Relationships, Chemistry, and Virtual Coaching
There are two schools-of-thought in the world of sports. Those who believe that team-chemistry is a real thing, and those who believe that numbers and analytics are the key to success. Is it more important to assemble the all-star cast and coach who can draw up the advanced scheme? Or is the primary concern to find the players that will understand one another, care for one another, and feed off flow and momentum?
Now, most believe it is important to pull aspects from both sides of the aisle. No one would argue that talent prevails. And most admit that some semblance of connection is necessary to mold a team that holds any talent level. We need the players, we need the scheme, and we need to build the connection.
Currently, we live in a space where the x’s and o’s are driving the fitness business. It has fallen cold to numbers and data manipulation. Great coaches are attempting high-volume output and producing a rigid and distant Billy Beane direction. Sets and reps overcome any subjective measurements. Macros rule. And we constantly sell success as visible abs and increased 1-RMs. In this space, what separates the client’s choice of one coach over another is “the plan,” the imminent success of that plan, and the easy access to it.
So there is a lot at play, and we can only hope to scratch the surface in a short enough prompt that you will take the time to read.
Technology is the driving force for communicating great information. Really, so much of it is great information. You can have the greatest coaches in the business at your fingertips, err, force-fed to you the moment you open up your news feed. Their accolades are astonishing, their experience is like so few. They train olympic athletes, young athletes, old athletes, freak athletes --all portraying crushing personal records as frequently as your thumb tries to kill time.
This is the fitness business. The majority of its advertisement on facebook and the search tab on instagram filled with exercise demos, “do it this ways,” and “you’ve been doing it wrongs,” and “if you want a bigger bench-es…”, and this is what is grabbing the consumer to purchase their program, 6-Week transformation, and crash diet templates.
I use the word business not because it’s some niche following (“biz”) but because that’s precisely what it is. Coaches do not give away their services --absolutely not. And they absolutely should not. The only way they can provide you value is to ensure that they are creating value for themselves and their livelihoods.
The remote coaching market has defined what the value of its service is. It’s often a template, and a template that goes for roughly $100-150 a month. The consumer understands a few things about this value. If this were in-person contact from coach to client, the product would be significantly greater and significantly more expensive, the coaches wouldn’t be able to take on nearly as many athletes, if they hope to have a close relationship with them. TIME is the limiting factor for so many great coaches, and time battles volume of production.
Problem solved in the virtual fitness world --it loves high production volume. It reaches athletes far and wide. If you follow the prompt you are likely to see success, and all coaches want to see every athlete reach success, but that is the real kicker: These prompts, templates, number-treasure maps, define what your success is.
Back Squat Gainz!
We hear the cliche “enjoy the process,” but that is what so many of these programs are missing. They tell you this about “the process” without providing a method for ensuring that you’re doing so. Perhaps working out is a chore…
I know weighing my food is. I understand that the joy of that process is often the results that it produces. I enjoy putting hard work in the chase for the reward. The discipline that it requires creates a sense of accomplishment. It does not mean that I genuinely enjoy each and every moment I’m gasping for air and gutting out 10’s on Back Squat. But not all clients feel the same way that I do.
So how do I know what my client wants? We talk. While remote coaching implies physical distance, we don't need that distance to overflow into other important aspects of coaching. Coaches need to have these conversations with their clients. Does the client actually see swinging kettlebells and jumping rope as fun and games? Is keeping track of rounds and reps a ballpark inside their heads? Or is working out a duty. A duty to their bodies and state of mind? Is tracking food serious? Is the client one to put their eyes on the prize regardless of how it feels to see the results? Is feeling good right now, this very moment, what matters most?
On the super-speedway of virtual fitness, this is often the missing piece: Connection. Chemistry. Ironically, the absence of connection is thwarted by the high level of convenience that virtual fitness brings. Do it anywhere, anytime (no notebook necessary, we've got an app), no time wasted, “THREE SPOTS LEFT!” Taking the time to connect with one another might take too long, and we can’t have that get in the way of all that numbers you have to keep track of and the perfect adherence to your template.
Coaches are there to lead the client. While it isn’t hand-holding, it’s a deep sense of understanding where the client currently is, and where the client wants to go. It also isn’t friendship, but a level of intimacy that can provide better results than only numbers. We absolutely DO NOT ignore numbers. Assess, plan/strategize, execute, and re-assess. But unless a connection is built, the plan is fragile, the train can fall off of the tracks, and when the going gets tough, the all-star cast can begin to turn on itself and crumble to a lesser opponent.
It’s team-chemistry. And it’s data.
What are these templates missing? What methods can the plans implement to boost their efficacy? If we know that we can’t have an in-person relationship with our coach, what are we looking for in our virtual coaching experience?
Frequent check-ins. (Every week, or bi-weekly, either by email, text, phone calls, or zoom)
Additional notes to programming that are individualized or might have been a focus before. “Remember on those drop snatches we want speed under the bar to reinforce the connection of body to barbell in the third pull. We struggled with that two weeks ago.”
Coaches who truly look at the data the athletes are taking the time to fill out. ESPECIALLY FEEDBACK MARKERS. Is that athlete hungry, constantly tired, or losing motivation? Changes need to be made!
Coaches who are consistently re-assessing the desires of the athlete/client.
Coaches who take note of how frequently a coach reaches out to the client. Does the coach ask about aspects of life outside of the gym?
Coaches who share their passion with their clients. Look for a coach who finds themselves in the grind alongside you, and truly takes care of themselves as much as they plan to take care of their athletes.
Education. A coach educates, not only provides guidelines. If you ask questions, they are glad you asked. Because their love for the game glows. If a coach wants true adherence, they want their athletes to understand and learn.
Can you tell that your coach has a limit with the people he or she works with? They often say they have a limit… but is that a gimmick? The time and care they take with your program is one sign. The time they take to communicate with you is also telling.
The list isn’t complete, there are plenty of processes out there that great coaches use to develop a relationship with their athletes. There are also plenty of templates and programs where none of this is present.
This kind of attention isn’t cheap. It shouldn’t be. And that’s the honesty that you want from the person that you’re trusting with your fitness and nutrition lifestyle. That’s because it’s valuable.
Valuable because it’s near impenetrable. You’re saying goodbye to the “on-off-on-off” approach where you only climb aboard when your motivation is higher than normal. This relationship molds what it takes to be successful with what's going on in your current life and how you're responding to the work in front of you. This coaching can, and does, exist in the virtual fitness world. You just have to know what you’re looking for.