I felt trapped.
She was pressuring me to answer her with either yes or no, but it wasn’t as simple as that.
How on earth would I know…but more to the point, why was it MY decision?
Early last year, my dog, Belle, developed a lump in her gum just above her front tooth. Over a few months it gradually got bigger so that it covered her tooth. She wasn’t in any pain with it and it didn’t seem to be bothering her at all, but I was worried that it would start interfering with her ability to eat if it got much bigger, so I took her to the vet who suggested that because it was in her mouth, it wouldn’t be possible to take a biopsy of it (to find out what it was), without giving her an anaesthetic and that they may as well remove it at the same time.
“Fine”, I thought to myself…but that’s when all the questions started.
On the day I brought her in for the surgery, the vet nurse needed to fill out a permissions form.
Initially it started ok, with them getting written permission of what they were allowed to do if certain things happened.
But then she asked me if I wanted them to deliver a drug after the surgery to bring her round from the anaesthetic more quickly.
“Will she need it?” I asked
“We’re not sure” the nurse replied.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Was she really asking me, a non-medical professional whether or not to administer a drug that I knew nothing about? After taking a deep breath (so as not to fly off the handle at her), I questioned whether she was asking for permission to give the drug if Belle needed it post-op, or if she was asking me to choose whether to give it to her or not.
She said I was to choose.
To her, it was just a tick box exercise. A simple question on a form. But to me, it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. After ranting at her about the ethical implications of such a ridiculous question, and comparing it to a person having an operation, she relented and admitted that really it was only necessary for older dogs (Belle was 4 at the time). Then I could finally make an informed decision and swiftly said “no”.
But why was it even up to me in the first place?
As fitness coaches, we’re often in the position where we have to leave the final decision up to our client. After all, it’s their body and they know it best, right?
But what happens when they DON’T know their body that well?
What if they DON’T know that they’re pushing too hard until something starts to hurt?
And we can’t really blame them for that can we?
After all, the industry has taught us that our clients are moving badly or that they have incorrect technique. We then say that to our clients, and when you’re told that you’re wrong often enough, you stop trusting that you know anything about the subject at all.
The trouble is, most coaches would say that it is the joint responsiblility of both coaches and clients to prevent injury.
Clients rely on us to adapt their training to allow for recovery etc. and we rely on them to tell us when it’s too much.
But we’ve been telling them that they’re moving badly (maybe not in those exact words, but that’s the impression we give them when we ask for “correct” technique), and that they can always do one more rep even when they want to quit, for decades. So how are they supposed to know what feels right or wrong in their own bodies?
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the reliance of gadgets!
It may well be the joint responsibility for coaches and clients to prevent injury, but if our clients can’t connect with their own selves, then it’s up to us to take the intiative and help them to reconnect.
Because if we don’t step up, they can’t give us the information we need to do our part in helping them – and they’ll end up injured.
And it’s no good saying “why didn’t you tell me you had pain” after the fact, is it?!
If we as fitness coaches are serious about helping our clients avoid injury then we need to stop blindly relying on the sketchy (at best) information that our clients can give us and start helping them to reconnect with their bodies so that we get better information to go on and we can do much more to help them.
This isn’t them vs us, this is about helping them to help ourselves!
Start looking beyond the obvious and all of a sudden you’ll see opportunities you didn’t even know were there to help your clients in ways they didn’t even know you could (or that they wanted you to).
If you’d like to see this in action, check out my FREE Tight Hips Eliminator Power Sequence, with coach’s commentary so you can help your clients achieve much more, simply by warming them up!