What do you do when you’ve got a list of health + fitness goals, a spark of motivation, and all the best intentions to make your future better than your past, but feel totally overwhelmed and unsure of how to get there?
Want my advice?
Hire a coach.
Yeah, yeah … I know. Why pay someone when you could just Google it and get your answers for free?
And you’re not wrong about there being a ton of free information out there. We’ve got more health + fitness information at our fingertips than any other time in human history.
But, even with all that info, so many of us are still struggling to make changes and get the results we’re looking for.
So I guess the free info isn’t working, is it?
What you really need is an expert who has the knowledge to know what information applies to you based on your goals and priorities, can create a progressive program that actually fits into your life given your available time and equipment, and can provide guidance and accountability to help you follow through.
Health + fitness coaching has become incredibly popular in recent years, especially during the Covid pandemic when everything was being offered online and suddenly you could have access to coaches who lived hundreds or thousands of miles away that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to work with.
For example, my nutrition coach is in Charleston, SC and my running coach is in Boulder, CO. It’s so awesome to be able to have my pick of coaches around the world.
So for real, there’s never been a better time to jump on the bandwagon and work with a coach to help you get stronger, run farther and/or faster, manage annoying injuries, improve your skills, overcome obstacles, create new habits, boost your confidence, and increase your quality of life.
But before jumping into a coaching relationship, let’s talk about a few important things you should consider first that come from my 10+ years of experience coaching people.
Because here’s the thing: hiring a coach is not enough.
Hiring a coach is just the first step — and it’s an awesome first step — but the real work is what comes after. To truly succeed, you need to be coachable, communicate, be committed, and be consistent with your efforts. Let’s break these down to make sure you’re ready so you don’t waste your time and money.
You need to be coachable.
Simply put, you need to allow a coach to help you. This means that you are willing to accept feedback in order to improve. We all want to get better, but not all of us are ready to listen when someone points out where we could be doing things better or differently.
Coaching is about evaluation and optimization, which involves a regular and ongoing system of analysis and feedback. If receiving feedback makes you get all testy and defensive, coaching isn’t for you.
Your coach is there to support you by helping you gain awareness of what you’re doing well, what could be changed or improved, and how you might refocus your goals or efforts to be more efficient and effective.
In order to get the benefits of coaching, you need to be able to:
- Listen to your coach and not take things personally. If what you’ve been doing isn’t getting you closer to your goal, you might need to be open to trying a new approach. Remember that your coach’s one goal is to help you succeed.
- Take radical responsibility for yourself and your choices, so you can learn how to make better decisions. The circumstances you face might not be your fault, but don’t make excuses that deflect accountability for how you acted in response or turn yourself into the victim. You can’t change what you don’t control — so when you recognize that you control your reactions, you can change those reactions to get different results
- Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand your coach’s feedback and guidance. Your coach is likely seeing something that you aren’t seeing in yourself. Rather than looking for ways to argue or disprove tough criticism, consider that it’s an opportunity to explore new perspectives that might move you forward faster. Stop trying to be “right” and be open to new approaches.
- Commit to growing your growth mindset. Nothing kills progress faster than a limited, fixed mindset that believes that things are as they are and can’t change. A few I hear all the time: “I just don’t like cooking”, “I don’t have time to exercise”, and “I’m a terrible sleeper.” Sure these things may have been true at some point — but they are changeable. Instead of making these statements a part of your fixed identity, ask more questions like “how can I make cooking nutritious meals at home more enjoyable?”, “how can I free myself up to do a few short workouts each week?”, and “what can I do to create a more supportive schedule for sleeping?” If you’ve hired a coach, there is some part of you that believes things can change — so don’t let these limiting thoughts in your head be the things that are holding you back.
When you’re coachable, you’re willing to learn, to try new things, and to take risks. You’re not afraid of failing because you know that failure is an opportunity to grow and improve. You’re open to feedback, even if it’s tough to hear, because you know that feedback is an essential part of the learning process.
You need to be consistent.
Getting a coach does not automatically mean you’ll get results because a coach can’t MAKE you adhere to the program.
Your coach can write you the most perfect program, but if you don’t execute it regularly and do the work, then it’s not going to help you.
There’s no way around it — it’s up to you to get those reps in as often as possible.
Consistent effort and practicing new skills, habits, and behaviors are non-negotiable when it comes to achieving long-lasting success. Without consistent execution and implementation, no plan or program will ever work for you.
It’s also not your coach’s job to motivate you or “keep you motivated” along the way. We are not cheerleaders or people you pay to “pump you up.”
But a good coach should be able to help you navigate periods of low motivation and help you develop strategies to motivate yourself to stick with your goals and do the necessary work when you’d rather stay in bed.
You need to communicate.
Coaches don’t just tell you what to do and boss you around. We’re here to help you figure out what’s best for you and your goals. We’re here to help you troubleshoot obstacles and problem solve the challenges you face.
So, communication with your coach is absolutely critical throughout the coaching process.
Coaches are not mind readers.
If something isn’t right or isn’t working for you, SPEAK UP! If you don’t understand the point of something or why you’re doing things a certain way, ASK.
Your coach also can’t help you achieve anything if you’re not telling them the truth or the whole story about what’s happening or if you ghost us.
Remember that it’s not your coach’s job to chase you for responses or feedback either — we’re not here to babysit you.
So, as you search for and interview coaches, choose someone to work with who has a similar or compatible communication style as you and is someone you feel comfortable sharing information with, asking questions of, and learning from. And before you sign on with someone, know what that coach’s communication expectations are and be sure it’s something that works for you.
Coaching is a two-way relationship that should be built on mutual respect, so choose someone you’d like to build a long-term relationship with.
You need to be committed.
We want everything like yesterday if not sooner. But most goals people come to coaching for will take time.
Sure, we could jam it all into a few months — but it’s not going to be sustainable and it likely won’t be enjoyable either. Just because your friend Jane trained for and ran a marathon in 9 weeks, doesn’t mean you should.
Training is a process and it takes time — like learning a new language or how to play guitar. Be in it for the long haul.
Do yourself a favor, don’t come in with the mindset of “what’s the fastest way I can get there?”
And be ready to commit to clearing your schedule to do the work. Sometimes this means juggling bad weather, and getting the kids to swim lessons, and whatever else pops up along with everything else that’s already on your plate.
If the thought of adding another thing to your to-do list makes you anxious or nauseous, it might not be the right time to hire a coach. So many of us have already overcommitted our time and energy and, unless you have a plan for how to scale that back, coaching can push you over the edge.
Coaching is a financial investment too — so you might as well set yourself up for money well-spent.
And (good) coaches don’t expect you to be perfect — hello, you hired us to help you navigate the imperfection, right? So perfection isn’t required. We just want you to keep trying to get better. Your committed effort is all we’re after.
(TLDR) Should I hire a health and fitness coach?
If you’re someone who does better with support and accountability (don’t we all?) and you know what you want to change or improve but have no idea where to start or you’re tired of trying to figure it out on your own and struggling to stick with the goals you set for yourself, a coach would be super helpful.
But, if you’re serious about making progress, you’ll also need to be willing to take ownership of your actions, show up for the work even when it’s hard, engage actively with your coach regularly, and go all in and commit to the process.
Think about it: the most successful people didn’t get to where they are overnight. They worked tirelessly, day in and day out, to refine their skills, to improve their craft, and to achieve their goals.
Remember, health and fitness coaching is just a tool – it’s up to you to use it to its fullest potential.
What questions do you have about online health + fitness coaching? Tell us in the comments so we can get you the info you need to make the right choice for you?