When I first started personal training, I was focused solely on providing the best workout experience for my clients. I took pride in how much time I spent on program design, studying different training techniques and challenging my clients with each workout. When their training sessions ended, clients stepped back into the “real world” to navigate the rest of their fitness journey on their own. I loved seeing my clients make physical progress, but inevitably, they hit roadblocks and plateaus that even the best workouts couldn’t help them overcome.
I quickly learned I would need to offer more than great workouts to help my clients succeed. I wanted to feel confident in helping them establish best practices for a healthy lifestyle and educating them on healthy eating and physical fitness strategies outside the gym. After my first year of personal training, I added health coaching to my services and began consulting with clients on ways to maximize their results outside their workouts. I saw drastic improvements in how my clients responded physically and mentally to their training programs.
Adding health coaching to your training services could be the missing link between providing great workouts and helping your clients create a lifestyle that promotes health and wellness for long-term success beyond the gym.
Difference between Health Coaching and Wellness Coaching
Health and wellness coaching takes your role as personal trainer a step beyond general motivation and goal-setting; however, the terms can be confusing, as they’re sometimes used interchangeably – Health Coach, Health and Wellness Coach, Wellness Coach. Below is a brief description of these terms from the National Foundation of Professional Trainers (Nitschke, 2018).
Wellness coach – Someone who helps his or her clients develop strategies for improving all areas of personal wellness. This involves coaching clients through strategies to improve their physical, mental, emotional, energetic, social, environmental and occupational wellness. Wellness coaching is dependent on how the client defines his or her wellness.
If your client defines his wellness based on his biometric screening and current prescriptions, your coaching will include strategies to eat healthier, get more exercise and improve his numbers, with an ultimate goal of getting off or reducing his medications. If your client defines her wellness by her stress levels, your coaching will help her manage her stress by establishing self-care routines and rituals to include healthy eating and physical activity.
Health Coach – Someone who helps his or her clients change unhealthy behaviors, increase physical activity and make healthier lifestyle choices to improve overall wellbeing. Health coaching is slightly more straightforward than wellness coaching. Personal trainers often use this term because the coaching aligns with the topics covered in most personal training certification materials.
As a health coach, you can break up those 3 areas – behaviors, physical activity and lifestyle – and coach clients gradually through each area. For example, working on healthy habits to lay the foundation for their training program – eating less sugar, getting to bed earlier, reducing screen time before bed, eating more fruits and vegetables, etc. Next, adding in additional training days outside their workouts with you. If you train in a gym, you can suggest your clients train twice a week with you and take a group fitness class another day. Then, address any lifestyle habits such as setting boundaries, making time for self-care and surrounding themselves with positive influences.
Other Coaching Topics
Clients who find it easier to stick with exercise than healthy eating, or consistency with healthy habits, benefit from the accountability and knowledge of a health coach.
Addressing the topics below helps clients make sense of the misinformation on the internet and social media. Knowledge of these topics adds value to your services and positions you as a credible resource throughout their entire fitness journey. Your clients may not remember the exact exercises from their training sessions, but they will recall the tools and techniques you coached them to work through each day. These tools may include (Martin, 2017):
- Environmental factors that affect their health and wellness
- How to communicate with healthcare professionals to be their own best health advocate
- Breaking down basic diet myths to help clients make informed nutrition decisions
- Food journaling and goal setting for short and long-term success
- How to eat healthier, portion control, add variety to their meals and try new healthy recipes
- Intuitive eating versus dieting for long-term success
- Setting healthy boundaries with work and family commitments, getting enough sleep at night
- How to build activity into their day outside the gym
- Daily best practices for having more energy, stress management and establishing a self-care routine
Conduct health coaching consultations separate from your personal training sessions. Keeping them separate creates an additional revenue stream for your business and ensures your clients get your full attention in both sessions.
Ways to Deliver Health Coaching
Aside from one-on-one health coaching, you can offer small or large group coaching retreats, free resources on your website, printable handouts, workshops and seminars on a variety of topics. Coaching sessions can also be delivered online with using video interaction.
Three of the most popular health and wellness coaching certifications that don’t require previous studies or a professional medical background include:
- American Council on Exercise
- Dr. Sears Wellness Institute
- AFPA Health and Wellness Coach certification
These certifications were created for healthcare providers and fitness professionals who want to expand career opportunities, add value to their existing services and who are looking for opportunities to integrate additional health strategies into the lives of their clients and patients (Collora, 2018). These independent study courses allow you to work at your own pace and start adding more value to your clients immediately.
As with any certification, coaching within your scope of practice is an ethical requirement that keeps your clients and your business or employer safe. As a certified health coach, you are not authorized to write prescriptive diets, recommend medications, treatment or diagnosis for disease or offer a second opinion on the diagnose or treatment of disease by a medical professional.
As a fitness professional, you know your clients’ success is based largely on how they spend the 23 hours of the day when they’re not working with you. Each time they end a training session, they have the opportunity to unravel all the hard work they’ve done with poor eating, sleep and overall lifestyle habits. Having more wellness knowledge and tools for daily best practices is essential to your clients’ long-term results and is integral to them making a smooth transition from their time with you back into the “real world.”
Collora, C. (2018). 5 most popular health coaching certifications. Retrieved from http://www.exercise-science-guide.com/blog/5-most-popular-health-coaching-certifications/
Martin, M. (2017). Why more personal trainers are becoming health coaches. Retrieved from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/professional/expert-articles/6352/why-more-personal-trainers-are-becoming-health-coaches
Nitschke, E. (2018). What’s the difference between a wellness coach, health coach and personal trainer? Retrieved from https://www.nfpt.com/blog/whats-difference-wellness-coach-health-coach-personal-trainer
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