10 Sure-fire ways to crush the motivation of your clients [CrossFit Psychology]

08 Oct

One of the fundamental success factors of any exercise regime is the ability to stick with it. Simply put, the people who get the most benefits out of any lifestyle change – be it diet, exercise or even a hobby – are those who can maintain their motivation to persevere.

As coaches we can’t often do a whole lot about motivating you – that’s pretty much in your gift to control. Sure we can shout, help you set goals, play loud music, and occasionally nag you. Ultimately though, motivating you is your job.

The best we can do as coaches is to create the conditions or environment that best allow you to get (and stay) motivated, or at the very least, don’t demotivate you.

But if, as a coach,  you are determined to drive away your clients in style, here is my top 10 list for irreparably crushing their motivation.

1. Crossfit: You’re doing it wrong

There is nothing worse, especially when learning a new skill, than having someone stand over you constantly reminding you that you still aren’t doing it right. It can make you feel inadequate (“everyone else seems to get it”), picked on, and demotivated.

In CrossFit, this can be quite subtle, usually in the form of constant corrections (“knees out”, “hips up”, “jump more”, and so on). It’s also usually done with the best intentions, too.

The trap that many coaches fall in to is to only focus on the (often small) areas that require correction, at the expense of pointing out all the things that the client is doing right.

Or better still, praising the improvement that they are making.

2. Lies. Damned lies.

Ok. Perhaps that is a little strong. How about dishonesty, or insincerity?

People are surprisingly good at detecting lies and insincerity, despite what TV detective shows may tell you.

Ever told someone that they have done a “perfect” job? Had they? It’s not much fun being told you have got something just right, only to be informed two minutes later that you haven’t…

3. Solitary confinement

Part of the reason that the attendance at most gyms is a fraction of the total membership numbers, is that people have to work-out on their own. And (effective) exercise is hard. And hard can be demotivating, especially if you have no-one else to cheer you on.

At CrossFit London we made the decision early on to offer group training as the main training model. This meant that we turned away quite a few people who wanted to come in and just do their own thing.

But in its place we have helped shape an environment that is welcoming, encouraging and fun.

4. Inconsistant application of the rules

Simple: the movement standards are the same for everyone. Correcting the squat depth for one client? Then you’d better make sure that everyone else is also adhering to the same range of motion.

There are few more depressing situations that getting picked on for something that everyone else is doing as well.

And as a coach, don’t think for a moment that people aren’t looking at your form when you demonstrate the exercises…

5. More of the same

The beauty of CrossFit is that the model of “constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity” allows so much scope for variety and challenge that no two day’s programming need be the same. Yet hidden within the seemingly endless variety, there are of course favourites.

And these favourites have a way of creeping in the daily programming with ever increasing frequency.

Nothing crushes motivation more quickly than a lack of variety.

6. Push too hard too soon (or all the time)

Regardless of what the Internet trolls tell you, CrossFit is plenty hard enough for most normal people. And sure, some days are harder than others (e.g Thursdays…). But how long would your appetite for exercise last if you were being beasted all of the time?

This is even more acute for newcomers to the regime. Push too hard too soon, and you will lose them. Fact.

7. Don’t push hard enough

Colin has written a couple of good pieces on ‘gaming’  WODs and its overall effect on long term performance.

Part of the reason that we insist on group training at CrossFit London is to foster a level of accountability for performance within our client base.

Using a kettlebell too light, a box too low, or a band too supportive? Expect us to tell you. We’re here to keep you honest!

8. Stop listening

Are you still delivering what your clients want? Have you asked them recently?

9. Favouritism

We are naturally drawn towards people we like. Fact. Let this get in the way of your coaching (e.g. spending more time with the fire-breathers, strongmen, etc.) and you will quickly turn off the majority of your clients.

The next time you are running a session check yourself and see how much time you spend with each client during the class. Did you speak to everyone? Did you spend more time with some than others? Were your decisions based on coaching considerations or just personal preference.

Be honest.

10. Cult of the expert

Fitness experts. Pick up a virtual stone, toss it into the internet and you’ll hit at least 50. The problem with many ‘experts’ is that they feel the need to prove that fact that they are an expert at every opportunity.

Fine on the Internet (troll away, my friends), not fine in the gym.

No-one has paid to listen to your theories on time-under-tension, or the Bulgarian split squat versus the back squat for strength development. They have paid to train.

Let your coaching do the talking. Clients will respect you much more (and tend to stick around) if you help them get tangible results. Not ear ache…

At CrossFit London we take coaching quality very seriously. So seriously that we have started our own Coaching Academy to enable our own coaches (and others) really raise the bar on coaching performance. For more information, please drop Andrew a line.

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