Yesterday I started reading, Change Maker by John Berardi, PhD. I received it as a bonus gift for purchasing his nutrition coaching program, Precision Nutrition. When it first arrived, I thought the chances I would read it would be slim. Not only was I wrong, I was reminded of the old saying, all things happen for a reason. I am 100% supposed to read this book. Ironically, as I read the pages, I was constantly reminded of topics I wrote about in graduate school about individualized training, trust, whole body healthcare, and ethics.
You see, I am a registered dental hygienist that spent 3-yrs in a kinesiology graduate program where all my classmates were strength and conditioning coaches in professional and college sports, athletic trainers, physical therapists, personal trainers, and physical education teachers. There I was a nobody, that did not have the “experience” of training athletes or anyone for that matter. But I was one of the rare healthcare providers in the program. Someone that had spent years, sticking sharp, stainless steel instruments below my patient’s gums, sometimes anesthetizing them, as well as some of my dentists’ patient’s when they were unsuccessful in getting them numb. Those that work with me in the dental office know I am the anesthesia closer. Working in this business requires the skill of building trust. I spend my days going over medical histories in a country that had an obesity rate of 30.5% when I first started as a dental hygienist in 1998 to the current 42.4% according to 2020 published statistics by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I have listened to my patients worries about their diagnosis of Type II diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, depression, and weight gain. Frankly, that is not an exhaustive list. Again, I sit is a position of trust, the active listener, and tear wiper.
The foreword in Berardi’s book was written by Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Trainers Development Center (PTDC) https://www.theptdc.com/ and Online Trainers Academy (OTA). He makes an important statement that many consumers do not know, “Unlike many other fields, the health and fitness industry seems to throw people into the profession headfirst. It’s a certification or training course and then…sink or swim”. All I know is trainers, sports, nutrition, and health coaches need to swim and start swimming fast before we hit 50% obesity rate in the United States. Thank you, Canadian friends, (Berardi and Goodman) for opening this American’s eyes. However, those folks need to reach for help, correct? But as my favorite line (so far) in Berardi’s book goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.
So why is the marathon coach writing about this subject? Because this running coach is athlete centered. The running coach is also a healthcare provider, who frequently sees her two worlds intersect. Berardi’s point with weight loss through physical activity and nutrition coaching is that in general, the field of fitness is in its infancy and there is not a progressive plan for all coaches to follow and a “Progressive plan is what’s been missing in health coaching, exercise coaching, even-to some degree-nutrition coaching”. Run coaching has been around much longer, following many training principles such as interval and fartlek training, both thought up in the 1930s, 30 + years after the marathon at the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Running clubs/groups in the U.S. have been around since the 1950s and training programs have popped up here, there, and everywhere in recent years, all following progressive plans based on training principles of the 1930s. Progressive programs developed for young athletes that had significantly different lifestyles than today, including diet, sleep, and stress and certainly not overweight, obese, or living in a culture with 42% obesity rate.
Staying consistent with my athlete centered approach, some of my runners will never even see intervals or fartlek’s in their training. Most will never run over 18-miles in a long run. Most will have less than a 3-week taper. In 2019 I coached three runners to their first time Boston Marathon qualifying time. One of them never ran intervals in training. One of them had a 10-day taper before the marathon…yes, 18-mile long run, 10-days out from the marathon. The third, sat out the long run three weeks out from the race. Not only did all meet their Boston qualifying time, they ran personal bests in the marathon by 11, 25, and 47-minutes! Three runners, three unique needs, three incredible results. This my friends (students), is what is possible with a relationship with an athlete centered coach.
In the end here, we have a paradox. The problem with fitness coaching for weight loss is that a progressive plan does not exist and the problem with some marathon programs is that they coach using a standard progressive plan. What is the solution for both? Client centered. Coach the client from head to toe, based on their needs, physiology, mindset, and motivation. Your coach needs the skills to foster the last two through self-efficacy. Do not have that in your current program? Have no fear, this teacher is waiting for you.