Becoming a Better Coach: Unlocking the Client Relationship – Part 2

A Pain-Free Functional Training Model You Will Be Able to Break Down and Implement TOMORROW!




  •  Learning a heavy dose of content over a weekend is great but if you don’t begin to apply it Monday morning – you’re missing the point.
  •  Create actionable steps to progress your results and relationships week by week
  • Work on Leadership, work on Business, and begin thinking outside of the box.



I honestly debated on including this section. It’s the fluffiest of them all. But since this is a soft skills article (and may never actually see the light of day) I decided to be honest and say the things I really wanted to say.
When you’re tired, learn to rest, not quit.

The fitness industry and the training role (the manager role, the entrepreneur role, the business owner role… all of them) have always been about the hustle & grind. First one in, last one out. We work when our clients don’t. The grind includes Friday. No days off.

The Compound Strength and Conditioning: CrossFit Vacaville North: Monday 7.22.13

Never miss a Monday. Rest Day? What muscle is that and how do I train it? I could go on. The truth is? In large part, it’s all very true. I’d argue that every successful trainer/fitness business owner will tell you of long hours, long days, long years of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. There are no shortcuts to experience.

BUT, while I definitely lived many, many, many days inside of that grind, I also learned some of my greatest lessons and discovered the most growth BEYOND the job.

I gave up early morning clients for about a year so that I could get out on my road bike and get the training in to complete a 4-day 600km ride from Vancouver down the coast to Oregon. I learned a lot doing that training and on that trip. It was a charity effort supporting the fight against childhood cancers and I met some incredible warriors, survivors and grieving families during that time. I learned about sitting in the saddle – literally. It’s not just a sales technique.

It’s a literal, hard, long and often boring thing to endure in order to get somewhere. I learned about some of my colleagues who, after working with them for YEARS, finally had the time and space to open up and reveal more of their humanity than our working relationships would have ever allowed.

And while 600km in 4 days is nothing to a pro cyclist, it taught my 1-hour-spin-class-at-a-time ass that there’s always more gas in the tank, always more road out in front of your wheel and there’s always another gear that allows you to keep pushing your legs around.

I cashed in my RRSP account in my mid-20s to join a group climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. I had been training them for the trip for about a year and pretty close to go-time the opportunity came up to join them. Talk about bucket list. I learned that walking for 8 hours a day for a week is a great way to lose 10lbs.

I learned that you can wear a Merino wool t-shirt as a base-layer for 14 straight days and it literally does not smell at all. I learned that my training, gear and “superior preparation” meant shit as porter after porter charged up the mountain trail past me in flip flops and shorts with our bags and tents piled high on their heads.

I learned that cardiovascular fitness is damn important. The cardiorespiratory strain at the summit was a total mind trip and I have been diligent in programming ESD work for myself and my clients ever since.

It’s easy to say no to a trip like that. “I don’t have time. It’s a lot of money. It would be irresponsible of me to leave my family/business/etc. I’ll have to think about it. I can just go hiking locally this summer – that will be enough adventure for me.” Screw all that.

I really think my entire life changed because of that trip. I cemented a bond with my friend to the point that he’ll be my best man in 2022. I ended up leaving the business I had started with a fellow trainer.

Our visions had split and I decided that putting up with his passive aggressive disrespect wasn’t worth protecting the money I had invested into what turned out to be his dream, not mine. I sold my house and gave away 90% of my belongings. When a family in Africa protects their inheritance of a plastic bucket in order to gift their first-born son at the time of his wedding, you realize that you’re living with A LOT of unnecessary stuff.

I have been leaning into minimalism ever since. And here I am, almost 10 years later, sharing this story with fellow fitness pros because I believe in the power of that experience and how it has led me to where I am in my career today.

It was an unforgettable experience indeed – not just physically and mentally challenging. I will forever be grateful for because it was the first time I felt out of place and uncomfortable because it was the first MAJOR time I experienced being a minority and people hated me because I was American.

To be clear, everyone on my trek; the guides, porters, and other trekkers were all very respectful, but going into the local scene without any “chaperones” was a different experience than I had on the mountain. I found myself being kicked out of bars, hissed at, and spit on for no reason at all or for reasons beyond me. Am I mad about it? Absolutely not!

It was one of the biggest learning and growth opportunities I have had in my 36 years. Honestly, I appreciated the experience because it made me THAT much more compassionate and have a far greater understanding for cultural differences, perception, and ultimately helped make me a better human and I would gladly repeat the experience. Worth it!




Just in case you’re thinking that these previous two examples don’t sound much like resting and taking a break from the grind, I get it. Here’s a softer paragraph to cap it all off. Let’s agree that, as passionate fitness professionals, that what we really want is the opportunity to use our knowledge and our purpose to help people, ok?

There’s an important distinction between “I sold a new client for 36 sessions today” and “today I added another amazing person to my team of clients. I’m so excited to work with them over the next ____.” Obvious right? And yet, both examples involve a transaction.

While we want to SERVE our clients, that honour is 100% tied to our ability to SELL them our services, and ourselves. So, without it sounding dirty, if you want to sell more (aka if you want to earn the right to work with more people) then you’ve got to connect and have that special cocktail of authenticity, entertainment, education, genuine affection, care, professionalism, ability and likability. (For some of you, add a dash of “Damn, look at those _____s. Let’s be honest!)


Interesting Facts about 'Harry Potter' that every fan should know


I can’t tell you the number of times I have broken the ice, built rapport and made someone feel more comfortable and open (allowing me to do my job and demonstrate what I have to offer as a personal trainer) because:






So, not only does having some interests beyond squatting and counting macros work in my favour around connecting with clients, it also makes my life a richer and more satisfying experience.

The time I take away from my work (albeit often short,) reinvigorates me and means that I’m always excited to head into the gym for a day of helping people. For some of you this is a total no-brainer. But the truth, for me, is that I gave up a lot while trying to build my career – first as an athlete and again in fitness.



It took working with my coach, and being willing to discuss things beyond work, to find the opportunity for change, balance and joy. But upon returning some of those things into my life, it made me work more effectively, it made me more enjoyable to be around and it offered me a pathway to a long-term, sustainable career.

If you can’t imagine it, how will you create it?


Ultimately becoming a better coach requires time, patience, commitment, and willingness to INVEST in yourself as a world-class coach and human. Allow yourself to fail and accept not having all the answers.

Be curious enough to seek them out, brave enough to be vulnerable, and wise enough to never throw in the damn towel. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the commitment and time. Not only will it improve your life and profession, but it mean you can help and influence others as well.

There’s kind of a controversial line being drawn in the sand here. I have told a lot of young trainers that the key to their development is to spend more time in the gym, shadow veteran trainers, hire a trainer even, attend courses, read articles, listen to podcasts, teach group classes, train anyone who will give you the opportunity, get to know your membership team and work in partnership with them, seek information, read books, build a referral network, practice, practice and practice. All of this is true and honest.

But also, accelerate your humanity, grow in all areas of your life, be a better family member, be a better friend, be a better neighbour, seek experience, look for opportunities to learn and grow, own and share your authenticity, discover your self and your purpose.

I’ve got to find a way to end this article. (But a big part of me hopes that this sparks an ongoing conversation too.) So, here’s what feels like the way to do it. The whole key to this balancing act is intention. When you are at work, WORK. When you are done working for the day, what ELSE can you be intentional about so that you recover, refresh, grow and experience things that have value.

I think the shift starts in being mindful of how you show up in each hour of your day. I’ve stopped looking at my phone when my alarm goes off in the morning. I used to scroll for a while before getting out of bed. That ended up being 20 minutes/half an hour that was wholly unintentional.

Now I might choose to stretch, go to an early yoga class, get on my spin bike for 30 minutes, read a book, write a blog, make a hearty breakfast, or whip up a coffee/collagen thing and get a client session in before my real job starts. The key has been linking my first activity of the morning to the intention that I want to see manifest in the rest of my day/week/phase of training.



Think about your business and get clear on your weaknesses (aka opportunities)
Create an intention/set some goals for where you want to be (SMART goals are best!)
Brainstorm ways (both in-the-box and out-of-the-box) to improve your weaknesses
If you created a SMART goal you should already have the metric with which to measure your efforts/improvements
If in doubt or if you get stuck, look to the people around you/your role models/your mentors and ask for honest feedback. We can be blind to our biggest weaknesses/opportunities because it can be painful to consider that we’re not the prettiest special snowflake around (and that’s how you work the mighty Clifton Harski into your blog.)



We’d love to hear from you!

Thoughts, comments, agree/disagree?

What has worked for you?

What have you learned from your own in/out of the box experiences?

What are you going to work on?

What more do you want to read about/learn about/have support on?


Thanks to Tasha for this awesome collab, and to anyone that has read to the very last word, arigato!



  • No comments yet.
  • Add a comment