After 11-plus years of coaching, I have learned that pretty much every single person who shows up to train with me has some pain.
Pain is something to which we can all relate. For some, it’s an emotionally-rooted pain, and for a vast majority of adults, there’s a certain amount of physical pain they deal with every day.
It can be tempting, as a coach, to want to fix this pain by writing the perfect training program. The OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) enlightened me to another idea. The training program is only a small part of helping your clients live without pain.
Shift Your Mindset
Most people are impatient and want results now. It’s why people try muscle ups when they can’t even do a strict Chest-To-Bar (CTB) pull up. It’s not their fault.
We have all been told we can:
Unfortunately, the path to improved fitness and decreased pain is a slow one.
The key is to help our clients shift their mindset to embrace a long-term, patient approach to fitness and pain-free living.
Here are three steps you may not have considered to change your mindset and get out of pain long-term.
Step 1: Many People Don’t Know Where They Are.
“Meet them where they’re at” is how OPEX CEO Carl Hardwick, a man with almost 20 years of coaching experience, often puts it.
The basic idea is to get to know as much as you can about your client’s:
Then, you can design an effective program for them that considers their entire life and ultimately “meet them where they’re at” in all areas of their life.
However, one of the issues with this is that many people don’t know where they are. They don’t even know what it is they want to achieve from working out.
Somewhere along the way, they decided that snatching and learning a muscle up sounded like a cool idea. Still, some clients have ignored the fact that they can’t put their hands overhead without extending their spine (or maybe they don’t even realize this is the case) and that they’re in physical pain every time they snatch.
This person keeps trying to shove a square peg into a round hole—Talk about pain!
Other people set arbitrary goals without really considering what it will take to achieve them. Have you ever had a client who says she wants to lose 20 pounds and get a pull up, but her actions don’t align with her goal?
She never sticks around to do the pulling homework you gave her, and she keeps admitting to her Taco Bell addiction. It’s frustrating as a coach to watch this person continuously fail, and it’s even more frustrating to be the person who feels like a failure.
Much of sorting out of this emotional and physical pain stems from awareness.
Helping clients figure out what they want—their intention or why—is the first step to uncover, work through, and eliminate their emotional and physical pain, explained Firass El Fateh, the owner of OPEX Abbotsford in British Columbia.
You have to, “Dig really deep with their exact reason for doing this whole thing,” El Fateh said. This starts on day one. “It’s about setting expectations right from the start during the initial consultation. Going through the assessment together and giving the client a clear picture of where they stand physically,” he added.
Emotionally speaking, when clients are honest about what they’re genuinely willing to sacrifice, such as losing 50 pounds—they’re more likely to shed emotional baggage and work to fix their problem.
Practically speaking, putting them through a thorough assessment allows your clients to understand their limitations.
For example, if your client knows they failed a shoulder flexion test, they’re more likely to respect the fact that maybe going overhead with a barbell isn’t a great idea just yet. Perhaps it’s even the reason they’re always in pain. From there, you can lay out a path that will help them fix this weakness and get out of pain.
The mindset change starts with awareness of what’s causing the emotional pain, physical pain, and understanding what they want to achieve.
Step 2: The Beauty of Simplicity
Remember the saying in elementary school: Keep it Simple, Silly (KISS)?
As coaches, we’re always trying to reinvent the wheel to keep people interested and show off our knowledge. Another lesson I learned from the OPEX CCP was about the beauty of simplicity.
This comes down to, as Hardwick calls them, the “Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs).”
Simply put, “Start with lifestyle,” Hardwick said.
First, you have to look at what the person has been doing for fitness and whether they have been doing “a bunch of inappropriate (for them) contractions and movements,” Hardwick said.
Look at what they’re doing the other 23 hours of the day. How are their sleep hygiene, nutrition hygiene, and stress levels? Teach them how this contributes to their pain, lack of recovery, and fatigue, Hardwick added.
“If the client isn’t sleeping well, drinking enough water, getting enough sun, there is no point of diving deep into the program design part of it,” El Fateh added.
Beyond sleep, stress, sunlight, nutrition, other basic lifestyle guidelines, Hardwick asks coaches to consider how many steps the person is taking each day, how much water they’re drinking, and what kind of bowel movements they’re having.
As OPEX Founder James Fitzgerald put it, if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your clients about their poo, you’re missing out. “It’s an indisputable barometer of health…You need to talk about it with your clients,” he said.
“Identify the lowest hanging fruit lifestyle habits,” Hardwick said, “and tackle them before you bother writing a fancy training program that promises your client the world.”
Step 3: Teach Them Why.
Anyone can teach someone how to squat, press, hinge, pull. While useful, for people to indeed be on board with a long-term path to better health and pain-free living, they need to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Doing this fosters that all-important buy-in explained Hardwick.
“It has to start with having the ability to educate our clients,” Hardwick said, not just through “principles and science,” but also through your own and other clients’ experiences.
El Fateh agrees. Once his clients have a clear understanding—based on the OPEX assessment he puts them through—he can now “tie in how their program will take them from where they are to where they want to get,” he explained.
He added: “Explaining the why behind the program is important…When people know why they’re doing something, they are much more likely to keep doing it.”
The more self-sufficient and autonomous your clients become, the more likely they’re going to make decisions when you’re not looking (which is most of the time) that are smart for them and ultimately help them get out of pain long-term.