Accountable Coaching in the Fitness Industry.
If you have read one my blogs, seen the Integrated Fitness & Nutrition website, or just caught me in the street - you would probably know that a personalised approach to fitness and nutrition is my 'thing.'
My other 'thing,' which I haven't spoken about as much, is accountability from coaches in the fitness and nutrition industry. Accountability and personalisation can be related, read on and I'll explain how so.
Coaching accountability in professional sport is an interesting place to start. Let’s consider a rugby coach and whose team is down by one-point in the final game of the regular season and need to win this game to make the finals.
The team get awarded a penalty 30 meters out, directly in front, on the final siren. If the kicker puts it through – the team are into the finals.
The coach has seen them kick this a thousand times at training, so feels quite confident.
The kicker steps up and BANG!
The team lose the game, don’t make the finals and the season is judged a failure.
Who takes the blame for the team not achieving their desired outcomes? The coach.
But the coach wasn’t the one who took the shot at goal and missed, that was the kicker’s fault!
While that is true – you can’t blame the kicker for the team being placed in the position that it had to win the game to make the finals... The coach is in charge of getting the team prepared and into a position where they achieve their desired outcomes.
The coach selects and develops the programs for the team, and the staff to implement them. The delivery and outcomes of the programs is the coach's responsibility.
If they win they can take the credit. If they lose they will take the blame. Most coaches stand by this and you will rarely see a coach ever blame a player for the outcome of a game, let alone deflect any responsibility from them.
Now let's compare this to the fitness industry…
You sign up with a trainer and they give you their generic six-week plan, which they give to all of their clients. The transformation pictures on their website seem to provide evidence that this program is the one!
You get started and you struggle to complete it. The exercises are too hard, the sessions run for too long and the diet has no variety. You feel like a failure and can’t make any progress.
You decide to give your coach a call to get some advice and guess what you get told…?
“There’s nothing wrong with the program – it must be you not working hard enough!”
The trainer just washes their hands of the situation and blames the client. And why wouldn’t they?
Most of the time the client will think ‘maybe I should have pushed a little bit harder’ or ‘it’s my fault for not toughing it out the diet.’
Then the client signs up for another program (with the same trainer or someone similar) pays their money and then they cycle repeats.
Despite what your trainer might say, the problem isn’t always you!
What about them?
If they give the same program to all of their clients the majority will fail.
Why? Because one program cannot suit everyone!
A program is just a bunch of words and number on a piece of paper – and it is never good nor bad. However, the key to a successful program is to ensure it's suitability to the client.
If I was to write a training program for an Olympic-level weightlifter, it would be stacked with the advanced training parameters, loading variables and recovery methods they require. If I then gave same program to someone who wanted to lift some weights to lose weight and get a little fitter, it wouldn't suit them...
It’s not that the program is bad, it just isn’t suitable to individuals needs!
Suitability is the role of the coach, not the client. A coach will develop a plan that suits your goals, experience and lifestyle. A good coach will then hold themselves accountable to the suitability of that program, no matter what the outcome.
Clients should not be expected to go around every fitness and nutrition plan until you find the right one for them… but think about it, this is exactly what happens!
People float between exercise regimes and diets looking for the answer. Some work for a while (usually due to the unsustainable energy restriction) and then it’s off to the next one. Some people might find something that works for them in the long term, but they are few and far between.
Part of my initial consultation process is to look at dieting history and see what protocols my clients have used in the last two years. It is not uncommon to see six or more different plans or programs they have used in the past 24 months!
So why do coaches give out the same programs to everyone?
Well it’s cost effective. If a trainer has 100 clients per year and it takes three hours to write a program, it’s a lot easier to give the same program to all of the clients than it is to spend 300 hours writing personalised programs for everyone…
If the trainer is not charging the client to write the program, then you get an idea why it’s easier to just use one program and blame the client if it doesn’t work. Because no one wants to work an extra 300 hours for free, and neither should they!
Accountability comes at some cost.
Coaches and clients need to be accountable to each other, but they also need to be accountable to themselves.
If you are a trainer – you need to be prepared to charge for the time it takes to put a personalised program together. Don’t worry about the fact that your overall fee will be higher than the next trainer who uses one program for all clients, because if you personalise and get results, everyone will be coming to you soon!
If you are a client – it’s a matter of you pay for what you get. An online program that costs $19.95 (plus a free nutrition ebook) is cheap but not necessarily of value. If things go don’t seem to be working for you, there’s no point trying to email the person who created it, because they won’t be writing back at that price!
Putting it into practice
So think about accountability in your training. Are you accountable to yourself and your coach, and are they accountable to you?
Now comparing professional sport and the fitness industry is probably a little unfair. Elite coaches get paid a lot more than trainers, and their athletes have to stick to what they are told - because their careers depend on it.
However, there still needs to be more accountability from trainers and coaches in the fitness industry. The culture of blaming clients is coming to an end. Shouting and berating might still be popular in some training environments, but you won't find it when you walk into a performance-based facility with quality coaches.
If the coach and client are both accountable - results are the by-product. So foster accountability and expect it from both parties!