Training, Rehab and Positive Inception

Training, Rehab and Positive Inception

I thought it was a great training session.

She PR’d her deadlift and her single leg squat. But in talking with her she didn’t feel the same way.

“But I missed that Turkish Get Up. And I felt my
knee a bit during the ladder drills in the warm-up.”

Minor things that barely registered with me had her hung up. A wobble on the TGU, some transient patella-femoral pain during a warm-up drill. Same training session, different perception. I was focused on the big wins, she was was focused on the minor losses.

The truth is this probably happens more than you realize. Even without feedback humans possess a bias towards negative information. We’re 3x more reactive to a negative stimulus than positive one. This is an evolutionary survival strategy. If we saw a Lion near the bush that had delicious berries growing on it, it’s more beneficial for our survival to stay transfixed on avoiding the lion than getting to the berries.

Although many of us don’t have to fear the lion our wiring hasn’t changed. Clients come into the gym looking to please and minimize mistakes. Coaches naturally seek faults to correct and in doing so often highlight negative outcomes for the client. To us it sounds like “coaching” but to clients it often sounds like criticism.

Because of our natural negativity bias coaches should strive to provide three times as many positive interactions as they do negative ones to set the optimal environment learning, motivation and training consistency.

It should be noted that this negative bias will be even more pronounced when dealing with clients in pain. A client suffering with knee pain will stay transfixed on the knee pain rather than all their other pain free physical capabilities. A myopic focus on the injury can actually cause the client to subjectively report higher levels of pain and sensitivity with no change in the local tissue.

With these things in mind here are some client communication strategies I use to encourage positive focus rather than negative.

1). Use the “Sandwich Method”: Positive/Critique/Positive

When providing critiques do your best to sandwich them in between positive commentary. This helps the client to see the critiques through rose color lenses.

Example: “Hey Dan, your hips looked a lot better on that hang clean but this time I really want you to jump and try to get your head to the ceiling. Keep moving the bar fast.”

2). Positive Inception: As the coach it’s your job to set the energy in the session. Do your best to highlight the positive meaning markers or “Champion Moments” and share optimism with the client. This transfer of energy will help to motivate the them and provide them a more optimistic view around their training/rehab session.

3). Session Re-Cap: At the end of every session take time reflect on the session as a team. Review what went well, what didn’t and give the session an overall grade. This will help identify any perceptual gaps that may exist in between you and the client.

4). Shift The Focus: With injured clients don’t stay overly focused on the injury. Address it, deal with it and then focus on what the client CAN do. Don’t belabor conversations about their “bad knee.” Those suffering from chronic pain often become paralyzed by fear of potential pain and in doing so find themselves worse off due to de-conditioning and increased sensitization.

It’s important to realize these strategies are not excuses to BS and sugarcoat results for your client. First and foremost it’s important to be honest, however most clients will be their own harshest critic. The reason many people don’t stick to their training plan or have success in their rehab is poor adherence and belief. What you say really matters and probably matters even more with clients in pain. As the coach use your position of influence to tip the scales in the direction of positivity rather than negativity.