Batman Knows How to Keep Fitness Challenge Groups Motivated. Do you?

Sometimes we need a superhero to teach us how to be a better fitness coach. Wonder Woman can improve our courage. Wolverine teaches us to recover from injury. And Thor…well, he knows how to maximize Deltoid muscle definition.

So what does Batman have to offer? Possibly the most important coaching skill set of all: How to motivate others. I feel this skill is best summed up in a quote from the 2008 film, “The Dark Knight”. Lt. Jim Gordon says this about Batman as the movie comes to a close:

“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
~Lt. Jim Gordon

Talk is cheap, so guess what Batman does to validate Lt. Gordon’s point? Batman goes into hiding.

For eight years!

Yup. He understood that his style of inspiration is not what Gotham needs at the moment…or for a few thousand moments after that.

Back to coaching

Ok, so maybe you’re not into the whole tights, plastic abs, and vigilante thing. How does that quote apply to running a challenge group or motivating our fitness clients? For starters, motivation isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Great teachers know how to tailor their approach to the individual. They realize that finding the right motivation for a student will keep her engaged and learning.

Top fitness coaches do the same. Instead of throwing out generic motivation, they search for what their client needs. How do they know when they’ve found it? If it motivates a client to complete their workouts, follow-through on meal prep, and report their results, they know they’re doing something right!

How do they know when they’ve found it? If it motivates a client to complete their workouts, follow-through on meal prep, and report their results, they know they’re doing something right!

Problem is, a number of coaches take the ‘shotgun’ approach. A random quote on social media and a favorite motivational photo post in the team app. Sure, the thoughtfulness may count for something, but we’re doing our clients a disservice if we’re just guessing on how to motivate them. At best, we’re not helping them reach their goals. At worst, we’re annoying them and turning them off to fitness coaching permanently.

The motivation you need…in the bathroom

Potty training — your hardest class yet (Image via Manish Bansal on Flickr)

Suppose it’s time to potty train your 3-year-old daughter. Diaper money is about to turn into protein shake money! The first blog post you read says to ‘be firm and matter-of-fact’. So you try that approach and tell her, ‘You’re a big girl now. We don’t wear diapers anymore.’ The response? Tears, more tears, and an extra load of brown-stained laundry every night. Clearly, being firm and logical is not motivating her like you had hoped.

Round 2. Instead of going right back to the blog-o-sphere, you consider a few factors. Your daughter tends to be scared of new environments and she loves Cheerio’s. So you craft up a new approach to motivate and reward her. First, you introduce her to a stuffed bear, ‘Sir Poops-a-Lot’, that accompanies her to the bathroom and reduces her fear. Then, for each successful toilet trip, you give her a small cup of Multi-Grain Cheerios (because those are by far the tastiest) as a reward. Success! A few months later there are no more tears or dirty diapers. Now if only you could do something about the full roll of toilet paper she uses…

It applies to all of us

Listen to the brief interview I did for Ama La Vida Coaching. You’ll see I’m no different than your clients. Well, maybe a little shorter and sporting 8-pack abs. I struggle with self-control and clean eating. Self-control motivation is rarely what’s on my mind, yet it could help me most. If only I knew I coach or two ;)

To wrap it all up, I’d like to slightly modify the Batman approach to motivation:

Find the motivation your challengers need, and you’ll become the superhero coach they deserve.
I may lack a cape, but at least we all think alike. (Video courtesy of Ama La Vida Coaching)