The single most important factor in producing long term results is adherence. Having access to the best coaches and resources in the business won’t make any appreciable difference if you don’t follow through. I’ve been coaching for long enough to have seen this lack of adherence scenario play out time and time again. Unfortunately the solution most coaches turn to is likely an ineffective one altogether.
The big mistake is that they try to keep their clients accountable. They follow up with them, ask them routinely how their diet is going, schedule in times to follow up and try to offer solutions to help them course correct when they veer off the path.
Most would say these are the main reasons to get a coach. I say they are mistakes to be avoided. Most clients don’t have much experience when they start a program. So at that time, it’s important to be there, offer support and guidance and keep them moving in the right direction. The issue I’m addressing is when the trainer fails to move past this point and remains the babysitter.
Self determination theory is a theory that looks at factors that enhance versus undermine intrinsic motivation, self-regulation, and well-being. Research guided by this theory "postulate three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness—which when satisfied yield enhanced self-motivation and mental health and when thwarted lead to diminished motivation and well-being" (1).
The focus of this article will be with regard to competency and autonomy. When a coach fails to move past the initial stage of increased monitoring the client fails to develop these two critical traits. People need to be intrinsically motivated. If I were to keep tabs on my clients and monitor their every move you better believe they’d all have a six pack and deadlift +500Lb. But what happens when I’m gone. What happens if they move to another city or if I die, what then?
They'll lose all their results because I haven’t taught them to be self reliant. As such, successful fitness interventions focus heavily on autonomous self regulation (2). I was out the other day and ran into a client and her friends at a bar. She was having wings and a beer when I walked up and said hi. When she saw me she froze and said “shit, you’re not supposed to see this” (referring to what she was eating). I laughed and told her it’s not up to me to get you fit, my job is to give you the direction and resources you need and create the opportunity for you to reach your goals. It’s your decision what you do from there.
She looked stunned by my response, and after a brief chat with her and her friends I left. Over the next few weeks her attitude shifted. She would approach me with questions, updates and more questions about how she could improve her results. I guess the conversation we had made an impression. She realized that I wasn’t going to guarantee her results. I never do. If you want something and you’re willing to put in the work for as long as it takes you’ll get there. What does that have to do with me?
The fundamental principles of weight loss, building muscle and increasing strength don’t change from person to person. If you do A + B you get C, the only difference is in application (a bit simplistic, but that’s essentially what it is). I can’t force you to lift weights and diet, that needs to come from your own desire. It’s a small distinction, but it’s one that has incredible significance. Good coaches keep you accountable. Great coaches guide you to hold yourself accountable.
1. Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. "Self-determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-being." American Psychologist 55, no. 1 (2000): 68-78. doi:10.1037//0003-066x.55.1.68.
2. Senécal, Caroline, Arie Nouwen, and David White. "Motivation and Dietary Self-care in Adults with Diabetes: Are Self-efficacy and Autonomous Self-regulation Complementary or Competing Constructs?" Health Psychology 19, no. 5 (2000): 452-57. doi:10.1037//0278-618.104.22.1682.