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What makes a great coach? A short story about my knees.

About 15 months ago, I started seeing a coach.

But probably not the kind of coach you might be thinking of..

For the past seven years or so, I’ve had major issues with my knees. I injured them during a race and they never got any better. I was in almost constant pain and they were incredibly weak (to the point where I sometimes had to walk with the aid of a stick).

Over the years, I had been to see various doctors and other physios but they could never work out what was wrong. They sent me for an X-ray once and because that looked alright, they said there was nothing else they could do and I would have to live with it. And I accepted this for quite some time.

Fast forward to 2022 - the year I was due to take the family on holiday to DisneyWorld.

For most people this sounds like a super fun trip! The shows, the rides, the weather.. but I was constantly thinking about my knees.

Did you know that the average person walks 10 miles a day around DisneyWorld?!

How was I going to keep up with everyone? I could barely walk a mile around the block! And this doesn’t factor in the weight of tired kids on my shoulders etc.

Keen to do anything I could to not be a burden on this holiday, I reached out to a local strength and conditioning coach called Keith at Elite Fitness Coach. Given that the Doctors etc. had brushed me off before, I wasn’t expecting much but figured I’d try anything. Even if it was going to help a tiny bit.

The first thing Keith did was to sit with me and talk about what my goal was. Quite simply, it was to keep up with the kids on holiday and carry them around if needed (well, carry the wee one. Max was eight on holiday so I assumed he’d be alright). He then took me through some strength and movement checks to see what kind of things I could and couldn’t do.

The following week we started. He had developed a program for me which worked on slowly building up the strength in my knees and ankles. Occasionally, I wouldn’t be able to do something or something hurt so Keith would just change what we were doing. Going at my pace and working within my physical constraints.

We worked together for about two months before I jetted off with the family and I was feeling great. I was walking around pretty comfortably by this point and didn’t feel as much (sometimes any) pain. But just in case, I packed ice-packs, knee straps, and more paracetamol than you can shake a stick at.

One day, we woke up early and stayed out late. It was a loooong day. So long, in-fact, that Millie fell asleep on my shoulders whilst walking around the park. A wee bit later on, Max got really tired too. Given that my knees were feeling alright that day, I decided to offer up my shoulders to him. I passed Millie to my Wife and Max jumped on. This was the last bit of the day and we were walking to the bus station so I thought it would only be a short walk.

As it goes, we got mixed up and went the wrong way. We ended up walking for 45 minutes extra that day. All of it with an eight year old on my shoulders.

When we got back to the hotel, I got the ice-packs out and strapped them to me knees. They weren’t hurting but I didn’t want to tempt anything. Waking up the next day, we headed out and my knees were still feeling solid!!

Throughout the rest of the holiday, I the kids needed carried again and again. Not quite as long as the evening with the bus, but still. On the final day, I had this photo taken.

Robb holding his kids in DisneyWorld
Robb holding his kids in DisneyWorld

I sent it to Keith straight away.


So why am I telling you this? Sure, it was great the my knees are doing alright just now.. but there’s more to it than that.

What makes a great coach? Whether you’re a professional coach, business coach, or strength and conditioning coach, there are certain things that make you great. And Keith showed all of these things.

He listened. His first port of call wasn’t “jump on this rower and stay there for ten minutes.”. The first thing he did was ask questions. He was finding out about me, about my history, and what I wanted to do. And then making it concrete with a clear goal.

He didn’t push his own agenda. After learning what I needed, he spent some time building a program but never did he force me to stay on this program. He had no ego - if something wasn’t working, he’d change up. This is because..

He danced in the moment. “A great athlete listens to their body” he’d often say. And a great coach listens to their client. If my knees were hurting one day, or I just didn’t get on with a certain movement, he wouldn’t blindly push me to complete whatever was written. He'd scrap the plan he had and we’d work on something else. He’d just go with the flow.

He kept me accountable. If we identified something to work on between sessions, I would get it done. This wasn't just because I'm stubborn, or because I had set a goal, but he would ask about them the next time he saw me.

He give me his unconditional positive regard. Whether I turned up tired, hadn't eaten enough for the session ahead, or couldn't do one of the movements properly, he was always my #1 fan.


So if you're looking for someone to support you with goals in life, business, fitness, or anything else, you would be doing yourself and a great service by finding yourself a coach like Keith.

P.s. Since first seeing Keith, my knees have become so much stronger. To the point that I have even managed to start running again! So today, in celebration of one year since taking that photo, I ran a 5k. It was the longest run I’ve done in about 7 years and it felt great.

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