What’s Your Priority?

I was recently talking with my friend Jake, who also happens to be a coach, athlete, and father. During this conversation, he said something that made me interested and curious:

“While there are some exceptions, in general I tend to not pay as much attention to the training advice that is given by coaches who aren’t also parents.”

Now, as someone who is voluntarily and happily childless, I listened up and took note: as a coach, I care tremendously about understanding the perspectives and needs of others, especially when those perspectives and needs are different than my own.

Because he kindly added that I was one of the childless coaches who he knows who is an exception to this rule, I guessed that perhaps it had something to do with my experiences of sticking to my strength training programming, competing in several meets, and studying for my personal trainer certification while I was also in grad school and working three part-time jobs (one at my gym, one at the university as a teaching assistant, and one as a freelance editor who was getting assignments every bit as fast as I could complete them).

So you could say that I’m no stranger to understanding what it’s like to maintain my training in the midst of a very busy life. While those years were tough, I’m very grateful for them: they certainly equipped me to speak from direct experience when a client comes to me for advice on how to make time for training, as well as on what methods of training are most effective when time is short.

Well, yes, Jake said, but that’s not the most important part.

He then brought up the common tendency of trainers and coaches to basically pass the buck when clients and students aren’t performing to the coaches’ standards by claiming that the clients “just aren’t committed enough.”

Ah, yes, that! I’ve definitely seen evidence of that, and perhaps you have too. In fact, Jake and I then spoke for a bit about a blog post we had both read that was written by a coach who was very firmly within that mindset. This coach, who I won’t name, was very proud of the strict—almost militaristic—culture at his gym.

We both agreed that, although that environment would surely be of great benefit to many people and therefore shouldn’t be deemed somehow bad, wrong, or lesser than our approach, it was nevertheless not a style that appealed to either of us. In fact, we agreed that—despite this coach’s undeniable skill, influence, and experience—we would both have promptly walked right out of his gym within minutes of arriving.

Here’s the thing: there are certainly people out there who are able and willing to make their training their top priority in life.

And there are others who aren’t.

This is not good or bad. It just is.

I think it’s very important for coaches—myself included—to remember that everyone I work with has a top priority in their life.

Every single person who signs up to learn from me about ways to safely get stronger and move better has family members, jobs, hobbies, self-care techniques, and friendships that matter to them. 

Where training falls in their spectrum of priorities is going to be different for every single person.

And that’s okay!!! In fact, it’s exactly as it should be. As a coach, it is up to me to help them discover an approach to movement that fits their lives, not to impose upon them a training regimen that tries to force my priorities onto them.

I am happy to currently be living a life where my training is one of my top priorities. I regularly will finish a long shift at the gym that started at 4:30 in the morning and, rather than heading right home to the comfort of dinner and relaxation, get right onto my planned training session for the day without cutting any corners, looking for any shortcuts, or allowing myself the wiggle room to shorten it to save a bit of time. My training sessions often take a good while to complete, and sometimes are even further extended when I am called upon, during one of my rest periods mid-workout, to answer a member’s questions or respond to something happening in the gym.

I have a few clients with whom I work who I expect that level of dedication from—but they are the exception, not the rule. With everyone else, I work with them and answer their questions to help them develop a plan that fits the realities of their lives without judging their priorities.

To go back to the parenting idea that Jake brought up in our conversation—I have zero interest in telling a parent who prioritizes the health, well-being, and joy of their child that they just aren’t committed enough to their training if they aren’t willing to do x, y, and z.

To coaches: I call upon you all to deepen your understanding that your clients are full, well-rounded human beings. The fact that they are meeting and working with you proves that training is somewhere on their priorities list—it just may not be in the top three. I challenge you to accept that and to learn how to adapt the way you program for these clients to take their unique situations into account.

And, as a side note: I am currently in the midst of a move. Throughout the next month, I will be in the process of relocating from Boston, MA back to Rochester, NY… and as such, yes, some of my priorities will have to shift. While my training will continue as planned, my blogging may or may not continue regularly. If it lags a bit, have no fear… I’ll be back in full force as soon as my various boxes of belongings make it from point A to point B! 

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