“What should I be eating for breakfast?”

“Is indoor cycling a good workout?”

“What can I do about my low back pain?”

“Should I eliminate carbs completely?”


QUESTIONS. I get a lot of them. From friends, family and members of our health club, Breakthru Fitness.  I love questions because one of my favorite things to do is help people figure out how to address the barriers they face when it comes to reaching their goals.  But over time, I’ve changed the way I respond. I used to jump right in and start “recommending” things for people to do:


“Always focus on protein…”

“Be sure you’re getting your heart rate up and pushing yourself…”

“Try stretching like this…”

“Let me show you my nutrition plan…”


… but I’ve stopped doing this. Why? I’ve learned to just listen and not jump ahead to giving solutions.  What is this person really asking? What is their schedule? Their stress levels? What is the goal behind the goal?  Now, instead of giving answers, I like to respond to their questions with 3 questions of my own that I feel might be helpful:




 What do you truly want to accomplish? I’m often shocked when I ask this first question because people really struggle with clarity about their objectives.  I’ll ask again, “What do you want, specifically?” And then I listen as deeply as possible before I give an answer because I want to be clear about where we want to go with this goal.  And the more specific the answer here, the better. So instead of, “I want to get into shape,” it’s a lot easier to make a plan with, “I want to build core strength so I can pick up my toddler without hurting my back,” or, “I need to build my stamina so I’m not so exhausted at the end of every week.”



Let’s use weight-loss as an example.  Have you ever lost weight before?  Usually, I get a “YES!” OK, so what exactly did you do that enabled you to accomplish this?  Framing the question this way is effective for a few reasons. First, it shows (to the client) that they have been able to do this before and have success.  Second, there may have been some outside influence that crept in and knocked them off track and describing their past experience to me can help to identify it. Maybe they went too extreme or too big (“I wanted to lose 15 pounds in 8 weeks…”) Once we figure out what did work, we focus on what they might do differently to be more successful this time.



Once I know what they want, what they are trying to accomplish, what the clear goal is for them, I ask what might be the most important question of all: “What do you feel you can do consistently to move you a little closer to achieving that goal?”

Usually, this is not what people want to hear.  They’re looking for the perfect plan.  The latest diet or workout program. The secret hack or trick: whatever will deliver the biggest bang for their buck.  But what I’ve learned from experience is there is no perfect plan.  Especially where long-term, sustainable fitness goals are concerned.

Throughout my coaching career, it has become more important for me to work on long-term changes – not short-term fixes –  for my clients.  The secret to this lies in creating new habits or behaviors that will replace the old habits throughout the lifespan.

An example: a stretching program is a great way to improve flexibility, release tight muscles and strengthen body mechanics – but it only works when it’s done consistently.  I believe it’s better to work out three times a week for a year, than five times a week for only six months.  Foam-rolling ten minutes a day will help you more than ninety minutes of deep tissue work once a week. It all adds up over time.
And weight-loss? Faster isn’t necessarily better. If you work to lose two pounds a month over a year with a regimen that is manageable and realistic for you, at the end of a year you will have lost twenty-four pounds. That’s a lot!


Back to those questions:

“What should I be eating for breakfast?”

What’s your goal?  What has worked in the past?  Can you keep eating that way?


“Is indoor cycling a good workout?”

Only if you do it consistently.


“What can I do about my low back pain?”

Can you foam roll 10 minutes a day for a month?  Let’s see how you feel then.


“Should I eliminate carbs completely?”

If that seems too difficult, then how about cutting back?  Can you start with cutting them out of breakfast?


What it all comes down to is this:

What do you need to do to transform your life over time? Not perfectly.  Not extremely.  Just consistently.



Phil Dozois, Owner + Life Coach, Breakthru Fitness, Pasadena, CA

Questions, reach me at coach@breakthrufitness.com


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