When no one’s watching

These days much of what we do is “for the ‘gram”. 

Seems there is always a camera rolling; an athlete filming their movements, a snapshot posted somewhere on social media, and a coach constantly sharing a “new” movement video. That feedback loop is great; not only do we build our personal brand and retention, we also have another way for the world to see us, to access us. 

But ask yourself this, “What if no one was watching?”

Would you still do it for “the gram”?

I get it, social media is fun and it feels good to show off a little, especially these days with no crowds and in many cases right now no coaches present to give us the token head pat* for a job well done or feedback on how you can improve. 

As humans we are naturally drawn to communal acceptance and our community is growing by the minute.

I can chat with a former teammate in another country and comment on her training. I am able to reach out to coaches across the ocean and make sure they are ok with the pandemic and all that it is impacting. We are able to connect with people to ask for help, for coaching support and insight in how we do things so that we can build the best athletes and programs out there. Heck, I have even taken to filming my own training to send to another coach via WhatsApp to get feedback from him as of late, and it has helped.

Don’t get me wrong, the filming, posting and constant sharing is now ingrained in us. It’s becoming who we are, akin to the stories that were told from generation to generation around campfires centuries ago. Our technology has opened up many doors to connection and reach.

But what happens when it becomes unhealthy?

Athletes, do you stress about the right angle, the light and your appearance before you train? Coaches, do you worry that you need to keep posting information, videos, blogs, etc just to stay relevant and continue to build or maintain your business?

Might this unnecessary “extra” take away from what you are really here to do? 

So how do we combat this?

Recently, I have told my athletes to not post or tag workouts that are done when I am coaching them. There are many reasons why I have made this rule but one is because I found they spent more time on their phones, setting up for the shot, asking the other to film, etc and less time really internalizing what they are present to do, train and improve.
Call it a Media Free Monday if you will.

As a retired athlete, I am so thankful that over 10 years ago social media really only equated to YouTube videos and Facebook asking us “How are you feeling?” so we posted stupid comments on how we actually felt, not videos of training. No phone had that power then. Imagine that, Facebook had to prompt us on how to interact with its technology just to get it functioning as designed. Now it has to limit our interaction so it can manage the design.

Now let’s take this question of “when no one is watching would you still do it?” beyond our technology and social media days.

Would you still lift weights, train hard and sweat until your shirt is soaked if no one is watching? Would you continue to challenge yourself, to grow, to improve if you had no global outlet to brag a little? Would you, as an athlete or a coach, do a better job without these social demands?

Perhaps it’s time to reflect on this, leave the phone behind and truly train. No distractions and only your personal head pats and support from the people that matter most – yourself, your coach and your family. Likely in that order too.

*head pat – I had a coach who, on my first day with him, said “If I don’t say anything to you, you’re doing good, change nothing.” I later learned that if he patted my head, I was doing great. The highest honor was a head pat.

Part 2: Finding your fitness coach and what to expect

After all the clipboards have been hung up, the log books filled out and the files returned to the filing cabinet, coaching is a profession. This goes for any of the other names that are grouped in with “coach”… trainer, instructor, fitness professional, personal trainer, group fitness instructor, etc. If you get paid or you pay someone to lead you, if it is something that takes up more than 25% of someone’s daily mental capacity and focus, it’s a profession and it should be treated as such.

Are you a client seeking a coach?

No matter your goal, be it weight loss, improved fitness, or athletic prowess to one day dominate the world in your sporting endeavours you will benefit greatly from a coach. The absolute best in the world have a coach, many have more than 3 at one time when all are accounted for. 

When you are seeking a coach you should ask 3 key things of them:

  1. What is your training philosophy?
  2. How do you deliver your coaching/training plans to your clients?
  3. What is the most important determining factor of success when discussing a client?

Of course, if you have more questions ask them and remember that these 3 are vital. Not all coaches are able to answer these, not all have a philosophy, not all work on continuing their education and it’s very true and obvious that many are unable to stay away from the shiny lights of “trendertainment”. That’s great and fine if that’s how you role but it’s not great for the long-term health and success of a client.

In the end, this is a profession not a 3 ring circus. 

The people leading you, guiding your physical decision making, tweaking your quality of movement and influencing your daily perspective on life are vital people and need to align with you. They do not need to align with your mom, your best friend and most certainly not what general public says is “cool”. They need to align with you and you need to know that you can trust them.

It’s all about trust.

Like any relationship, trust is one of the most important factors. With trust comes respect and when these two qualities are shared the success rate for both parties rises ten-fold. You are able to receive a training program or walk into a training session knowing that your coach has your long term best interest at heart and is always top of mind. They aren’t in it for their own personal gain nor for any benefit aside from the fuzzy feels they get seeing your face of pride when you know you have succeeded at a goal or improved a skill.

In return, your coach trusts that you will follow the program, be honest with them about the training (good or bad feedback) and that you will respect their education and countless hours spent away from you working on ensuring you are healthy and strong.

What to expect. 

Relationships and knowledge, that’s what this coaching gig is really about.

What you, the client, should expect from your coach is for them to be consistent on what their answers to the above 3 questions were and a respectful relationship. You should also expect that your coach has at least 3 modifications for almost every single movement they give you. 

They should be able to answer the Why and What immediately in regards to any exercise and frankly, should have the humility to answer “I don’t know, let me get back to you” should they in fact not have a clear answer. 

Coaches are human after all and sometimes, we miss new information, get sucked into the trap of mindless repetition, and, while it rarely happens, do get tricked by the “Ooo, that looks fun” trap of our ever so connected lives via the internet.

It happens. But guess what! As a client, you have the permission and honestly, the right, to keep your coach on track as well. If there is something you are not comfortable with, struggle with or it actually hurts you, tell them right away so that the coach can make an adjustment before compounding the issue. A great coach will NEVER sleep well at night knowing they hurt a client.

Develop a relationship that allows you to have an open conversation about your goals, programming and more. No doubt your goals will change over time. I’ve had some clients for over 7 years and their goals have certainly changed, many times. The beauty of this longevity in clientele is the fact that they felt secure enough to ask for a change, to trust my suggested alterations and to have faith in the entire process. That’s an incredible experience for both myself and the clients.

In the end, when you are seeking a coach, interview them, ask for a resume if you must, even references. Don’t just accept the coach your gym thrusts upon you, ask to chat with all of them. There’s value in this, just like not every coworker loves each other, nor will you love every coach that comes along. Find the one you trust and respect, and can have an educated, growth oriented experience all wrapped up with fun and enjoyment.

After-all,  physical movement is a form of self expression and you should ENJOY it.


Part 1: What is a Coach?


because I care about you


because I believe in you.


because I know your family and job will.


because life will hold you accountable.

Copied from a photo found on “I Coach” on Facebook

Part 1: What is a Coach?

There are coaches EVERYWHERE.

Life coaches, business coach, financial coach, dog coach, throwing coach, nutrition coach… the list goes on.

That’s fine, in essence we all are coaches (teachers) to one degree or another but what is the role of a coach truly?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “coach” as:

a : a private tutor  (hired a coach to help her daughter prepare for the test)

b : one who instructs or trains  (an acting coach a birth coach especially : one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a sport and directs team strategy a football coach a pitching coach a gymnastics coach)

Let’s talk about this from our perspective, a gym with coaches that genuinely care about the health and well-being of our clients

The role of a coach (see: personal trainer, trainer, fitness instructor) is to give you a path to follow towards your goals and towards the possibilities the coach sees within you as well. Oftentimes, we see qualities that our clients do not see in themselves and it’s a gift to be able to pull those qualities out of those people. To celebrate them and to encourage them to elevate themselves in the process. 

In short, we take the thinking out of the workout and positively elevate your ability, mental fortitude and movement skill. Without you even realizing it!

What we will not do.
We will not count for you. Fitness is good for mental health and counting is one of those basic skills that actually strengthens your brain. We watch for things you would never identify while you do the doing.
So you do, you count. We watch so we can build a better program as we act as your guide on this journey.

Your coach will create a program for you to follow AFTER assessing your movement patterns, needs, injuries, etc. There are lots of factors that go into these assessments and they often vary from one client to the next. Sometimes they are the same but the answers will always be unique. Unless you sign up for a Group Fitness class where the programming is a blanket plan with room to modify on the spot, your coach will give you a personalized program that fits your needs.

In short, we create a map for you to follow in and out of the gym with exercises you can do even on a secluded beach vacation.

No, this does not mean that  you will be the only one doing a Single Leg Unicorn Dead-lift, sometimes people need the same movement. BUT it does mean that there will be key elements that are uniquely yours at this point in time. All humans require training the basic movement patterns of Twist, Roll, Hinge, Squat, Push, Pull and there are golden eggs for some of these movements that everyone will do. Often at the same time.

Your coach will hold you accountable to show up, to be on time, to respect each others time and to trust that you can have open communication to express concerns, things you love, and the things you struggle with. Coaches have high expectations of themselves, they deliver when asked to do so and they ask for at least a little bit of that in return from you. 

In short, we are your accountability buddy that keeps you in check.

No, this does not mean we will not penalize you for blatant disregard of our time. If you miss sessions without advanced notice and without your best efforts, you will lose that session. It’s called respect. At The Hub, we ask for a 12 hour notice of cancellation. We know life happens but we also know that we would like a personal life (or a chance to sleep in if we get it).

In the end a coach is more than a person taking your money for every time you see or communicate with them. The above is only a teeny tiny drop in a large bucket of the many things a great coach does, what their role is, and the immense level of respect that can be built in time.

Your coach is your mentor, your guide, the person that has your best interests at heart and would be a fool to act otherwise. 

Coaches are people doing what they love to do, helping people, and by chance are blessed enough to get paid for it. Some coaches still have to hold down part-time, and even full-time, jobs outside of coaching clients but the role that they take on as a leader in an industry that they love is enough to have them burn the candle at both ends, until the respect is lost (follow our series to learn more on this).

Coaches are human beings, that want YOU to succeed. That’s it. 
We care too much. We connect through the idle chit chat and we will happily take the sword for you instead, because we care. So much, that we lose sleep over finding the best way we can help you get better.

Coaches have a roadmap that can help you. They have certifications (they should have, ask them to prove it) that highlight they are serious and educated in what they offer. Coaches are also constantly updating their knowledge as any professional should be via courses, books, clinics and more.

Your coach will become your biggest fan, your strongest supporter and the best person to keep you in check when you need it.

We all need a coach.

TRUST in Failure


Trust the process. The plan. The movement.
Trust the lessons learned. The coaching staff. Heck even trust the failure.

Actually, TRUST the failures most!

This may seem odd but if you trust in the things that knock you down, hold you back or keep you from hitting a target at the rate of velocity you think you need to hit it, you absolutely will learn many valuable things along the way.

You see, the people who have success after success, limited struggle, minimal push back and very few barriers or blockades to fight through are the people who also, from our experience, appear to struggle the most that day failure decides to show up. And it will show up.

They don’t know what grit and grace are. There’s an air about the constantly successful that makes others who regularly feel pinned against the wall struggle with and frankly find it hard to engage with these people. For no fault other than they don’ understand the real struggle, yet.

When we begin to TRUST the failure, rather than be angry with it, and chastise ourselves for, heaven forbid, being human we begin to experience something truly marvellous… growth.

We transform.

We find Grace. And it’s in this grace that we are able to understand glory of its smallest kind and the powerful lessons failure is here to teach us.

The ability to smile through events that don’t turn out as we expected. The courage to know when we didn’t stack up. The wisdom to understand where true blame and fault needs to be pointed.

Trusting the failure is what leads us to work harder, to listen longer and to follow the plan with greater comfort, because there is knowledge that comes with failure. There is understanding and humility that settles in with the failures and gives us calm to go through our experiences one by one until failure begins to dissipate and arrive only at optimal moments to learn. When we are in need of a valuable lesson.

We don’t train to failure; it comes on its own. Instead, when it arrives, seek the lesson behind the struggle that comes with every missed lift, every lost step and all the shots we hold back on taking.

When comfort in all those grows is when a quiet calm builds around us no matter the circumstance. That’s when we begin to flow and therefore fly.

Conquer Great Things

(anything worth doing is great)

Coach Szabon-Smith

Coach Perspective: When not to compete

Most all of us are driven to win in one context or another.

We like winning. That’s normal.
I envision this is akin in modern times to that of being the mighty hunter that came home from a very successful Wooly Mammoth hunt. We come home with “hardware”, get the heroes welcome, some celebration and our sense of self satisfaction goes up.

Sometimes that satisfaction stays. Other times it begins to wain just in time for the next competition to come around. And more often, there are many of us that fight and fight and fight to win, work so hard, do everything right and yet seem to feel like we always fall short.

Let’s first mention that from a healthy coaches perspective, if an athlete puts themselves in the ring and challenges their ability in a structure that creates a natural stress like competitions do, then you are already a success. Oftentimes, the greatest frustration is seeing an athlete shy away from competing because they are afraid of failing.
The only failure in life is not trying.

That said, there are sadly times when one must not compete. Hard choices are made, it can kill the athlete ego but a choice for longterm health and success must be made, especially when injury rears it’s ugly head.

Granted there are some injuries you can play through but many, especially as we begin to exceed our 30s, need to be addressed and better understood before making a choice to push ourselves to the max at risk of making things worse. Such as exasperating the injury and then forcing ourselves to have to quit completely, rather than step back.

If you’re a coach or an athlete below are some suggestions to help with the process of “to compete or not to compete”:

  1. Have you had to see a doctor, or physiotherapist, or chiropractor, or movement specialist about this injury? These people have spent many years understanding injury and illness, allow their professional opinion to be of great weight to your decision making process.
  2. Can the injury be named? Some injuries are mysteries, no real connection, no cause, no understood treatment – yet. What’s yours?
  3. The movement you are required to do the most, under the most stress and tension in competition; Can you do that? Without pain? Without discomfort? Without the brain wanting to scream “NOOOO”?
  4. What is at risk if you do not compete this time?
  5. Do you have time to allow for recovery, to come back stronger, healthier and a better mindset for success in the future?
  6. What is at greater risk, your athlete ego or your longterm “I wanna do this when I’m 80” health?

In the end, coaches, family members, teammates, friends and even opponents… we all want to see you succeed and do well at the thing you love to do BUT we don’t want to see you in pain. Nor do we want to see you push through an injury and then go hurt yourself so that we never see you on the playing field again.

So make smart decisions. Coaches, you need to help in this process too and really work on compassionately helping your athlete see the forest for the trees. Athletes, you’re already a hero every day you walk through those doors, ready to train, to work hard and to challenge yourself just that little bit more. So know that you are safe in whatever choice you make.

Make the best call you can.
~ Coach Szabon-Smith