top of page
  • Writer's pictureDarren Tebbenham

Mindset, exercise and nutrition - sounds good in theory, but…

This simple article addresses a common approach used by personal trainers that integrates the right exercise with the right nutrition and, of course, the right mindset to help clients achieve great results. The argument that there are 3 components: mindset, exercise and nutrition sounds compelling. However, in this article I will break down these components and examine them a little closer from a coaching perspective.

Let’s get started.


Let’s take a look at mindset first. Most would agree this is an important component. However, for it to be a viable component of a program that clients buy into we need to clarify what we mean by mindset and, most importantly (if mindset is part of the program, not a pre-requisite), we need to know how to create a winning one, right?

My concern is that all-too-often trainers mean “please come with a strong mindset and be ready to follow my program” not “if you have previously struggled, I will coach you to be mentally stronger and more able to see things through”.

Do you see the difference?

If clients start but then miss or simply struggle to adhere to the meal plan or training regime it is important NOT to just drop them stating they just weren’t ready! The idea is by including a mindset component you are inviting those who struggle with their mindset to attend.

Often 8-week or however long programs offer the environment and even support structures to improve client compliance but still fail to really impact clients' mindsets or longer-term wellbeing. This can be because the creator takes too much of the impetus to create a weight loss result. When we provide the exact fitness regime, the specific meal plans and the detailed client logs to complete daily, we can take away responsibility and although improve compliance detract from independence and new habit formation.

You see, mindset isn’t about compliance or how well a client adheres or sticks to a new regime. Compliance and adherence are terms that relate to behaviours, not a new mindset or habit. A habit runs in the background on autopilot. Once installed is effortless and repetitive. Altering a person’s mindset is something permanent, not something for the purpose of adhering to an 8-week plan.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying 8-week programs are not effective. I am saying with a strong mindset component they can become transformational, but that doing so does require an insight into what mindset and habit-based coaching is all about.

Consider this –

“A positive mindset is about a way of thinking that is proactive, uninhibited and directed towards positive outcomes. It relates to having clarity about what we most desire, a set of beliefs that support us and a fundamental assumption we are 100% accountable for our outcomes. An individual with a winning mindset is action-orientated and persistent to see through their good intentions.”

There are, in fact, 3 essential ingredients to a winning mindset. These are clarity, focus and resilience. Clarity is about having a strong vision for the future; what you are moving towards. Indeed, clarity also encompasses your sub-conscious awareness about who you are.

You see "the strongest force in the human personality (Tony Robbins argues) is the need for us to remain consistent with who we think we are". This means we need clarity not only on the outside in terms of where we want to be in the future but also on the inside in terms of who we are, who we are not and who we wish to become.

Without wishing to get too heavy here, all I mean is if we keep getting pulled back to our old ways i.e. we keep going around in circles then we need to address this not try to out-train it. And knowing where we are heading in life offers us a sense of direction. And this is important. Without direction we drift. And without the right mindset we will only continue to get what we have always got.

Most people, including your clients but perhaps you too at times, are not clear at all about what they want and why they want it. We change our minds like all the time and are influenced more by social media than our internal compass. And that’s why coaching is invaluable in today’s fast-paced, over-stimulated world and, certainly, is a necessary component of an effective transformation program.

When we help a client slow down and ask them what they want, we begin to create some clarity. And I don’t just mean what they want in terms of their weight, health and fitness, but what they want in life.

When we ask about their life and how they are currently showing up in it we begin to create clarity. When clients examine how their more lethargic, stressed, overwhelmed and tired self is, indeed, showing up in their relationships, at work, with their kids and in their leisure time and then compare this with how they would like to be showing up in these areas we create a gap. This gap offers a source of deep motivation. It offers the clarity they need as to WHY they need to close it.

This positions fitness differently. It is no longer an optional extra to comply with or a destination to work towards. It positions fitness as a journey; as a necessary component to thrive not just survive and live our BEST life with confidence. The role of getting fit, losing some weight, improving energy levels, feeling more confident and enjoying greater vitality becomes clearer.

I share on my BIG Coaching Event the tools we can use to coach these outcomes such a Y-Questionnaire, Declaration of Desire and Selfie (Vision) Board. But my point right now is that we need to create greater clarity and coach a winning mindset rather than requiring clients to already possess one when they sign up!

The next piece of the puzzle is Focus. Once clear and only once clear we need to help clients focus their attention on this new intention you have just created. Indeed, Intention-Attention balance offers a great concept to better understand success. The brief video below explains.

Focus is all about helping clients set up new routines. Whether stacked on top of existing habits or creating new triggers and rewards for new, the idea is to use our new-found clarity and focus to create new habits.

Attending training sessions 2 to 3 times a week for say 8 weeks is not what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, offering 2-3 times a week one-on-one or small group sessions can be of great value. I am just pointing out such an approach doesn’t ensure a winning mindset or new engrained habits.

It’s all the other stuff that counts. I am talking about how to coach new water habits for clients to actually drink 3 litres a day without needing to be reminded; I am talking about more mindful eating and drinking and, therefore, less mindless and emotional and social based decision making. I am talking about daily exercise regimes before breakfast, morning affirmations and daily celebration of ones wins.

Goals also clearly help direct behaviours and, therefore, focus one’s attention. But I mean the process action-based goals (a specific action within a specified timeframe) not just the initial directional outcome goals (what outcome or result in a specific timeframe).

Look, let me be honest. A person who follows an eight-week strict fitness regime and calorie controlled lower carb, higher protein diet is obedient - compliant. A client who develops crystal clear clarity about why they must change, what specific changes they most desire and how they will make such changes has a strong mindset. A client who is more focused and wakes up in the morning with new priorities and believes themselves to be a healthy and fit person doesn’t need to be obedient or compliant. They will enjoy their new life and the journey ahead.

Let’s keep things moving. The third and final component of mindset is Resilience.

An essential component of success is the ability to bounce back after setback. Psychologists call this relapse prevention when it comes to behaviour change; to have a blip but not give up. A belief that it isn’t what happens but what you make of what happens is key here; how we chose to respond to what happens that ultimately determines our outcomes.

Resilience is also about developing a longer-term view and freeing ourselves from the short-term quick-fix mentality of our modern-day world in which we live. It is about helping people see things through and not get distracted. Creating a strong sense of clarity and focus helps here.

We coach people to be more resilient and show up as more resourceful through asking and nurturing personal accountability. When you draw out resourcefulness and resilience rather than demanding it you empower people. And empowered people inherently possess a stronger mindset and capability of being more successful.

The idea is to help clients become more self-motivated, independent and committed to their own goals. And this is a coaching job.

I am hoping this is all making sense. My point is that if mindset is an important component of success, we should coach it, not expect it. And creating a business that offers this creates tremendous value in the marketplace.

To conclude this article, I should also briefly address the other two components, namely exercise and nutrition. Let me ask these questions: Is it really a meal plan or recipe book clients most need? Is it really simply that people don’t get their meals right that is the issue? What can you do to help mindless eating and social drinking? How can you help people permanently change their lifestyle? How can you help people habitually stretch most days, fit in cardio before work, become inherently more active and enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle?

I realise I leave you with more questions than answers. But I hope you feel motivated and inspired to seek answers. Of course, twice weekly PT can massively help. But to truly transform people’s lives through fitness, this mindset component is vital. I know you know all about exercise and nutrition and so have left this section broad and open. But consider this. Over and above training people in your contact time with clients, what else can you offer to coach this winning mindset clearly so necessary to create lasting change and, therefore, true transformation.

Wishing you well.

Darren T


bottom of page