Monica Olsson: Asking Questions Instead of Providing all the Answers

Monica Olsson: Asking Questions Instead of Providing Answers

Monica Olsson became a better coach when she stopped trying to immediately provide her clients with the correct answer to their problem.

Or at least, she grew as a coach when she realized there is no right or wrong answer. She learned this from the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP), she explained. 

“I think the biggest thing I got from CCP was the idea that ‘it depends,’” said 34-year-old Olsson, the owner of CrossFit Twenty Pound Hammer in Seattle, Washington. 

“There’s no really bad answer—or I mean I guess there are bad answers—but what I mean is if someone asks me a question like, ‘What should I be eating?’ I’m not going to tell them, ‘You need to eat these three things and avoid this entirely.’ I will tell them, ‘It depends,” she explained. 

From there, Olsson starts exploring deeper with her clients.

Monica Olsson: Asking Questions Instead of Providing Answers

“I’ll start asking questions like, ‘What do you eat right now?,’ or ‘What do you want to achieve?’ Always ask more and more questions to get to the bottom of things,” Olsson said. 

“I call it the ‘It depends model…Sometimes people just want to be told what to do, but I always tell them, ‘If I don’t know what your starting point is or what your life is like outside the gym, then I don’t know what to tell you. I need to know where you’re coming from before I can give you an answer because the one-sized fits all approach doesn’t work.”

While learning there is no single best way to skin the cat was the biggest thing Olsson learned from CCP, the second big takeaway was how to program more intelligently, as well as how to help her clients understand smart training practices. 

“We just can’t be going 100 percent every day. Before OPEX, most of my weightlifting and fitness knowledge had come through CrossFit. (In that model) people used to get so hung up about the movements they wanted to be doing, but not everyone should be snatching. Now people come to me and say, ‘I’m glad you’re not the type of gym that forces us to do things,” said Olsson, who offers individual programming at her gym for those who want it for US$270 a month. 

She added: “I think it’s really important to give people permission not to do things and give them things that are better for them individually.”

(Coach’s Resource: Learn the basics fo designing individual programs in this free course.)

These programming decisions come down to not only her clients’ physical strengths and weaknesses, but also what’s going on in the rest of their lives, she explained. 

“You have to consider other stresses that pop up in your life to figure out how you should train that day,” she said.

This holistic approach to fitness is also what provides Olsson the job satisfaction she has today, she explained. 

When she first started coaching group classes at a CrossFit gym in Boston, she said it was fun for a while, but then it stopped providing her fulfillment.

“I enjoyed being a dumb jock for a while—working out and coaching—but it wasn’t super intellectual,” said Olsson, who has both a post-secondary undergraduate degree and graduate degree.

“If something is going to be more sustainable to me, it needs to be intellectual to a certain degree,” she said. “And OPEX does a great job of intellectualizing fitness—of turning the dumb jock into thinking critically about assessments and program design, and taking the full person into account.”

That has really been the most helpful piece in providing her the opportunity to truly help her clients today, she explained. 

“I think people are multi-faceted—I know I’m multi-faceted—so if all I’m doing is working people out and we’re just focused on the physical workout, there’s something missing. I think anything that’s going to be sustainable as a career, for me at least, has to involve the other aspects of life—the mental and even spiritual side,” she said.

Not only does this provide Olsson happiness in her career, it allows her clients to have more success, as well.

“It helps clients manage their expectations a lot when we get into lifestyle issues. It helps them figure out what they value and be more realistic because it gets them thinking about fitness and overall health not just in the gym, but outside the—how fitness fits into their lives. And that makes the biggest difference,” she said. 

If you’re a fitness professional or want to become one, you need an education grounded in principles. One that prepares you for a career in the ever-changing landscape of the fitness industry. Enter the OPEX Coaching Certificate Program (CCP), the gold standard of education for individualized coaching and program design.

Developed and taught by James FitzGerald, a 25-year coaching veteran, the OPEX CCP has educated over 3000 coaches. This education not only bridges the gap between the classroom and the gym floor but also gives you the opportunity to develop your own coaching flair under the mentorship of James himself. We open 50 spots for the next OPEX CCP cohort quality, so space is limited. Apply to join our next cohort today and become the coach you’ve always imagined.

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