Getting 'Personal'
with EIF founder and CEO Darren Tebbenham, BSc, MSc

My Blog

Read about the whats and the whys here...



Let's talk "coaching".


It is NOT just communicating well as a PT

It is NOT just talking through changes with a client

It is NOT just another word for Personal Training



Well it is about helping clients get from where they are to where they want to be.

But the thing is clients don’t always know where they are at – that is they are not fully aware; they live life in the fast lane and don’t take the time to evaluate and consider their health and fitness properly.

Neither are they always aware of where they would rather be. For most they have an idea they would like to be fitter, lighter…healthier, but they haven’t considered any detail. Sometimes they flick between the idea of being fit and healthy and living in the moment, constantly tempted by their old habits and habits of others breaking their commitment to change.

Even when people do get clear and reach that point where they say enough is enough they still often struggle with lots things along the way!


Change isn’t easy.

But make no mistake about it as a Personal Trainer in the 21st Century, you are a change coach.

Coaching deals with increasing clients’ AWARENESS, helping them better define where they want to be and, of course, where they are currently at. This helps them own their futures’ and therefore results, ACCOUNTABILITY, and therefore empowers them to take decisive ACTION - see model!

Often clients become ambivalent about change or a particular element of change and indeed at times even continuing with the programme altogether.

So we need, as a Coach, to help create this awareness about where they are at and where they instead want to be, we need to help them deal with ambivalence or indeed create ambivalence where they become more resistant to doing the things that would most help them get to where they want to be quicker and we need to support and adjust accordingly along the way!

The first on four key skills we cover during the coach training part of your Personal Trainer course is to ask better Open questions. We include almost a hundred possible open questions you could ask but the challenge is to ask questions that evoke change talk. As we do this and our clients talk about change so we can begin to “Coach” effectively.

The second key skill is to Affirm and acknowledge our clients current situation, to notice and affirm their strengths, positive intentions and efforts regardless of outcome and demonstrate our belief in them as a person. This supports the development of an empathic, caring and supportive relationship. Remember we need to be genuine and congruent, and hold unconditional positive regard for our clients. This process must be done carefully – it is not about praise (assumes a dominant position if you do, like a teacher) but is about good listening then skilful affirmation.

IMPORTANT: It is essential to maintain an equal relationship, one where both parties - you and your client are experts. Anything that detracts from this will damage your ability to coach well.

Our fundamental belief is that our clients have or can easily acquire all the information they need to change. What is key is for our clients to step up and be ready to use such information to empower themselves to change.

As clients become more aware, more accountable and begin to deal with what gets in the way so they experience far more than just a friendly Personal Training experience they benefit tremendously from your ability to “coach”. Part of this process is creating CHANGE TALK.

The third skill is that of Reflection. When we reflect we demonstrate our understanding of their situation and so encourage further elaboration. When we reflect we allow our client to hear back what they are thinking and when we reflect we continue to build the more collaborative approach needed to really coach well.

There are several types of reflection and we will explore and practice these on-course. But without question reflection done well can move such professional exchanges from the realm of traditional expert-led training to client-centred coaching.

The fourth skill is that of Summary. Summary helps gain perspective and can link one part of our exchange with another; it can help a client begin to really understand where they are at, where they want to be and of course how they can get there and indeed how they are progressing – the intended outcome of coaching. Summary can lead to client-centred commitment and without effective summary the conversation could meander – summary helps keeps things focused on your client’s agenda.

Now, back to change talk. We said we need to “evoke change talk”. Well, change talk occurs when we ask the right open questions encouraging conversations about change and when we listen, reflect and affirm well, clients will elaborate on such change talk. Change talk is when clients talk about change. They can talk about change at different levels for example at the level of possibility such as saying things like “I might look at making a change to my fat intake” right through to change talk at the level of intent “I will make these changes and will let you know how it went next week” and may even move into the realm of visionary talk (as if change has already occurred) such as “once I have made these changes I am really excited about feeling much more energetic again”. We will explore the different levels of change talk on course.

Now the opposite of change talk is “sustain talk”. We must avoid this. An example is when we begin to impose authority into the relationship and take a more superior expert position than our client such as when we say “now let’s get started building a much more active lifestyle - I know you can do it and don’t worry I will make sure you stay motivated and doing the right things throughout” which can likely lead to something like “Yeah, I guess? I just need to take things slowly I mean I don’t want to run before I can walk do I and don’t forget my dodgy leg” – which is sustain talk.

The trick is to master these exchanges to keep the conversation and the relationship you establish as one of expert-expert not expert-client on track. But then that’s why we are offering this advanced training.

I hope you get a better feel for our model and the skills you will refine on course. Coaching (the way I describe it above) will transform our industry and I believe EVERY trainer can benefit by advancing their “coaching” skills.

Becoming expert in any discipline takes time, effort and of course expert training.

Now becoming a Master Trainer is more than just possessing a fancy term instead of personal trainer but is about being a new age trainer and lifestyle coach – are you ready to become this kind of fitness and health professional?




PS back to finding out more about how to become a personal trainer












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