Modern Fit Magazine recently ran a feature on the advent of the Online Fitness Coach (with yours truly included! – check out the issue here). These lovely individuals are not fitness models; they are not personal trainers or nutritionists; they are not youtube stars or TGR heroes. They are not gym owners or professional athletes.
So…what exactly are they? What do they do and why are they changing the way we think about health, fitness, and wellness in our modern world?
These individuals come from a variety of different backgrounds – from yoga instructors and chakra queens, to fitmoms, professional skiers, bad!@# grandmas, power lifters, and stay at home dads; from Crossfit instructors to weekend warriors; from mountain gypsies to city kings; from alpine tundras to Manhattan high rises; from fitness advocates to those who are just getting started.
Coaches understand the potential struggles and incredible triumphs of health and wellness; they understand the importance of fitness and are actively working towards their own goals (whatever those might be). Along the way, coaches share their story, organize challenges, and build communities to inspire and support others.
It sounds simple, right? And it is! But within this simplicity lies the accountability and support necessary for lifelong health and wellness. To understand the power of fitness coaches (and why your coach will empower you to realize your health goals), we first need to explore why committing to fitness can be such a challenge.
Why do most fitness journeys end short?
If it was easy, everyone would do it…
That’s the thing about fitness – it seems easy: eat healthy foods, be active, and take care of your mental and physical health. Not only is this equation simple, it is also positive – it feels good to take care of one’s mind and body.
You may be well aware of the physical benefits of exercise – from the big things: increased life expectancy, decreased risk of a host of terrifying illnesses – from cancer to health disease and everything in between…to the little things: the ability to play with your children, for example.
The benefits of exercise, however, go far beyond your physical form. In fact, in a 2011 article, the American Psychological Association made a compelling argument that psychologists should be working with patients to incorporate exercise into existing treatments.
As immediate past president of APA’s Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology), she’s well aware of the mental health benefits of moving your muscles. “I often recommend exercise for my psychotherapy clients, particularly for those who are anxious or depressed,” she says.
Exercise has a dramatic impact on one’s mental well being. In fact, according to Psyblog, when it comes to the mind, there is very little that exercise can’t do. Exercise has been clinically proven to:
- reduce anxiety (Cox et al., 2004)
- increase stress resilience (Schoenfeld et al., 2013)
- fights the crippling symptoms of depression (Cooney et al., 2013)
- reduces the risk of dementia and has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of other serious mental illnesses and disorders (Tkachuk et al., 1999)
- help individuals struggling with addiction (Tkachuk et al., 1999).
- protect against Alzheimer’s (Funk et al., 2011)
- improve long term and short term memory(McMorris et al., 2011)
- improve mental capacity and performance Guiney and Machado (2012)
- improve mood (Thayer et al., 1994)
- boost self control (Verburgh et al., 2013)
- stimulate brain cell growth (Bjørnebekk, 2007).
So, exercise paired with clean eating = a longer, healthier, and happier life. Why, then, is it so difficult? Why do so few realize their health and wellness goals?
Exercise is hard (and it should be).
Transforming your body and mind isn’t easy. It cannot be. The benefits of a healthy and active life demand that you push your limits, that you challenge your body and mind over and over, day after day. At a biological level, to build strength, your body must literally eat its own fat reserves, tear muscle tissue, and build that tissue back (stronger than before) while you sleep. At a mental level, you must push beyond self doubt and fear to challenge yourself. In fact, fitness depends on failure – you must work to the point of failure, fail, then rebuild, and try again.
It is (literally) much easier to just sit on the coach or better yet, move – but not really push it (the casual, slow treadmill trod + gym, make-up selfie comes to mind – if your fake eyelashes are still in place after a workout, you are doing it wrong). What’s more, as a general trend, we like being comfortable. We do not like failing. We do not like pushing limits. We do not like risk. We do not appreciate challenges that demand change, effort, or transformation. In fact, as a culture, we have associated this kind of hard work with negative stereotypes and erroneously believe that when we are rich enough, fit enough, successful enough, we can stop working so hard; our success will be portrayed by our constant ease and effortless existence (Mai Tia’s on the beach anyone?).
Not to mention the fact that exercise (in the gym and treadmill sense) is, well, really boring.
Fitness (and just about any level of success) demands intense and consistent effort. It demands that we continuously move beyond our comfort zones in pursuit of something just beyond, always – not just until we realize a specific weight or dress size.
You cannot eat whatever you want.
You know what else releases all those feel good endorphins? Food. And my God, do we have an unhealthy relationship with it. It is a source of pleasure and guilt, of joy and torment. And this dysfunctional relationship makes any nutrition program difficult. In short, diets don’t work. To realize life long health and wellness, we need to fundamentally change the way we view food and nourishment. We cannot simply cut out food groups or drastically cut calories. Exercise is hard work; it will make you hungry. To exercise, you must eat – but we also cannot eat whatever we want whenever we want. We need to learn how to fuel and nourish our bodies, how to read and satisfy hunger cues, how to foster a healthy relationship with the foods we eat. This takes time and effort; it demands knowledge and agency.
And, just like physical activity, it takes work – from the inside out. Did we mention that work is hard? Yes. yes it it.
The Trap of Routine
As human beings, we adore routine. We are creatures of habit, and we like to know what to expect; we like to feel in control and we appreciate the semblance of control that our routines provide. But routines, while they can provide a sense of stability that we all love and admire, are detrimental to fitness and wellness. In fact, that gym routine is working against your fitness goals. To continue to realize the benefits of a fit and active lifestyle, you must challenge yourself – meaning, you must purposefully avoid and push past your comfort zone.
All this hard stuff? You have to do it forever.
Health and wellness isn’t a journey with a definite destination. This journey? It is a lifelong process.
The problem of motivation
Doing hard things forever is difficult – even if those hard things are incredible for you (and make you feel and look fabulous). To be successful in the long run, to make good choices every day from this day forward, you are going to need motivation – intrinsic motivation.
All the little external tricks that we use (that brownie for completing that run? that dress you bought? that trip to the spa you promised yourself?) are not the ticket to permanent transformation. Traditional forms of motivation (losing a specific amount of weight, fitting into a specific dress size, competing in a run or charity event) have a definite end. They are dependent on external cues and, once those cues have been met and satisfied, the motivation to stick with and do “the hard things” fades.
To be and stay motivated long after the initial glamour collapses into a pool of sweat, to continuously pursue challenge and possibility, to push beyond your comfort zone time and time again, you need to build an internal motivation source. In short, to motivate external transformation, we have to first change inside – internally.
How Coaches Create Intrinsic Motivation
The question then: what motivates us at our cores? What are the deepest needs and desires motivating our daily choices and actions? On a daily basis, we need:
- to be accepted and loved
- to interact with others
- to feel empowered and powerful
- to feel important
- to be organized and “in the know”
- to feel unique
- to be supported
- to feel as though we are a part of something more or greater
- Build and maintain online fitness communities (fitfams) that support long term health and wellness goals, inspire healthy choices, and encourage individuals within that community to overcome challenges and to continue moving forward. These communities enable members to share their journeys and to share in the journeys of others, appealing to our natural desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves while simultaneously cultivating acceptance, support, and social interaction – anytime and anywhere. In your community, you are surrounded, virtually and physically, by others who understand your struggles, who support your fit lifestyle, and who share in your triumphs and set backs (making those triumphs that much sweeter, and those set backs just a little bit easier).
- Run fitness challenges, utilizing various tools, programs, and incentives. Coaches don’t simply build a community and then set you loose to wander, aimlessly (I have definitely walked into a gym more than once and, unable to figure out how to work that $#! thing, walked out)! Using a diverse set of programs and tools, coaches establish expectations along with specific workout and nutrition programs. They provide the knowledge and the means to realize these expectations, step by step. They take the guess work out of fitness, tailoring your program to your specific goals and unique needs/concerns while providing the knowledge, support, and guidance necessary to realize success – day in and day out.
- Enable you to pursue fitness any time and anywhere. Coaches understand that we all lead busy lives. Thus, they provide the support and tools necessary for you to integrate fitness and healthy choices within your daily “routine.” Your coaches are always just a message away – and while you are still responsible for you, coaches empower the members of their community to take an active role in their own transformations by requiring active engagement, accountability, and above all, positivity.
If you are looking for something that works, if you are ready to take the next step forward and commit to a healthy life and lifestyle…
You aren’t looking for a gym membership, spin class, or the next diet craze. You are looking for a coach.
Ready to take the next step? Click here to make me your coach.