Picking Your Team: What to Look for in a Movement Professional
Working with a skilled movement professional is an essential part of getting into a sustainable program that works for your unique goals and lifestyle. Whether you recently set an ambitious goal for yourself, are returning to your movement practice following a setback, or are just getting started in your movement journey, a movement professional functions as a guide to set you up for success and keep you on track. A qualified movement professional should be able to do the following: - Assess your condition prior to creating a program. - Identify any barriers that may impact your progress (e.g. access to training space, disabilities, injuries...). - Design a balanced and progressive program appropriate to your goals, physical capacity, and time and space constraints. - Support you in working through your program by providing constructive feedback and cuing, monitoring your progress, and modifying your program as needed.
I am often asked what type of practitioner I would recommend seeking out, or what modality I would suggest trying (Pilates? Power lifting? Yoga??). Alas, there is so much variability among the thousands of instructors, coaches, and certified or licensed professionals offering movement programming, that it is truly impossible for me to make any broad recommendations. There are outstanding practitioners in just about every discipline, and there are unfortunately some less qualified and even predatory individuals eager to take advantage of people's vulnerabilities and insecurities. This is why I refer my bodywork clients to particular practitioners I can personally vouch for, rather than suggesting to just "see a PT about that."
Rather than suggesting a particular set of initials to look next to a practitioner's name, I have compiled a list of questions to consider as you do your own research and begin reaching out to practitioners. Please note that this is very much informed by my own experiences as a student of movement, a rehab and bodywork professional, and as a movement professional!
Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Movement Professional 1. What are their credentials, and where did they receive training? I think it is important to acknowledge that there are many highly knowledgable movement coaches and teachers who acquired their training outside of degree-granting programs and certifying bodies. As someone who trained in a folk art (circus) for many years, I had several coaches who fall under this category, but truly had a stronger grasp of technique and biomechanics than many certified™ coaches I have encountered. A credential can also tell you very little about someone's experience -- for example, a 200-hour yoga teacher training may have been completed on a cruise vacation (yep, this is a thing!)...or within a more in-depth and long-term educational program. If someone carries a particular degree or certification, is it relevant to the work you wish to do with them? Is it a certification that requires hands-on hours, an internship, or passing a practical exam?
2. Are they able to help you with your specific movement goals? This may seem a bit obvious, but I very often see goal-oriented clients who are not optimally matched to their coach's areas of specialization, which can create frustration for everyone! If your goal is to master your barbell snatch, seek out someone experienced in working with Olympic lifters or Crossfitters! Many trainers spend little (if any) time focusing on certain skills that their general client population is unlikely to perform, or they may have a niche specialty (which may or may not be related to your own goals). If they claim to be able to help absolutely anyone with anything, I would feel a bit apprehensive about working with them.
3. Do they offer sessions in a format or setting that works for you? Do they have availability during times that work for your schedule? Will you be working one-on-one in person..and, if so, would that be in a location comfortable and accessible to you? If they do online coaching, are you working with them in real-time, or are they reviewing videos you send them for feedback? Be sure to take your schedule, learning style, and general preferences into account -- these things can make a big difference when it comes to fitting a movement practice into your lifestyle.
4. Would you feel safe and comfortable working with them? Working through a program and getting into your body can be very vulnerable, and it is normal to run into challenges that bring up some deeply entrenched fears and insecurities. Some coaches opt for a "tough love" approach to facing these challenges, while others may have the skill and capacity to offer more support (or simply hold space) when they arise. Some practitioners distinguish themselves as trauma-informed, queer and trans-affirming, health at every size, etc. -- are these practices important to you?
5. What does your gut say? As someone who unfortunately had a few too many encounters with creepy and inappropriate coaches in my circus training life, it would be remiss not to bring this up! Are you getting a weird vibe from someone you're considering working with? Might they be attempting to manipulate you with aggressive sales tactics? Are they highlighting your weak links to make you feel dependent on their services, or discouraging you from working with other professionals? Working under a coach can create a power differential that necessitates appropriate boundaries and ethical conduct. When this power differential is abused, you may notice the telltale signs of an abusive relationship arise -- it is an abusive relationship. Getting into these situations can sometimes be avoided by listening to your gut and getting out when something doesn't quite feel right. And if you do find yourself in a bad situation, please don't beat yourself up -- if you feel safe to do so, please report them. Many "expert" coaches have repeatedly gotten away with terrible behavior because their victims thought they were the only one on the receiving end of the abuse.
Whew, that got a little darker than I initially intended it to, but if this post helps just one person feel more empowered to choose the right practitioner for them, my work here is done! I hope you find this helpful, and wish you the best of luck on your personal movement journey!