Mar 31, 2023
How do you know if you need a coach vs a trainer or a consultant?
What’s the difference? How do they work? How do I know when I need which?
There’s a difference in what each does. And you may need more than one. Or an expert who has both skills, and (dare I say), not just titles.
In this episode, I’ll describe for you what each does, when it may be the best tool for you and how to combine them if you are a health and fitness coach.
In case you’re wondering where this episode comes from…I recently shared a CEU course with our Flipping50 Menopause Fitness Specialists on Essential Coaching Skills and in it I broke this down for them. I suspect that you too could use this information so you know what you’re looking for.
I’ll give you a hint here. It’s not easy. The word coach has been used so loosely that if I say coach, it means something different to anyone hearing it. It could mean sports coach, strength and conditioning coach (specific to a sport), health coach, business coach, life coach, and even within all of those you may need clarification because many of those are not governed by an association and titles are immediately accessible. The skills required are not. Personal trainers have also used the term coach, but not potentially actually been coaching.
Let me explain so you have a better understanding.
Coach, Trainer or Consultant: What They Do
A coach asks you to answer your own questions. A coach doesn’t create an exercise prescription or meal plans. They hold you accountable and I like describing it best as me helping you move at an accelerated pace toward something you are capable of doing on your own.
...asks. Doesn’t act as expert or offer any “should do” suggestions.
... shows you how. (not necessarily is this only a personal trainer in the fitness context), but any trainer in a business setting too, shows someone what to do. The trainer has an area and level of expertise to share. It is so that the individual can then do it independently.
Interestingly enough, some trainers actually fear or are encouraged not to allow the client to get too comfortable doing it themselves because the training then ends. This actually may be what you want - entertainment, being shown exactly what to do and how to do it - so that you can take this off your decision-making plate.
Or you may want to be shown so that you can then assume the responsibility to follow through on your own or with some accountability.
... tells you what to do. They’re often hired to come in and assess what’s happening, and based on goals, tell someone exactly what to do. In the 90-minute consultations I do, for instance, a high percentage of women will use these to learn exactly what I’d suggest based on where they are, signs & symptoms they’re experiencing, and believe they have the discipline to follow through and do it. They just want to know the right steps to take after the confusion of hormone changes has left them unsure what’s right now. That’s consulting.
One of the fitness centers I consulted with had a
staff, and wanted an assessment of their new member onboarding
process, the personal training process, and support for marketing
and sales. There either could have been no coaching or as we did, a
year long commitment to following through step-by-step with what
needed to happen by the leadership to see the changes through. This
might be when you go to a workshop, sometimes a masterclass which
tells you what to do, but there’s not showing you the exercises or
sequence you need or making modifications. You walk away with “this
is what I need to do” and may know or need the “how do I do
Which Do You Need? Do You Need a Coach?
Often more than one, right. Here’s where in midlife this can go astray. Coaching a midlife client who says, “I know what to do, I just don’t do it,” knowing what she believes is the “what to do” puts an expert in a field who also coaches in place where she needs to have more than one hat.
There is a time to teach… or to learn, or unlearn… and there’s a time to coach, or be coached about making those changes or resistance that might come up for you. For many of my midlife clients that calories in, calories out and exercise more/eat less model are so deeply engrained, it’s hard to apply more recent science and endocrine exercise knowledge about women’s bodies.
So, this statement “I know what to do, I just don’t do it” or “I eat healthy” are often red flags for me. They mean two different things to any two different people.
What It Looks Like
One example of integration of both is our STRONGER programs. So the program gives you the what to do, shows you how in terms of the exercise, the sequence, the appropriate rest between exercises, and between sessions. The coaching in the community is about accountability for follow through, when someone is stuck or at a plateau, and when it’s working and they’ve been successful, we don’t cheerlead. A coach helps you identify why it worked and how you made it happen, because although the tools are there, you did it and there is importance in you knowing how you did it so you can repeat. Since there are all kinds of exercise programs you’ve probably started and stopped, when you’ve been successful.. You know the saying, success leaves clues, a coach brings your reason behind your success to your awareness.
A coach helps you identify where you are in this continuum of:
Either a consultant or a trainer might move you forward toward conscious competence.
Let’s say we’re talking about lunges. [Need help? FREE & Easy way to doing them better or ditching them: https://www.flippingfifty.com/lunges]
You may be in a class doing lunges and be completely unaware your form is terrible. As a trainer and instructor I could see you making mistakes that will eventually bother your knees and not give you the results you want from the lunge. As a coach I might ask you how you would benefit from confirming you’re properly doing exercise or if you have questions about lunges that you need answers to, and what those questions are.
The Next Step
If you agree…
I would begin to teach how to get better results from a lunge, how to prevent injuries, how women’s hip and knee width can be problematic for them and how the traditional way of doing lunges can be the most harmful.
I’d teach you what good form looks and feels like. I’d put you in a good position, bad position, then good again so you experience it. I’m acting as a trainer.
I observe you in class more and your form is good more of the time. You’re not yet consistent and you don’t quite know how to be consistent every time.
You continue to listen to the right cues, practice the movement, and it clicks. Now, you go to classes and recognize when you are and aren’t in good form in a warrior pose in yoga, in a lunge while strength training, and you see poor form in others. If someone mentions they can’t do lunges because they hurt their knees, you offer a suggestion based on what worked for you.
That example is very tangible. Here’s one that’s less so.
Client: “I eat healthy.”
Coach: Tell me more about that. What does healthy mean for you?
As a client describes that, I often hear the sequence of food, or the “everything in moderation” of certain foods that are likely, or the gut disturbance that could be interfering.
From there it’s a series of questions that I’d ask again. The answers of that would likely mean some consulting for what to do, then returning to coaching for the steps to change. Because change is one of the hardest things we do.
Often in our community someone will say, “I’m having a hard time getting the protein in.”
Most often this isn’t a matter of not knowing what the right amount of protein looks like, it’s an incongruence with a belief about eating less being best for weight loss, or fear of eating more resulting in weight gain. So, coaching can answer what it is and talk you through the right way to make improvements.
Just to recap, there is value in having a coach, a trainer, and a consultant at the right time. You can’t turn a screw in with a hammer, so it's important first to define why you may not be where you want to be if you’re seeking support.
3 Questions that may help you identify if you need a coach (or something else)
Are you 100% sure you know what is the right thing to do right now? (a Trainer, possibly a consultant)
Could you have some limiting beliefs or lingering beliefs about what’s “healthy”? (a coach)
Do you most need to know what to do so that you can apply your motivation and discipline to do them? (a consultant)
Are you a coach, trainer, or consultant, or want to be?
Feeling called to work with midlife women as a coach,
trainer, or consultant? The Flipping50® Menopause Fitness
Specialist is designed to help you understand how to design
exercise programs for women in menopause. It teaches you the
endocrine and exercise relationship and how to take signs and
symptoms and turn them into immediate modifications that improve
client results immediately.
You can stop struggling knowing what to do and confidently create strategies for each client uniquely whether you see them in person or you work online. Plus, you can identify new revenue streams in the program so you’re the authority for women in midlife. They’re actively seeking support and someone who understands that isn’t just using guidelines and position statements or programs based on mice, men or no one in particular.
You can either keep guessing, mimicking other programs, or you can start creating with confidence the exercise prescriptions that support a woman’s hormones now and make a difference for her future muscle, bone and brain health.
I’ll add that link in the show notes. We open just a few times a year. We’re remodeling this program and this is the last time you’ll enjoy this current rate, but you will enjoy all the perks of the new model… like a fast way to increase your revenue, support coaching women, and a network of experts in areas you are not.
For some of the health and nutrition coaches we work with, it’s been a great alliance. They can refer, and even earn affiliate revenue from referrals if they choose. [Here’s how to apply be an affiliate: https://www.flippingfifty.com/affiliate-program]