November 7, 2023

Trauma-Informed Coaching Philosophy

Cheng Xu is a national level Olympic Weightlifting coach in Canada. He competed at the senior national level for many years and has coached athletes from local to international levels of competition. Cheng is the founder and head coach of Rx Weightlifting Club based in Toronto where he adopts a trauma-informed approach to training and coaching.

As an Olympic Weightlifting coach with a long history of military service, my journey through the Canadian Armed Forces as an infantry officer and paratrooper has instilled in me the importance of finding community and comradery, and the profound healing potentials of finding strength where one least expects. Diagnosed with PTSD, I’ve navigated the complexities of this challenge personally, which has fueled my dedication to not just as a coach, but to nurture and heal through the art of Olympic weightlifting and strength training.

My pursuit of the Trauma Informed Weight Lifting certification hosted by the Center for Trauma and Embodiment is a testament to how a community of practitioners and dedicated individuals can come together and find the strength to transform the training environment into a sanctuary where trauma is not an obstacle or handicap, but a facet of life that informs a more compassionate and tailored coaching approach. Recognizing that every athlete carries their own unseen battles, this training has equipped me with the tools to integrate a trauma-informed lens into my coaching practice—ensuring a space where physical empowerment and emotional safety can flourish in tandem, and where every lift becomes an act of personal triumph over the weights we carry, both seen and unseen.

For my capstone project in the Trauma Informed Weight Lifting certificate program, I crafted a coaching philosophy statement, in consultation and collaboration with the program facilitators, that encapsulates more than just a methodology—it's a promise, a creed rooted in curiosity, empathy, and understanding. This statement stands as the guiding principles for my weightlifting club, serving to invite and reassure both current and prospective members that they are stepping into a space that honors their entire being. Choosing to enshrine my trauma-informed philosophy into a tangible declaration was an intentional act, designed to bridge the gap between the silent echoes of personal battles and the universal language of strength and healing.

It is my hope that this philosophy will not just words on a page, but an active, breathing part of our club's culture. My hope is that this statement will resonate deeply with athletes, providing them with the assurance that their coaches—people who have also had to navigate the turbulent waters of trauma—values their mental and emotional well-being as much as their physical prowess. It’s a vow to foster an environment where the weights lifted are not only the ones found on barbells but also the weight of experiences each individual carry. Through this commitment, I strive to redefine what it means to be strong, creating a legacy of empowerment that transcends the boundaries of our gym.

Trauma-Informed Coaching Philosophy

At Rx Weightlifting Club, we embrace the idea that Olympic weightlifting is not merely a physical endeavor but a transformative journey of self-discovery and resilience. Recognizing the multi-faceted reasons individuals gravitate towards the sport, we’ve woven trauma-informed care into the core of our coaching ethos. Recognizing that Olympic weightlifting can be both a platform for elite athletic performance and a sanctuary for personal growth and wellbeing, our approach is both holistic and individualized.

1. Trauma-Informed Approach

Every athlete step onto the platform with a unique tapestry of experiences. Some may carry the invisible weight of trauma. Having undergone specialized training, it is our objective to discern subtle cues, be it a hesitance to engage in certain exercises due to past injuries or the need for more personalized motivation techniques. We are committed to working with athletes to achieve their goals from within their unique windows of tolerance. For instance, a coach might provide an athlete with alternative exercises that ensure athletes feel safe while still advancing in their training. We abide by the primary principle of “do less harm” through injury prevention and mitigation, trauma-informed and sensitive coaching practices.

2. Dual Pathways to Excellence

At Rx Weightlifting Club, we recognize and celebrate both the athlete who aspires for gold and the athlete who lifts for the golden feeling of wellbeing. While the technicalities of weightlifting are consistent, the goals, motivations, and benefits can vary widely. Whether you’re here to stand on a podium or stand strong in your personal journey, we are dedicated to helping you realize your potential. Diversity in goals is our strength. Some members might aim for the Olympics, while others seek solace from a stressful job. For the former, we can create a regimented training plan, while for latter, our approach would pivot towards using weightlifting as a form of enjoyment, participation, and community building. Both pathways, while different, are celebrated and nurtured.

3. Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Olympic weightlifting knows no boundaries. We affirm the belief that Olympic weightlifting is for everyone, irrespective of race, gender or sexual identity, age, ability, or background. Our community thrives on the diverse experiences and perspectives of its members. By creating an environment of mutual respect and inclusivity, we ensure that everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. Our club flourishes when we blend these unique stories, creating a tapestry of shared experiences and mutual support.

4. Body Positivity & Holistic Health

Every body is a weightlifting body. We foster a culture where self-worth is not defined by numbers on a scale, nor the sizes and shapes in which they present. While we guide athletes to optimal performance through nutrition and conditioning, we avoid harmful narratives around body image. It’s not about how you look; it’s about how you feel and what you want to achieve. We champion the idea that every body has intrinsic worth. For us, performance is not solely limited to the weight being lifted. We believe that progress is non-linear and different for all individuals, and it is our goal to work with you to find your golden zone. It’s the journey, the effort, and the passion that matters most.

5. Performance without Compromise

Our commitment to trauma-informed care, diversity, and body positivity does not come at the expense of athletic performance. Implementing trauma-informed care doesn’t dilute athletic prowess. On the contrary, by addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of training, athletes often unlock hidden potential. For performance-oriented athletes, we leverage the capacity of your unique nervous system responses and adaptions to address the needs of competition. We adopt evidence-based training methodologies to ensure our competitive athletes receive the rigorous training and support they require to excel at the highest levels, while at the same time, elevating their mental and physical well-being for long-term athletic development and participation in sport.

6. Continuous Learning & Adaptability

Weightlifting, as with life, is dynamic. As coaches, we commit to continuous learning and adapting our methods to best serve our athletes. We promise to stay updated, open-minded, and flexible in our approach. Similarly, when an athlete’s feedback informs us of a coaching approach that may feel misattuned, we recalibrate. Continuous evolution ensures our methods remain relevant, sensitive, and effective. In essence, Rx Weightlifting Club offers more than just training; it’s a sanctuary where weights become tools for healing, empowerment, and excellence. Whether your goals are set on international platforms or personal milestones, we stand beside you, ready to lift, learn, and leap forward. Together, let’s lift weights, break barriers, and elevate one another.

You can find Cheng Xu on Instagram at @rxweightliftingclub or @liftingproblems


Trauma Informed Weight Lifting
Denver | Boston


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