What I Learned as a Life Coach By Taking a Month-Long Fitness Challenge with a Sports Coach

learned Life coach

It’s common knowledge that professional athletes need a great coach in order to keep pushing their performance and success boundaries. Roger Federer described Severin Lüthi (one of Roger’s trusted coaching team), to GQ this summer. “As a coach, he’s really valuable to me. He knows my game really well, he knows my practice sessions very well. He knows what I need to work on. He knows what makes me happy and sad.”

Roger and Severin understand the importance of coaching the untapped potential in the whole person, including what makes them ‘happy & sad’ on their journey to success. Now, I can’t promise that even a team of coaches could turn you or I into the next Wimbledon Champion, but read on and I will give you some useful tips on how to make your life a little more like the strawberries and cream…

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that life coaches have coaches too and it was after complaining to my own coach about my ‘health’ dilemma that my story begins…

Let’s just say that I have physical challenges. After too many setbacks, operations and situations leaving me feeling very sorry for myself and almost given up on exercise. My inner dialogue goes something like this: “I have to exercise to avoid more issues but, what’s the point? I’m too old, it’s just too hard, I always end up injured, I’ve tried everything and nothing ever works for me because I’m different. I’m broken. I’m tired. I get so bored so quickly. It’s a waste of time and money” and my personal favourite, “It’s sooooo unfair.”

And there you have the News Flash: Life Coaches are human!

Working with exactly this sort of thing daily does not mean that I am immune to my own sneaky little voices. We all have them and they are always there; comfortable, familiar and, almost like elevator music, never quite bad enough to take conscious notice of. However, I was noticing feelings of guilt, frustration, impatience and tiredness which are the telltale signs of a values conflict.

After clarifying my values and anti-values (or “what makes me happy and what makes me sad”) with my coach. My top values came out as health, freedom, authenticity and trust and my anti-values (i.e. my zero tolerance zone) included, injustice, isolation, laziness and procrastination.

Forehead slap!

You don’t have to be a genius to see that exercising when I don’t trust the results, myself or my body, ‘knowing’ it’s a waste of time and that I should be working then feeling trapped by the unfair and isolating situation but feeling awful about my deteriorating physical health and beating myself up for not doing anything about it can feel exhausting to say the least. I was tired from beating myself up, and then beating myself up more because I’m a life coach after all and should know better!

1. Clarify your values

Recognising and clarifying my values and anti-values and working to understand how these were affecting me on so many different levels made my priorities clear and helped me understand why health was so important for me. Suddenly, I could honestly say, “I want to find a way to honour my health value in a way that is fun (my boredom threshold is pretty low), where I can be myself, trust the process (and people) and where there is a good return on my time (and money) investment.”

Your core values are part of your unique identity and the guiding compass for decision making, motivation and ‘gut’ feelings and most of us go through life reacting to them being honoured, attacked or ignored without knowing what’s going on or how this influences our feelings and stress levels. They can make you feel amazing and they can make you feel awful. Next time you feel ‘out of sorts’ ask yourself what it is about this situation that’s most important for you and you’ve probably hit on a value.

2. Control your inner caveman to reduce stress

Stress generally comes from a feeling of being stuck and having no choice or control. Whatever causes this stress, our brains respond exactly as they did for our earliest ancestors where survival meant ‘shut down all logical and analysing brain functions because we only want 2 options: fight or run’. The caveman that stopped to analyse his options didn’t have to think for very long before he became dinner.

There may not actually be a saber-toothed tiger running after you, but your brain reacts exactly as if there were. It stimulates your nervous system and releases stress hormones into your body. Your heart beat and blood-pressure rise, your breathing becomes shallow, your stomach… well, you know how it feels and it isn’t pleasant. The bigger problem comes when these stress hormones stay in the body for longer than the initial, short ‘Eeeek, deadly danger’ period they were designed for. It can lead to poor productivity, mood and health and exhaustion.

Awareness of my values and what is really important for me highlighted the negative energy cycle I hadn’t noticed and allowed me to make a conscious choice. Coaching sessions always end with choosing an action step and I chose to pop into Saphiraz Sports. I felt in control of my situation-or at least in control of my first step forwards and out of the hamster wheel.

3. Take control of your story

I stayed true to my word and went down to Saphiraz the next day. I grumbled to myself that this is the Gold Coast, they won’t be my kind of people, it will be too expensive, how can I be authentic in a Gold Coast gym full of… (sorry Gold Coast, it was my Gremlins talking!). I was mid ‘harrummmpfh!’ as Björn, a trainer, saw me come in, came over and gave me the most authentic hug I’ve had outside of England! He completely threw me and my over-protective narrative up in the air!

So be careful not to get trapped in your narrative and assume roles in it for other people. Our stories developed in our past to protect us and help us to stay in our comfort zone. They are usually well-meaning stories, but the truth is that nothing much ever grows in the comfort zone. Dare to stop, hear your repeating story pattern for what it is and take the pen yourself. Write a new chapter heading. Make a conscious choice to edit-out narrative that no longer serves you.

It felt strange (but great) saying out loud that I was “training daily and feeling fit and wonderful and loving it, thank you”, rather than the old, “Oh, you know how it is … surviving, thanks,” old character narrative.

Thanks for that old-narrative-breaking hug, Björn!

4. Get support from someone you can trust

I trusted Björn and his hug and signed up for Personal Training. I would love to say my old habits stopped, but I will honour ‘authenticity’ and be truthful. I explained exactly why I couldn’t possibly do this or that. Björn or Jeremy listened patiently and then said, “Let’s just start”. They were immune to my excuses so I tried and, Holy Moly, I could do it! It wasn’t always easy to trust myself and my body, but having support that I could trust was like a spiral of positive energy and contagious.

I started a summer challenge to train for 30 minutes daily. I knew I could do it with a new narrative: “I can always fit half an hour ‘for me’ into my day. Training works wonders for me; I feel full of energy, stronger and happier. I look forward to having fun with the trainers and love discovering what my body is capable of.”

5. Keep accountable

Missing a session taught me that having someone to keep you accountable is a powerful motivator. Missing out on the training helped me realise just how much I was enjoying it, but knowing that poor Jeremy had been sitting waiting for me to turn up and that I had let him down felt bad. When you set yourself a challenge or goal get an accountability buddy you can trust.

6. Celebrate achievements to keep motivated

My plan was to celebrate the end of each week to keep me motivated. The truth is, that I felt so amazing by the end of the first week that I couldn’t wait for the next week to begin and, now that my challenge is over, I miss it! Who would have believed it?!

My final message to everyone who took the one-month personal training challenge with Saphiraz Sports is, ‘Celebrate!’ And then go and find a new challenge!

So, Congratulations to you all! You chose to take control of your body…

…now, what’s next?

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas so come and say hello to me at my office in Saphiraz Sports the next time you’re in or drop me a line.

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