In the fitness industry, it is widely accepted that our wellness isn’t solely about our physical ability. Wellness is viewed as being multifaceted; its about our social, physical, and emotional wellness. The list goes on, but the three listed above are three of the facets we see as coaches most when it comes to cultivating the optimal training environment for our clients. Our ultimate goal is to be a guide in our client’s journey towards achieving their best multidimensional being.
There are 5 pillars I refer to when building a training environment that supports growth in the physical, social, emotional wellness categories. These 5 pillars are: ProvideSafety, Share Authenticity, Provide Support, Develop Resilience, and Promote Learning.
First and foremost comes safety of the patrons and employees. We must provide an environment that promotes safety within the three facets of wellness above everything else. The longevity required to keep our patrons coming back to the gym relies on their ability to stay healthy. The physical safety spectrum runs from assuring proper technique is used while performing a movement with an external load to making sure there is no extra equipment on the floor where a client or athlete may be exercising. The increased risk of tripping increases risk of injury. Obviously, a lot more plays into an optimal training environment than just awareness of objects on the floor and movement competency, as these things pertain mostly to physical wellness. The following pillars address how we can provide a safe environment for our patrons, which pertain a little more to their emotional and social wellness. It is of utmost importance that we provide a safe environment that allows our clients to express themselves as who they are.
The second pillar is authenticity. I choose this as my second pillar because I believe it is equally important for the gym to run as authentic as they can to their mission statement. It seems these days that people are better at picking up on falsities or fakeness, for lack of a better term. Beyond a patrons ability to read whether or not the gym is an authentic place for them to grow, authenticity helps to breed confidence in employees. This confidence will create a snowball effect in that, employee confidence will pour over into their work and will support growth in patron confidence. As coaches or trainers, we attempt to build a system that is true to our beliefs; we set ourselves apart from other coaches or trainers through personal experience. There is something to be said about being authentic to the differences between humans when it comes to their definitions of wellness, as those personal experiences set us apart from other trainers and coaches when it comes to what our clients want and need. It is important that we encourage each and every member that walks through the door to be authentic to themselves, the best way to do so is to create an environment where everyone feels supported.
The third pillar, support, postcedes authenticity because we must be willing to support our patrons in their genuine form (ie. Personality type, strengths, weaknesses, etc). We must be considerate and supportive of all walks of life. Not all people were cut from the same cloth so it is up to us to figure out what makes each person unique and to help them foster growth where they deem fit. This cultivates an environment of open expression. As our patrons feel more socially supported, they will feel more comfortable expressing who they really are and where they want to go. Another way to provide support is to create a motivational environment. In order to create a motivational environment, it is important to build an environment where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and success is celebrated and shared, even at the lowest level. This motivational environment will also help to build our fourth and fifth pillars: developing resilience and promoting learning.
As coaches, we are physically developing resilience of the tissues so that the athlete can withstand the particular forces in their sport. However, developing resilience is about a lot more than building physical resilience.
Have you ever felt way in over your head; like someone considered all your weaknesses and then threw you in a pool of them?
Did you sink or did you swim?
How did you manage them?
What did you feel like after?
As humans, we are wildly resilient, regardless of successes or failures. When we learn to walk we often fall down. Does that stop us? Typically not. We carry on with alternative methods until we find the one that sticks. Emotionally and psychologically speaking, resilience allows us to carry out learning without getting too discouraged with ourselves when we encounter the inability to complete a task successfully. We have the ability to overcome a wide array of adversities. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be the top of the food chain.
The weight room does an incredible job teaching clients and athletes just how resilient the human body is. It arguably does an even better job showing how resilient the human mind is. We must be pushed out of our comfort zone in order to learn and experience our own resilience. This is not possible without providing a safe, authentic, supportive environment for our patrons to feel comfortable enough to take a risk and reap the reward.
The concept of variability in training is a hot topic in strength and conditioning right now. Unfortunately, I believe a lot of coaches are using too much variability in training their athletes and clients without an understanding of the correct application. Variability seems to be the new buzz word used as an excuse to add complexity or progression before fundamental skills and movement competency are learned. Some coaches even seem to use the “need for variability” as an excuse to be less detailed oriented with their coaching and programming, as if there isn’t such thing as a “bad” movement strategy. I will tell you right now, there are plenty of bad movement strategies that athletes and clients use every day. It is our job as a strength and conditioning coach, performance coach, physical preparedness coach, skill acquisition coach or whatever the new label is, to take the athlete or client through appropriate progressions and positions to improve the likelihood of them using the most efficient/powerful strategy. Sorry folks, but this is without a doubt NOT going to be at full speed, in multiple planes, with a competition or a decision-making element. The poor movement strategy will likely never improve if you load it differently every time you do it.
Should there always be a reactive element if you’re training athletes? Yes, but skills and movements need to be built separate from the reactive component first.
Before we can answer this question, we have to determine who we are working with.