunction with someone who is already a fitness lifestyle inclined human whos motivations or enjoyments are very fitness/training based.
This is rarely the person to turn to if you have a history of learnt helplessness, fixed mindset rigidity or lack any history of training intensity. Personality traits high in conscientiousness are high in organization, task orientation, and industriousness. This doesn’t mean they know how to coach someone through a mindset shift or adjustment. The wrong use of techniques or advice here can lead to more problems than it solves. Malevolent intent is not my presumption here, but being naturally intrinsic towards training/bodybuilding/ nutrition is not an indication one understands mindsets.
How long have you trained for?
One of my most consistently held beliefs is that curiosity feeds interest, interest feeds your passion, and your passions generally feed to your life. If someone is genuinely passionate about training, then they have probably done some form of training for a long period of time. They know the mistakes, they know the corrections, they know the do's and don’ts that generally come with exploring their passion.
Not all time lengths equal skill, that isn’t what I’m saying, but generally you hope over a period of time that a coach had been training or into training before they started coaching. Its generally how you know your interest can be fed into your passion.
What type of training do you do?
Not every coach/trainer is going to work the same way. There are a million ways to skin a cat, and generally there’s some underlying principles we all must apply, but that doesn’t mean we all do things the same way. Don’t be mad at a coach for kicking your ass and screaming during your sets if you didn’t know that’s how he trains. You will also want to know what field of training they specialise in. Are they a hypertrophy style coach that wants to build physiques or a powerlifting coach who gets you strong as fuck? Maybe they are more of a conditioning coach for sports or track. What ever way, it's something we should consider.
I’m sick of seeing online loudmouths that come up with dumb skits to pretend all coaches are bad cause they have a particular style of coaching and the client signed up to that. We must also take responsibility for taking on that coach. If the persons style of training isn't what you are after, recognize that and find someone else for the training style you had in mind.
How does your method work?
What is the method they practice, and how has it worked in the past? Eventually everyone will have some form of underlying method they use to deliver the principles they know. Is it more hands on guidance? Is it education? Or, is it straight up dictating the program?
All of this should be considered as it changes person to person even if the coach doesn’t think they have one. If they don’t have a method or system to their approach and say they work with you or your person specially I'd ask again in a different way, or question more. Someone that claims specificity will generally have a method to how they operate.
How long does your process take?
This is mostly a way to rat out bullshit coach’s. If someone claims they can solve your specific problem or reach your goal faster than anyone else, I'd ask or incline to want to know how. A lot of development, progress, outcomes that are sustainable take time.
Anyone can cut calories for you to shift weight quickly in order to get a quick result, but that isn't coaching. Here i'll give it away for free, take what you eat everyday reduce it by 10-15% per week, increase your daily walking by 2-5000 steps and there you go. You can be more aggressive to get rapid results, but guess what happens, statistically speaking this bounces right back. Again, unless we're guiding you to a race or a physique competition, the timeline needs to be understood. True education takes time. Results that last is what real coaching should be about.
Do you admit your own limitations?
Are they willing to admit where their limitations end? Do they know enough to know they don’t know everything on every topic? The more specific a coach gets the less they will know about every single thing besides just that. They should have a very good understanding on a lot of things, but there are a lot of limits. I coach resistance or weight based training at this point, I wont tell you I'm going to coach you through an ultra marathon as I know my limits there. This is taking ownership and ethically approaching the coaching space.
Do you have testimonials or client feedback?
Seeing what others have to say or look like in regards to their experience with that coach should be encouraged. Seeing if the results you're after have come from this coach perhaps, or that they know how to work with the results you want is important. No better evidence than positive feedback from those who have done what you are about to sign up to do.
What is your education?
This ties back to question 1 in a way. Asking what their education is, where they source their evidence for their methods and understandings of things is important for you to do as a potential client. Now you don’t have to be a PHD graduate to be a great coach, but generally having some decent education in what you are talking about or coaching in is ideal. I wont tell you a thing about mountain/rock climbing as a coach because I have absolutely no education in this area.
I can tell you that the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis is the fundamental system involved in the stress response and nowhere near enough people in this space understand that. I can tell you the in order to increase muscle hypertrophy we need to expose you to 3 different things. Mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. We do this by increasing the load we lift each time we train the same movement. These are things I’m versed in, and have continued to educate myself in.
Is this tailored to me?
There's absolutely nothing wrong with editing a program you’ve given someone else to give to a new client provided they fit the same circumstances and goals perhaps.
However, repeating the same bullshit program 71 times for 38 different physical goals, bodies, levers, mental training capacities, training histories etc. is not coaching. If you have a goal to bring up your legs and your set volume is predominately chest or shoulders, I'd be asking just how specific the program is to you.
Do you love what you do?
The difference in experience you’ll have between someone who’s whole life purpose is to improve you vs someone who’s just trying to scrape some extra cash online is immeasurable. You’ll have energy and enthusiasm with every interaction, you'll have to hang up the phone or leave the gym to stop the interaction they are that excited to coach. This is not something to be mad at. You know this coach will do everything they can to help you achieve your goals in and out of the gym.
Now, this is just a few questions to consider asking your coach /trainer before you start. Don’t hound them with all but if you suspect something we’ve written here aligns, I'd be suggesting to ask. This isn’t to start attacking any coach or discredit people, but it is a clients responsibility to ask these things as well as a coaches job to disclose them with transparency. Open communication between coach and client should be encouraged in my opinion.
Yours in nerdiness,