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Updated: Feb 13

Coaching and training are so frequently used interchangeably that they have come to mean the same thing in a lot of people’s minds. The truth of the matter is that they are worlds apart, and the specific functions that they both serve are starkly different. As different as they are however, both coaching and training are necessary components of a successful 1 on 1 relationship between a health and fitness professional and client. In order to fully understand the distinction between the two, I’m going to highlight the specific variance between the coaching and training, and then focus on how to use them commutably to help clients achieve their goals.

By definition, training is the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behavior. Contextually speaking, training has three main goals; the transfer of knowledge from the trainer to the client, the teaching of new information, and the adoption of specific patterns and sequences. Training is typically done for a fixed period of time with a very particular end goal in mind, and takes the form of the famed 1 on 1 session, where a trainer guides the client through a structured sequence of exercises, the workout. As important as the workout is, it’s only one piece of a very complex puzzle. What’s more important is the strategic approach you take with regards to the ongoing implementation of the training, the coaching!

Coaching is the development and implementation of strategy that is specific to the performance of the individual client. As a coach, you formulate the overarching strategy that is going to help the client realize their specific goals and objectives, while simultaneously providing mentorship and guidance to overcome any nuanced variables that present themselves as the journey unfolds. Where training is about knowledge, coaching is about experience, more importantly, the practical application of this experience in a myriad of different situations. Coaching is also about empathy, accountability and consistency, and can sometimes take up an informal, conversational and relational approach. All in all, coaching is about enhancing skills and knowledge, while instilling habits that will ensure the long term ongoing success of your clients.

Ultimately, it’s not about coaching vs training, but really, about being a coach who tailors the training to suit each individual client. You vary the skills you apply depending on the prevailing situation… When you prescribe exercises and oversee their implementation you assume the role of a trainer and ensure your clients are working optimally within the specific limitations their physiology presents. When you observe how your clients react to the stimuli you are providing, and formulate different strategies and tactics to optimize their execution while keeping them motivated and accountable, you are functioning as a coach. It’s of vital importance to know when to switch hats from coach to trainer, and then back again as needed. In this way, you will always be able to put your client’s needs first, and be better able to help them achieve their goals.

Mukai is a former NCAA track & field athlete, Professional Muay Thai fighter, Professional MMA fighter, Muay Thai & Kickboxing instructor, Health & Fitness Coach, Sales, Branding & Marking specialist, and serial entrepreneur! He has worked with over a thousand clients in a 1 on 1 and group setting, ranging all the way from everyday health and fitness enthusiasts to professional NHL players like Jesse Puljujarvi and Kyle Turris and a myriad of former UFC fighters and and other world class athletes.

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