Walk in to any gym, facility or park in the world and you are bound to find a coach or trainer in action, several of them, but as a client, what should you be looking for? With a long list of courses displayed on their CV’s and the general public only now starting to gain greater knowledge in the health space, you can understand why it can become quite confusing to know what people should be looking for. Here at Absolute we know what you should be looking for and we only hire coaches who tick all the boxes, which you will see below. But not everyone can get in to Melbourne city, and it is certainly a mine field when you go searching.
Along with mentoring young coaches and university students, I often find myself helping people find the right coach or trainer for them away from Absolute. Whether it be having no access to us in Melbourne, or clients moving interstate or overseas, I thought it would be a good idea to share to a wider audience what to look for in a coach. It also selfishly indulges my own personal drive to increase the quality and professionalism in our industry. If the general population know what they should be looking for in a highly skilled & educated coach or trainer, then through simple supply and demand, the industry itself will have to upskill to meet this need. A win for all!!!
I wrote a piece here that introduces parts of this, Coach vs Trainer, check it out first.
So, what should you look for? What should you avoid? Let’s start with things to be wary of:
Social media followers
The number of followers has absolutely zero relationship to the quality of the coach, and unfortunately often has an inverse relationship. Don’t look for what the celebs do, don’t look for an overactive Instagram account with motivational quotes. Look for someone that delivers high quality personalised service, where they have stood in the same room as you, conducted a thorough screening, and have spent the time to really get to know every little bit about you.
Big biceps, perky booty and washboard abs
While your coach should definitely walk the walk, be healthy, and have a clear respect for their own health, selecting the one right for you based on what they look like is misguided. Thinking that if you train with a coach or trainer who has big biceps means that magically you will too will, unfortunately, leave you disappointed with your results. I’m not saying avoid them (or none of us at Absolute would have clients… Jokes!, guys you look great!), but just be sure it’s not a deciding factor for you.
8 week, 7 day, 12 week plans and detox diets
More on this one in my article here, but don’t be fooled by people selling dreams, magic transformation programs and quick fixes. Human biology just doesn’t work that way, and you will be damaging yourself long term if you try these approaches. Look for people who can guide you with long term sustainable structures that fit your life demands and your personal circumstances.
Now for all the good stuff to look for!
Kettlebell lvl 7! transformation specialist! wobble board master! Come on, the public deserve better! When looking for a coach or trainer you should be searching for someone with a clear drive to better themselves, to answer all the why’s, to have a greater understanding of the human body. Human beings are complex, and a deep understanding of physiology, anatomy, pathophysiology, biomechanics, chemistry and the all-important psychology, is essential to better care and results for you. Your coach or trainer should be able to educate you along the way. So, look for one with university level qualifications in courses such as Exercise Science, Human Movement & Kinesiology, or at least working towards one of these. It shows a clear passion to be a professional and make it a career, not for it to be just a stopover job. By dedicating years of time and effort, and having a thirst for knowledge in this space, it will better serve you. When you get your taxes done, do you go to a qualified accountant or someone who owned an abacus as a kid?
Time, it really takes time, no matter the education background, you simply can’t replace time in a practical setting to gain a greater understanding of human behaviour and psychology. Search for a coach or trainer that has experience in the areas you need, particularly if you have an injury history, a sporting pursuit, or focused goals for composition change. I have looked over all my records of the last 15 years and realised I have trained nearly 2000 people, from Olympic athletes and World Champions, to a 95-year-old couple & everything in between, and written over 8000 programs and class plans. I have made mistakes, I have learnt from them, and continue to learn and grow as a coach to this day. I take 50 plus sessions face to face every week still, and you just can’t replace that. Now obviously, I am old in the scheme of our industry, and take detailed, somewhat compulsive records of all this stuff, so you don’t need to be looking for that extreme. But, if you are going to be handing over your health and money to someone, make sure they now how to help you through first-hand experience.
So how does a coach or trainer get experience if people only look for people with experience you ask? Run classes, work in public gyms on the floor, intern at sporting clubs. This shows that level of dedication to become a professional in the field.
In this section I will also include a very nice to have, which is experience in elite sport. You may not think of yourself as an athlete but at the cellular level you are the same, so your training approaches should be, just scaled to your needs. Elite sport only use highly educated coaches with detailed scientific reasoning and structure for everything they do. Why? because it is the ONLY way that works, so why should your training and health focus be any different? Here is an article on why the elite approach is important for all.
Face to face
While there are some fantastic online coaches, what is critical is that at the very least you should be assessed and screened face to face, and taught correctly the technique for the exercises you are given in person. So, while online support may be the best situation for you, make sure you find one where you get to spend time with them each training phase in person. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope to injury and low quality training.
Detailed and planned
Your trainer should always be prepared with detailed plans for you. Working with coaches or trainers who just do things on the fly never works long term. Make sure you find someone who provides you not just with detailed programming for when you are with them, but detailed planning for everything you do on your own too. They should be across all aspects of your training; not just clock in and clock out for the times you are paying them for the one on one time.
Find a coach or trainer who knows their limits and scope of practice, one who says, “I don’t know but I will find out for you”, one who doesn’t try to be the jack of all trades. Your coach should have a network of other health professionals to also help you. Someone who doesn’t try to diagnose injury, refers to a qualified Osteo or Physio, doesn’t try to give you prescriptive diets, refers to a qualified dietician. A jack of all trades is a master of none!
The right personality for you!!
This is probably the most important part of all. You must relate!! Even with all the above ticked off, ultimately you need to find someone you get along with, someone you trust, someone who can open-up to you, so you feel comfortable opening up to them. The psychological components of training, habit forming and relationship building takes time to fully understand, so finding someone who can do more than just count reps is critical! The perfect exercise plan never performed doesn’t get you anywhere, so it is vital you find the right person to suit your personality, keeps you motivated, helps you find intrinsic motivation for movement. You need to find someone who will educate you, share your journey, share all programming details with you, helping you to establish autonomy in your own health not reliance on them.
So, know what to look for now? I hope that at least provided a start for what to look for anyway. Don’t rush in to finding a qualified coach or trainer, your long-term health and training results is worth it.
Written by Head Performance Coach David Smith