Why I start writing this post on a nice Friday evening like this is that it strikes me, after today’s client work, that I told three of my clients to brake and rest. Focus on recovery, repair, life and everyday life. I wonder for a moment if this is the right choice. Rest … now? Will they reach their goals if they rest? I have time to reflect for a while before I get back into the right way of thinking and know, with all certainty, that rest is exactly what these clients need right now.
Finding the balance between pushing and braking is something every personal trainer and coach must learn. You want to make sure athletes and clients go outside their comfort zones, of course. There they need to be in order to develop optimally. Pushing is a big part of coaching and most people understand this. But we must also not forget the important counter-pole: to slow down/brake. The pole that is too often forgotten in the heat of motivation and eagerness to reach the goal.
Clients and athletes come in motivated and want to give everything. The new training and nutrition plans have been sent out and it’s time to get started. The sun is shining (or well, the lights in the gym are lit) and we have wind (hmm .. yes, well, the air conditioning is on!) And everything goes according to plan! In addition to check the clients technique, you as a trainer usually only need to do one thing here and that is to push! The “go hard or go home” mentality is strong and rightly so. Let’s do it!
As we all know, the road rarely goes straight ahead on asphalt with good grip without the curve of gravel coming sooner or later. Sometimes you have to brake before the curve and sometimes it comes so fast that you cannot do anything other than skid out. The curve of gravel doesn’t only symbolize something that has to do with exercise, but everything that happens in the client’s life and everyday life. Listening to the client / athlete and being able to see when they need to pull the brake is something that I cannot emphasize enough. I have seen so many times and even learned the hard way myself and experienced what happens when no one pulls the brake. It’s not a beautiful and fun sidetrack I can tell you.
I feel a great responsibility as PT, coach and trainer when it comes to understanding and seeing this. It is a person’s health that we hold in our hands. The fundamental principle that must always be there in everything we do: health. Both physical and mental health are included in our area of work. Although we personal trainers are not psychologists, which I often feel like, we must have understanding and knowledge of the mental part as well. It is about a teamwork and a symbiosis that should work so tightly that the communication between the coach and the client can be as straight and honest as possible.
There is a difference between tired and tired
There are many different types of clients and this is the most wonderful thing about this job. I just love it! In the profession as PT, you have to learn to recognize clients who are tired because they are unmotivated and just do not want or cope with the lifestyle change they so well need and clients who are tired because their CNS (central nervous system), muscles, body and mind needs rest and recovery.
The clients who need the brake are the ones who constantly seem to want more and think they can be superman or superwoman around the clock. Most commonly, these are competitive athletes. Those who want to be in competition shape yesterday. Strong will, motivated and laser focus is just the first name of what these athletes have loaded in the spinal cord. They are very fun to work with when they will do exactly what you tell them to do. This means that they will “go hard” as long as you are pushing them to do so. This is where it can be difficult and in the worst case can go really wrong if you do not know what to look for. As a coach it is fun to push and just keep your foot on the gas pedal, near the bottom and sometimes completely pressed to the bottom. Lying on the gas pedal is easy. What is sometimes difficult is to see and understand when you have to lighten it and slow down.
The comfortable comfort zone
Breaking through the comfort zone, from the place where everything is so wonderfully comfortable, is not always easy and clients react so differently here. Some can be nervous / scared, others motivated and a third just wants to lie on their back to come up with the first best excuse they can think of. You have to look through these clients and they rarely need the brake. Rather a real kick in the gluteus maximus with Nokia, high-shafted, rubber boots on. Why I draw the parallel with the rubber boots is because I am taken back to the memory of the janitor in the elementary school who kicked me in the ass as I hid behind a door. I hid to avoid the Christmas dance lesson we would have during the gymnastics lecture. After that kick, I was “motivated” and run away with a damn speed, joined the dance class and learned to never hide behind his door again. I have accepted the fact that the big high-heeled boots of the Nokia brand will chase me for the rest of my life. Now, I rarely bring my own boots when coaching my clients, but you understand what I mean here. I was unmotivated, got a “push”, did what I should and do you know? The Christmas dance was super fun!
As I write in my book (which you can still get for free by subscribing to the newsletter):
“I can’t say exactly what you will feel or achieve outside your comfort zone. That’s your job to find out. But what I do know, for sure, is that it’s worth it” – From The Little Book for Great Results, page 25.
How do you know when to brake?
If we ignore measurable values such as cortisol, blood pressure and the like, there is only one answer to this question: Get to know your client. Get to know the clients who need to “go hard” and those who need to “go home”. Understand what their life situation looks like, what they are going through and create a bond between the two of you based on trust and honesty. It takes time to get to know clients and it should take that too. It is part of the fine journey you will be doing together.
In my case today, it was first of all a client who called me and said he felt tired. I know he planned to do a workout after work today. I also know that he is such a client that often needs to be slowed down. There is usually no stopping when he trains. At the same time, I know he is doing a lot of work at home right now with tiling, renovation and so on. I answered him: “Rest! Get some food after work, have a glass of red wine with your wife and enjoy the evening”. This I know will do wonders for him and it will take one, max two, days before he is back on it and working out extra hard at the gym again later.
The other was a client who, unluckily, pulled something and hurt his back a week ago. This guy is so incredibly on fire, motivated and it just screams “GO HARD” out of him. He writes that he intends to do a workout and wants to start again after a few days rest that I recommended to him. At the same time he has been on a doctor’s visit with his back and we have not received an answer as to what exactly the issue is. I answer that we have to rest and modify the training into something easier that does not put too much stress on the back. We take the foot off the gas. It’s hard, both for me and him, when all we want to do is just to push forward. But that’s the right thing to do right now.
The third client had felt a great deal of stress over fixing everything for the children’s school commencement and felt that she could not work out today or tomorrow, she says. I understand she has a bad conscience coming in two directions: Feels stressed about finding time to work out and fix things at home. This is a new client that I do not know so well yet but I know she is very motivated. She doesn’t back down because she is lazy or don’t have the energy, but right now she does’nt find the time in her hectic everyday life to work out in a few days. What do you think the answer was? “Focus on life outside of training, calm down, don’t feel guilty or bad that you are not exercising and enjoy the children’s school commencement in peace.” Prioritize the important things! Think for a moment, what do you think is better for this mom with a full-time job and four children? To stress through both workouts and everyday life and try a to catch up with everything or to understand that nothing is lost even though the workout today won’t happen and instead manage family life and everyday life during these hectic two days? On Sunday or Monday the training will feel wonderful again and she will be so motivated. I promise.
Yes, there are always ways to create and manage time for your workout and you can’t use “I have such a busy job and everyday life” as an excuse not to take the steps towards a healthier life. I am more than happy to get up an hour earlier to do a workout. It’s a perfect start of the day for me. But it just doesn’t work for some clients and can create too much of a “must” feeling that often leads to something negative. This often makes it harder to get the training implemented in a good way in their lives. It’s about finding the right training volume for what the client currently has the capacity for in their lives. Exercise is not life but part of it.
It’s often easy to “Go Hard” but hard to “Go Home”. Understand that it is part of your journey to slow down sometimes too. Taking a well-deserved rest without really having to do more than you expect will do wonders for you. Dare to rest but make sure it is the well-deserved rest you undertake.
I wish you a wonderful weekend! Also keep your eyes open because on Monday we will start the applications for this year’s BackInShape2020 group! Oh, I’ve been waiting for this!
There are certain benefits as a subscriber to our newsletter. One of them is to be the first to take part in offers and different training groups. Our subscribers have been sent a password that will enable them to click in to the BackInShape page to read more and apply for a spot before we officially go out with the group next week. We keep a limited number of places and last year the places were filled fast. Subscribe to the newsletter if you want to read more about the group and be sure to reserve your spot in this year’s BackInShape2020 group.
See you in the newsletter or here on the blog soon again!