Five Lessons Learned from Strength Coaching in Small Group Classes

I have been blessed to work as a strength coach full-time for five years. Here are some key lessons I’ve learned teaching small classes:

  1. The more I learn, the more I realize that I don’t know. It is that way in any field, but when you see people three or four times a week, you have a real opportunity to help people make serious changes in their lives. I continue to study, practice and teach daily to help you advance in their strength, movement and to improve your overall health. I appreciate your trust and patience; you inspire me to continue to learn and grow as a coach.
  2. Each person must be addressed individually and kept safe. You bring your movement history with you into class; that may include physical and emotional injuries and experiences that might not have been positive with fitness professionals. Personal attention is required to keep you safe. I am tough and set on my ‘no train with pain’ policy because there is no good long term result when you train with pain. Working with a medical professional to remove pain is always the appropriate course of action before starting a strength training program.
  3. Teach the basics well. People think they want variety, but what they need is to learn movements that will make them stronger and keep them functional in life, sports, hobbies and care-giving roles. Specifically: deadlifts, swings, goblet squats, presses, turkish getups, lunges, plank/pushup/pullup and carries deliver what we need. This is our core program. We can vary these, in many ways, but that’s not essential to meeting our goals of being strong for everyday life. If we do only these three movements well, we are going to see life-changing results: kettlebell swing, turkish getup and goblet squat.
  4. Not every person is a fit as a client. Strength training is a skill that takes years to perfect. It requires commitment, practice, mental focus, honesty and humility about what we can and cannot do. For many of us, proprioception, or an awareness of our limbs moving in space, is not something we’ve developed in our past, so learning to move and lift can take time (months or years). Perseverance, patience and an openness with your coach about how the movements feel in your body is necessary to make continued progress.
  5. Mobility is more important than strength. Moving well is a challenge for many of us because of how much we sit, were previously inactive or injured, or never coached on proper technique. Getting people moving with ease is why I do what I do. Helping people  safely explore a deep squat, learn the turkish getup (and do it gracefully), practice proper plank and pushup form, improve shoulder and t-spine mobility, hang on a bar with confidence, swing a kettlebell, and so on, makes me incredibly happy. I don’t care how much weight you lift, ever! If you are mobile, pain-free and lifting something that helps you leave the gym feeling better than when you walked in, then we are a successful team.

Move strong, be healthy, and never stop moving your body. ~Lori

A Little Play to Get Stronger

Ever since I started teaching strength and movement, I have included play components in personal training and in our small group class programming ... and of course in my own training. I refer to this as Fitness Freedom.

We all need time to explore, learn, be free from reps, sets, time and be allowed to challenge our bodies in new and different ways.

Any movement or lift can be considered a play component -- Fitness Freedom has less structure and allows the individual to make decisions about whether to push forward or pull back.

It needs to be safe, fun, and even a little bit challenging. It may be different than our typical gym programming or it may build on what we do every day.

Read my full blog post about Play on Dragon Door.

So much is gained from play: besides strength and conditioning ... there is confidence and excitement, in addition to the opportunity to develop (or improve) skills.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!



After morning classes today, the day before Thanksgiving, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.

Grateful for so many things in my life ... my faith, my family, my friends ... and my gym members who are also my friends.

I am grateful that I get to do this job every day. I love what I do and the people I get to do it with. It's the best job in the world -- even on those days when I get up at 4:30 a.m.!

I am grateful for how hard everyone works to learn and improve, how they applaud each others' successes, and how they truly listen to their bodies and adjust as needed.

Today, one of our gym members had a real breakthrough.

Joanne has been patiently working to get the kettlebell Swing to the point where she was comfortable moving up to heavier weights. She has listened to her body and progressed at her own pace to prevent firing up any former sports injuries.

She is a model for all of us because she has the gifts of patience, perseverance and joy.

As a coach, it's incredibly rewarding when someone achieves a goal that hasn't come easy.

I wanted to sing, cry and shout for joy today (and so did Joanne and the other gym members!) when her Swing with the 22kg (48 lbs.) unfolded so beautifully. 

Joanne has helped me be a better coach in a lot of ways. Her feedback about how her body responds to certain movements has helped me to program and plan differently for her and other gym members.

I am grateful that our gym members revel in each others' accomplishments as much as their own.

I am grateful that we have built a gym community where we can achieve results at our own pace, focus on both good technique and strength, and provide each person the personal attention they deserve.

Joanne calls our time together 'A Slice of Paradise.' Isn't that cool? That's how I feel about it too.

Give in to gratitude; it feels great!

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” –William Arthur Ward