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The Pros & Cons of Training Partners and Coaches

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Training partners and coaches can make or break your success both in the gym and onstage. Here’s what to keep in mind.

By Craig Richardson, IFBB Pro

[Q] I’m not planning to compete but I think hiring a coach to help me look my best might be a good idea. What should I be looking for?

A] That’s a great question with a long answer, but here’s the condensed version. First of all he needs to know his stuff. That can be hard to gauge because you’re looking for someone who likely knows more than you, so a referral from a trusted source is important. A good coach or trainer is going to be there when you need him the most, through good times and bad. You want to make sure he’s reliable. If he has too many clients, he might leave you hanging. I once had a trainer who was helping me to improve. Guys in the gym saw me getting better and would ask who I was working with. Telling them brought him a lot of business. Before I knew it, though, he had about 50 clients, and then he could no longer give me the attention I needed. A good trainer also has to be willing to pick up the phone for any question you have, whenever you might have it. Perhaps most important, you need to trust that this person is looking out for you and your health, not just your physique. A good coach is a great friend and mentor who leads you down the right path. So there’s a lot to look for.

[Q] The aspect of bodybuilding most people (including me) can’t seem to get right is nutrition. Would you recommend hiring a nutritionist to plan a diet for me?

[A] Absolutely yes. A good nutritionist has experience in working with different body types, so if you’re having trouble with weight gain or weight loss, a good one can objectively help you meet your goals. Just-out-of-school trainers who are barely in their 20s with a nutrition degree but who haven’t applied what they know to themselves or anyone else aren’t going to do you much good. You want someone who has a great deal of experience and a proven track record of helping people change their bodies for the better. Prepare to meet him or her by keeping track of your food and your macronutrients and being clear about your goals. All this information will help the nutritionist you select determine the best approach for you as an individual.

The Lowdown on Training Partners and Coaches

[Q] Have you ever had a training partner who made you better? Or one who made you worse? What makes for a good training partner?

[A] My partner’s name is Harley Breite. He’s a criminal defense attorney and one of the greatest guys ever. He’s there every workout, he’s always early, and he stays late when I need him to. He’ll train a bodypart even if it doesn’t benefit him as much as it does me. He’s willing to do that because it’s what I need. Even when he doesn’t need to do cardio, he does it with me. When I did the Nationals in 1999 I was a little overweight and I had to ride the bike for about 90 minutes twice a day. Being without carbs for days and on little to no water made the cardio even tougher. He got on the bike beside me and rode for the entire hour and a half, encouraging me to go faster when I needed to in each session. That’s more than a training partner! Find someone who’s in tune with exactly what you need, knows how to motivate and support you, and does everything in his power to make sure you’re getting better every time you set foot in the gym. Pick someone as strong as or stronger than you so that he can help you train safely but also push you to train harder.

[Q] Craig, I know of a lot of bodybuilders who gather a team to help them, but can you succeed as a bodybuilder all on your own?

[A] Sure, but the problem with a lot of bodybuilders – aspiring and accomplished – is that we’re our own worst critics. You know what you need to do but you’re afraid to apply it. You know, for example, that you need to go from 30 minutes of cardio to 45 minutes, but there’s no one to tell you to do that if you don’t have a coach or partner. Also, you might think you’re in shape when you’re not, or vice versa. So having a coach or nutritionist who can look at you with a fresh set of eyes is very helpful. Plus, you have so much stress already as a hard-training bodybuilder. If you can remove some of that stress by way of a good trainer or coach, life will be a lot easier.

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