A good trainer/and or coach for fat loss – how to find one?
In my opinion ‘coaching’ is something one does to a team or an individual competing.
The definition of coach – from dictionary.com ->
“a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes”
Definition of trainer – from dictionary.com ->
1. a staff member on an athletic team who gives first aid and therapy to injured players.
2. a person who trains athletes; coach
In my mind, both were one in the same. Trainer=Coach. Perhaps it is just semantics or arguing over the finer points of true definition trainer vs coach – or that the word ‘coach’ itself should hold some higher value than simply ‘trainer’.
I train people in my gym. I teach them about training and nutrition. So for the sake of definition when it comes to coaching in the physique enhancement business, I will define coach as someone who trains people through programs and willingly teaches their clients (or athletes) proper nutrition and training protocol if required. In essence they are willing to explain –‘why’, when asked. I say if ‘required’, as some clients just don’t care about the finer details – they just want to be told what to do. Others however, have oodles of questions, and always want to know why – and the true coach should be using those moments as so in my other profession – teaching refer to as ‘teachable moments’.
In the world of competitive fitness and related divisions (bikini, bodybuilding, figure, figure model, etc) there might be a need for a trainer or coach to help guide you to your physique goals. That is losing body fat and/or gain muscle. I have trained myself for my own shows for years (~9 years ) without a coach or trainer, and just learned to read a lot, however, those early years would have benefitted from someone showing me how, rather than me trying to ‘trial and error’ my way to the stage. I did get the formula correct, but it would have benefitted me to skip over a few mistakes. Eventually I did get a trainer, ahem, coach -> Erik Ledin – of LeanBodiesConsulting in 2008.
They help to guide you into their event or show – designing your nutritional strategy, and/or training plan. Individuals who just want to ‘lose a few’ can also benefit from hiring someone with experience in this area.
Finding a good coach (IMO) = trainer + teacher, can be quite a task. If you are a newbie where do you start? Even if you are an intermediate and perhaps have outgrown your current coach – how do you go about finding a new one?
Results are usually what drive people to good trainers and/or coaches. I mention trainers, as there are some who can whip people into shape but really don’t want to explain why, making them great at training, but not so great at the teaching part. It does not mean that they are not the right fit for you, just don’t expect to learn very much.
A good coach should be ‘results oriented’ as that is the job they do, however, the means to get to the results should be considered as well.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a good coach/trainer for you.
- Results – do they get results with their clients? Obviously you would not be looking into them as a coach if they didn’t however, there might be a few out there who did not get results – ask about that.
- Sustainable results – Their clients – pre and post show – do they look similar or are they 2 completely different bodies. Are their clients able to maintain their results over the long haul? 3months later, 6 months later, a year? What do they look like now?
- Experience – How long have they been training others? Sure it can be a short period of time (under 2-3 years), however, no one ever seems to want an intern to work on him or her in the hospital. How many bodies have they worked on? Although I cannot give you a specific number on how many should they have produced in order to say – yes, they are reliable.
- Education – What kind of education do they have? Do they upgrade? Do they read everyday/every week? Information is constantly changing in the industry and your coach should be informed. Do they attend conferences, workshops in order to better their skill set?
- Personal Fitness – Do they train? Are they in shape? They don’t have to be in stage ready shape or even have ever set foot on the stage; however, having some experience with the process (including the diet) goes along way to support their knowledge base. They need to look the part, and they need to be healthy. Most heart surgeons have an apple shape – but no one is questioning them – but I digress…
- Specificity – what are they known for? Who do they train on a regular basis? If they are known for coaching baseball, or football, they are probably not a reliable coach for competition prep or body fat loss.
- References – although this could be biased based on whose information you receive, the coach should be more than willing to give you previous clients in order to speak to about their services, and experience. Many times coaches will have testimonials on their site which gives you are start point. But remember this is a ‘portfolio’ of their work – and this is usually their best work. See #2.
- Communication/Respect – Do you feel heard? Do their previous clients feel heard? Many times girls just brush it off as the personality of the coach, however, having a good client/coach relationships should be empowering, not draining. If they talk down to you or call you names, this is not the coach for you. It goes back to personal respect. No matter how knowledgeable they seem if they don’t treat you with respect, there is always someone else who can help you. They should answer all your concerns, and not just pick and choose what information matters. Those who matter don’t mind.
- Timely – They answer your emails or phone calls in a timely manner. (24-36hours), and in less time if you show is close (knowing you are a priority). They send you meal plans, and updates in a timely manner. They are considerate of your schedule (as you still have to prep the food).
- Tracking – should be weekly or biweekly. They should be taking measures, photos, and weight or body fat measures. Although all are not necessary, your coach should be tracking your progress in a manner, which is measurable. If you are prepping for a show or even a special event you need to know if you are making progress or not. Tracking some of these variables will help to see, or not see the progress. Ask how they will be tracking your progress.
- Post show support – what kind of guidance do they offer post show? Is it included in their services? You may think you are able to go back to regular eating habits, however, this transition easier for some than others, and having someone there is support you through it at least for 4-6 weeks post show might be something to look into. There is no shame in saying – “I need help with this”.
Great coaches always want you to be your best, and strive towards achieving that. They will always want you to be better.
They will always believe more in you than you do in yourself.
This is in my opinion what a great coach (of any athletic endeavor) will do for you.
Feel free to add more criteria in the comments section.
It amazes me after all these years and so much information that is posted on the internet on “metabolic damage” that girls still manage to find trainers that hurt them. Perhaps it is the newbies who really don’t know any different, and end up unfortunately in the hands of the wrong trainer. Trainers have teams of girls, and they look good, so a newbie with very little experience just assumes this person must be a good trainer. The girls who end up looking like 2 different people post show – we just don’t talk about them. We see what we want to see.
Then there are the ‘trainers’. Perhaps these individuals [trainers] just don’t believe that metabolic damage actually happens, or they are not willing to change the method to get lean, as well, it works. But for how long?
I feel the need to write about this [metabolic damage] as I see girls in my gym who were at a normal weight/body shape before they began the dieting process for a show, and seemingly afterwards are anywhere from 20lbs to 60lbs over their normal weight months after the show is over.
The girls I speak of – do you know how many shows they did?
They try to eat a normal amount of calories, and gain weight, or they try to diet like they did for the competition, and think they are doing ok– and gain even more weight. Eventually they are unable to sustain that type of hard core dieting mentality and break down and have to eat. And when they eat – they binge eat.
This brings about this up and down roller coaster ride with food were they will try to ‘stick’ to another diet, and then somehow *think* they are sabotaging themselves by eating an apple, and then do 2 hours of cardio to try to fix the extra calories. It creates this emotional roller coaster with surrounding food, and exercise.
This process of gaining weight post show can be termed a ‘rebound’, ‘water weight’ or even metabolic burnout. If weight gain continues after eating a normal amount of food, or even try to diet – and you end up gaining weight this is termed ‘metabolic damage’. This is usually due to the abnormally high amount of cardio training recommended by a trainer prior to the show in the hopes to get lean, and a very low calorie diet.
The first time it works; the second time it is a bit harder, and the third – well, now you are up to 2 hours of cardio a day 10-12 weeks out from a show. Hun?
I too have to admit that I was a cardio bunny – in my early years. I would always wonder why girls had 2 separate wardrobes – one for the in-season and one for the off-season. Many followed this protocol of hours of cardio to get lean. I did. I did not have a trainer back in 1998 and the fitness magazine were the only information that could guide me. There was no Internet like it is today. I always thought that I would never be a big girl post show – however, my body told me other wise. I loved to eat – and a lot. I would binge on anything – and really through the message board that came after, there was solice in telling your story, and somehow it was looked at as normal. Luckily, I got pregnant, and everything returned to normal post pregnancy. I knew after having my son I could not spend that much time in the gym – and didn’t. I had to gain back all the muscle I had lost, and well, the weight basically came off with weight training. Little to no cardio. I found out the process on my own, however, there still exists that myth that you need to do hours upon hours of cardio to get in stage shape.
There is enough information out there on the Internet to inform girls about what might be in store for them pre and post show. If they do their research before hiring a coach to do your contest prep. And I say coach – as they should be coaching you through this process, including after the show, to help you transition out of pre contest diet, to regular healthy eating habits.
I have friends who are trainers themselves, and by being in the profession you would think that they would know better. This type of training style is not one they would prescribe for their own clients, but somehow when it comes to contest prep their common sense seems to be thwarted. They know in hindsight that this type of extremism is not necessary and perhaps no one has actually shown them the way to a more balanced contest prep.
Sometimes it is hard to know if you coach is a good one – especially if the girls he coaches look great and place an/or win shows.
“Just because a girl wins – does not always mean they have the winning formula” – Erik Ledin
Some girls can do this type of process a number of times before it catches up with them and the body refuses to respond. But it [the body] will eventually stop responding. Sometimes it is after one show – in the case of the girls at my gym – or after a couple of shows.
Methods to lose body fat such as, extremely low calorie intake, stressed, fasting, increased cortisol levels, overtraining, no salt diet, and high amounts of cardio such as 2-4 hours per day, over an extended period of time anywhere from 6 to 20 weeks can result in metabolic damage. All of these criteria do not need to be in place in order to suffer from metabolic damage however, it is the pairing of the high volume of cardio, absolute calories per day – below basal metabolic rate, and a long duration of a dieting period, that seems the biggest players in this metabolic equation.
Signs of metabolic Damage
- Weak nails
- Hair falling out
- Feeling lost
- Gaining weight while on dieting calories
- General Malaise – you feel terrible
- Bloating, cramps
- Digestive problems, digestive stress, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome,
- Menses abnormalities, colitis, and Crohn’s disease
- Living on caffeine or stimulants throughout the day
- Anti anxiety medication
- Anti depression medication
- Interrrupting sleep patterns
- Gaining weight, especially cellulite even while doing consistent training & diet
- Require sleep medications
How do you know if you have hired the right coach for you during the contest prep period? Unfortunately you don’t. But here are a few ‘red flags’ that you should watch out for, and perhaps consider hiring a different coach if you experience any of them.
Red Flag #1 – The girls who have trained with that trainer look like 2 different people in-season and off-season.
Red Flag #2 – You get a training meal plan that reads like this- about 10+ weeks out from the show.
meal 1: 4 rice cakes
4oz white fish
2 fish oil caps
Meal 2: 4oz white fish
1 cup cucumber
meal 3: 4oz white fish
6 spears asparagus
1 tsp olive oil
Meal 4: 4 oz white fish
1 cup cucumber
2 fish oil caps
Meal 5: 4 oz white fish (steak on sunday)
6 spears asparagus
2 fish oil caps
Red Flag #3 – Your supplement list is longer than your actually foods in your diet.
Red Flag #4 – Drug usage – need to say more?
Red Flag #5 – Your calories are set at an absolute level – like you are to eat “1200” calories today – and you just started your diet.
Red Flag #6 – Immediately cuts your salt out of your diet completely.
Red Flag #7 – Your training includes over 2 hours of cardio a day, 1 hour of weights over 5-7 days per week, starting at around 10-12 weeks out from the show.
Pre-contest dieting for a show requires a lot of discipline. You have to say ‘no’ to a lot, bring your cooler everywhere, prep food, and eat at specific times. So no wonder you might have difficulty adjusting to the off-season. Your training is intense, but in no way should you be training like a marathon runner on such little food. You should not suffer through your diet to the point where you are sacrificing your future health for only a few moments in the spotlight. If your common sense says that certain aspects of the ‘training’ does not feel right; it probably isn’t.
Articles on Metabolic Damage on the Internet
Tom Venuto –Burn the Fat.com
Scott Abel – ScottAbel.com
Erik Ledin – LeanBodiesConsulting
Kevin Myles – Bodysport.com
Bodybuilding.com – $100, 000 Transformation Contest
In 12 short weeks, Sarah was able to transform her body into her best shape ever. With some guidance, and good programming she set her sights really high. Sarah entered the Bodybuilding.com Bodyspace $100, 000 Transformation challenge. You are welcome to visit her Bodyspace Profile.
She always stuck to the plan, checked in regularly, we made tweeks and adjustments as necessary to get to her goal. She was amongst some of the most ‘transformed’ individuals, and ended up taking home 2nd place!
Sarah even set up a photoshoot for herself as a reward for all her hard work. Some of her photos are posted below in the blog.
Congratulations Sarah – you did an amazing job!
In the summer of 2010 I came across Allison Ethier’s FaceBook page. I was so amazed by her physique that I immediately wrote her a message practically begging her for advice and help! It turned out that Allison was preparing to start an online training service and she was interested in taking me on as one of her first online clients! I was so excited!
Now Allison had her work cut out for her that’s for sure. I was 29 years old, stay-at-home mom of two small children. My first pregnancy in 2004 I gained 60+lbs with my daughter. And my second pregnancy in Dec. 2007 I had gained 70+lbs with my son. I had had a severe injury to my left ankle leaving me with 75-80% range of motion, and later I discovered I had TWO hernia’s that would need eventual repair! When I came to Allison I weighed a 153lbs after packing on 20lbs through the winter and spring. I was currently working out and running on an average of 3-4 days a week! But I was lacking knowledge of the right combination of diet and exercise.
Allison worked steadily and patiently with me for the next three months. I am married to a United States Marine and longed to be fit by Oct. 28, 2010 for our Marine Corps Ball. It’s a formal birthday celebration of the Marine Corps ball where all the ladies get to dress up and wear beautiful gowns! So Allison created a diet and training schedule for me and adjusted it as the date drew nearer. I ended up fitting in a size 2 dress weighing 126lbs and had the time of my life!! And thanks to Allison’s hard work and sincere interest in my goal I got see what it was like to feel FIT and beautiful! Needless to say my husband was thrilled!
Marine Corps Ball Oct. 2010 126lbs (size 2 gown)
Almost 2 days after the ball I had scheduled my operation for my hernia repair surgery. As you can guess my training came to a screeching halt. But Allison stuck with me encouraging me through my recovery period. She even went as far as creating a new diet to aid in my recovery but maintain what progress we had made prior to surgery. For the next 6 weeks I was down for the count. But she never gave up on me. She would check in just to see how I was doing and how the recovery was coming along. And that meant the world to me!
12 pounds later my recovery was finally ending in the middle of December 2010. And of course with New Years steadily approaching I too looked at setting my new goals for the upcoming year. This was it! I happen to be turning the big 30 on New Years as well! I had no time to loose! I couldn’t stand the thought of loosing everything Allison and I had worked towards!
About this time I was introduced to BodyBuilding.com through a friend. And they (BB.com) were having a 12 week Transformation Challenge to kick of the New Year. After my surgery I was lacking the motivation to what felt like starting ALL OVER again due to my weight gain and limited movement after the surgery. I knew I had to enter this contest. And with Allison’s help, finishing the contest with huge results was possible. I just kept thinking back to before my surgery and that size 2 ball gown!
It’s been an tough road! And I am sure I haven’t been the easiest client to work for given my health issues and limited time. But Allison is a fighter! A true champion never says die, and doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit! Even when I felt like giving up on me, Allison would come up with creative tools and ideas to keep me motivated to press on. Her words of encouragement made me push myself further than I ever dreamed possible. And now I have the body I have always wanted. With Allison’s guidance and help I have been able to recreate my body into a solid foundation that we can build upon. And I am just thrilled to see where we take it next!
-I must thank my Lord Jesus Christ for making our bodies with the capability to loose weight and build muscle! Without His masterful engineering none of this would even be possible! He created those healthy and whole foods we need! He is what make all things possible!
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17
And thank you Allison for all your guidance and knowledge on how to train and diet effectively. I can’t wait to see where we go from here! I am so glad God has crossed our paths! Many many thanks!
May I use what I have learned to further the hope in others! And a spirit of humility never depart from me. As I approach my fitness dreams day by day, may I always remember where I came from and ALWAYS remain approachable!