I have made the best career out of coaching. I have coached powerlifters, weightlifters, runners, high school athletes, and people who want to be healthier. I love to immerse myself in the nuances of strength and conditioning, programming, technique analysis, and the psychology of coaching. Coaching is my passion and I’m always itching to know more and get better! However, I am not my own coach.
It’s not that I find myself underqualified. I am quite proud (but not satisfied, of course) of how far I’ve come in terms of my education and skills, and my clients have had excellent outcomes! But, every athlete needs a coach, and coach-me can’t coach athlete-me.
One reason is that by coaching myself, I rob myself of the professional development of getting coached. As a coach, it is SO important to continue learning and adding tools to your toolbox. The best way is by being a sponge around other professionals and soak up their expertise! Just the other day, I was watching John coach a class and thought to myself, “huh, I’ve never coached it that way before—I will try that!”
Still, being around other coaches as a bystander, in my opinion, isn’t enough. When I’m observing, I miss out on the most crucial part: the athlete experience. What did that teaching cue emphasize? How does this approach make the athlete feel? Receiving coaching is a full immersion learning experience; it is one of the most valuable training tools I’ve found.
Accountability and Motivation
But even if it wasn’t so great for my career development, I still couldn’t be my coach. It’s not that I need accountability to get in the gym, though accountability is a fantastic benefit of having a coach and can significantly improve success! For me, training is like brushing my teeth; it’s a part of my everyday routine. It’s my “me” time that I look forward to every day, where I am focused on nothing else but myself and my improvement. I love training, and I hope to be moving my body in some way, every day, for the rest of my life.
I didn’t hire a coach because I need to combat complacency even though my coach does push me to do things beyond my expectations. Research shows that most of us do work harder and perform better in the presence of someone else. Still, this push wasn’t my original intention for hiring her. For years, before I knew anything about exercise, I pushed myself to do the nastiest internet workouts that I could find, dry heaving in the corner of the gym or on the track, all alone. To this day, I still love the thrill of a physical challenge (though now I prefer periodized, intentional training), and as long as I have a program written, I will do it with maximum effort.
The reason why I invest in a coach because I value mentorship, and I know I will get farther and be better working under someone experienced rather than trying to reach my goals all by myself. In my opinion, good fitness coaches are both coaches and mentors, investing in both outcomes and your personal and athletic development.
Hiring a good coach ensures I don’t waste time making common mistakes or allow myself to self-sabotage. As opposed to working alone, I have doubled or tripled my knowledge by combining it with the knowledge and expertise of someone else. I have unbiased, independent ears who will humor my training goals and ideas and tell me what I need to do to get there. She is a mentor who will exploit my blind spots by identifying the things I need to do or improve upon to be successful but can’t see myself.
Furthermore, the support is invaluable. The reality is that the legend of the lone wolf is a total myth — every biologist knows wolves are pack animals. Humans are much the same. The bigger the goal, the more support you need. I’ve hired coaches or acquired mentors for every sport, various nutrition goals, and nearly all my professional aspirations. Currently, I compete in Olympic weightlifting. I am still very green in the sport, and I always knew I needed an educated coach to show me the ropes. As expected, my coach teaches me the ins and outs of training, competing, and proper movement. But, what I didn’t expect was how vital her support would be to my success.
Don’t get me wrong; weightlifting is a blast. There’s nothing better than nailing a snatch with the most impeccable movement you’ve ever mustered, or fighting for a massive clean and jerk PR! Meets are exhilarating, and the community is kind and supportive. But honestly, the day to day training is not always easy; it is sometimes grueling, frustrating, mundane, and isolating. I often train alone, doing the same exercises, grinding through not so sexy strength work.
It is incredible to have someone to be there every step of my journey; someone who will listen to me babble on about the jerk recovery that almost took my life, or how nice my footwork looked on rep 57. Of course, you can have excellent support from family and friends, but it’s nice to have this relationship with a coach who you completely trust to take care of you and lead you to success. With a coach, you never have to worry about process because they’ve got you. You’re in this together! Having a coach allows you to show up, do the work, and be the best athlete you can and will be.
That’s because regardless of the endeavor, a coach is someone who will push you hard day in and day out, celebrate your successes, and grieve the setbacks. They are your strength when you need someone to tell you to get up and FIGHT; your voice of reason when the only thing getting between you and success is between your own two ears; your comfort amidst setbacks and heartache and doubt. Any journey worth taking is a long and windy road, demanding discipline, sacrifice, and the hand of a Coach to hold along the way.