One of the questions I’m asked on a regular basis is, “What’s it like to work with you as a personal coach?” And of course, the answer is that the experience will be different for everyone, because coaching, especially the way I do it, is a highly personalized experience.
But recently I was interviewed on this very topic and I thought it might be helpful to share the article so you can learn a little more about what it’s like to work with me.
Is a Personal Coach the Answer? An Interview with Debi Silber, The Mojo Coach®
by Kristen Bassick
If you are looking for help losing weight and improving your health, there are an endless array of programs available to you. From DVDs to video games, from exercise machines to meals delivered to your door, all of them promise to turn your life around and deliver a new you in the comfort of your own home.
But if you are like most women, you have probably tried many of these options and found that they didn’t work for you as you had hoped. The programs and products may be great, but unless you have the right encouragement and the right mindset, there may be lots of things standing in the way of your success.
This is where working with a personal trainer might be the answer for you. In order to understand the benefits of working with a personal trainer, I interviewed Debi Silber, known as The Mojo Coach®.Debi is a certified personal trainer, a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition and a certified Whole Health Coach. She is also the author of The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six Part Plan So Every Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best, which has received high praise from Newsday and a recommendation from Parenting Magazine.
Debi, when a client starts working with you, what is the first meeting like?
When someone starts working with me, I try to find out as much about them as they’re ready to share. Because I’ve found that in seeing hundreds of clients over almost 20 years, issues fall within one of six key areas, I try to uncover as much as I can within those six areas so we can see where that specific client’s greatest struggles lie.
The six areas that I cover are nutrition/weight loss, fitness, stress control, emotional health, relationship wellness and spirituality. These areas are also the basis of my book.
Often, someone will come to me wanting to lose weight. Once we get to talking, she often finds that the weight issue has little to do with the food she’s eating but may have to do with her relationships, stress level, lack of sleep, etc. So, often the clients are not aware of the key issue that needs to be addressed until we discover it during our conversation. Only when I know what’s really going on and through mindfully and deeply listening and asking questions do I create a plan based on where they are, where they want to go, their readiness, what they were ready to share with me and other factors.
So diet and fitness aren’t always the focus of your work with your clients?
For many of my clients, beginning with diet or fitness is the easiest place to begin because it’s often the least personal. It’s easier for them to talk about which healthy snacks to choose or put them through a workout than it is to address something that’s really holding them back such as their levels or stress or toxic relationships that have done severe damage to their emotional health and self esteem. While clients still achieve great success when they focus on diet and fitness, lasting success occurs when we focus on where their greatest struggles are and what’s holding a client back the most. So yes, typically diet and fitness are areas of focus but clients who’ve achieved long term health, wellness and happiness focus on other lifestyle issues we cover in depth as well.
Once they are able to address the areas that are holding them back, they feel such success and pride in their ability to form new habits. The improvement in self esteem and confidence leads them to want to pursue the other areas to keep getting better!
Wow, it sounds like you really take the time to figure out what your clients need. What kind of guidance can a client expect from you in terms of diet/nutrition?
The information I offer depends on what their obstacles are and what would work for them based on their personalities, preferences, lifestyles, and goals. Some clients prefer a very structured program, so we’ll work together to create specific recommendations with a food diary including emotions/hunger level while eating.
Others don’t work well with structure, but are looking for strategies to handle situations like late night or late afternoon eating. Some with a history of emotional eating need to understand why they’ve chosen that behavior and learn what need it’s fulfilled and how to stop.
I’ve found that most women want to leave with something in their hands so if they don’t leave with a personalized food diary around their obstacles we’ll often create a schedule that may involve things like when to fit in a workout, when to plan meals, even when to take time for business planning and their own self care!
So the nutritional advice is very personalized. Do you also make specific recommendations for what type of exercise each client should be doing?
My fitness recommendations depend on how often I’m seeing someone and what they’re (hopefully) doing without me. I see clients anywhere from 1-3 times per week. I have a fully equipped gym and I personalize every program around the specific needs of that particular client. Before we even begin though, it’s crucial for me to know their fitness and health level before suggesting anything!
Some do all of their exercise during their time with me. Often, while I am coaching someone and talking about how to handle their stress, relationships, and emotional health, I’ll put them on the treadmill while they talk so they get as much out of me and their time as possible!
Some clients may be getting in all of their strength training work with me, so I’ll suggest cardio and other workouts to do on their own. I also teach my clients how to monitor their workout routines so they get the most out of each session on their own. I also have 2 certifications in pre/post natal fitness so pregnant clients can work out safely and effectively with me too. After all, labor and delivery are endurance events!
I’ll push someone as much as they want and as much as they’re ready for without turning them off to exercise. Some want to be sore the next day, some want to just feel like they’ve worked out a little bit. Some just want to know that they’re creating a new, healthy habit and haven taken the time for their own self-care. Some want to set and achieve a certain goal so I’ll often set one with them so they can see that I’m invested in it, too.
For example, I once had a client who was in remission from cancer. As her strength improved she wanted to prove she was back in the game so she signed up for a 5K race and we used a walk/run approach to slowly get her up to speed. Determined and ready, she vowed to finish and I signed up with her and vowed to win to show my commitment and support for her efforts. My clients know that I take our commitment seriously and I try do all I can to get them where they want to go.
You sound so committed to the success of your clients. What kind of commitment do they have to make?
I generally meet with clients anywhere from 1-3 times/week and I’ve seen some clients 3 times/week for 10 years! Programs are all different based on how often we see each other, and whether we are meeting in person or over the phone. If they’re not committed it’s best for both of us to not work together. I’ve actually dropped a few clients in the past because they hired me based on their spouse wanting them to lose weight or they weren’t willing to try. I’m not in this for the money but for their success so if they’re not ready or if the motivation isn’t there it’s best to wait.
I loved the story about the woman who built up the strength to run a 5K, what other success stories are you especially proud of?
One of my favorite stories is one I included in my book The Lifestyle Fitness Program, I love it and it shows the different levels of fitness and how milestones are unique from person to person.
I had a client who was morbidly obese. She was at least 100 pounds overweight and couldn’t come to me so I went to her. She wanted lose enough weight and become fit enough to comfortably walk to her mailbox at the end of her driveway.
We put a timer on her son’s ping pong table and she walked “laps” around the table. When we first met, she could walk for one minute and had to sit down because she was exhausted. We worked up minute by minute, week by week. Weeks later, not only did she get to her mailbox, but she saw her neighbor’s newspaper across the street. She crossed the street, picked up the paper and rang her neighbor’s doorbell to deliver the “news!”
And this is another story that shows that sometimes the initial challenge is not diet or exercise. A client came to me to lose 30 pounds. She had a history of losing around 10 pounds and then somehow sabotaged her weight loss. Through our talks, we uncovered marital issues which were leading her to subconsciously keep the weight on. I told her that until those issues were addressed and dealt with, seeing me was a waste of her time and money. She came back one year later and experienced a steady weight loss of 1-2 pounds/week. It turns out that she took the year to address her marriage, came to conclusions, made decisions and when we began this time, the weight practically fell off.
I have many more stories like this.
You have a new on-line program, The Mega Mojo Membership program. Does this on-line program include the same elements of personalization as a one-on-one coaching relationship?
Once a client signs up for the Mega Mojo Membership program, I will contact them to set up a time for their initial “Discover Your Fitness Personality” session. I’ll ask questions to find out where they are, what they want and see how I can help them.
Mega Mojo clients will be participating in a one-hour telesession with me each month, and can submit specific questions so that I’m sure to hit on the right topics each time. The online program will require someone who’s a little more self-motivated and able to keep herself moving forward between our sessions. But all of the tips and advice will be there, just like they are for my in-person clients.
After the monthly calls, they’ll walk away with their next steps – which could be a plan for their eating, strategies to combat emotional eating, a plan for fitness, a strategy to identify and reduce overwhelm, a plan for handling certain toxic relationships, a way for them to gain more clarity for why they’re doing what they’re doing or accepting something that doesn’t work.
The more honest clients are with me, the better my recommendations can be. I let them know that I don’t judge anything they say, I’ve probably heard it all before so don’t be embarrassed, and even if I were working with their best friend, they’ll never know unless it’s their friend who tells them. I am committed to 100% confidentiality and trust.
There are so many on-line fitness programs, how does yours differ? And how does the personal coaching element carry through in the on-going online program?
Because it’s me (as opposed to a huge network or service) I may give a quick call, send an email or find another way to let my clients know I’m thinking about them and their success. It helps them stay accountable and on track as well as building rapport and trust.
Of course, it’s more personalized if I see someone face to face, but even over the phone I listen for their mood, voice, tone and even facial expressions! I listen for all of it to know how my client is feeling, how they’re interpreting and receiving what I’m saying and how things are going with them.
I also encourage clients to “brag” to me. Often they feel uncomfortable sharing success with their friends because they don’t want to brag or fear their friends are jealous. I love hearing about their successes! I’ve had clients call me from restaurant rest rooms when they were proud of how they ate, called from vacation to tell me they actually used the sneakers they packed and had clients text me from work, asking me to remind them of how we discussed confronting an annoying coworker! I’m pretty sure you can’t get that kind of service from just anyone!
So, if you want to make positive changes in any area of your life, maybe working with a Personal Coach is the way to make the changes happen. It costs a little more than one of the cookie-cutter programs, but the personal attention and degree of customization just may be the key to changing that dream of a better lifestyle into a reality.
And to quote a famous commercial, “You’re worth it!”
Kristen Bassick is a freelance writer who submits articles to numerous on-line outlets.