Picture this: You’re stressed out, worried about a deadline, or coping with something in your personal life. You go to the gym hoping you can sweat it out with your favorite spin instructor. An hour later, you head to the office feeling refreshed. Mission accomplished.

Now, it’s your turn to play the role of the fitness instructor. Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you have your colleagues drop and give you 20. But there’s a lot to be learned from fitness coaches who spend the majority of their days motivating people.

Learning to think like a fitness coach can help you keep your team sharp or help a co-worker out of a rut.

Here are our top four ways that can help you motivate people like a fitness coach:

1. Create good relationships

In a gym, a coach’s job goes beyond designing workouts. “Our goal is to connect with the members,” says Jennifer Geddis, Fitness Performance Manager for EXOS at adidas. Similarly, in a corporate setting, it’s important to connect with the people on your team. Having strong relationships at the office makes putting in the work more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Man and woman drinking coffee together. motivate, athlete mindset, self-improvement, success at work, GamePlan A
A happy team is a productive team. As a manager your role is to listen as much as it is to lead. ©Westend61/Jo Kirchherr/Getty Images

So how do you make sure that foundation is strong? Do what Jennifer does on the training floor.

“Listening to how they’re feeling and what they have going on, making them laugh, having fun, and showing compassion makes people want to be there and want to come back.”

2. Pay attention to how different people respond to feedback

The way a coach gives feedback is just as important as teaching proper form. Obviously, you don’t want to berate people, but it’s also important to not be overly positive. It can come across as fake and forced.

Businessman and businesswoman working with flip chart in green office. motivate, athlete mindset, self-improvement, success at work, GamePlan A
Give positive feedback, but don’t force it. Too much praise can easily be seen as fake or patronizing. ©Westend61/Getty Images
Always offer encouragement but do it in a timely manner and space it out.
Jennifer Geddis, Fitness Performance Manager for EXOS at adidas

Also consider how much feedback you’re giving. In Jennifer’s experience, both too much and too little feedback can be damaging. Some people want more and some want less. At the office, understanding what each person on your team prefers will help you motivate them and avoid accidentally discouraging them. 

3. Ditch tough love for collaboration

Even the most elite athletes have lost games and questioned their skills. And those gung-ho fitness gurus you follow on Instagram? They’ve likely fallen off their A-game a time or two. So – no surprise – in an office setting, even the best employees are bound to face creative blocks, or phases where they don’t feel as driven. Their performance might suffer. Instead of scorning them or staying out of it until they figure it out, offer to collaborate.

Group of people sitting on a coach in front of laptops and discussing. motivate, athlete mindset, self-improvement, success at work, GamePlan A
Is one of your team underperforming? Instead of berating them, try to find the root cause and work together on a path back to success. ©Gary Burchell/Getty Images

One of the worst things you can do is let people struggle in silence. “Ignoring how others are feeling will only result in frustration,” says Jennifer. While everyone is responsible for their own mindset, you can suggest a new approach and be a source of encouragement and collaboration.

In the fitness setting, this might mean switching exercises or adjusting reps. But in the office, it could mean scheduling a brainstorm or problem-solving session where you can work through any kinks, or encouraging employees to take mental breaks or explore another passion that might offer a new perspective.

4. Don’t fuel the fire

While it might seem motivating to use pain points as a source of motivation – for example picturing someone’s face you don’t like during a kickboxing class – it can also be triggering. “A coach’s job is to use healthy motivation and cues to drive the client to want to be there, and to continue to come back,” says Jennifer.

Similarly, encouraging someone to channel their frustration into their work might create a toxic office environment. For some, it could make them more frustrated, or they might start to associate work with struggles. Instead, remind your colleagues of their strengths or of a past accomplishment.

Smiling coworkers in discussion in design studio. motivate, athlete mindset, self-improvement, success at work, GamePlan A
Focus on the positive elements of work, rather than dwelling on past failures or missed opportunities. ©Thomas M Barwick INC/Getty Images

While the gym and the office seem like polar opposite places, the attitude we bring to both makes a difference. The way you motivate others also makes a difference – in their success and yours. Whether you’re taking the lead on your first big project, or teaching spin classes on weekends, motivating people is part of the job. So let’s be good at it.

Tell us: What works for you when you’re trying to motivate a peer?

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by Gustavo M. Lanata 14.11.2019
I have always enjoyed working with a coach. They get he most out of you and help you relax and enjoy even the hardest training sessions. That always leaves me ready for the day or if I train at night then it gets me on my way to a wonderful night's sleep. I have enjoyed many different coaches and cannot say I have a favourite each one has been fun and engaging. If you can afford it a coach or personal trainer is well worth the money. Enjoy the gym and training.
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Nina Weihrauch
Nina Weihrauch | Editor Gustavo M. Lanata 29.11.2019
Hi Gustavo,

thanks for your comment. Have you ever tried to get a business coach? The advantages that you described are also true in business context. Someone who's asking the right questions, challenging you, pushing you and ultimately help and inspire you to develop yourself.
Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Best,
Nina
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by Honorata Nel 24.11.2019
Help them uncover their bigger reason, their “why” for being fit. Then keep reminding them.
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