I have been a coach—a CrossFit coach, fitness coach, personal trainer, strength coach (whatever you want to call it)—for 11 years.
Considering my formal education was in the arts—a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in journalism—I have sort of learned as I go from other coaches I work with who are more qualified than me, and by taking the odd weekend course here and there. Needless to say, the biggest thing I was excited for in taking the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP) was learning more about exercise science and anatomy, as well as learning how to physically assess clients and design more effective programs.
I have great relationships with my clients. I dig into their intention and their why, I told myself prior to the CCP. I don’t think I’ll get all that much out of the modules about building relationships and administering lifestyle consults.
Enter CCP Week 1:
Week one is all about digging into yourself. You know, the old, You can’t help others until you help yourself, thing.
“If you don’t recognize why you do fitness then how can you expect to sell a concept (of fitness)?” asked James FitzGerald on our first cohort call.
Again, I thought I had figured this out in recent years: Back in the day, I was a competitive athlete—an NCAA Division I basketball player, a college rower and then a 2014 CrossFit Games competitor. Back then, being fit was about performance goals. Healthy or not, being a great athlete was my identity and what brought me my self-worth and sense of accomplishment. Needless to say, when I stopped competing, I had to rethink my why.
After three years of searching, I concluded that there were three main reasons I intended to stay fit:
Those were my, what I thought were well-thought-out and reasonable real reasons.
But on our first cohort call, James challenged this. I’m paraphrasing, but basically he said most people have no clue why they do fitness. They might say it’s because they want to get rid of the extra ring around their stomach, but that’s not their real reason. That might be “an outcome,” but it’s not their why, he said.
Most people do fitness “to get out of pain” or “to look good naked,” he said.
That’s when I realized I had to dig deeper. To me looking good naked was a sufficient enough reason, as was my weird desire to need to still be able to lift 300 lb. and do a roundoff back handspring when I’m 50 years old.
If fitness to you is about looking as good as you can, or if it’s a way to eliminate some kind of emotional pain from your past, “guess what you’re going to be surrounded by? People who believe fitness removes or numbs pain,” FitzGerald said emphatically.
At that very moment, I could suddenly feel that my reason for being fit stemmed from some kind of superficial egotism and emotional pain that I relentlessly felt creeping into my body.
After the call, I spent the next three hours digging into my life: into my environment, where I spend most of my time, what consumes most of my thoughts etc.
First, I started writing down things about my day-to-day environment: I spend the mornings at the gym. I often work as a writer from the bathtub or my living room, so I spend a considerable amount of time there. Sometimes I work at coffee shops. I like to get outside and make sure I get fresh air, which I do fairly consistently, and recently, due to COVID, I often have a drink (or tea during sober October) on my deck in the evening with my close friend who lives above me. And then on the weekends, I often visit my family and see other friends, or getaway for the weekend.
As I went through the exercise, I found myself going through the motions. Something didn’t feel authentic, but I kept pushing it down because I didn’t want to admit it, even to myself.
Eventually I said, ‘Fuck it.’ Be honest with yourself!
All of those above lifestyle things are true, but if I am honest about what consumes my thoughts, a lot of it comes down to men, or specifically trying to find a partner. Yes, I spend the mornings at the gym, but when I hear the Bumble app ding, I’m distracted, hoping it’s the guy I have been messaging with messaging me back. Same same in the bathtub or living room when I’m working. Same same when I’m having tea with my friend or when I’m out for a walk or babysitting my nieces. Or, or, or...
What consumes my thought is getting validation from a man (insert hand in face emoji here)—validation that someone wants me, that I’m somehow attractive enough to be desired. And if I’m really honest, when I don’t have someone I’m interested in giving me validation, my Bumble time increases to the point of overtaking my afternoon.
How is this relevant to fitness?
I was always the tall, strong, “big” girl. When I did gymnastics as a kid, I was a head taller than everyone else at the age of nine.
Enter my first dance: There I was standing with Kate, Carla, Carly and Megan when a slow song came on. One by one, boys came over and asked them to dance. I was left alone to watch everyone else paired up with a boy.
What 11-year-old me told myself: I’m too big. Boys aren’t attracted to big girls.
That story played in my head for years.
Then I found CrossFit, and it went a long way in helping me recognize that men are attracted to me. That I am 5’9” and 165 lb. and a lot of men find that sexy. I finally accepted myself, and blindly accepted my why as being a need to look good naked.
Here comes the aha moment: While I might like my body now, which is a step, I STILL think I need to look a certain way—lean and strong even if I am “big—for men to be into me. This was reiterated a couple months ago when I returned home from five months in France. One of my very honest male friends said to me, ‘I”m proud of you. It looks like you had fun in France. You’re looking a little chubbier.”
What did I do? Damnit, I made sure I picked up my fitness game to tighten things up again in a hurry.
Going back to my three reasons I do fitness:
So here I am: I workout five or six days a week—lifting, conditioning and always making time for gymnastics—not because I want to live the longest life possible with the highest mental acuity and physical functionality, but because I think I won’t find a male partner unless I look a certain way and can lift a certain amount.
And perhaps not surprisingly, I am, of course, still single (feel free to laugh).
Why does this matter as a coach?
“Your perceptions of what fitness is is smelled by every client,” James said.
If you don’t get to the bottom of it for yourself, then you’re just dancing without direction, he explained. “(And) if you don’t ask the deepest (questions of your clients), you will be dancing with your clients (without actually helping them).”
Then he said this: “There are other possibilities.”
That gave me this huge sense of hope. While I don’t have it all figured out, I do know this:
I have been dabbling (literally I haven’t been following a program. I just show up and do random stuff) without intent in the last year especially. And in order for me to become more intentional in my own training, I need to let go of all the bullshit stories I have told myself in the past and figure out a healthier approach to fitness. And once I do that, I’ll be in a better position to sell the concept of fitness to my clients that I really want to be selling, so I can help them in ways I know I am not able to just yet.
Are you ready to examine your own intentions behind fitness? Sign up for our free coaching course today and begin your journey.