• Darren Tebbenham

the BIG fat problem with coaching and why it just doesn’t work….and what to do about it!



Now’s there’s a headline for you.

Seriously this problem is huge and means that coaching in fitness all around the world just does NOT work. So, what is this problem I speak of? The problem is most people are shit at it. And so coaching is flawed.


Really, I am serious, that’s the problem. People confuse mentoring with coaching and mentoring is NOT coaching. People confuse teaching people nutrition with coaching and teaching people is NOT coaching. People confuse consulting with coaching and consulting people is NOT coaching. People, especially content experts like personal trainers for example, can’t help themselves telling people all about sleep and digestion and carbs and protein and lifting heavy damn things, they just can’t stop. And this isn’t coaching.


So, how is this BIG fat problem showing up in everyday practice? The answer is trainers not coaching when they really need to be coaching. For example, in your first contact with a client. Most complete a health appraisal (not coaching), take their blood pressure and even though nearly always freaking high find themselves reassuring their client everything will be OK (not coaching) and then proceed to clarify what the plan is moving forwards (not coaching). Sometimes trainers ask about their goals. And it sounds something like, so what’s your main goal over the next 8 weeks do you think? And this isn’t damn coaching either.


When we train clients, we aren’t coaching and when we send them recipe ideas, we aren’t coaching and when we spend 2 minutes at the end of a session saying OK make sure you get those steps completed, again we aren’t coaching. Then we get to the mid-program review. And we take a few measures. That isn’t coaching. We tell them to really suck it up and go for it now until the end, and this isn’t damn coaching either. So, when are we coaching? My point exactly. For most – we’re not. Ouch!


I know, the truth sucks don’t it! Now, maybe you don’t need to coach; don’t want to coach; can’t coach? But, be sure coaching is the future and the key to selling a solution, remember.

And, I have a course coming up (not sure if I mentioned that), perhaps you could be on it? I said I would tell you what this BIG fat problem is and what to do about it. Oops got these two sentences the wrong way around.


Let me clarify. I can help you be a GREAT coach!

Here’s when to coach, how to coach and why you really should consider coaching like this, then. First meet. No weights and measures, a safe environment and with clarity communicated beforehand what to expect. Perhaps send out a pre-session form so they can send you their agenda i.e. things they would like to discuss in that first session. Now, in this session, ask far more than you tell. Now listen. Listen for discrepancy and be inquisitive, affirm and reflect so you properly understand and take your damn time. SLOW down. This is coaching. Try recording yourself if you don’t believe me (a first paid meet), just for yourself and hear yourself go on and on. It is how most first sessions are completed – the trainer dominating the air-time.

When the new client says they struggle to stick to diets and strict eating regimes, you ask for more clarity about this (avoiding you providing clarity that your programs aren’t strict). This is coaching.


When they clarify they need a drink in the evening and usually this becomes 2 or 3 especially with the life they have, you ask about the life they have and how a drink helps (avoiding you recommending cutting down to just 1-2 every other night). This is coaching. And you leave the session feeling they did all the work. This is definitely coaching.


You create review points and structure them properly. The content is about you asking about other aspects of their life connected with the transformation you are working together on such as how their energy levels have been or how their family and friends are with the changes they are making. And you listen. This is coaching.


You offer guidance when you see fit and ask what how what you offer might be relevant for them. This is coaching. You ask them how they might take what you offered and use it and implement it. This is coaching.


When problems arise, and they always do, you create space. You ask and listen and ask some more and speak last. This is coaching. When you speak you are strong and thoughtful in your response but offer what you say not as direction but as possible opportunity for them to consider and feed back to you on and, together, collaborate to work out a solution. This is coaching.

What about online? You send a new program every week, obviously. This isn’t coaching. You create resources and a login area for them to feel part of a community. Cool, but this isn’t coaching. OK, getting it. You offer information, indeed education, in whatever format perhaps a video, and ask people in a group meet-up what they made of the video and how it relates to them or not? This is coaching.


You arrange one-on-one Skype meets and spend most of the time teaching and preaching. Nope, you send a form to ask them about their agenda and ask more than tell on the call, rolling with resistance when resistance arises, dealing with discrepancy as you notice it and building self-efficacy in the process. Yes, this is coaching.


Why coach? Cos there’s a damn monkey in their head. And when we slow things down. When we ask more than tell. When we help them to talk themselves into change, they tame the little guy and get him or her, sorry, onside.


Why so important? Cos your clients for the last 30 years have been run by him or her. For 30 years they have lost weight and gained weight. Lost it again and then gained it again! And eating more protein for 6 weeks, cutting the carbs, lifting weights and going HIIT cardio-like sessions won’t change a damn thing long-term for most of them.


Are you sure, Darren? Yes, I’m damn sure! For the last 5-10 years there have been more weights-based, lower carb, higher protein body transformations than in the previous 100 years! And nothing has changed. In fact, no I am wrong, some things have changed. The obesity and diabetes stats are worse today than 5 or 10 years ago. Whilst EiF has gotten better over 10 years, personal training, as an industry, has gotten worse - world-wide!


And do you know what? Most of us, not all – actually think what we do is special, and that the reason, in the past, people struggled was that they did cardio not weights and that in the past they counted calories not macros! Oh and yes that one’s done a 360. Now we’re back to apologising to weight watches, and that we should be counting (no, better word today is tracking) our calories again cos creating a calorie-deficit has become cool to say.

When in fact, for clients nothing has really changed.


Mark my words, 1-2 years from now will be the cardio revolution and weights will be out and long duration cardio will be the fat burning thing. Lower intensity cardio for longer duration work outs will be what trainers teach to burn more fat! Science proves it. By the way science can just about prove anything. Certainly, it can prove long-duration for fat burning just as much as HITT can.


Which brings me to evidence-based practice - blah blah blah. All these gurus saying their approach is evidence-based. What absolute rubbish!


People with more than 2 brain cells to rub together seem to be becoming business gurus nowadays and evidence-based Gods and Goddesses. I mean most of these people don’t know jack-shit about coaching and definitely even less about T-Tests, ANOVAs, Regression Analysis or p values. What? I know! There are people graduating from especially Nutrition Institutes using phrases like evidence-based because someone said so, but who could not answer the question if it was ever asked, “oh what evidence is that and is this evidence based on parametric or non-parametric statistics?” And if one can’t answer these two questions because one doesn’t know what evidence and doesn’t know what parametric statistics even are, they really can’t say they are evidence-based can they!


Indeed, the business gurus argue, and don’t get me started on business coaches, but they now say “why take advice from someone who hasn’t already done what you want to do? We created a 6-figure business and will give you the blueprint we used to build ours, so you can build yours". Rubbish.


First, if that was true surely they systemised the damn business and still have it. But oh no. The only stats they share is their guru-ing stats. But let’s say their fitness business made it, and big time! This basic approach of I did so, therefore you can do it too - is utterly archaic. Just as archaic as saying I have huge muscles and a ripped abdomen, so why take fitness advice from anyone else. I will sell you the same program that built my muscles so you can build yours too. Bullshit. What’s wrong with people? They fall for it. The blueprint, at the end of a lengthy webinar, is like £197. Jesus, everyone can afford that. So, what does that mean. Ahh everyone will be doing exactly the same thing. Well, that’s gonna work isn’t it.


What works is coaching. Full stop, period, end of freaking story. Coaching works because it makes the client work. And if the client works the problem gets solved. But the problem with coaching is, the BIG fat problem with coaching is that hardly anyone actually coaches!

Gurus don’t coach. They sell blueprints. Personal Training isn’t working as well as is damn well should. In fact, let’s get real. Across the world, personal training is working about as well as Jane Fonda and aerobics. It was a revolution you know. Now cardio is fast becoming a swear word. Fuck. What’s going on?


Coaching works. You just need to coach and coach well. Identify problems people struggle to fix, and coach them to fix their problems. It’s life not a nail. What? If, it was nail you could fix their damn problem with a hammer. But it’s not. It’s their life. And a hammer’s not the right tool for the job. You getting this? Weight gain is the symptom of the problem. Stop fixing their symptoms. We criticise doctors for that. Coach the client to better understand their problem, own their problem and, with your help, solve their problem once and for all. But the industry at large isn’t coaching. It isn’t coaching well at all.


You have an option. You can become great at it and learn how to build a different business than the one, perhaps, you have today. You can build an online coaching business. You can expand your current business adding more coaching into it. However, good at it, you must become. You’ve just got to walk through the door, the door is open my friend.

Over and out. That was my post for today.


Coach Darren x

© 2019 BY DARREN TEBBENHAM 

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