Episode 99: Covid stories: Opportunity in helping others – with Jeff Seckendorf of Coach Me Strong

During the Covid pandemic, Jeff Seckendorf has focused on making a positive impact on those that need it most. He explains how he spotted an opportunity to create the community Parkinson’s sufferers so badly needed during the pandemic.

Today’s guest

Jeff Seckendorf of Coach Me Strong

LinkedIn: Jeff Seckendorf

Website: Jeff Seckendorf

Jeff Seckendorf has always had an amazing passion for education and training, and at every stage of his career, he’s been driven by an element of training. 

In the film industry, he developed a mentoring program for emerging film directors; in scuba, he created the industry’s first online education and coaching program, and most recently with Coach Me Strong, he’s created an exercise coaching program for people with Parkinson’s disease, other neurological challenges, or those who are just getting a bit older.

Jeff’s career began as a stills photographer for UPI and various publications, then he moved on to the film industry where he photographed and directed over a thousand TV commercials, dozens of movies and music videos, and a gazillion other projects.

After that, he pivoted and created UTD Scuba Diving, a global scuba certification and training agency, and most recently co-founded Coach Me Strong.

Jeff has a very fun life.  He races bicycles at a national level, is a former triathlete, flight instructor, competition aerobatic pilot, and big mountain trekker.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  • [1:33]  The benefits of working as a freelancer instead of as an employee.
  • [2:53] How Jeff got into the film industry and why he decided to leave the industry.
  • [5:48] How Jeff got involved in the scuba diving world.
  • [7:21] What Jeff misses about working in the film industry.
  • [8:06] Spotting common threads in your career – how Jeff became interested in coaching and mentoring.
  • [11:27] The difference Jeff’s scuba coaching has to a normal PADI qualification.
  • [14:21] How Jeff got involved with the Parkinson’s community.
  • [18:50] How Jeff spotted the opportunity to help Parkinson’s patients follow a rigorous exercise routine during lockdown.
  • [21:21] The type of coaching Jeff provides for clients with neurological disorders.
  • [28:17] Jeff’s desire to carry on Coach Me Strong after the pandemic passes and the need for structure in training programs.
  • [34:24] How coaches can help you achieve more in life.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase.  This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.

To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.

Episode 99: Covid stories: Opportunity in helping others - with Jeff Seckendorf of Coach Me Strong

Jeremy Cline 0:00
The past 18 months or so, with the coronavirus pandemic, has been generally pretty horrendous. But it has also been a time for opportunity. And I don't mean the sort of negative opportunity where you take advantage of other people's misfortune. I mean, the sort of opportunity where genuinely you can help someone as a result of this situation. That's exactly what my guest this week has done. And that's what we talk about in this episode. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.

Jeremy Cline 0:42
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. This interview is part of a series all about the changes that people have made in their careers as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic. And this interview is all about fulfilling some of the needs which have arisen as a result of this, frankly, terrible situation. Jeff Seckendorf is a scuba instructor, and he's also more recently a co-founder of Coach Me Strong, an organisation which provides exercise coaching programmes for people with Parkinson's who, given the current circumstances, have been unable to go to the gym to exercise. Jeff, welcome to the show.

Jeff Seckendorf 1:18
Hey, Jeremy, great to be here. Thank you.

Jeremy Cline 1:20
So, before we get into Coach Me Strong, I'd like to dig a bit more into your background first. And I get that you've actually pretty much always been a freelancer. So, you've never been an employee. Is that deliberate? And why is that the case?

Jeff Seckendorf 1:33
I've had a couple of bouts with employment. And generally, they don't end well for me. I don't think I'm a great employee. I don't know if it's because I don't suffer fools well, or if I'm just too much of a control freak or what it is. But I tend to do better when there's no bureaucracy, when I'm on my own, when I can, you know, have one partner or no partners. And there's that, and I seem to have the mettle to survive the ups and downs of gig working, of freelance working. You know, I've gone through periods, especially when I was younger, of like lots of money, no money, lots of money, no money. And I think it just takes a certain psyche to be able to manage that, while you're managing relationships and mortgages, and all the other stuff that comes with it. So, somehow I've got that gene to be able to do that. I know lots of people don't. You know, lots of people like a job. My wife has had a job for a long time, loves it, loves her work, goes to work, gets a pay check, and doesn't really have that entrepreneur mettle that allows you to actually do this, because otherwise you just shrivel up and go back to work.

Jeremy Cline 2:37
When we spoke earlier, you talked how a lot of people spend years trying to get into the film industry and then years trying to get out of the film industry. And I'm intrigued, I know you were in the film industry. So, what was your routine? And what made you want to get out?

Jeff Seckendorf 2:53
You know, I, I sort of stumbled into the film industry. I was a child photographer, right? My uncle gave me a Brownie Hawkeye when I was like six. And then, my dad and I built a darkroom in our house when I was like eight. And you know, I was processing my old 127 film and making contact prints and really explored photography as a very young guy. And at 17, I got a job on a newspaper. And then, that transitioned into a job at a TV station, and then, where I learned to take my photography skills and apply them to motion skills. And when I burned out on that job, which didn't take very long, somebody had asked me if I could shoot a TV commercial for them on motion picture film. And I just said yes, I had no idea how to do it. I just said yes. And I started to research it. And I found a camera assistant who took care of the whole camera thing. And I found lighting technicians who took care of that piece. And slowly, I just built up this business as a commercial cinematographer and later as a director-cameraman, and I ended up doing like 1000 TV commercials. And when that kind of ran its course after, I don't know, 15 years, I had an opportunity to shoot a small movie, that was super fun, didn't make any money, but had a blast and moved on into that world. And you know, I love the film industry when you're making movies. But in my world, I was a part-time filmmaker and a full-time looking for work guy. And that self-marketing, always searching for a job, never wondering, never knowing where the next gig is, that made me a little bit crazy. So, I had a producing partner who once told me that I spent 10 years trying to get into the film business and 20 years trying to get out. And I think that's it. I mean, it's a big romanticised industry and all of that, but the work is awesome, and finding the work for me was hard. That's not everybody's story, but it was my story. So, I was looking for a way out for a long time. And one of the things I came to along the way, was that I started a mentoring programme for emerging directors. This is while I was making movies and commercials. And a guy had come to me and said, 'I think I'm going to go to film school and it's going to be $8,000, and I'll learn to make a movie', and I've been teaching for years in workshop programme. And I was like, 'Well, why don't you give me the $8,000, and I'll show you how to make a movie?' And that actually turned into a very, very powerful business that I ran for almost a decade, called One-on-One Film Training. And we would take in emerging directors and give them really full guidance from script to shooting, on how to take their script and their story and tell it visually. And it was an awesome programme. It was an awesome programme, had really successful experience with it, directors went on to really cool things. And I did that for a long time, and I loved it. So, that was kind of the start of my learning how to really apply what I know about filmmaking and what I knew about teaching, particularly teaching adults into a coaching type or mentoring type programme.

Jeremy Cline 5:43
Where did scuba come into it?

Jeff Seckendorf 5:45
Yeah, scuba. That's a good story, at least to me. I was, you know, in that whole time of trying to get out, and trying to get out, and trying to find another something to do, and I had taken a couple of very advanced technical scuba diving classes with a guy. And you know, he had always talked about starting a training system for scuba diving. And we actually built, prior to that, we got together a few people, and we built something called Scubatics, this extreme sport called Scubatics, where it's in a pool, you have dive equipment on, you have a scooter, which is a diver propulsion vehicle which pulls you through the water really fast. Another part of my old life is I was a competition aerobatic pilot. So, you know, I trained and taught flying for a long time and I taught aerobatics. So, we've created this whole sport called Scubatics, where you would go in the pool, and it was loops and roll. And we had judges and we had a rulebook, and we had a video and a website and the whole thing. And it was super cool, you know, and we still actually have that in existence, you know, almost 20 years later, but Scubatics gave me an opportunity to work with this guy, and then when he said he wanted to start a training agency, I was like, well, I'll help because I know a lot about training, coaching, mentoring. He had the more advanced scuba thing, I was already a scuba instructor and technical diver. Anyway, we came together, well over 13 years ago, and we started Unified Team Diving, which is now UTD Scuba Diving, I've been involved in that ever since. And that was my life for 12 years. So, that's how I got out of the film business, I became the co-owner of a global scuba certification and training agency, about as far away from filmmaking as you could possibly get.

Jeremy Cline 7:17
Do you miss anything about the film industry? Or about working in the film industry?

Jeff Seckendorf 7:20
Yeah, in some ways. You know, I don't live a life of regret, because it's too much fun not, but you know, the camaraderie of set is really fun, the success, you know, seeing your work on the screen, all that's awesome. I don't miss a bit about the business end of it. And I've been able to keep a hand in it doing documentaries and small stuff, and really fun personal projects that I could do on my own, completely run by myself. So, I still keep a touch on it. And that part of me, that artistic part of me of storytelling visually will never go away.

Jeremy Cline 7:50
You mentioned coaching and mentoring a couple of times, and looking at things like your website and your background, that's always been a pretty constant thread. Where does that come from? Where's this interest in coaching and mentoring? Where do you think that came from?

Jeff Seckendorf 8:06
You know, that started back when I was making movies. And I took a one-week class at a place called the Maine Film and TV Workshops, I think it's now called the Maine Media Workshops. And I took that course, and then I went back the next year and I assisted on the course. And that started a 24-year run of teaching filmmaking courses in this workshop programme, this very kind of world-renowned filmmaking workshop programme. So, you know, I was teaching, teaching, teaching in the film industry, and that's kind of where one-on-one film training came from, right? I just took that and I put it in the individual system. And then, so we put that in one little compartment, and the other compartment is, I'm a bike racer on a Masters bike racer on the track, I ride on the velodrome, I race at the national level. And I've been coached for years and years and years. And I know that I do 100 times better on a bike when I'm coached, than when I'm trying to do it myself. You know, so every week, I get workouts, every morning, I wake up, I look at what my workout is, you know, when we're done here today, I'm going to go to the track, and I'm actually doing some aerodynamic testing on my bike today. So, everything about what I do on the bike is guided by coaching. So, I understand the value of that. Coaching, mentoring, the thing I did with one-on-one film training, I really got clearly the value of that. In scuba, it's interesting because scuba has always had this model of transactional courses, where you know, Jeremy, if you want to learn to dive, you go to your local dive shop, you sign up for a course, it's two weekends, you do a little home learning or read a book. And they don't really teach you to scuba dive, they mostly teach you to use the scuba diving equipment, and then they give you a card and send you off, and you're certified and go have some fun. What I looked at in scuba, which was easy, because I own the company, is to say, what if we took the coaching model and applied it to scuba diving? So, what if we took the people who didn't need to get certified in two weeks, who were just interested in scuba as a lifestyle, as an experience, as something broader than just getting a card and checking that box, and I installed a coaching programme in UTD Scuba Diving, in Unified Team Diving. So, we took the instructors and we said, 'Okay, you can be a coach', we took the students, we said, 'Okay, you can be a client', we set it up on a monthly programme, we opened up software that allowed for calendar and communications. And it's been an unbelievably successful programme. Not all of our instructors are rising to it, right, because it's a big shift. No one's ever done this in scuba. But it gave me the ability from the ground up to start this kind of wide, broad-based coaching programme and understand how to integrate a transactional course into coaching. So, that was a really interesting model. And that's still running today. So, if you want to learn to dive, or if you want to advance your diving, and include in it the lifestyle parts of scuba diving, fitness, nutrition, the environment, oceanography, all this other scientific... all this other stuff, we can build a coaching programme for you. You have a coach, you get weekly workouts, we call them workouts, but they're basically assignments, you know, it might be service your gear, read this book, do this other thing, whatever it happens to be, and people are spending six months learning to dive, or a year learning to advance their scuba diving. It was an incredible programme and tough to get off the ground. Because new things and old industries are hard to push that elephant uphill, but we're doing it and it's cool.

Jeremy Cline 11:16
And so, what's the selling point for the clients? Is this way that beyond just getting the paddy licence or whatever it is, they can kind of really dig into their hobby, I guess.

Jeff Seckendorf 11:27
When I look at my history with cycling, and the difference coaching makes to me in riding a bike or racing a bike, because I know a lot of people just get on their bike and ride fast and race, and do okay, I don't have that inherent natural talent. You know, I'm not world-class physically. I have to do it through hard work and consistency. When we took that and we said, okay, let's put in some hard work and consistency in scuba, but let's give you more than just how to use the diving equipment. Let's really give you a lifestyle of scuba diving. And it's not for everybody, for sure. But for those who are interested, for those who see the value in going slowly, for those who want an in-depth version of a short-term experience, it becomes a really powerful programme, because you come out of that programme, and you are truly a scuba diver. You really get it all, right? You know how to eat, you know how to stay hydrated, you know how the environment works, how body temperature works, how all that stuff works. That's all just glossed over in a two-weekend class. So, the depth and the team building part of it, where the instructors, the coaches have their group of clients, and those guys work as a team, and people roll in and out, it was just a really good thing. And still is. Does that make sense?

Jeremy Cline 12:40
Yeah, absolutely. Completely. Yeah. No, this is a really interesting approach that I'm sure you could approach to a heck of a lot of pursues, pastimes, hobbies, whatever, it's giving people the opportunity to, and I was going to say, to dive right in, and that sounds a horrible pun, which wasn't intended. But, yeah.

Jeff Seckendorf 12:59
I do think that I could teach anything. I really have this, I understand the process of learning, a lot of it I learned when I was becoming a flight instructor. And teaching is communicating, communicating is making sure you can get the information, not only into the student, but that they can retain it. And retention is based on giving people the ability to learn in a controlled fashion, right? Building block education, where you start with something they understand, which is the theory of common ground, you take something you understand, you build on that, you build on that and you build on that. All the while giving, you know, not using jargon or explaining it first, and giving people the ability to advance their education in a way that allows them to retain that for long, long periods of time. Anything we do in education, I mean, you know, realistically, I could probably teach brain surgery if somebody gives me the content, because really, it's just a matter of starting at the beginning and building, building, building, building. So, building these programmes in scuba diving and filmmaking, it seems very natural to me, because I understand the learning process and how people learn and what makes a good instructor to get that information to stick.

Jeremy Cline 14:05
Let's talk about Coach Me Strong. So, I mentioned this is in particular helping people with Parkinson's. Was this an area that you were already involved with before the pandemic? Is this an area of interest, voluntary work, charitable work that you were already pursuing?

Jeff Seckendorf 14:21
Yeah, it's an area that I stumbled into. My wife is a nurse practitioner, and her whole practice is Parkinson's. So, she sees Parkinson's patients every day, and she's been running these worldwide tracks for various fundraising organisations, and I've been going with her, of course, and we've been taking Parkinson's patients to crazy places. Before I met her, she did summit of Kilimanjaro. Right after I met her, we took a group of 10 people, three with Parkinson's to Mount Everest base camp. Then, we took 30 people, I think 11 with Parkinson's, to Machu Picchu. And then, two years ago, we did Camino Santiago with about 15 people with Parkinson's. And this year, if travel is allowed, we're going to do a Dolomite track, again with about 30 people, about half with Parkinson's. And I've been helping out in various ways, using my filmmaking skills, working with local Parkinson's associations, some national Parkinson's associations. So, through, you know, my wife's practice and the people she knows, and I've got like 100 friends with Parkinson's, so it just became a thing for me to be able to give back to that community, which desperately needs outside help to keep them going. That's just where I've put my non-profit and social energy is into the world of helping people with Parkinson's.

Jeremy Cline 15:37
So, exercise is a very important part of that help, I gather it's a really important part of controlling symptoms and managing, coping, living with the disease. So, when the pandemic hit, and people with Parkinson's were unable to exercise in the way that they had, was this something that you became aware of immediately as something that you wanted to help with? Or was this brought into your conscience by someone else, your wife or other people that you've been interacting with?

Jeff Seckendorf 16:11
Yeah, it was kind of like everything else with me, right? One door closes and 15 windows fly open. It's just how my life has always been. In Parkinson's disease, which is a progressive neurological disease where the dopamine neurons in your brain are killed off, and there's still no absolute definitive science on why it happens, but the symptoms of Parkinson's vary person to person, but tremor, you know, wiggling, freezing of gait, restless leg syndrome is a symptom that comes up as another part of it, lots of these motor symptoms of Parkinson's and cognitive issues, depression, confusion, cognitive inconsistency is things like that. So, it's kind of a nasty disease. There's lots of medication that control symptoms, but there's nothing that's been found yet that actually can slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, except for exercise. Exercise is the one thing that will help a Parkinson's patient live with the disease. The pills will help control symptoms, but nothing has been found yet to slow it except for exercise. So, virtually every movement disorder specialist in the world who has Parkinson's patients prescribes exercise. It's a daily grind. Lots of people come to Parkinson's having never been an athlete, having never exercised and being told to, and it's a big lifestyle problem. Because if you sit on the couch, basically you just shrivel up and things get really bad. So, I was in a board meeting at the local Parkinson's association, because we were working on some other project, and one of the doctors mentioned that, when the pandemic started, gyms were closing, structured programmes for people with Parkinson's were closing, these health centres that had gyms attached were closing, everything was closing. And the patients were sent home to exercise on their own. And it became really difficult for lots and lots of those people. And one of the MDs, one of the doctors at that meeting said that patients were really, really struggling. And you know, I piped up, because I just can't keep my mouth shut. And I said, 'You know, I've got this coaching programme in scuba, I can take that model, use what I know about fitness coaching from decades of being coached as a cyclist, and very quickly create a coaching programme for these patients and give them a coach and help them become more of a structured exerciser', which everybody on that meeting was like, 'Yeah, do it. Great. When can you start? That sounds awesome.'

Jeremy Cline 18:33
What was the problem? Was it that people still had the exercises, but it was the lack of structure, the lack of going to the gym, seeing other people, seeing instructors, having someone tell them what to do? Is that what was kind of meaning that people weren't doing the exercises?

Jeff Seckendorf 18:47
No. No, no, no, it was the fact that, I would say 90% of the people who come to Parkinson's do not come to Parkinson's with an exercise lifestyle. I mean, athletes get Parkinson's, right, Muhammad Ali is the most famous, but people who are not athletes get Parkinson's, people who are not cyclists, runners, swimmers, basketball players, whatever it happens to be. And when you say to them, 'Okay, starting today, with your diagnosis, you must exercise six days a week, or your disease is going to get worse.' Well, what happens in that situation, often is that patient hears it and says, 'Oh, that's never going to happen.' But their spouse or their care partner hears it and says, 'All right, you're going to exercise six days a week if it kills my marriage.' So, the accountability often in Parkinson's for exercise is put on the person who's taking care of or living with the person with Parkinson's. And often that turns into a nagging situations, because the care partner knows that you're going to get better with exercise, and the non-athletic Parkinson's patient says like, 'You know, it's hard, I don't want to do it.' And it's lifestyle. You know, it's lifestyle. If you're an athlete, it's awesome. That's what we do. We train. If you have spent your life sitting on a couch, reading a book, having a great life, playing with your grandkids and someone says, 'Okay, starting today, no matter what, you're going to go out and train for an hour and a half a day.' It's tough, whether or not you know it makes you better, it's just tough. So, we had a need that came out in that meeting for basically a system of accountability for exercise for these people with Parkinson's. And that's really where Coach Me Strong came from.

Jeremy Cline 20:17
Is this system of accountability something that was required even before the pandemic?

Jeff Seckendorf 20:21
Yeah, but it was easier, because there was community. When particularly the health centres, there's a really interesting boxing programme for Parkinson's, there's dance programmes, there's, you know, like the old aerobics programmes, there's Zumba, there's a million things that we're all class based. And in community, it's super easy, because you get to go see your friends and have your camaraderie and work together. And then, all of a sudden, one day, like on a Tuesday, the world said, 'Okay, there's no more community and exercise. You got to go home and do it on your own.' And, you know, all through the pandemic, Parkinson's patients have been advised not to go out, not to push it, not to stretch the limits of getting COVID, because, you know, Parkinson's is a comorbidity, so it becomes that much more dangerous. So, yeah, as soon as people had to go home and exercise, they stopped. And we were like, 'Well, let's figure out a solution for that.'

Jeremy Cline 21:10
And so, the solution is your coaching programme. So, how does that replace the sort of the community aspects there? What is the setup that kind of fills that in insofar as you can?

Jeff Seckendorf 21:21
Yeah, so people come in into Coach Me Strong as a client, and we serve three different constituencies. We serve Parkinson's patients, since that's kind of our core. And then, we serve another constituency of other neurological issues. So, MS, Alzheimer's, stroke, traumatic brain injury, we have one coach who had a traumatic brain injury, so she takes those clients. And then, we serve a third constituency of people who are just getting a little bit older and want help exercising. And you know, we're trying to come up with a name for that, right, because there's baby boomers, and there was the silent generation, and it's all very stereotypically annoying to me. So, I came up with this idea of calling that group Gen OW, for Generation Older Wiser. And pretty much anybody can fit into that. We don't really care. But I would say anybody who's looking at post college could call themselves Gen OW, older, wiser. So, no more baby boomers, no more silent generation. Now, we're Gen OWs. So, that's the third constituency we serve. And we actually have people coming in who just hear about the programme and are not, you know, neurologically compromised, don't have a stroke or traumatic brain injury, but just want an exercise coach, and can't find somebody who will meet somebody's needs, who doesn't want to be a world class athlete, they just want to be a better fit person. So, Coach Me Strong fills that gap of community by providing basically a teammate for your exercise, who is the coach. So, the clients have a very tight relationship with their coach. We have it set up that they are supposed to communicate every single day with their coach. We have a little piece of software, it's a calendar and it's communications app, it's on a phone or computer. We deliver the workouts every day. So, it just shows up on your phone. Here's your thing today, you're going to do, you know, a walk, a stretch, some yoga, Pilates and some weightlifting. So, you get a little four things to do, it takes an hour. And at the end of it, you send your coach a note, it went well, I struggled, I did okay, I could have done better, I need more, it was too hard, too easy. And then, each week, the coach puts up the following week's training plan and uses that communication to adjust the plan every week. So, the client is talking to the coach and the coach is responding to the client, they're talking on the phone or texting or whatever they need to do. And this programme is always in development for each client personally, because especially in Parkinson's, everybody's different. You know, if one of your problems is balance, you get a lot of core exercises. If you're falling, you get a lot of upper body exercises, so you're less likely to get injured grabbing on to something. If you're freezing, you can't walk, we give you lots of lower body exercises to try to strengthen that piece and reconnect it to your brain. So, it's very individualised. And that's really what's happening now, is that the clients are using the coach for accountability. We're trying to put that accountability of the care partner and onto the coach, which opens up that nagging space inside of the relationship. So, that's been another side effect of this that we didn't expect, but it's been really powerful that, you know, the care partner no longer has to say, you know, 'Did you exercise? Did you exercise? Did you exercise?' They have to say now, 'Did you talk to your coach about did you exercise?' And the coach takes on that nagging role. And then, the other thing is the coaches are starting groups within their own client base. One of our coaches just put a book club together, which I thought was really interesting. You know, it's the stuff on health and neurological diseases, the first book they read. I run a weekly bike ride, a virtual bike ride on Zoom. So, every day, Friday, 10:30, 10 o'clock in the morning, we get a group of the Coach Me Strong clients come on, and I take them through a structured bike ride, right? So, now they're learning not only to spin on their little recumbent in home, but they're learning how to do structured training at home. And that's forming a community, you know, a group, a team. So, we're building back in this community through, you know, the magic of how you and I are talking on, you know, be it Zoom or whatever web conference. And it's been a really, really strong and powerful area for these people whose communities went away at the pandemic. You know, now vaccines are coming on, people are starting to get out again, that's a good thing. The coaching programme is going to continue, because now we're just going to say, 'Okay, do your workout in the gym, but here's what your workout is, don't go do it randomly.'

Jeremy Cline 25:31
So, what are the results that you're seeing as a result of the coaching programme?

Jeff Seckendorf 25:34
The results are amazing. I mean, seriously, the results are amazing. And they're amazing in two different groups. They're amazing in people who were athletes, and just needed a little kick and a little guidance to keep them going. And it's also amazing in the group of people who never exercised regularly, who now are committed to satisfying their coach that they're doing the workouts. Our calendar thing, it's full of red until you do the workout, when you mark it off, it turns green. Some people are motivated by seeing their whole calendar turn green, which is cool. We're finding another benefit, which we didn't know was going to exist, that a lot of this population is older and a little bit technically challenged. So, people are a little bit afraid of, you know, logging on to a browser every morning or looking at their phone, just because it's not part of their culture, but forcing them to use that very simple technology of looking on a phone or looking on a computer for a workout, watching the video, sending the note back to the coach, we're forcing some cognitive interaction with a computer or a phone. That's also been a really interesting side benefit that we thought was going to be a liability and turned out to be the opposite. It actually engages people more by using the technology that they just can get away with not touching. You know, we have people who the only piece of gear they ever touch is a TV remote. But now, they're having to engage in websites, engage in an app and stuff like that. So, that's been another benefit that's been amazing. So, we're actually building on the cognitive part, as well as just the physical part. So, we're seeing these broad benefits. And there's all these testimonial videos on the website that people can go look at, but balance is better, fitness is better, weight is getting reduced, nutrition is getting better, hydration is getting better, we're forcing people to drink more water, all of the things around turning people into little like, I don't want to sound like this is in any way disrespectful, but sort of micro athletes, right? We're changing people from no sports and no fitness, into a structure of life that athletes have, which is eat well, hydrate well, do your core exercises, get out and do your sport, do whatever you can to maintain, you know, an uninjured body, and progress through consistency. And that's really the key. It's progress through consistency. And that's what we're offering is consistency.

Jeremy Cline 25:36
I think you alluded to this earlier, but is this system going to continue beyond the pandemic? Now, obviously, no one knows what beyond the pandemic looks like, as you mentioned, there's been vaccines rollouts, there may be flare ups of cases at different parts of the year. But assuming that life returns to some sense of normality, is this something which has longevity, which will carry on despite the fact that the purpose for which it's created may no longer be so pressing?

Jeff Seckendorf 28:15
It's a really good question. And I honestly believe that with Coach Me Strong, we filled a need that, you know, there's two reasons to start a company, right? One is, you're passionate about something, and the other is, you find a hole and you fill it. The ones you're passionate about often fail. The ones where you find a need and you fill it often succeed. I really believe that in this situation, we found a need because even with the programmes open, there wasn't structure in the training. So, people would go to Zumba class or they'd go to a Pilates class, but there was no proper development of those exercise programmes that gave people the best opportunity for success and best results. And that's structured training, right? When you go to the gym and you lift weights, right, you don't get stronger lifting the weights, you get stronger in the recovery time. Lifting the weights injures your muscles on a micro level, and recovery builds them back stronger. More mitochondria, more capillaries, more blood, more everything. So, a proper exercise programme has to be structured, it has to be periodized. So, you're doing hard work, followed by rest and recovery, hard work, followed by rest and recovery, with proper aerobic work built into that. And that's the thing that we offer the clients, is this structured training programme that gives them the ability to grow and recover and get fit and recover and get fit and recover. If you do it consistently, fitness goes up really, really fast. So, yes, I think the answer to your question is, I expect this to grow when the pandemic is over, because people can go back to the gym, they can go back into their programmes, and we just programme in whatever people are already doing. If they love Zumba, we programme in their Zumba classes. If they love Pilates, we programme in their Pilates. But if they do a hard Pilates session, the next day they get a hard aerobics session, then they get a rest day or recovery day, then it cycles on like that. So, it's periodized, so people get the best benefit from the exercise, you know, physically, mentally, emotionally, all of it.

Jeremy Cline 30:15
Why do you think this structured approach wasn't there before? Why is it taken the current situation to introduce that?

Jeff Seckendorf 30:23
Well, it's been there in a zillion different places, right? It's been there in sports, particularly endurance sports, for years, right? In normal coaching programmes, it's been there in business.

Jeremy Cline 30:34
But in the context of what you were doing.

Jeff Seckendorf 30:36
Yeah, it's been there in business, right? Everybody now has a business coach. It's been there in life coaching. Business coaching, life coaching, those are structured programmes, right? You're given work to do, and you come back and you do it. In our little niche of neurological diseases where people have to exercise, just nobody has done it. I don't know. You know, I remember being on a film set once and somebody was talking about some particular shot, and that they'd never seen anybody do this, you know, this particular shot, I think it was an aeroplane taking off or something. And the guy said, 'There's only two things that happen with an original idea, either somebody's tried it, and it doesn't work, and it's crap, or it's truly an original idea.' And I think that with Coach Me Strong, applying something that's traditionally been reserved for athletes to people who are not athletes, but need the benefits that athletes get from this kind of training, I don't think anybody just thought of it before. It's a simple system. I mean, we didn't invent anything. We just took a bunch of off the shelf stuff, and a concept, like six concepts that I happen to know from my life as an athlete, filmmaker, trainer, mentor, all that. And we just put them in a paper bag and said, 'Okay, shake it up, here's the programme.' And I think those are the best ideas, right? Because you know, you find a need, and then you find a simple way to fill it. Coach Me Strong is not a hard sell. People come into the programme because they want the structure, they know they'll feel better, they see the benefit of, right now an online community, but that'll expand. And you know, the only thing that makes it a hard sell is it doesn't exist anyplace else. So, we spend a lot of time telling people what the programme is about and what the benefits are. But then, when people get in, you know, some people stay, it's not for everybody, we have people who have been in since the beginning, we have people come in for three weeks, you know, it's too hard, it's too easy, it's whatever. We find our water level on clients, and it's worked well.

Jeremy Cline 32:25
So, having started this business out of meeting a necessity, where will this fit in for you personally, going forward? You've got your scuba business, you've got this business, where do you think your priorities lie as things, if they ever, normalise?

Jeff Seckendorf 32:41
Well, they will normalise. Because that's what the Earth does. So, Jeremy, that's really an interesting question you asked me personally, because all my life I've had experiences in work and in business that have indirectly helped people a lot, right? We developed a scuba system that we believe is safer than anybody else's. I taught aerobatic flying, which makes people into awesome pilots. You know, I made movies, I did entertainment, I did all sorts of stuff, I've always indirectly helped people in some way or the other on Earth. And that's felt really good. Coach Me Strong is different for me, because now, for the first time in my life, I have an opportunity to help people directly. And I see the results in individuals on a daily basis. So, I talk to clients every day, and I see them getting better. And I see them feeling stronger. And I see them, you know, containing and controlling their symptoms of Parkinson's or whatever they're dealing with. And that direct impact on people's lives has been kind of a game-changer for me. So, personally, I want to keep doing this, because I love the concept that I can have a direct impact on people, as opposed to this lifelong indirect impact that I have. So, yeah, Coach Me Strong is going to live for a long time. And my co-founder who has Parkinson's and was a big part of, you know, the impetus to get this off, I think feels the same way.

Jeremy Cline 34:02
And in terms of things that have had an impact on you, are there any particular resources, books, quotes, anything like that which have had that kind of impact and really shaped the direction that you've taken things?

Jeff Seckendorf 34:13
Yeah, you know, when we spoke prior, you told me that question was coming. And, you know, it took me half a second to sort of align that with what I am about, which is being coached. So, not so much a book, not so much a movie, not so much an outside influence like that, but the coaches that I've had in my life, the mentors I've had in filmmaking, and the coaches I've had for cycling have had the biggest effect on me. They've made me the strongest mentally, physically. And, you know, I think the thing that I lacked as a cyclist was the mental fortitude to really go past my level in a race, right? I would always get to the limit and say, 'Okay, that's a pretty good place to be. I can sustain that for whatever time period.' It was always hard for me to go past that limit. And what I've learned from my coaches is that you can go past that limit. And when you're past that limit, you're in a risky time, right? You'll either succeed or fail. I didn't like to go past the limit, because I knew I could get to the end of the race. What I've learned recently is, if I go past my limit, I might get to the end of the race, and I might not, but the risk-reward is higher, right? The risk is you don't finish. The reward is you can win. And so, that's what I've learned from my coaches over the years, particularly the group I'm with now, is that mental fortitude is the most powerful thing and you can train mental fortitude if you know the system, if you have the guides who can help you with it. And from that you can do anything.

Jeremy Cline 35:42
That's great, thank you. If people want to find you, get in touch with you, what's the best place they can do that?

Jeff Seckendorf 35:47
Yep, super easy, coachmestrong.com. And there's contact forms, there's testimonials, there's information about the programme, there's a demo of how the calendar and app and communications thing works. So, coachmestrong.com, and you don't need Parkinson's to get into that programme. You just need a desire to get stronger, feel better and get some structure around your exercise.

Jeremy Cline 36:09
Fantastic. I will put a link to that in the show notes. Jeff, this has been really an inspirational story about what can come out of this awful situation. So, thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Jeff Seckendorf 36:21
Yeah, so grateful to be here. I really appreciate it.

Jeremy Cline 36:24
Okay, hope you enjoyed that interview with Jeff Seckendorf. A slightly different interview this week, as we didn't really focus on Jeff's career changes, but rather I wanted to include his story in my series all about the effects that the coronavirus pandemic has had, just to demonstrate the positive opportunities which can arise. These can arise at a personal level, where the pandemic either causes you to be made redundant, or it causes you to realise that you just don't like your job and you want to change. And so, there's the personal opportunity to make a difference for yourself. Or as in Jeff's case, there's the opportunity to see a difficulty which is affecting other people and putting yourself in a place where you can do something about it. I think it's absolutely fantastic what Jeff's doing for Parkinson's sufferers, and hopefully, he's left you with the bit of inspiration. The show notes with the summary of everything we've talked about, a full transcript and links to everything we've mentioned are at changeworklife.com/99. That's changeworklife.com/99, which means yes, next week is going to be Episode 100. Genuinely, I can't believe how quickly it's come around. I'm so excited that I've got up to Episode 100. Thank you for being my loyal listeners and helping me get there. And it's a really special episode next week. I'm kind of going to leave a little bit of mystery, I'm going to leave it a little bit under wraps, but it's going to be a special episode. So, make sure you subscribe to the show, either take out the device that you're listening to this podcast on and hit subscribe, or if you go to changeworklife.com/subscribe, that's changeworklife.com/subscribe, you'll find there links to most of the popular podcasting platforms, so you'll be able to pick the one that you use and subscribe there. As I say, next week Episode 100 is going to be a special one. So, please, please, do join me in next week's episode. And as always, I can't wait to see you then. Cheers. Bye.

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