Over the past few weeks and months we have all read, discussed and parlayed regarding what will happen when the Government feels that it is safe to re-open facilities.
We have all joined webinars, listened to ‘experts’, questioned the definition of ‘expert’ in these unusual times, marvelled at our competitors social media posts, whilst trying to remain fit and healthy, schooled our children, check-in on our parents, contemplated the new normal (like we understood what normal was within our industry in the first place) and reacquaint ourselves with our neighbours of 10 years.
The aim of this blog by Keith Smith is to reinforce the importance of instructors teaching and coaching our members, and the influence that great teaching and coaching can have on the end-user experience. We will also explore how teaching and coaching may well have to be adapted for the foreseeable future, due to the current social distancing measures. It takes the position that fitness facilities are far more than just content providers;
“Content is important, it’s very important, we must never lose sight of the importance of safe and effective exercise choice, order and intensity for each and every single individual. This said, I believe that the responsibility of the instructor is; building end-user/member confidence and competence, first and providing suitable content a very close second.” Keith Smith, Co-Founder Excelsior.
Good teaching and coaching is fundamental in the battle to provide VALUE. If all a facility can do is provide content, then the facility is in difficulty. Content is FREE! The end-user can acquire content anywhere – Especially now with so many great digital and virtual experiences available.
Keith defines teaching and coaching;
Teaching is the process of attending to people’s needs, experiences and feelings, and making specific interventions to help them learn particular things [infed.com].
Coaching is the process of equipping people with the tools, knowledge, and opportunities they need to fully develop themselves to be effective in their commitment to themselves [integral.org]. There are times as instructors we teach, as the end-user/exerciser develops, our role may well change from teacher to coach, supporting the member in becoming self-aware, independent, responsible and most importantly empowered and/or having reached the levels of self-esteem.
In the early stages of a member’s journey teaching may be the best approach, introducing them to equipment and lifts that will overtime help them achieve their individual goals. To teach effectively we need to consider the principles of learning to ensure success. John Whitmore  outlines in his books that for long term understanding individuals should be TOLD, SHOWN and then EXPERIENCE the fundamentals of what is being taught. This helps learning by reinforcing understanding using all of the body’s senses.
There are many factors (both individual and environmental) that need to be considered when following this approach, but in the realms of health and safety and teaching in our industry, this works.
As the member develops, the role of the instructor moves away from teaching and more towards coaching. Coaching is supporting an individual in finding out the answers for themselves, creating the right environments that allows the members to discover independence, reason with information, learn from their mistakes, evaluating and reflecting, building one’s self-belief and continuing to move on well beyond what was expected. Good teaching and coaching is fundamental in the battle to provide real VALUE.
Great teaching and coaching requires the instructor to be selfless, in the moment, focused on the member and their wants and needs, observing, listening, questioning, reinforcing, demonstrating, while creating a sense of belonging.
In the book ‘The Culture Code’ the author D. Coyle  highlights key behaviours that he refers to as belonging cues. These cues include; Proximity, eye contact, energy, mimicry (with good intent) , turn talking, attention, vocal pitch and consistency. All of these behaviours are used to form safe connections.
These cues cannot be reduced to an isolated moment but rather a steady tempo of interactions. In fact, belonging cues have three basic traits; energy, individualisation and that they are future orientated. All these cues add up to one BIG message ‘you are safe here, you belong here.’
In these unusual times of social distancing, the skills and behaviours that underpin great teaching, coaching and belonging may well need to be adapted, to meet the government guidelines and ensure that members feel safe when returning to a facility.
The TOLD, SHOWN and EXPERIENCE teaching model helps with long term understanding for the new exerciser/ member, some of you may know this as the I.D.E.A approach to teaching, and may have been introduced to this during your initial qualifications when entering into the fitness industry.
The ‘I’ stands for INTRODUCE the equipment to the new member, which will hopefully give the exercise being introduced some direct VALUE to the member. The ‘D’ & ‘E’ stand for DEMONSTRATE & EXPLAIN, which gives the new member time to observe, learn and may well help with motivation. The ‘A’ stands for ACTIVITY, this is when the new exerciser performs the exercise for the first time and the instructor praises and enhances their performance.
In these uncertain times, proximity to the member may well need to be of a greater distance (2 meters) and the sharing of equipment during the DEMONSTRATE, EXPLAIN and ACTIVITY sections may well need to be stopped all together, unless the wearing of gloves in facilities becomes the new normal. This means that the instructor may need to be clearer with their verbal explanations, talking the member into position and focusing on exercise mimicry (with good intent) to support, reinforce and enhance performance.
Eye contact, energy, turn talking, attention, vocal pitch and consistency can still be delivered effectively ensuring a clear message is sent to the member ‘you are safe here’.
Facilities and instructors are far more than just content providers, they provide a safe, effective learning environment for ALL, regardless of fitness and skill levels. The role and responsibility of us all is as instructors about building end user/ member confidence and competence and then leading them towards independents, building the exercisers self-believe and supporting them in moving on well beyond what was first expected when they walked into the facility.
Image Credit: David Lloyd Leisure
 The Culture Code – D. Coyle
 Coaching for Performance – J. Whitmore