My first experience with a personal trainer wasn’t great. He was nice enough, but the six training sessions I had with him were right up there with “OB/GYN appointments” and “cheer for Florida” on the list of things I didn’t want to do. He tended to give me an exercise and a rep scheme then – walk away. Sometimes for several minutes at a time. I’d stand in the PT room feeling lost and awkward until he came back and the scenario repeated itself.
I was early into my own health and fitness journey back then, and my self-efficacy was low. Without encouragement and good coaching, I didn’t have a good reason to pack up my gym bag and meet my trainer on the second floor of the downtown gym two nights a week, let alone follow the programming handed to me on a piece of paper without someone to keep me accountable.
A couple of years later, my self-efficacy much higher, I crossed paths with the folks at The Gym in Charlottesville. Working with Justin for nearly two years not only got me strong as hell, it also taught me how to coach – and be coached. From what I learned – and continue to learn – I developed my approach to coaching.
My Coaching Philosophy
I coach each person I work with individually, even in a group setting. I learn my client. What do they need? How is that different from what they want? What inspires them? What discourages them? What are their goals? What does success look like to them? Where are their struggles? What would a perfect day in their perfect life look like?
Did you notice none of those questions are about a person’s level of fitness or how they move? That’s because I approach fitness from a holistic standpoint. I can write a program and ship it off with my eyes closed, but the ultimate goal is a lifestyle change which often (even usually) involves behavioral change. I don’t want clients to work with me “forever.” I want to get them to a place where they feel confident in themselves and their ability to make healthy choices without needing me. I’m here as long as they “need” me, but we’re working towards a celebratory high five as we part ways.
Say a client binge eats at night. They crush their workouts and eat healthy all day. But something about walking through their door flips a metaphorical switch and they suddenly can’t stay out of the fridge. We start digging. There’s a reason, and through questions and self-reflection, we’ll figure it out – or I’ll refer her to an expert that can further dissect her situation (fitness professionals – remember your scope of practice!). Or perhaps a client is skipping workouts, and later dealing with guilt over the skip. We’ll look at their excuses and question them. Are their excuses genuine excuses or a scapegoat? And if they are a scapegoat, what is the real issue keeping them from an hour at the gym?
The other pillar of my coaching philosophy is movement. I believe in moving well above all else. I ask clients to submit videos of some of their lifts/other exercises. This is so I can see how they move and correct it, not only for safety but for effectiveness and correctness that translates into comfort moving towards day-to-day life – no one should have pain when they sit down in a chair!
You likely already know that no two programs I create are the same. I have two clients that workout together and recently asked why their programs are vastly different when they both have the goal of gaining strength and improving body composition. The answer isn’t simple, but essentially, they each have unique mobility challenges. One does standard free squats while the other box squats, for example, and their prescribed mobility work is entirely different. But with the improvement I’m seeing in those box squats, free squats aren’t too far into the future!
That’s what you get when you train with me. Coaching personalized to YOU. If your goal is to “lose weight” when you fill out my intake form, I’ll program to that. But I’ll also ask questions about what you’re eating, how you’re sleeping, what stresses are going on in your life… We’ll work together to find success. If your goal is to “gain strength,” again, we’ll program to that. But we’ll also look at diet, protein intake, stressors, anything that might be derailing progress.
I coach as a partner, not as a dictator. From the moment a client signs up with me, I’m working in partnership with them – their goals, their limits, their schedules, their access to equipment. We celebrate victories and talk out the not so great days. And together, we work towards the day in which a client says “Sarah, thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I’m ready to move forward with my own knowledge.”
Those are really great days, friends.
Those are the days that make me really love my job.
Interested in working with me? Learn more about my 1:1 personal training right here. If you’re not quite ready to commit to 1:1 programming, you can get a taste of my programming (minus the personalized coaching!) through my downloadable Strong By Sarah program.
Got questions? Email me!