Knowing Me, Knowing You
****** TRIGGER WARNING ******
THIS ARTICLE INCLUDES REFERENCES TO VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA
Often you find yourself working with a trainer and you know very little about them. And they know very little about you. Sure, you generally know your trainer’s qualifications but that’s about the extent of it. And that might be all you need or want to know. After all, your coach really only needs to know how to put together a training program, right? Well, technically, yes. But a good coach is so much more than that.
Any coach worth their salt trains each person as an individual. They get to know you as a person, what motivates you, what daily challenges you live with, your support system (or lack thereof). The list goes on.
When I spent some time putting together training programs for clients in a gym environment, rarely were these things explored. You're generally asked, “What’s your goal? What are your measurements? Are you injured? How often can you train?” You’re then given a generic program that pretty much everyone is given. And off you go. They don’t ask about all the stuff that makes you you. They don’t know that you’re dealing with a newborn that keeps you awake all night, an ageing parent, a difficult relationship, a mental illness, incontinence, body image issues, disordered eating/eating disorder, low confidence, time constraints, financial stress, menopause, post-partum depression. Etc etc. These things can be helpful for your coach to know in the respect that we can help tailor your training with built-in contingencies for your individual situation. We can adapt things when needed. Training should be a fluid process, not a concrete one. Knowing what makes you tick, what challenges you face in your daily life, what you love and what you hate, what motivates you and what kills your mojo, is all stuff that can help us help you. To be clear, we are not experts in those areas and we would always suggest seeking the professional guidance of those qualified in such things. But we are always onboard with working with the recommendations of your allied health supports and knowing what these are can be helpful for us.
Now I know that everyone differs when it comes to privacy so whilst I’m saying that it can be helpful for us as coaches, by no means does it mean that we can’t still put together some great training and support for you if you don’t want to share any of this with your coach. Either way, your privacy is your choice and it will always be respected.
But what about us coaches? What do you know about us? And does it matter? For some of you, no. And that’s fine. Whereas others really like to get a feel for who they’ll be working with. And to be clear, I don’t think that coaches need to share their lives just as other professionals don't need to. Many coaches like their privacy, and that is absolutely ok and to be respected. But, me? Well I’m pretty much an open book when it comes to most stuff about me and I think this can work well most times, particularly when I’m working with women.
I think back to when I first got into some form of training decades ago and all of the PTs I’ve had on and off over the years. Before I went down the path of studying and getting my fitness qual, I was at the mercy of all those instructors. Whilst many of them were good coaches, I can’t actually think of one that I knew anything much about. It didn’t really matter to me at the time to be honest. But it did make me construct a story in my head that they were all perfect; they never strayed from their nutrition, never lost motivation, always trained hard and had amazing commitment. Which then made me a little fearful that they had no understanding of someone like me who had many foibles and stuff going on that made me less than likely to live up to their expectations of me. So, being this less-than-perfect client, when I felt I was losing focus with my training, rather than go speak with them, I’d slink away with my tail between my legs, feeling like a failure and giving up training altogether. They intimidated me because I thought they wouldn’t get it because they were ‘perfect’. Now, I may have been totally wrong in my assumptions about them but because they never gave me any indication of WHO they were, I made up my own stories about them. And to me, they were machines, robots when it came to fitness. Something I could never relate to.
So, in the interests of others not feeling like I used to feel, I thought I’d take some time to write a bit about me, as one of the coaches on the Summit Strength team. I hope it doesn’t come across as self-indulgent because that’s not my intent. I want you to see that those of us on the Summit Strength team are real people with much of the same issues as you and that this makes us relatable as potential future coaches for some of you. Or at least that you consider these things when seeking your own coach or PT when embarking on a health and fitness program.
Without further ado, here’s me.
Working with women is where my passion lies. Men are awesome too! But my interest is specifically in working with women.I love working with women of all ages. In my experience, I have seen that many women don’t see their true potential and often underestimate what they’re capable of. This can sometimes be due to personal history where they’ve never felt encouraged or supported. Or they’ve put others’ needs before their own. Stepping into the training arena can feel scary or overwhelming. As a 60 yo woman, I’ve seen many women friends throughout my life feel insignificant and not ‘good enough’. But I’ve also seen how this can turn round with the right supports in place. And wow, when that happens, watch out! It’s something to behold. And this is what makes me want to coach women specifically. Watching them flourish.
Being an older woman, I’ve lived through much of what other women have and whilst every circumstance is different, I have some understanding of how certain life events impact on a woman’s wellbeing. I’ve been a single mother to an amazing daughter for a long time. I’ve had marriage and relationship breakdowns. I’ve experienced financial pressures. I have health conditions that sometimes impact on my training and I have ebbs and flows with my motivation. I will never claim to be a particularly great hiker but, having lived the life of a mediocre hiker at best and seeing the differences that training made in both my physical strength and confidence, I can relate to the journey you may be embarking on as a new hiker.
I started hiking in my mid 50s. I was always the one at the back and always struggled up hills. Downhills weren’t much better as I had dodgy knees. I never hiked for longer than around 10kms and even that could be a struggle. I didn’t train for hiking back then. Was that even a thing? But when I decided to sign up to hike the multiday Overland Track here in Australia, I knew that something had to give. I was going to do this hike with women who were much more accomplished than me and much fitter! I’ve said this a million times before, I wanted to enjoy the Overland not endure it.
I found Summit Strength and from Day 1, I just knew this was the right fit for me for training. My program had flexibility built in whilst I was also accountable for myself. I trained consistently, which is always the key to getting where you want to be, and I got stronger. And with each passing week, I was able to accomplish more than I believed I could as a hiker. I felt encouraged by Rowan and felt like he was invested in my success. This was totally different to any gym program I’d done before and the flexibility was super appealing because life happens and your training program needs to bend with that.
I did the Overland and went on to tick off some other personal goals I had which I know I could never have done without the training and support of the program. I loved how the training made me feel and that it was relevant, unlike so many generic gym programs.
During the Covid lockdowns here in Melbourne, I re-visited a long held dream of getting into the fitness industry. Back in the Dark Ages in high school I did a one year pre-course to prepare to become a school PE teacher. But I was a ratbag student and didn’t care much for the restrictions of the classroom so I didn’t pursue education beyond high school. Fast forward 35 years to 2016 (whoa where did that time go!) and I started studying for my fitness qualification but dropped out when I found it too hard to do on top of my full time job at the time. Then Covid came along which made so many of us reassess our lives, careers etc. I re-enrolled and got my fitness qualification. At the same time, I wanted to learn more about what makes people tick, their motivators and their roadblocks so I also studied and gained a certification in Life Coaching.
Rowan and I got talking about all of this one day and he asked how I would feel about working for Summit Strength. And the rest, as they say, is history!
But behind all of this sits some other stuff that I think helps in my role as a coach. My work life has been varied; I was a cop for many years and that was the best training ground for being exposed to the best and worst of people’s lives. That job showed me the ‘real world’ in all its raw beauty and ugliness. It really taught me that EVERYONE has a story. And some of those stories are heartbreaking whilst others are stories of astounding resilience and triumph. Those of you who work in the emergency services or are frontline workers can relate. After leaving the police service, I worked for 12 years in a program that provided practical and emotional support to victims of violent crime. My practices were trauma-informed and based on all the latest research and training in areas such as PTSD and other mental health conditions. Might seem like a weird thing to mention here but as a coach these days I do work with many clients who have experienced trauma in their lives which has far-reaching implications for their training and mental health. Having some knowledge and professional experience in this area helps me to understand the physiological effects of trauma on the body and cognitive processes. Without labouring the point, we know the data suggests that 1 in 3 women globally experience some form of violence throughout their lives. This has huge implications for women's health and well-being. As coaches, this needs to be considered as it’s likely that many of our clients are either survivors of abuse/violence or are currently experiencing it. And again, whilst it’s not our role as coaches to be a counsellor or support worker, it’s absolutely important that we are empathetic and understanding of the stuff that may be happening behind the scenes with the women we work with.
Working with women also meant I needed to learn more about the physiological effects of childbirth, pelvic health and dysfunction, hormonal changes during menstruation, peri menopause, menopause, hysterectomy etc in relation to physical activity. Along with other topics such as body image, cultural and religious considerations for training, gender identity and so much more. This is stuff that isn’t taught in our standard PT studies. So I’m currently also studying for the Coaching Women Certification through the highly regarded Girls Gone Strong Academy. I hope to have this completed by the end of 2022.
So, that’s me. I hope this has struck a chord with some of you and given you some things to consider when you choose your coach or personal trainer. And of course, I welcome you to think about joining us in the Summit Strength program!
About the Author
Andrea is a coach with Summit Strength, who specialise in helping hikers get strong and pain-free for their adventures.
At the age of 54, she discovered a real passion for hiking. But she also discovered just how limiting physical fitness and pain can be on the trail.
After signing up to one of the Summit Strength signature programs, she discovered just how much of a difference the right training can make to a hiker's enjoyment and comfort on their adventures. She knows that the journey isn't always easy and 'life' can sometimes impact on our training goals. She shares her insights and experiences with us in her blog articles.
These days, as an Online Adventure Coach with Summit Strength, she helps hikers all around the world get fit, strong and resilient for their adventures.
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Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.