Part 1: Do fitness pros need coaching too? | Precision Nutrition

Do fitness pros need coaching too?
Part 1: Toni's story

By John Berardi, PhD

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Sometimes, even smart, talented trainers and fitness pros can get a little out of shape. In this article we’ll discuss why, and how to reclaim your health and rebuild your best body.

If you’re a trainer or coach in the fitness industry, you already know what it takes to get and stay in shape. After all, that’s what you do for a living.

But there are a lot of trainers out there — us included — who’ve occasionally let their own workouts and nutrition slip.

In giving so much attention to their clients and their business, they’ve neglected themselves.

They realize they’re not living the “fitness lifestyle” others think they are. And the body they worked so hard to get? It still looks better than average. But it’s not quite where it used to be.

It happens more than you think. It’s completely normal for caring, talented trainers to get a little out of shape from time to time. Let’s talk about why.

Enter PN coach and fitness pro, Toni Bauer.

That’s me on the left … and me on the right.

Take a good look at the shot on the left. That picture was taken a couple of years ago.

If you came across this photo in another context, would you say to yourself: Wow, that woman’s in great shape. I’ll bet she’s a fitness professional!

Would you hire her to help you get into better shape? Would you trust her?

I didn’t think so.

Yet the woman in the left-hand photo was a lifelong fitness enthusiast and former athlete. Not to mention a personal trainer and a caring, hard-working coach.

She doesn’t look too happy, does she?

No wonder. The gap between her values and her behavior could not have been much wider.

And she knew it.

Or – since we’re talking about me here, after all – I knew it.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Of course, I didn’t always look like the picture on the left.  I could hardly have built a successful coaching business if I did.

You’re probably wondering what happened. After all, as a trainer, I had the knowledge. I had the tools. I had the basic motivation.

How on earth did I gain so much weight and get so out of shape?

The answer is simple – and yet complicated.

Simple, because it comes down to a drastic life change that left me feeling resentful, frustrated, and unmoored.

And complicated because – let’s face it – there are lots of ways that people can choose to deal with their stress.

I chose to eat badly and cut way back on exercise. And in my case, that amounted to serious self-sabotage.

How I lost focus … and gained fat

When my husband Jason was transferred to another part of the country, we figured we’d weather the move just fine. After all, we’d done it before. More than once. In fact, I’d become quite an expert at packing.

But this time was different.

Why? Because this time, when we boxed up our belongings and left our dream house in Texas, I also left a piece of my heart.

This time, I wasn’t just leaving a place. I was leaving my thriving personal training business.

And in our new home, instead of nurturing my professional identity, I was once again a full-time caregiver. Not to mention part-time contractor, painter, and renovator.

I was looking after other people’s needs so much, I forgot about my own.

I was sad, angry, and confused. And on some level I thought: If I can’t be the person I want to be, I might as well be the opposite. 

Fast food drive-thru, here I come.

Feeling fraudulent

You know the rest of the story. The pounds started piling on. The muscles got a little flabby. Eventually, my clothes didn’t fit. I hated to look at myself.

But, bad as it was, the view in the mirror was hardly the worst part. The worst part was the shame. How could I allow this happen to me?

The problem wasn’t just that I was overweight. The problem was that by losing my focus on fitness I had lost all sense of self. I’d lost my core identity.

And how could I even think about rebuilding my business when I felt like such a fraud?

The truth: It can happen to the best of us

In those days, I thought I was the only fitness professional who’d ever felt this way.

Now I know that isn’t true, and these feelings are a whole lot more common than I’d imagined. Especially among female coaches.

But until I opened up about my own struggles, I had no idea.

Since then, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard the following:

  • I was doing great until I had my second baby. I just haven’t been able to get back into shape since I had her. I’m so embarrassed!
  • Until I hit menopause, I never gave it a thought. Then I started gaining weight … and now I just don’t look the way I used to.  Why would clients believe in me?
  • Between my clients, my kids, and my aging parents, I don’t have time for me. I can’t work out; I’m too burned out!
  • I don’t know what to do. My old strategies aren’t working for me any more. It used to be easy to drop a few pounds if I needed to.
  • Sometimes I wonder why I ever went into this business. I worry that my clients pick up my lack of enthusiasm. Yet at the same time, I can’t think of anything I want to do more.

Keep in mind – these are smart, capable women who genuinely care about fitness and health and who really want to make a difference in other people’s lives.

Yet somehow, they’ve lost the focus in their own lives and lost belief in themselves.

Just like I did.

Does any of this sound familiar?

How I regained my groove

I admit, it took me a while to get over my pride.

I thought with all my training and background, I should be able to manage on my own.

Yet clearly, I wasn’t managing.

Meanwhile, with the all the renovations we were doing on our new house, I was busy, pressured, frazzled – making dozens of decisions every day.

And one day, in the midst of some problem with the new plumbing or the backsplash, it finally hit me: I was burned out.

My decision-making energy was all used up. The tank was empty. I had nothing left for taking better care of myself.

Sure, I already knew what I “ought” to do. But I was sick of being in charge of everything. I needed somebody else to issue the orders for a while.

That’s when decided to join Precision Nutrition Coaching.

Toni Bauer

What happened next (more than I ever expected)

When I joined PN Coaching, I had no idea where it would lead. I just knew I had to do something. 

As it turned out, it led to the loss of 46 pounds and 13% body fat – not to mention the $10,000 grand prize. You’d better believe that helped with the renovation bills!

Eventually, it even led to a job offer. These days, I find purpose and fulfillment working as a coach as part of the PN team.

But you can read more about my weight loss story here or my life since then here.

What I really want to share with you now are some insights about how you, too, can overcome your sense of burnout and fatigue if you’re a trainer who’s lost your focus, and how you can regain your sense of authenticity.

Three critical lessons

What I learned during my year as a PN Coaching client can be boiled down to three basic principles, which link synergistically to fuel ongoing motivation and professional growth.

Principle 1: Take care of yourself.

I “didn’t have time” for fitness and health because I was too busy caring for others. But by neglecting my physique I was hurting my loved ones as well as myself.

The worse I felt about myself, the more I withdrew from the people I loved.

You know the old cliché about putting on your own oxygen mask first? Well, it’s a cliché for a reason. There’s truth in it.

Make your own health and fitness a priority and other areas of your life will fall into place.  Including your professional life as a trainer.

Principle 2: Find a coach and mentor.

Sure, you know what to do. But the chasm between knowing and doing can be immense.

A good mentor and coach can encourage you, push you, and most of all, hold you accountable. She can reawaken your competitive spirit and help you achieve your very best.

My coach was an example, an inspiration, a beacon of light. She gave me hope, not just for myself, but for the industry as a whole.

She made me proud to be a fitness professional again.

Principle 3: Join a team.

With all my many moves over the years, I think I’d forgotten how important community can be. I just didn’t have one.

But it turns out that teamwork – connection with our peers – is a powerful and highly efficient motivator.  We need others to become our best selves.

My year with PN reminded me how fulfilling it is to work alongside others towards the same goal – not to mention how much fun it can be. Meeting the women in my cohort proved to be a real turning point for my own development.

7 ways trainers can improve their bodies, their businesses and their lives

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And it is – although it’s not necessarily easy.

So I’ve broken it down even further into a few practical tips:

#1: Remember why you joined the fitness profession.

You want to help people and you enjoy coaching. But you also joined the profession because you love fitness and health.

It’s tough to do your best in this field unless you serve as an example. So walk the walk.

Make your own fitness and health a priority.  It will pay big dividends for you later.

#2: Acknowledge where you are. Accept that you are imperfect.

Be honest with yourself. Admit where you may have gone off the rails.

But don’t let it discourage you.

As professionals, we sometimes imagine that we have to be perfect – or at least seem perfect – all the time. But remember, clients will respond to your struggles as much as to your successes.

It’s okay to be real – and to admit that you are.

#3: Let somebody else make the decisions for your program design.

Feel the freedom. Let someone else worry about your program design and your nutrition plan.

This allows you to spend your energy in the gym and in the rest of your life. It lets you stop worrying for a while.

#4: Rebuild your healthy habits.

The process of change may seem slow, but it’s better to start small and establish a baseline than it is to burn out fast by trying to do too much.

Fitness and nutrition are only part of a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes rest and recovery or improving our physical environment can be just as important.

Try to remain open to different ways of reducing stress, improving living conditions, and re-establishing healthy patterns of behavior. This will keep you fresh and engaged.

#5: Make yourself accountable to someone else.

You believe in coaching. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a coach.

So why not put the power of coaching to work for you?

Knowing that your coach is in your corner can be a powerful motivator. There’s no shame in admitting that you need a bit of help to keep yourself on track.

#6: Seek positive challenges.

You can do more than you imagine. Prove it to yourself.

During my PN Coaching year, when I was faced with tough choice or found myself feeling overwhelmed, I sometimes challenged myself to make the decision that the healthy, well-balanced, happy, future Toni would make.

And guess what? Little by little, by making those choices, I became the person I wanted to be.

#7: Learn from other coaches and trainers.

It’s true in every profession worthy of the name: If you want your business to grow and thrive, you have to keep learning from others.

What are the top trainers and coaches doing with their clients? What are the latest developments in the field? What advice are they giving? How do they track results?

By putting yourself in contact with the best, you’ll rekindle your own energy, and translate their successes into your own business.

Toni Bauer

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For part 2 of this series featuring Ron Dykstra, click here.

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Want help getting back on track?

You can do it.  If you’re a personal trainer, you can be in fantastic shape while maintaining a successful business that helps others reach their goals.

You can live the life you want to lead – a life that’s consistent with your values. I know, because I did, and I still do.

Through Precision Nutrition Coaching, we’ve pulled dozens of trainers and coaches out of the doldrums and given them renewed energy and drive for the important work that they do.

We’d love to help you, too.

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