Coaching clients with fitness goals

13 Oct 2014

When I began my PGCERT course it seemed that everyone who was being coached wanted to start small and not give too much away. Very often people wanted to be coached on topics such as “I would like to get fitter”. “I would like to do some more exercise”. “I would like to lose a little bit of weight.”

A few weeks later I began coaching my volunteer clients. Again, the goal of getting fitter came to the forefront. It is, of course, often the case that the presenting issue isn’t the “real” issue. When the larger issue is identified the goal of ‘getting fitter’ tends to gets pushed to one side. However, we as coaches should not dismiss this presenting issue either, especially when it concerns the physical health of our clients. It seems most people have that guilty feeling of ‘should be doing more’ when it comes to exercise but it so often slips behind time devoted to work, family and socialising. If you are working as a coach, how do you coach somebody with the goal of getting fitter? Is it a goal for you too?

As we head deeper in to autumn with winter just around the corner it might feel like the time to put on extra layers and cosy up inside, but now is the perfect time to focus on your fitness. There is always the inevitable ‘New Year’s Resolution’ fitness devotee, but starting now in the Autumn will help strength the immune system for winter, limit any Christmas weight gain and ensure you start 2015 feeling fantastic. Running is my preferred sport and a great one to recommend to clients. Research indicates that running can contribute towards the prevention of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and some cancers. It can also improve emotional and mental well-being. In May 2013 a study published in ‘Medicine and Science in Sports and exercise’ concluded that physical activity was an effective alternative to treating depression. It’s also a low cost exercise, with only some casual clothing and a pair of trainers needed to get you started.

Important questions to ask yourself or your client: What is your goal?

I always encourage a fixed ‘event’ goal with my clients. There are lots of great events such as the Race for Life 5k or The 5k Colour Run that are designed to be fun, can be walked as well as run and can offer the sense of achievement my clients are looking for. It’s ok to be directive sometimes. If you know these events take place, it’s ok to suggest them.

How can a coach support you in reaching your goal?

Being very active myself, this is my niche, I get my trainers on and get out there with them. My aim is to provide the initial support and encouragement they need to keep going. I also encourage smaller goal setting along the way. Maybe walking a mile is their first aim, fantastic! But could they run to the next lamp post? Running most of the way but need to walk? In this instance I ask my clients to set the point when they will start jogging again, a tree, a lamppost, something visible to focus on.

You can be alongside your client physically if that suits you, or through the support of coaching sessions. What other ways could you support your client outside of coaching sessions? An email or text on the day they plan to go running offering words of motivation or inspiration could be enough to help them stick to their plans.

Tips for meeting your own fitness goals:

  • Set your goal – Once you have set it there are lots of ways to track your progress. The easiest (and cheapest) way is to download a fitness app to your phone. I really like ‘Runtastic’ which will track distance covered, pace and time and save all your sessions to allow you to see your progress.
  • Make yourself accountable – Tell everyone what you want to do! Share your goal and ask for the support you need.
  • Don’t worry if you have an off day – we all do.
  • Make it fun – exercise with a friend can provide the opportunity for a social catch up at the same time, whilst helping keep you motivated
  • Make it about you – maybe going alone gives you the down-time you need after a busy day at work, go at your pace on a route that makes you happy and enjoy just being you.

Written by Sabrina Cox. - Pictured above (left) with Sam from Barefoot Coaching - Taking part in the Nottingham Colour Run.

Sabrina works at Barefoot Coaching as the Coaching & Contracts Events Coordinator for Barefoot Coaching. She completed her PGCERT taught modules in May. Sabrina can often be found running around many of the parks in Leicestershire, coaching couch to 5K clients. Having completed half marathons and a half Ironman in 2014 she is currently training for the Edinburgh Marathon and an Ironman in 2015.

Would you like to write a guest Blog for Barefoot Coaching? You can send your blog to for consideration.