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How Learning to Coach Teaches Me More Than Any Self-Development Book

April 20, 2018

How Learning to Coach Teaches Me More Than Any Self-Development Book

I’m a fan of self-development books, podcasts, blogs—you name it, I’ve read or listened to it. But it wasn’t until I started training in a coaching certification that any of the principles really started to sink in. What the heck? It turns out, when you’re learning how to help someone else, you’re actually learning a ton about yourself in the process. Hmm.

I started going through my history of certifications, and it was kind of interesting what came up as I thought about it. This is a post that I’ve come back to a bunch of times, and finally I had a minute to sit down and really think about it, especially as I’ve racked up a couple new examples in the last couple months!

Cycling Coaching License = Walking the Walk

When I first got my coaching license seven years ago, it was a solid slap-in-the-face wake up call that if I wanted to be someone who could coach others, I needed to not train like a dummy. Before that course, I’d spent a few years of crazy endurance training consistently in a pattern of overdoing it, ending up with leg cramps so debilitating I was walking with a cane, underdoing it and eating terribly in the process, then overdoing it to undo that damage. It was a pretty vicious cycle, but on the surface, I could usually make it through a race weekend without crumbling. It wasn’t pretty, though, and I definitely put myself in a serious world of hurt. But then, when I realized I was technically licensed to dispense advice, I should probably not be doing stuff that I knew to be disastrous to my best client (me). So, I backed off enough to recover, and since then, I’ve come in and out of serious training, but I haven’t gone off the deep end and into overdoing-it territory in years. I’ve tried to remind myself, ‘If a client came to me and asked if he or she should do this, what would I tell him or her?’ That’s usually enough to make me stay smart, though there are the occasionally excessively long runs or heavy lift sessions that set me back. Still, progress, not perfection!

Precision Nutrition = Habit Formation, For Real

To rewind: For the last 10 years, I’ve read virtually everything I could find on sports nutrition. I spent hundreds of hours interviewing, transcribing, and boiling down tips and information from pro racers and PhD researchers about how to properly eat on and off the bike for my cycling nutrition book, Fuel Your Ride. But it wasn’t until this year that I started actively working on being able to coach athletes in those concepts. I could easily talk for hours about macronutrients and how our digestive tract works, but could I actually get someone to change his or her habits? I know what the formula is, and I can write all day about those habits, but putting it into practice is another story.

Last year, I finished my nutrition coaching certification with Precision Nutrition. The first part was simple: a deep dive into nutrition and the science behind what and how we eat. But the second part—how to coach someone—was massively eye-opening. It was all about habit formation, taking small steps, and having a plan. All stuff I’d found over and over in self-development books and podcasts. But learning how to teach it to others made it start sinking in a lot better with me, for myself in terms of nutrition, but it spilled into other life stuff as well. (On the note of nutrition and healthy habits, it also prompted the creation of our free ecourse on 7 days of healthy habit change.)

Schwinn Spin Certification = Talking the Talk

A few months ago, I got spin certified. And yes, me teaching a spin class—for those of you who know me in real life—know how kind of hilarious this concept is. I’m not exactly the peppy motivational type… But that said, I do a lot of talks to get women and girls (and sometimes a mix of guys and gals!) psyched on all things bike-related, whether we’re talking saddle comfort, off-bike nutrition, Shred Girls, whatever. So ultimately, I do a fair amount of what you might be able to call motivational speaking. At least, that’s the point of it. I never do a talk hoping that it’ll feel like a lecture, I’m always hoping it’ll get laughs, be lively and generally get people excited. The spin training was a bit about the class programming (relatively simple for someone who’s been doing intervals for years!) but more about the vibe of the class, how to keep people excited, how to make a class fly by.

I admit, I wasn’t super impressed when I finished the training, if I’m being honest… But then, I got invited to teach a few classes covering for another teacher at Active Life, here in Collingwood. So, I programmed my workouts and playlists and headed to class at 6:15AM, feeling absolutely terrified. And it was terrifying—but I had a ton of fun! And after doing the first class, I realized that if I had just come to it as a cycling coach and hadn’t done the spin cert, I would have been so freaking screwed. Stuff that I learned in the training really sunk in as I made the workout and playlist, and as I was going through it during class. So even the certification I thought was kind of a ‘just get the paper and be done’ thing turned out to be a total gamechanger. I think it crossed over into my talks, as well—I’ve done two so far this year, and after both, I’ve had people come up and actually compliment my speaking ability, not just the content covered.

As an introvert and someone who was pathologically shy as a kid, this is a big deal.

Yoga Teacher Training = Some Self-Discovery, But Not What I Thought

Confession: I was all about signing up for yoga teacher training thinking it would a) deepen my spiritual practice, and b) get me to do handstands. While we’re getting closer to B, I’ve realized something about point A. The last year, I was getting into some ‘woo-woo’ type stuff, sort of. I loved the idea of crystals, meditation, et cetera. Yoga philosophy seemed intriguing. What I’m coming to terms with is that it’s not really for me, and that’s 100 percent OK. I like meditation for the physical and mental benefits, not on an emotional/spiritual level. Crystals are pretty, but not really my style. I’m not a super cool Instagram-influencer-style yogi, though my handstands are getting close to IG-worthy. I’m halfway through (and I have a whole post on it here) and I know I’ll be learning a ton more in the next five weeks… But at the moment, I’m pretty pleased with how much I’ve learned about myself as a person from doing it. It’s not that I’m not into anything on the emotional/spiritual level, it’s just that this idea of what a ‘yoga person’ looks and acts like is definitely not me, nor is it someone that I actually want to be. So I am learning a lot about myself, it’s just not what I had really expected.


OK, let me know in the comments: have you guys had similar experiences, where self-help knowledge just wouldn’t sink in, until you were learning to/starting to coach someone else in it?




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