Tag Archives: coaching

7 (oops, 5) Things a Good Coach Will Never (ever, EVER) Do

So we’ve touched on this a little in the previous post: what you need in a coach, and what you don’t.

A good coach is VITAL to your journey as a competitor, and that includes POST-SHOW and OFF-SEASON. But hold on that, we will get to that in future posts.

If you’re questioning your current coach or exploring new ones, or if you’re wondering about your own coaching style, take a look at these 5 Things a Good Coach Will Never Do!

5 Things a Good Coach Will Never Do

  1. They will NEVER IGNORE YOUR FEEDBACK OR CONCERNS

Anonymous Example One (these are all true feedback stories) writes:

     “I left [my coach] shortly after my rebound from my last prep… Sent an inquiry about post-show or off-season prep (even willing to pay full price!) received a non-specific, awkward email almost ten days later and then nothing. Medical concerns went unanswered or dismissed. ‘Oh severe muscle cramping and numbness in your toes? Just drink more water.'”

I’m honestly shocked and appalled by how common these testimonials are. Let’s talk for a minute about something called rhabdomyolysis. I’m spending the most time on this point, because it effing matters.

WEBMD tells us: Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney (renal) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrate urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death.

In fitness this essentially means… bad sh*t happens when you overtrain. The scary truth? Rhabdo results in long-term dialysis (as in kidney problems for life) or even death, and can happen to anyone. Rhabdoymyolysis is particularly prevalent in athletes new to sports with high intensity routines. These people don’t know their bodies as well and are ignorant of warning signs.

Sample of rhabdo symptoms: 

  • Muscle pain, especially in the shoulders, thighs or lower back
  • Muscle weakness or trouble moving arms or legs
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nauseaor vomiting
  • Fever, rapid heart rate
  • Lack of feeling in hands and feet
  • Confusion, dehydration, fever, dizziness or lack of consciousness.

In untrained athletes, early symptoms of rhabdo (or overtraining… see below) are often confused with muscle soreness (DOMS).

IF YOU ARE TELLING YOUR COACH that you have one or more of any of these symptoms, and they’re telling you to drink more water… get a new d*mn coach.

MUCH more common than rhbado but also very dangerous is overtraining syndrome.

What is Overtraining Syndrome?

People who are very physically active sometimes cross the line between sufficient training and too much training. Overtraining usually occurs when the body does not have enough time to recover from the stress of intense training.

Signs of overtraining include the following:

  • You constantly feel tired or listless.
  • You cannot make further fitnessgains or you actually move backward in your level of fitness.
  • You suddenly lose weight.
  • Your resting heartrate increases 5 beats per minute.
  • You have lost your enthusiasm for exercising.
  • You feel irritable, angry, or depressed.

Treatment for overtraining requires that you cut back on training or stop altogether for 1 to 2 weeks. In extreme cases, a month or more of rest may be needed. It can be very difficult for a person for whom training is a way of life to believe that they have overtrained and need rest. It is more effective to prevent overtraining in the first place.

In competitors, overtraining is often mistaken for carb-deprivation or the “rigors of competing”.

If you express concern to your coach about any of these symptoms, and they ignore you or tell you they’re normal without asking more questions, explaining things carefully, or referring you to a doctor…. Get a new coach.

No matter what type of feedback you’re giving, if it’s ignored, you’re not being taken care of. You’re PAYING to have customized, carefully crafted plans with a coach, AND a relationship with that coach – your training experience should be a dialogue. Not a brick wall.

Ok, finally, onto the last 6 points (I”ll be brief)!

  1. They will NEVER FAIL TO EXPLAIN “WHY”

A bad coach will tell you to do it… because they said so.

A good coach will tell you to do it… because [insert explanation here].

In other words, a good or even GREAT coach will explain WHY you do what you do.

Anonymous Example Two writes:

     “I asked one time why my diet and workouts never changed… I was told that if it’s working, why change it? I didn’t feel this was a great answer.”

These types of answers are a write-off for a coach who either isn’t giving you the time and energy you deserve to explain, or who actually doesn’t know.

Don’t be afraid to ask “why?” If they never answer… find someone who will.

  1. They will NEVER FORGET ABOUT YOU

Coaches are busy: we are often belabored by tons of questions. I have been! Sometimes, we are too busy to answer right away. However…

Anonymous Example Three writes:

     “I sent a question on my show day after sending several questions the week before. My coach never answered. As a result, I went in blind.”

If you have a time-sensitive question, your coach should answer, promptly.

Even if you have a general question, it still shouldn’t take a week to hear back.

If you don’t receive a response, or it takes a long time to hear back, the coach is either lazy, doesn’t care, or doesn’t delegate properly. Big teams can often cause a hold on response times that SHOULD indicate to the leader or leaders that it’s time to hire some help.

If you’re paying for coaching, you should get it.

  1. They will NEVER PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY HUMILIATE YOU

Anonymous Example Four writes:

“My coach called me a ‘loser’ when I got second callouts.”

If you haven’t flinched… you should be. This is NEVER okay. Coaches are there to encourage and exhort you. Do we need to be honest with you? Yes. But never, ever, are we there to pull you down.

If your coach has spoken badly of you to others, or to your face, you need a new coach.

  1. They will NEVER REFUSE TO CHANGE YOUR PLANS

A good coach will incorporate feedback. Will they make things easier on you? No. They should push you. But if something hurts, or if you feel you’re not targeting a weakness which they’re aware of, or if you need an adjustment because your gym is lacking certain equipment… you name it… your coach should be available for those small adjustments.

Anonymous Example Five writes:

“I told my coach that I had a gluten and dairy intolerance. When I got my plans, they included both wheat and dairy.”

Busy coaches do sometimes have oversights. But if this happens, you’d better be asking them why. The same thing is true for plans which never change… ever. A good coach knows that changing your plans every 4-6 weeks prevents plateaus, a good coach adjusts plans to avoid injury or to focus on your weaknesses, and a good coach is available to continue that dialogue and make tweaks as you go.

I recently told my coach I couldn’t afford the steak I was supposed to eat every night – and he tweaked my plans so I could have lean ground beef instead. That’s a good coach!

If your coach never changes your plans and always refuses to incorporate your feedback, move on.

This post went longer than intended, so it got chopped back to 5 points! Essentially, in summary:

A Good Coach:

WILL NEVER IGNORE YOUR FEEDBACK OR CONCERNS

WILL NEVER FAIL TO EXPLAIN “WHY”

WILL NEVER FORGET ABOUT YOU

WILL NEVER PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY HUMILIATE YOU

WILL NEVER REFUSE TO CHANGE YOUR PLANS

I hope these points are a helpful reminder to you of what you deserve in a coach.

For coaches out there, I’m calling you (and reminding myself) to keep these things in mind as you grow. Let’s keep the integrity in this sport by being true to the care of our clients.

 

 

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The 5 Biggest Mistakes Competitors Make When Hiring A Coach

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Competitors Make When Hiring A Coach

and how to make sure they don’t happen to you!

It might be your first show, it might be your 10th. Either way, you’ve decided you need some guidance… you need a coach. So how do you choose a good coach? How do you make the best team affiliation decision? Without getting into the politics of NPC right now when it comes to teams, here are the 5 biggest mistakes competitors make when hiring a coach, and how to make sure they don’t happen to you! 

(P.S. IF YOU HAVE A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN OR JUST DON’T LIKE WORDY FEMALES, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS ARTICLE FOR 10 SIMPLE QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN CHOOSING A COACH!)

  1. THEY CHOOSE A COACH BY TEAM SIZE AND INDUSTRY RECOGNITION

I made this mistake myself. Just because a team or coach comes up in your newsfeed 24×7 – just because they have brand affiliations or a lot of team members – doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for you.

Team size doesn’t indicate a track record of success. A gifted marketer and business strategist can grow a team, but that doesn’t mean they can grow a good team.

Big teams have a major downside, just like small ones: they often lose the ability to work closely and carefully with competitors throughout their journey, both on and off-season. Communication is limited by the sheer enormity of questions they field on a daily basis. As a result, the care of each individual team member is often compromised, and so are their results… coaches start dishing out cookie-cutter plans because they don’t have the time to customize plans… which is what you’re paying for!

Instead of looking for team size and industry recognition, ask these questions:

  • Are the competitors happy with the coaching? (talk to some of the team members and find out if they’re happy… go with the ones who haven’t placed to get a better idea of what the experience really looks like)
  • How do the competitors on the team look?
  • How many have turned pro?
  • What is the average time it takes for their girls/guys to go pro?
  • What is the average response time for the coach to get back to team members on questions? Do they hear back at all?

Don’t make the mistake I did! Choose a coach that can work intimately with you, monitor your progress, and target your weaknesses so you bring the best package to the stage.

  1. THEY CHOOSE A COACH BECAUSE THEY LOOK GOOD

While I have a definite disregard for the credibility of coaches who don’t take care of themselves, it is equally foolish to choose a coach simply because they’re attractive or a published fitness model.

What you need is more than outward. You need a coach who has:

  • Several years of industry experience
  • A history of integrity and credibility
  • Nationally recognized certifications (never, ever go with a coach who is not certified in any way through sports medicine, NASM, NCCPT, ACE, AFA… anyone you hire should have technical, certified experience of some kind!)
  • A nutrition certification or experience (do they make it up on the fly, or give you the exact same diet as every other competitor??)

These are key attributes of a successful and knowledgeable coach who will help you sculpt your body effectively.

  1. THEY CHOOSE A COACH BY COST

Coaches aren’t like brand name clothing. I’ve seen cheap coaches and expensive coaches that vary WIDELY in experience and skill. Don’t use the cost of training as an indicator for how good they might be… these aren’t Gucci bags we’re talking about here! Coaches set costs themselves, which means that the standard varies.

That being said, don’t pay exorbitant amounts of money without doing your research. Try the following questions on for size:

  • What is the average cost for a qualified coach with experience? (do some comparisons online or ask someone you know who competes)
  • What incentives does the coach offer that could justify what they’re charging?
  • Can they follow through on those incentives? Have they with their current team members?

If the amount seems over the top, ask questions of the coach directly to determine why they feel they can charge more than anyone else.

  1. THEY CHOOSE A COACH BECAUSE THEY OFFER SHINY INCENTIVES

Speaking of incentives… never use them as a reason to sign with a coach! Here’s a great example:

The team I used to be affiliated with works closely with a large supplement company. This supplement company signed the team as a whole for sponsorships and ambassadorship. Girls get a small percentage of sales as a result for pushing the product.

After signing, the coach pushed the products on the team members, knowing they get a large cut from the supplement company when girls buy and sell the products.

Within weeks, girls who had purchased the products and used them complained of lancing stomach pain, headaches, nausea, digestive problems… but the coach kept right on pushing them and completely ignored the fact that the products seemed to be hurting their team members and most likely the people their team members were selling to.

Just because a team offers you a supplement affiliation or a magazine spread or the chance at a sponsorship doesn’t mean it’s a good sponsorship, a good affiliation, or that it will in any way help you on your journey to kick ass on stage. Never use shiny incentives as a reason to work with a coach. You need more than that to succeed.

  1. THEY CHOOSE A COACH BECAUSE THE COACH WENT PRO

Possibly my biggest pet peeve with how people choose a coach! Just because someone went pro, or even worse because they placed in their NPC competition – (maybe fourth or fifth but hey, they placed right? Aren’t they qualified now to train everyone else?) – doesn’t mean they’re the right choice for you!

DON’T choose a coach because they were a one-hit wonder. Just because they did well doesn’t mean they know ANYTHING about helping other people do well!

All that means is they either had a good coach, good genetics, or lucked out. They might know how to work hard, but that means nothing when it comes to their ability to craft your workouts and nutrition.

Choosing a coach simply because they placed in a competition is like hiring a mechanic because he drives a nice car…. Just because he has a fancy ride, doesn’t mean he won’t f*ck up yours.

So now you know what NOT to do. Where do we go from here? How do you choose a coach? How do you avoid the 5 biggest mistakes competitors make when choosing a coach?

I’ve put together a handy little questionnaire to use when you’re deciding on a team affiliation or a coach/trainer to direct you on your journey. Here are 10 questions to ask when choosing a coach!

10 Questions To Ask When Choosing a Coach

  1. Are their competitors happy? Talk to current and old team members to find out if the competitors are getting what they paid for. Also, on a minor note… how are their team members? Positive, hard-working, uplifting? Or catty, bitchy, and backstabbing? Attitude is reflective of leadership!
  2. How do their competitors look? Take a careful look at proportion and show-day bodies, but ALSO TAKE A LOOK AT OFF-SEASON! A good coach is just as present in your off-season as they are in your 12-16 weeks out from show.
  3. How many of their team have turned pro? A good coach has a track record of success in turning competitors pro, or at least some top 3 placings under their belt. If what they’re doing with their current team isn’t working, it sure as hell won’t work for you.
  4. What is the average “handling time” on questions? This should come up when discussing the team with current team members. Does the team hear back from the coach? How long does it take? You don’t want a coach who will leave you hanging on vital questions and concerns.
  5. What affiliations and incentives do they offer? Find out if they follow through on offered incentives, and do your research on any supplement or brand affiliations to make sure the products are good and something you’re willing to tie your own name to!
  6. How often do they update or change your plans? With my last team, my plans never changed. Guess what happens when you never change your workouts? You plateau! Your body gets used to the workouts and you max out effectiveness by hitting a wall. A good coach changes plans every 4-6 weeks to promote muscle confusion. If your coach doesn’t change your plans… you need a new coach. 
  7. Do they offer refeeds? We will get into this more in later posts, but NO COACH SHOULD RESTRICT YOU TO DEPRIVATION FOR THE ENTIRE 12-16 WEEKS OF PREP. Ask the coach if they carb cycle their competitors and if they do a reefed day. Even the pros and Olympians do refeeds! If they don’t, you can bet they don’t know enough about nutrition to be responsible for yours.
  8. How much cardio do their clients do? This, like the following question you’ll see, is a bit of a trick question. No client should have to do more than an hour of cardio a day during prep. Even an hour is pretty excessive if you’re far out from a show. If their competitors are doing more than that weeks and weeks from show, they’re not cutting them down correctly, and the competitor is going to rebound severely post-show.
  9. What should you weigh in at for your show? This is a trick question. NO COACH SHOULD HAVE A SPECIFIC WEIGHT GOAL FOR YOU. The goal will be bodyfat-driven. Even the most psychic of coaches can’t tell you what you’ll come in at show-day. They should be more focused on muscle density and body-fat loss. A coach that gives you a specific weight goal from the start is probably going to compromise your metabolism.
  10. Do they have:
    1. Several years of industry experience
    2. A history of integrity and credibility
    3. A nationally-recognized certification
    4. Nutrition experience/certification

My hope is that this post and these questions will help you avoid the 5 biggest mistakes competitors make when choosing a coach, and that your choice will propel you forward into success and long-term health!

For more questions, email sportyspicefit@gmail.com.

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Calling the Fitness Industry Out: It’s Time for Some Integrity.

After careful consideration and an anticipation of backlash, unfollows, and unpopularity, I’ve decided to publish a letter I wrote to my old bodybuilding team when I made the decision to leave them a few months ago.

The reason is trifold:

1. This letter was never acknowledged.

2. This prep with a different coach has taught me a lot about wrong and right.

3. I’ve now had MANY people come to me with similar concerns, female athletes triad, eating disorders, depression, and depletion and adrenal issues from poor coaching or a lack of attention – from several teams.

I would have appreciated the response I felt this required, or to have seen changes in the last few months as I and others have expressed these concerns.

The bodybuilding industry is losing its integrity and its focus on the long-term benefit to their clients. The responsibility to the individuals. Multiple coaches are guilty of this… The integrity is leaving us…Let’s bring it back.

To be clear, I do support a lot of these girls on my old team and consider them brilliant industry competitors. But the personal care is going downhill, and the more experience I gain and the more pain I see, the more I feel people need to be made aware of these concerns, which apply to many coaching styles.

Please feel free to contact me at sportyspicefit@gmail.com with any questions. 

I have also included the response of a friend who is hugely active in the fitness industry, and someone I respect a lot, because it was invaluable. You’ll find both below.

My intent in sharing these is to push the people who participate in the industry to recognize how far we have come in the wrong direction, and to help competitors and athletes and people seeking weightloss alike to make informed decisions.

Here is the letter I wrote the team, months ago. It’s reflective of the experience of many, on multiple big-name teams.

Hey guys!

I wanted to take the time to send you a thorough email and express my gratitude and also a few thoughts.

First, thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in me and bringing me on board during an incredibly difficult time in my life. The added kindness of the sponsorship enabled me to really find my feet and establish myself after an awful abuse situation. It pushed me back into a career and community that I love dearly, and opened my eyes to a whole other side of fitness.

Working with you has been a wonderful education and an incredible honor.

This year was super challenging as I pushed through starting life as a single mom and returning to school, as well as battling the confusion of post-show metabolic compensation and feeling really lost when my body rebounded last winter. I knew so little, despite years as a trainer, about the effects of competition on your metabolism and reverse dieting, it was a shock for my system and something I learned from this time around.

I wish I had been ready for and physically able to do North Americans, and to see everyone again.

Despite the fact that my training has been gratis, I will be leaving the team at this time. I wanted to write an email because I didn’t want in any way for you to feel I was angry, bitter, or prepared to trash talk the team as some others have done. I’ve had girls come to me upset or confused about things and every single time explained how hard you both work and how I respect and love you both.

That being said, just a few thoughts.

First, for many girls as the team has become so big, they are panicking and stressed by the lack of personal attention. While it is understandable with the empire you’re building that you don’t have the time to respond quickly to emails, in my opinion it would’ve been ideal quite some time ago to start hiring assistant coaches in order to keep from the growing number of posts I see in our private group from girls weeks or less from competing who haven’t had plan updates or responses to emails.

Another girl in particular came to me stunned that it had been three weeks with no reply regarding her prep. I don’t get involved in those discussions, but it’s fast becoming the norm. That doesn’t speak well of the team, or of the heart I know you have for everyone. There has to be some way to delegate so that people are taken care of on a personal level.

Second, favoritism. While I know this is likely NOT the case, people are observing that a few girls in particular seem to have more time and attention. I can’t speak to the truth of that and don’t know if that’s true, knowing you both, but it probably comes from the first thing I mentioned above.

Third, personal care. While people are more and more needy and emotional and stressed, and I deal with that myself with the few bikini clients I have, they also do occasionally have valid need for more personal input which ties back to the first thought. They ESPECIALLY need more preparation for what happens post-show, and some basic direction for reverse dieting and off season. This to me says there is a full extension of care for each person so that they don’t go through what I went through (and many others have) after my last show.

All of that being said, I do know who you are and I do love you both and admire and respect you. I just think as the team has gotten so big, there is a much greater need for assistants and delegation because things are slipping through the cracks. It reminds me of the difference I’ve noticed between working for a mom and pop gym vs a franchise. Your girls NEED the one-on-one and the prompt responses and the TIME investment that says we are here for you.

I’m transitioning to another team because they’ve offered an opportunity to be a part of something smaller and more personal, but also because I have a chance to assistant coach there which is a HUGE dream of mine. I’m excited that they’re already working on off-season plans for me and I’ll be competing with them in the spring in Arizona. I look forward to seeing the girls out there and have nothing but love and support for everyone competing, no matter the team. You know that my integrity is everything to me, and I think this is a good transition to support that. It’s also the reason I took the time to write this email.

Thank you again for the time and love and care. Best wishes in all of the amazing opportunities you’re pursuing!

Love and respect,
-Jen

————-

Here is the post back to me on FB from my friend (his reply – Team Edge never responded to the email):

From MD:

Standing up and sharing truth! Never, NEVER anything wrong about that. Any business should adapt to the growth swing, yet this is more common. Unfortunately the side effect teams loose sight of is that they are coaching people to a physical extreme that leaves these competitors in a very delicate state physically … with their physical health swinging in the balance. I wish more “coaches” would look at the magnitude of what they are doing to their client’s body as more important than how much money they can make. 

At some point, a client of a team / coach is going to wise up after suffering serious health issues due to their practices and hold them accountable and sue them … AND WIN! Until then, these teams / coaches are playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette sending people into adrenal fatigue and failure leaving so many with serious, if not permanent, endocrine problems due to their cookie-cutter approach, lack of communication and no concern for the health of their clients. What these teams/coaches fail to understand is that just because a client signs a liability release, if gross negligence has occurred … the release can’t protect the team/coach from knowingly or unknowingly harming their clients resulting from poor communication & misguided coaching that causes physical damage. The lawsuit could in fact show criminal negligence and some could end up in jail, but God forbid a client actually dies as a result to these issues you’ve stated. 

What if their client was suffering serious physical/mental issues and needed guidance from their coach, and as you pointed out, no response? The results could be tragic for all parties involved. But as you have said, this isn’t good. 

**HIGH 5** Jenny for no longer biting your tongue. Until people like yourself voice the problems and exposing these poor business practices that clearly the bottom line is more important than their client’s health … it will continue to occur.

Bravo my friend. BRAVO!

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