7 Important Lessons I've Learned as a Fitness Coach



1) Teaching Mindset > Teaching Fitness.

Once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it.
— Steve Maraboli

    It sounds cliche, but mindset is everything. Yes, it is important to outline and teach your methods to those who you work with, but it's putting the cart before the horse. Providing someone who has a bad mindset all of the necessary tools to succeed in their fitness life is akin to building a house on a sand dune- It's not going to be stable, and longevity will be a concern. The lens through which people look at their life will dictate how they perform in every aspect of it. It is absolutely imperative you have at least some knowledge of behavioral psychology if you truly want to help someone change their life, fitness or otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the ethical imperative of operating within your scope of practice. I just believe the scope of practice for a fitness coach should expand and include the ability to understand the psychology of their clients. Knowing someones wants, needs, and desires with better equip you to help them.

This point transcends fitness, as well. Regardless of the field you’re operating in, you will likely be dealing with people. If you can learn how to understand them, you will be able to create a much better experience for everyone involved.



2) Flexible Dieting Isn’t Everything.

    When I started coaching people, Flexible Dieting (Aka IIFYM) was beginning to peak in it’s popularity. It was, and still is, a large part of my coaching model. At this point, it’s very clear that flexible dieting works as a dieting practice. Whether that's for general fat loss/muscle building, or contest prep. However, many people have overstated what flexible dieting is reasonably capable of addressing- prescribing it as a solution for serious eating disorders and framing it as the be-all-end-all of dieting tactics. After working with enough people, I’ve come to realize that flexible dieting is not for everyone. In fact, many people simply can’t operate under healthy flexible dieting guidelines due to temptations. Some simply prefer to eat a traditional “clean” diet, and there is nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, you need to find out what’s going to work for a specific individual given their situation, goals, preferences, etc. Don’t be a flexible dieting zealot, they’re just as bad as clean eating zealots.



3) Don't be Afraid to Say no.

I’m not perfect for everyone, but for the people who I want to work with and who want to work with me- I can deliver extraordinary results
— Ramit Sethi

    Not everyone is going to be a good fit for your coaching style, and it is very easy to get lost by simply looking at every inquiry as more money. Once you have enough experience, you should be able to tell quickly what people just aren’t going to fit within your system. And you have absolutely no reason to feel bad about that. In fact, you are in some way doing the other person a favor in turning them down by saving them time, stress, money, etc. You are also doing the same for yourself. And it only makes sense that you work with people you enjoy working with. You will have much better experiences, your clients will make better progress, and you will preserve your sanity. Additionally, when you are able to be selective in those you work with, your value automatically goes up because you're not open to EVERYONE. It causes people to respect you more, and communicates that you have standards and boundaries.

(I recognize that at the beginning of your journey, you may not be able to be selective due to needing a roof over your head, but it should be a goal at some point.)



4) Caring Matters

A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.
— Gandhi

    There are too many trainers out there who view coaching as purely a numbers game- knowing full well they cannot offer each person a great experience. It becomes “how many people can I get to trust me so they will send me money?”. Unless you are a money hungry douchebag, I recommend you avoid this route. If you actually care about your clients, you are able to make their life better and develop legitimate relationships. That is something far different than helping them drop 4 lbs with your meal plan. Some of my former and current clients are now my best friends, and have provided me with innumerable awesome experiences that NEVER would have happened had I not genuinely cared about them from the beginning.


5) You Don't Need to Know Everything

The science is just the methods a coach uses. True coaching is rare, and 10x more valuable to an athlete than numbers. For that reason, the qualities I think are the most important if I was to order them 1-5 would be:

1. Passion and caring about the athlete

2. Communication skills

3. Emotional intelligence

4. Experience

5. Sound knowledge of evidence based practice....notice this is important, but last!
— Eric Helms

    Knowledge is important, but it does NOT define a great coach. There will always be someone out there who is smarter than you. Just as there will be someone who is better looking, has a nicer house, a more attractive spouse, etc. This does not mean you should live in a hermit shell because you think everyone else has already done what you want to do, but in a better fashion. It is not imperative you know everything if you want to be a great fitness coach. However, the pursuit of developing a sound evidence based practice is something that should be present in any fitness coach.



6) Word of Mouth is King.

Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.
— Chip Bell

    Having someone tell their friends that they are blown away by the service you provide them is the single most effective form of marketing you can find. Why? Because people trust their friends. Just as they trust their friends when they say a certain movie was good, or a particular city isn’t worth visiting. This is yet another reason why it is imperative to care about your clients. When you don’t care, it’s unlikely you are going to put yourself in the position to go the extra mile and provide the kind of service which causes people to talk about you with their friends and family.

If you want to generate word of mouth, offer a great service and great customer service. Period.



7) Don’t Underestimate Your Influence

Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
— Wilma Rudolph

   Too many people don’t pursue what they love because they don’t feel as if it’s going to positively impact the world. I thought this initially, too. Coaching was a fun hobby for me, but aside from helping friends get shredded for shows, I didn’t really consider the possible reach it offered. After having worked with over 150 athletes from 30+ different states and 10+ different countries, I can now tell you that what your limiting beliefs lead you to think you’re capable of, and what you’re actually capable of, are remarkably different things.


Written by: Jared Bichler