Coaching or Counting?

According to some Merriam Webster character, a coach can be defined as a private tutor, one who trains, or my favorite, one who instructs in the fundamentals and directs strategy. This is how I see my job, instructing and directing a person or group of people using a particular strategy, towards achieving a goal. Just as a sport coach instructs a team or individual through practice so to do I. I am a coach, instructor, and mentor.

Sometimes personal training gets a bad rap. Many times the title brings to mind the image of a big, tattooed meathead grunting as he reps out bicep curls at your local gym. Later he’s seen holding his clipboard while idly counting reps for someone and checking out girls as they walk by. He’s got big arms so he probably knows what he’s talking about, right? Or, there’s the yelling type like Jillian Michaels. A lot of people love that Loser show but I consider her a bad example of a trainer. There is too much yelling, crying and punishment. Sounds like my childhood (That was a joke. Of course I don’t cry). In my opinion, both of these people are counters; whereas coaches are more focused on program design, exercise selection, attention to detail and evaluation of movement.

If you lean against a wall and call it exercise I will yell at you too

Whether it’s an overweight person struggling with their eating habits or young athletes not performing well on the field, exercise is not about punishment. The professions of personal training and strength and conditioning should be about coaching to make individuals better. It’s more than just saying, “do this”, and then counting for someone. Many times I don’t want a person to think about the number of reps at all, just completing as many perfect ones as possible. I could leave them not wanting to do another rep or cutting them a little short because technical failure was about to set in. It’s not necessarily about the weight either. Especially early on in a person’s training age it needs to be about how well can you do it, not the weight on the bar or even for how many. Technique is more important than the number and you can build from there. Quality over quantity, a revolutionary concept. The key is having a reason why each exercise is performed, not because a specific machine was available or it’s “leg day” so do that, it involves your legs.

During my time in this industry I have seen people who wish to hire a trainer/coach only to dictate to them what they wish to do and not to do. Now I certainly don’t know it all and am willing to talk and compromise but in some of the extreme examples I am referring to, these are the people I wish to not be associated with. It doesn’t matter whether a person comes to me for a short time or for the long term, my goal is to educate them on the how’s and why’s of fitness. I’m not trying to trick anyone into feeling like they can’t train without me or to get paid for simply counting reps and spotting someone as they mindlessly perform half reps of their favorite exercise. I want people to learn so that they can improve in whatever way they desire or even just feel comfortable going to a public gym and getting a quality training session in. Much like when I train a high school athlete getting ready for college, I want them to be prepared. Chances are I will never know exactly what happens when he or she goes to school but I want that strength coach to say to themselves, “ok, this kid clearly has done some quality training and has a great base with which to work from. He or she is one step ahead of the game.”

This poor guy could use a lighter bar and some better coaching

If you asked me 10 years ago where I would be today I wouldn’t have guessed here, strength coach and personal trainer. One could surmise that because both of my parents were teachers I might follow that path in some fashion. Well, it happened. If there is one thing I enjoy most about training it’s the teaching. I could “give a man/woman a fish”, but I would much rather teach them how to. Our goal at Ambition Athletics is to help each person understand why we do what we do and how he or she can better themselves during the numerous hours per week not spent in the gym.

– Mike Baltren

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