Coaching in the Cloud

In our constantly evolving world of technology, we have many options of tools to use to help us achieve our health goals. Pedometers have given way to more sophisticated sensors that we can wear that will monitor our number of steps, distance traveled, our total energy expenditure and sleep. This is useful information indeed yet it has been shown that most people discard these devices after a short period of time.  What’s missing is human interaction.  

A new sophisticated system of support involves a subscription the gives the client contact with a “real” coach. It is claimed that a trained coach will be assigned to each subscriber and have live contact with them to encourage, challenge and “gently cajole” them towards improved lifestyle habits.  Now we’re getting closer to “coaching in the cloud”. This is no doubt an improvement on the original tracking devices.  And the regular messages and interaction with a person, plus one liners of support may well help. However, something is still lacking.

One of the biggest strengths of a coaching relationship, is just that – it is a relationship. And a relationship can’t be built on one line interaction.  It involves an exchange of information which can only happen when insightful and perceptive questions are asked and the answers acknowledged. When the conversation helps an individual get to know themselves better.  Motivational interviewing techniques, used to help people move through “stuckness” are subtle and complex and can’t be automated. Relationships are built on trust, empathy and rapport. These things cannot be created through a digital service in Mumbai.  

That doesn't mean that services such as the one referred to above do not have value. The value will come from increased engagement and accountability of the client and the occasional lift in mood when a message comes through,  but some things in our world cannot be found in the cloud. Positive relationships are created through time, effort, acceptance and understanding and just like a good marriage cannot be created from a few sessions of speed dating, the value of  a coach is undermined if we feel a few  digital sentences will suffice.

In the Defence of Mindlesness


We are all advocating “mindfulness” as a desirable practice that can help improve our lives in many different ways. With our world being so full of things that can distract us, it can become difficult to focus on the task at hand, or even the person at hand, and we lose the joy and benefit of being closely connected to the moment.

However, I would like to say a few words in defence of, at times, being “mindless”! By that I am not referring to “thoughtlessness” which has another connotation, but to that state of being when our brains are disengaged and we are not intensely focused – well, really on anything! Why would this possibly be something we would set out to achieve and what am I really referring to?

I bring attention to the notion of letting our minds wander. Think about lying in bed chasing the sometimes elusive state of sleep. When we finally let go of the anxiety of having to fall into a deep slumber to get through the day’s next commitments, we will often go into a dream-like state when our thoughts flit from one scene to the other, before we actually nod off. I quite enjoy this  feeling of ”letting go”. And when I head out for a training session, on the bike or by foot, there are times when letting my mind wander to a place other than the hard, unforgiving tarmac or pavement has real benefits. In fact I will often head out to train and come back with some great ideas for my business. I find that my creative brain comes alive when my physical body is doing what it does automatically. And lo and behold, the session is over without too much agony or negative mind talk.  

Mindlessness can be a desirable state when we want to recharge our mental batteries, switch from thinking about one thing that may be causing us stress and for coming up with some left of centre ideas. Personally, I am all in favour of the occasional bout of mindlessness. 

When Did Eating Get So Hard?


I had the pleasure of speaking at the recent FILEX Conference in Melbourne and was delighted to find a growing interest in the area of the science and psychology of behaviour change - so much so that the rather late session of 5.30pm was well populated by people who were attentive, interested and asked probing questions. It is gratifying to witness the change over the years in the focus of health and fitness professionals to the more subtleties of human nature and to accept that it is not simply a case of telling (or or ordering) them what to do!

However, I was curious and a little concerned at the level of interest – no the seeming obsession at times – with various eating regimes. It would appear that there is mixed information out there on the pros and cons of what at times seem like restrictive and quite extreme ideas on what provides good nutrition. I am not sure when things changed from getting a good balance of nutrients from a variety of sources and balancing energy expenditure with energy intake to create a healthy weight. I would go so far as to say I notice a growing fanaticism around different methods of cleansing, restoring gut health, preventing any and every disease and presumably somewhere in the piece, fat loss for those who need it. I was relieved to hear one prominent dietician ask whether the poser of a certain question would not rather obtain all nutrients from a balanced eating plan without the need to fast, purge or deprive themselves of selective foods.  

There is no doubt that various people have requirements that would be best served by a selective choice of foods and omission of others. However, if we combine what my topic was all about with nutritional guidelines, surely we are trying to help people make food, exercise and healthy living automatic behaviours that require no special thought, organisation or extensive re-organisation to stick to. Do we have to make it that hard?