The Mom Test
The Mom Test is pretty simple. Would I send my mom to your gym?
Sure, she’s 70-something, but having been a thinker and doer her entire life, she’s free of a great deal of age related buggity-boo. Most joints in decent working order, mind like a laser and a vice combined… a Vaser, aimed and ready for anything. Plus this big ol’ puppy dog heart that, actually prefers puppy dogs to people. This witty animal rescuing fire cracker of a woman would be an honor for any trainer to have as a client, and that’s not just me whistling Dixie (which I can’t do… never did have the tongue for it). But there is one caveat.
Her son is a bit of a snob. A snob about her health. Wouldn’t you be if she birthed you and raised you? She is a card carrying members of the 85%. Although quite active and in a higher level of health than her peers, she probably hasn’t seen the inside of a gym for some time, which, as you might expect me to say (snob, remember?), might not be a bad thing. Her gym is her several acres of land that she roams with her dogs. Maybe that makes her a fringe member of the 85%, but she let’s just say she hasn’t been successfully targeted by the Fitness Industrial Complex.
So this snobby son of hers wouldn’t let just any trainer (‘coach,’ whatever) take her into their web. There isn’t a brand name that instantly passes the mom test. In fact I’d steer her clear of all of them. There isn’t a trend that passes the mom test. Heck, she’d even find that insulting. The industry as a whole fails the mom test horribly, which is a big reason why she hasn’t chosen to be part of it.
Sometimes, it ain’t snobbery. Heck, you as a coach might not want her. You might specialize in something in particular and she just might get in the way. Cool. Thanks for knowing and acknowledging the path of your passion. My mom would make a shitty powerlifter or acro-yoga student, and you don’t have to sugar coat it. Should she deadlift? Yes. Should she aim for her 1 RM or worry about breaking parallel on her box squat? Or balance on someone else’s feet?
Or work on her third pull (or even know what a third pull is)? Or learn a kong vault?
No. But I still know many weightlifting, parkour, acro and powerlifting coaches I’d trust my mother with. It doesn’t matter what they teach, even if they specialize. It’s bigger than that. Sure, they’d probably be bold enough to say ‘hey… this might not be the best idea,’ but even if they didn’t, I know these coaches well, and I know she’d be in good, empathetic and highly skilled hands.
So it isn’t what you teach, it is how, and more importantly, why. The coaches I know in the above scenarios all have strong personal philosophies that speak of integrity, holistic wellness and play. Their passion has a Do No Harm clause built into their mission. The three ingredients of transformation, intensity, consistency and purpose, are defined and celebrated properly, and these coaches can express the process to anyone, including my spunky, if not explosive, mother. They might not want to, but I’d trust them to if they did.
My radar has a few years of fine tuning in its wiring and programming. The question routinely pops up in my inbox if I can recommend a gym, usually somewhere far away. Sure, my network is vast, but in all my travels and gatherings and hugs, there aren’t many folks I feel would pass my mom test. And that’s it. That’s the only test I care about. I wouldn’t recommend a gym to anyone unless that gym passes the mom test. Because the Why beats the What, and that’s across the board. If you can’t treat my mom well within a training program, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. That’s what my radar is honed on… a rare blend of passion, competence, integrity and empathy.
It’s full disclosure time here. I myself wouldn’t have made my current standards of the mom test many years ago. These aren’t traits taught in school or certification classes, which is why, as mentioned before, earning the title ‘coach’ ain’t a title to be handed out so liberally.
But you’re out there. I’ve battled gravity with you, broke bread with you, laughed and cried with you. I’ve read your words, heard your voice, watched you move and felt your heart. I’m thankful for the growing network that I’ve accrued through my journeys. What a Tribe!
So… who wants to train my mom?