Whitney Reese spent a decade working as a physical therapist, helping patients rehabilitate injuries so they could return to their sport or live without pain.
Despite years of formal education, and then continued education in the field of physical therapy, Reese said taking the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) provided her with the best tools of all to help her clients be successful.
“CCP armed me to have difficult conversations with patients, and it armed me with supporting people better, especially my rehab clients outside of the clinic. And it has actually made me significantly better at managing my chronic pain clients,” said 37-year-old Reese, who first discovered OPEX when she was a Regionals-level CrossFit athlete. She started following the Big Dawgs blog and soon began working with James FitzGerald.
Reese continued: “I spent a decade as a physical therapist working with people in physical pain, who had gone through the medical model, but there are a lot of holes in that model,” Reese said.
The traditional medical model doesn’t focus on helping people through other aspects of their lives, such as nutrition or sleep, or helping them align their actions to support their goals, she explained.
“A big part of what spoke to me (during CCP) was the focus on being true to your priorities and aligning your actions properly. It’s a very successful mentoring model,” she said.”
The concept of aligning actions is as true of her own life as it is of the way she works with her clients and patients, she explained.
Today, Reese splits her time working as a physical therapist—she travels to her patients’ homes to provide her services—and as a fitness coach at OPEX Round Rock in Leander, Texas.
Before becoming an OPEX coach, Reese worked as a full-time physical therapist and also coached CrossFit part-time, mostly group classes. It wasn’t uncommon for her to spend 40 hours a week treating clients, plus another 20 on-floor coaching hours, not to mention her administrative work. It was putting her on the path to burnout, and she found herself unfulfilled.
When she completed the CCP in 2015, Reese realized the importance of building a career and a life she was excited about.
For Reese, this includes an individualized approach to athlete care, as this is the only way she knows she can truly make a difference to her clients, she said. It’s certainly something that couldn’t be achieved in a group class model.
“When I was coaching group classes, eventually all the conversations led to: You can’t be in a group class if you’re training for success,” she said.
One of the concerns many who come from the group class model have of the individual program design approach is that the sense of community might get lost. Reese said this isn’t the case at all.
“The early morning crew is still the early morning crew. We still do happy hours and have discussion pages. I don’t think the community gets lost at all with the individual program model,” she said.
In fact, the sense of care and community is only bolstered more through a stronger coach-client connection than can ever be developed in the group class model, she added. Today, after she puts new clients through three assessment sessions, they begin an individual program. But this doesn’t mean she then abandons her clients. Reese continues to spend 30 minutes a month sitting down with each of her clients, not to train, but just to talk and connect and figure out what they need moving forward.
A second concern from the outsider is that clients might not receive enough eyes-on coaching. Again, Reese said this simply is false. There’s always a coach on the floor overseeing the athletes, and her coaching staff at OPEX Round Rock meets each week to talk about their individual clients’ needs.
“For example, if I have a client who’s coming in and has a new movement in his program, I’ll communicate this to the coaching staff if I’m not going to be on the floor that morning,” she said.
In this sense, it’s in all of the coaches’ best interest to look after the entire gym’s clients in a more personal way than a group class or personal training model could ever deliver, she explained.
To say Reese is happier with her lifestyle today than three years ago when she was running herself ragged in a broken business model is an understatement. She spends a manageable 20 hours a week working as a physical therapist and generally around three or four hours a day on the floor at the gym, she explained.
“Oh gosh, my workload is much more manageable now. I was working 90 hours a week professionally before,” Reese said.
She added: “It took removing a lot of things so that my life aligned properly so I could focus on what I love: education and on giving good care to people who want it. It’s much more manageable and much more enjoyable.”
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