Why ‘The Why’ Matters

Written by Mike Watson, First Degree Coaching Mentor

I was a very average student in high school but I knew I wanted to study Exercise Science in University.

Some advanced level math courses were prerequisites so I reluctantly slogged my way through courses like Calculus, Algebra and Geometry.   Like a moody teenager I kept asking myself and my teachers questions like “why?” and “When am I ever going to use this?” 

I struggled to solve for X when X didn’t mean anything tangible.  

My interest level changed when I started taking Physics, Biomechanics and Ergonomics courses in University.  I was using the same math but now I understood the “why” as the math now told me valuable, tangible things like how fast or far something was moving or what its trajectory would be.

The Why is a huge part of coaching and client retention!  Client buy-in to a workout or movement can change dramatically if the client understands why that movement or exercise is important to THEM and their overall WHY for coming to the gym.

A great gym example is the deadlift.  For clients who are athletically inclined (their WHY is performance), the deadlift is a must have in programming.  Why?  It helps us develop posterior chain (low back, glute and hamstring) strength that lets us push ground away from us more powerfully in a running or skating stride.  It helps us develop overall pulling strength that translates well into our Olympic lifts.  It develops grip strength and upper back strength and mass.  Plus, lifting heavy stuff is fun! 

Doesn’t the deadlift sound awesome!

For some clients the answer would be a nervous NO.  It might sound terrifying and light years away from what that client perceives their WHY to be.  

If we as coaches do a good job at developing relationships with our clients through good Motivational Interviewing and Goal reviews we should have a very clear understanding of how each client envisions their WHY.

If my client’s WHY has more to do with weight loss or long term health and mobility then the deadlift example I used above is going to feel like high school Calculus to them.  

They won’t see the point and they won’t see the point of putting in the work.

My firm grasp of my client’s WHY in this example would help me better frame my deadlift WHY to educate the client on the benefits of posterior chain strength as it pertains to carrying groceries or picking up their kids.  It might include some education on the benefits of loading the spine to minimize the effects of osteoporosis.   They might still feel intimidated by the deadlift, but their understanding of WHY they are doing it will lead to better engagement. 

If we understand the client’s WHY we show the client how much we care.

By explaining the WHY of our movement or workout selection we build trust and engagement.

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