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Coaching Through The Silence

Sometimes coaching and Personal Training can be frustrating. Any job can be really. They all have their ups and downs. If you're a coach, or you work with a personal trainer, one thing that is constantly having to be worked on is a clear and open line of communication. As a coach, I know that gaps in communication can lead to lack of results, or worse: injury.

So imagine my dilemma two months ago when one day a new client walked in who was deaf. Now don't get me wrong, I love working with everyone and for sure wanted to work with this individual, but I was scared that I wouldn't be able to communicate with him well enough to prevent him from getting hurt doing even the most basic exercises. It's scary, and I don't doubt that was on both of our parts. One of the first things I had to do when I went home that day, was talk with one of my sisters to relearn my ASL signs for the alphabet.

The first few weeks were definitely tough. As much as it would probably frustrate both the deaf and hearing communities, we would pass a pad of paper back and forth, writing down questions and answers, and constantly trying to finger spell everything (which I'm still slow at). Now you may be wondering why I didn't just mouth everything and have him try to read my lips, and if you think so, you should watch this TEDxTalk to understand why I don't rely on that.

The cool thing is, right around the time that I was getting the most frustrated with my lack of ability to communicate, and having a hard time learning whatever signs he had taught me, I inherited another client from a coworker who was leaving the gym. This time, the lady was deaf, but had learned at a very early age to talk. Now in the deaf community, she says they have pushed her away, as her parents got her a cochlear implant and taught her to talk as soon as they could. But for me, she was just what I needed at just the right time. With her help, because she can verbally correct me, I've been able to learn the sign language I need to communicate with both her (because she prefers signing over talking if possible) and my other client.

The beauty, and the main reason I write this, of the whole situation is the lessons you learn about yourself as a coach and a teacher. I've learned and am continuing to learn how to communicate through the noise of a large gym by not saying a word. I've been able to help in ways I didn't think I could.

You see, fitness is the great equalizer. It knows no boundaries both in scalability and in who can perform it. The thing I find that I am blessed to have to the opportunity to do, is to communicate with others in ways that neither of us are used to (let's be honest, I don't know that much sign language). And so my takeaway is this: whether you are a coach, personal trainer, or you hire one of the afore mentioned, don't stop the pursuit of breaking down communication barriers in order to advance in both physical and social health. Barriers aren't an end in the road, they're simply something you have to go around.

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