Posted on: June 12th, 2014 by Rachel Cosgrove

Last week I headed to San Diego to “reboot” with some of my best girlfriends for the weekend. They are all surfer girls who I shared an apartment with while going to school at UC Santa Barbara…let’s just say more than a few years ago…can’t believe it’s been that long?!?!?! I brought my SUP (Stand Up Paddle Board) to try out in the ocean and surf for the first time, knowing they could give me some pointers. I’d been using it at the lake where there is no surf and knew that the ocean was a whole different animal.


The experience led to a few Aha’s on being a coach…



If it’s been awhile since you’ve done something you’re not very good at, I highly recommend it to remember what it feels like to be scared, intimidated and doubting yourself, which is exactly how many of our clients feel when they first walk in the gym.

Fitness professional Dave Jack once asked an audience of personal trainers he was speaking to at a Perform Better Summit – “Do you practice what you preach?” Everyone in the audience nodded their head. He then asked, “What does that mean?” People responded with answers such as, “I work out every day.” “I make healthy choices.”

Dave enlightened the audience by showing us that practicing what we preach has nothing to do with working out and eating healthy, things we have already mastered. Have you ever hired a coach to help you do something you are not good at? Many of our clients are very successful in their careers, with their finances, with their families, etc., but need help in one area, fitness, and hire us to help them. When was the last time you asked someone for help in an area of your life where you are struggling?


The first morning I woke up before anyone else, just like old times. I’ve always been a morning person. I sat there sipping my coffee, enjoying our ocean view, trying to picture myself stand up paddle boarding through the waves. I didn’t sit there long before my friend Michelle joined me for a cup of coffee and started to excitedly ask, “When do you want to go play?” “Let’s go play!” “The ocean looks good right now…wanna go?”


Michelle, a mother of three adorable children and one of the smartest people I know (she has her PhD in chemistry from Rockefeller University), is a genuine passionate lover of the ocean and everything about it, especially surfing, and a total kid at heart, always ready to “play” which is one of the many things I love about her.  Her excitement is contagious and so we were off before anyone else got up and I barely finished my first cup of coffee…


FIRST ATTEMPT: Trying to SUP in the surf. As we headed out I thought, “How hard can this be to get through the surf?” I’m pretty comfortable in the ocean, I’ve done a few ocean swims preparing for and competing in Tri’s where I had to make my way through the waves, and I did my share of boogie boarding as a kid. Michelle has taken me out surfing before and taught me a few things about “duck diving” and “turtle rolling” with your board. From the beach the waves didn’t look bad at all.


Holding on to my giant SUP, along with the paddle, I started to make my way out. Michelle had her regular size surfboard and took the lead, telling me when to paddle like hell between waves. First problem…I was holding a paddle so I could only use one arm to paddle with…not going to work. I decided to put the paddle between my legs on the board, so I didn’t have to worry about it, thinking that if a wave comes I’d need to grab on to it.


At that point it felt like someone turned up the wave machine and the waves were coming one after the other. Trying to duck under while holding onto my paddle, I would get knocked back and didn’t feel like I was making any progress. The ocean was showing no mercy and the giant board seemed to meet head on with the waves, throwing me in the opposite direction from where I was trying to go. Becoming exhausted and fed up fighting the waves, Michelle asked to try the giant SUP to see how it felt getting through the surf. I took her board and headed to the beach to watch as she took over. She wanted to see how hard it was, and to figure out what works to help me make it through.



Many personal trainers have no idea what it is like to be their client, giving advice without really thinking through what it’s like to be in their client’s shoes. Taking the time to really see things the way your client does, listening to them, learning about them and their day-to-day, and literally walking in their shoes, is key to being an extremely effective coach. By understanding them you can meet them where they’re at and figure out a plan that will make sense for them. A saying my husband, Alwyn Cosgrove, usually shares at our seminars is, “If you can see John Smith through John Smith’s eyes, you can sell John Smith what John Smith buys.” After spending time really getting to know your clients you may realize, it’s not easy!


Watching Michelle with my board, and a few times I saw her go one way and the board go the other as a wave engulfed her while she made her way through, she didn’t make it appear easy which made me feel better. She of course was eventually successful at getting through the surf, showing me that it can be done. Then she came back, giving me some tips speaking from experience.



Part of our job as the coach is to be a living, breathing role model, sharing our stories of challenges and obstacles, and how we overcame them. Let your clients know that you have struggles sometimes too, and then teach them the strategies you have found to work. If you make it look easy, your client won’t be able to relate or learn from you. It’s okay to let them know you aren’t perfect and you aren’t always motivated, and then teach them through experience.


At that point Michelle realized it was time to have some fun, and continuing to push me to get through the surf could wait. I needed a break both mentally and physically. We traded in our surfboards for boogie boards and “played” in the water having a blast!



You can’t push your clients every single workout, week after week. Sometimes they need to relax and have some fun. This is why I like to think of training my clients like athletes, reaching 3-4 peaks throughout the year where we really push, and then giving them space in between where the volume is lower and they can relax and reboot, getting refocused for the next peak. As a coach you should also know your clients well enough to be in tune, so that if they come in and haven’t slept or have more stress, you’ll know they need to do a lower key workout.

SECOND ATTEMPT: The next morning I was ready to try again. Up early, Michelle led me down to the beach and into the surf again and we went for it. Once again I was getting pummeled, and as much as I did not want to give up I was realizing that my SUP skills were just not adequate to handle the surf. I started to negotiate with Michelle, who I knew would not let me off the hook too easy, “I’ll keep practicing and next year I’ll blow you away with my SUP skills and ability to stand up through the surf…”


She handed me her board and took my board and paddle and said, “Here…use my board and see how you do.” Her board was much lighter, easier to maneuver, and I no longer had to worry about my paddle so I could make some progress getting through the surf. Meanwhile, she paddled through and was on the other side of the surf in the calm waiting for me with my board.


Again I felt like someone turned the wave machine up, but as each giant swell came crashing down on me as I ducked under, I’d come up and see her floating in the calm, waving me forward. There was no way she was going to let me leave this weekend without standing up on my board. Each time I got hit by a wave, but saw that I was getting closer to her it helped. The waves seemed relentless, one after another.



I had gotten to a point where I was giving up, but Michelle, who easily could have let me give up and gone on to enjoy her surfing like I knew she probably really wanted to, instead stuck with me and found a way. She was completely selfless; doing everything she could to help me be successful. I knew that she was not going to let me quit and I had no choice but to persevere through the waves to get out there.


I made it! I was so thankful that Michelle was patient and stuck with me, helping me. Although I had to take a few minutes once I got there to gain my composure and catch my breath, I was very proud that I could now stand on my board and paddle around beyond the surf. She gave me a few pointers, along with boundaries to stay within so I didn’t get swept off to sea, and then left me, giving me ownership to enjoy paddle boarding while she went to surf the crazy waves I spent all morning fighting to get through. Her easy and fun is my hard.



Remember that – what is easy and fun for you might be really hard for your client.



At Results Fitness we are very proud that all of our members, many who walked in very intimidated, have become independent and feel comfortable setting up a squat rack, loading a barbell, and getting a workout in on their own. With our semi-private setting our clients count their own reps, understand their program and feel confident, rather than completely dependent on us. We are always there to coach and guide them, but I believe that part of our job, as a coach, is to give our clients the knowledge and tools to be successful without a coach counting every single rep.

They will always need a coach to guide them and check in with, all of us do, to keep an eye on their form, design their program, teach them new exercises, give them an outside coaches perspective, and continue progressing them.

Keep in mind – Your coaching is only as good as your clients when they are on their own.


Practice patience, put yourself in their shoes, speak from experience sharing your own struggles and how you overcame them, believe in them even when they are ready to quit, and then give them ownership to go it on their own and not be totally dependent on you all of the time.

In the meantime, sign up for lessons with a coach doing something you aren’t good at to give you a fresh perspective!

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