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Cowboys and Shepherds

This was originally published on on May 5, 2010. Coaches differ in personality, but that doesn’t mean that one style is better than another.  Different styles attract (and keep) different clients. Consider two styles of animal control, the Cowboy and the Shepherd: The Cowboy: Guides the animals by herding from the rear, or the middle, of the group Is loud Slaps leather fearlessly Throws himself in the way of the charging animal Prefers confrontation to provoke immediate action Uses the tools available, including voice, but also whip and heel; ‘Breaks’ animals, and then builds them back up better Uses a one-on-one approach most often The Shepherd: Changes a stubborn animal’s direction a little at a time, not head-on Leads from the front, usually with bait, or a promise Avoids direct confrontation, because blocking a sheep from grain will only create more desire Creates safety in numbers ‘Teaches’ the animals with the carrot instead of the stick Uses the group dynamic most often Both: Love the animals Can coexist in the same barnyard Use the same tools (hay, water, grain) Of note: though the ‘cowboy’ figure is more romanticized,  it’s no coincidence that the largest grassroots-driven movement of all time refers to its Messiah as “The Good Shepherd.”  If people can relate to you as one of them, part of The Resistance, a leader in name and action, they’re more likely to follow.  It’s sometimes easier to convince the flock to move in a single direction than one single wild stallion.  So says me, but hey – I come from generations of shepherds.

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The Coach's Toolbox: A Thesaurus

When I was a kid, I loved hearing the “Happy Birthday” song. Especially on MY birthday. The song always came right before the exciting part of the party: the cake and presents. As I aged, the song lost its magic because I became attenuated to it. Hearing “Happy Birthday” several times every year–hundreds of times over my lifetime–had a desensitizing effect. It no longer makes me excited. Imagine if I heard it every day? Coaches fall into ruts with their cues and encouragement. It’s easy to give the same cheers and cues to every client or class, because our brain likes to slip into automatic mode. But this is problematic because: Not every cue works for everyone No cue works well in every situation Every cue loses its effect over time Some cues have more power at different points in the workout (watch the video on Logical and Emotional Cues here.) In “Managing the Training of Weightlifters,” Laputin and Oleshko included Soviet studies on music and performance. The scientists controlling the studies were seeking optimal arousal states through the use of music (or silence, or motivational speeches) during training. Spoiler alert: military marches were best for Cold War-era lifters. But the scientists ALSO found that frequent exposure to the SAME song led to desensitization: the song no longer had the same effect after frequent exposure. Think of your friends who compete in powerlifting: do they have a “go-to” song for the deadlift platform? Mine do. That song changes frequently. At least one world record holder blogged about music she “saved” for meets (in her case, Metallica’s “Black” album.) She didn’t listen to the same music in training; she saved it and harnessed its effect. Your clients are bored with your cues. “Great job, Harry!” loses its effect after the first month. Coaches should seek new ways to cue movement and offer encouragement. It’s thought-provoking (literally) for both athlete and coach. Why do …

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Coaching Behavior

People do things for a reason. You probably don’t know the reason. They probably won’t tell you. They might not know the reason themselves. People don’t always put their best foot forward at the gym. After a long day at the office, they might still be replaying an angry conversation with their boss while you’re talking about the box squat. They might be thinking about what they’ll feed their kids later. Or they might be wondering, “Why am I here on a beautiful day like this?” When you “see” a person interacting with others online, it’s easy to form an impression of their personality based on their behavior. But behavior isn’t always a good picture of personality: after all, YOU behave differently in front of your clients, right? Your “game face” isn’t on all the time. Theirs isn’t either. When you focus on keeping clients in your gym for a decade or more, your perspective changes from “funnels” and “sales scripts” to behavior modification. You start to wonder about motivations and worldview. One of the more annoying new trends in business management is to ask “Why?” four times in a row to reach the root of a problem. While I’m no saint–I’d probably start throwing punches before the third “Why?”–I do my best to ask the question at least once. Jill is canceling her membership in the middle of the month. Why? Rusty hasn’t been to the gym for two weeks. Why? Trina showed up late for her appointment. Why? Is she disrespecting me? Does she need to be punished? Or is it something else? We’re emotional creatures wearing a thin skin of rationality. The more I study behavior, the more I can help people change theirs.

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Intake Assessments

Today I received an email advertising a new “assessment tool” for coaches to use during their OnRamp program. It’s huge and pretty and probably well-programmed. But I won’t use it. Here’s why: During the intake process, I can’t impress a client by saying, “Here’s a list of things that are wrong with you.” or “You’re bad at this.” The client isn’t talking to me because they want therapy; “moving better” is not a benefit they seek. We used FMS for awhile, but stopped for the reasons above. I forgot that emotion is greater than logic; making even a strong logical reason for attending my gym (“You subluxate when you squat!”) is a weak practice compared to creating an emotional bond (“You are going to be great at this!”) The exception would be a client seeking a progression from therapy to fitness, or with a known preexisting condition. But I believe it’s still better for the client to raise the issue before we go looking for one. Even when a legitimate movement limitation exists, my research points me toward asking, “What CAN you do?” rather than creating a grocery list of problems. This was reinforced at the Adaptive Athlete course, and we teach it in the Ignite 101 course. It’s reinforced in our business coaching. For me, it all comes down to this: What will get the athlete to train TOMORROW? What are YOUR thoughts? If I have a blind spot, please shine some light on it in Comments!

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

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Building A Great Site

Every business owner should be able to perform basic website maintenance. An entire industry has cropped up around building gym sites, SEO and marketing. Most of these are good builders; some are even a good investment. But a few capitalize on your fear of “breaking” your website to charge ridiculous hosting fees. Here’s a “fear factor” checklist: Can you build a landing page without their “help”? Can you create a simple signup form and embed it without waiting for them to do it for you? Do you know how to back up your site or move it to another host? If the answer is “no” to any of the above, you’re vulnerable. While your website isn’t the only tool you have to grow your gym, it’s a necessary one. And if you’re totally reliant on someone else to build and maintain that tool…well, they can charge you whatever they want, can’t they? I built this site from scratch after taking a course on WordPress For Beginners, purchasing the Salient theme and uploading pictures. It took a few hours, but I wanted to prove that I could do it with no previous knowledge. Cost: $19. Many new business owners will have more time than money available. If this is you, it IS possible to learn enough to build your own site with good functionality over a weekend. After I did the Beginner’s course, I downloaded the Salient theme from ($59) I watched these videos: …and then just literally played around with things. I used these plugins: Subscriptio – allows you to sell different service levels, and automagically controls access for subscribers. Memberships for WooCommerce – allows for autodialing every month, and links with Subscriptio Out-of-the-Box – allows users to upload videos to your DropBox folder, and automatically gives them their own private folder. In the case of, gyms upload videos of their coaches for evaluation; for coaches, this would be for athletes. …

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