January 28, 2022
The Stages of Autonomy Within Your Health and Fitness
WRITTEN BY Chris Banks

One of the skills that Central Athlete coaches look to develop in our clients from the very beginning is autonomy. We believe it is the number one skill for someone to have a successful pursuit of health and fitness long term. Without autonomy, one will revert right back to their old level of health and wellness as soon as the support structure around them is no longer available. Through the journey of a client, there are recognizable stages of autonomy that not only allow them to achieve more but allow their coach to focus on things that will more effectively drive them to the outcome they desire.

Stage 1: No Autonomy

While not all, many of our clients enter their relationship with their coach with no autonomy at all. At this stage, the client has little to no understanding of movement, nutritional or lifestyle habits, nor consistency around maintaining critical habits to support their goals. This client is raw and malleable, and understandably the role of the coach is to educate and create systems that the client finds ease in adhering to. The coach’s focus is less on the specifics and intricacies of the program, but rather on building consistency around execution. For the client to progress towards their desired outcome, the ability to be consistent is the most important skill the coach and client must focus on. Until the client can establish enough autonomy to get their training sessions done every week, the outcomes they want to achieve will feel perpetually out of reach.

Client goals in stage one: demonstrate consistency in training and basic lifestyle habits; mentally retain basic movement patterns.

Stage 2: Competence and Confidence

Once the client has demonstrated an ability to complete their workouts and rudimentary lifestyle habits without relying on the constant support of their coach, they move into stage 2 of autonomy; competence, and confidence. In this stage, both the client and coach can begin to focus on accomplishing things that create a more efficient timeline for achieving desired outcomes. This may be the longest stage that one sits in with their coach, especially those newer to training; often lasting years. The client has the mental space to begin learning and establishing consistency around movement. They establish an ability to demonstrate skill in movements week after week with fine-tuning from their coach. Because the client is showing that they can come in each week with the ability to accurately execute the program designed for them, the coach has the freedom to create more specificity in their prescriptions. The coach can start effecting positive change in things that the client truly cares about. The one trap here for the client is the potential creation of overconfidence. They sometimes begin to think they know more than they do regarding health and fitness, and often attempt to take on the role of their coach. Similar to a teenager who thinks they have everything figured out, eventually they realize they know far less than they thought and begin to understand that the process & ability to create their personalized program is far more complex and time-consuming than they imagined. Their training begins to become stale and full of biases that likely unwind the progress they had fought to make, leaving them frustrated.

But, with the continued mentorship and relationship with a coach, the client is able to reach heights of success that they didn’t comprehend that they were capable of. The client is able to continually progress their health simply by taking action on the plan their coach lays out for them. This is truly the sweetest spot in the coach and client relationship.

Client goals in stage two: master basic movement patterns; build skills and confidence around new ones; continue a high level of execution surrounding training and lifestyle/nutrition; require less day-to-day assistance from their coach and rely on them more for big picture progression.

Stage 3: Actualization

This is the stage that Central Athlete coaches want to eventually move their clients towards. If a coach can get someone to this stage, they have done their job, and the client has truly held up their end of the bargain to the fullest extent. In reaching this level of nirvana in autonomy, the client has a freeing choice. Reaching this final stage can take many years to acquire and comes with an eagerness to learn the intricacies of program design, nutrition, and health optimization. At this point the client may feel that their need for a coach is no longer necessary and they would also be able to maintain and potentially even continue to progress on their own. They have the ability and knowledge that they have absorbed from their coach and can write and conduct their own training without the outside need of accountability and wisdom. At this point, they have established lifelong behavioral habits regarding their health and wellness. Once this phase has been reached, many clients still decide to keep their coach for a variety of reasons. The coach-client relationship at this point can be extremely fun and rewarding for both parties. Because the client has shown extreme ownership of their consistency as well as competence and confidence around training and lifestyle habits, it creates the ability for collaboration & exploration. There is now the opportunity to explore new avenues of fitness or establish and chase loftier goals than they initially imagined. While many people in this stage would consider themselves sport-specific athletes which creates a higher demand for working with a coach, most just value the relationship, collaboration, and efficiency in having a coach. What this type of client can accomplish with a coach is often extremely impressive, and way beyond the initial imagination of the client.

Client goals in stage 3: to expand and explore the true capabilities of their mind and bodies; take full responsibility for their health and wellness outcomes for the rest of their life.

In selecting an avenue to make improvements to your health and fitness, one must place themselves in an environment that encourages and allows the acquired skill of autonomy. We have seen modalities like group classes and perpetual personal training cease a person's growth at the beginning of stage two. The reliance on a coach never transitions to collaboration. Individual relationships with a coach who focuses on each person as a unique entity is the truest way to develop autonomy and progress towards actualization. If you want to get out of the cycle of progression and regression within your health because you have not been encouraged to become autonomous, schedule a Free Strategy Session with a coach today.

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