The field of Personal Training is ever-expanding. Once the sole domain of weightlifters and bodybuilders, the industry is experiencing a shift in population demographics, and our client base certainly reflects this change. It is no longer unusual for many of us to find ourselves training a variety of individuals, from teenagers to octogenarians, and from serious athletes to new stay-at-home moms.

Despite this diversity, many of our clients share a common thread. While open to our suggestions within the confines of the gym, there is often reluctance on the part of deconditioned individuals to wholeheartedly embrace lifestyle changes. Many clients are actually afraid of becoming too enmeshed in a dialogue about nutrition, or any other potentially triggering habits with which they may be very comfortable, for fear of being judged by their fit professional.

Similarly, while the majority of personal trainers are quite adept at creating specific resistance-training and cardio programs for a variety of their clients’ needs, there is often a gaping hole which is left unfilled in the overall package of wellness which we ought to be providing.

Health Coaching has recently emerged as this critical missing link, the stepping stone completing the path upon which many clients need a road map. The term “integrative” is often used to best describe the role health coaching can play in assisting a client whose goal is overall improved wellness.

While the goal may be clear, so many individuals do not possess a framework within which to implement this process. By helping a client understand roadblocks in his/her current lifestyle that are perhaps holding wellness at bay, a health coach will enable an individual to clarify goals, thereby facilitating the process of options and accountability that can ultimately lead to optimizing health and well-being.

In my role as a health coach, I often take the approach of creating a triad for a client. I draw a triangle, labeling each of the three points as follows:

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Behavior

Once a client embraces this visually, the necessity of integrating these three concepts becomes easier to understand. The triangle cannot optimally exist without each apex playing a supportive role. So it is with having a life that is in balance, with each component depending upon the others to support the individual.

While the notion may be clear, though, the execution of such is a challenging first step for many. Most change is to some extent frightening, and behavioral changes which initially uproot habits and lifestyles can evoke frustration and paralyzing fear in a small subset of clients. Understanding and remaining sensitive to the timing of an individual’s unique stages of behavioral changes are key factors for a health coach to keep in mind. Many clients join fitness centers and hire personal trainers with eagerness, ready to jump right into an active exercise program, and yet lag significantly behind in their willingness to alter meal plans. By taking the time to get to know a client, not as a business opportunity but as a person, a health coach becomes in effect a mentor. Addressing the complete spectrum of wellness – relationships/lifestyle, exercise habits, food preferences, career demands, and spirituality/religious observances – is required in order for coaching to be successful. The goal is always to educate and point people in a direction that can comfortably help them achieve health and happiness in all areas of their lives.

We live in a fast-paced, results-driven society, and everyone seems to want immediate satisfaction. Operating under the false premise that there is a “magic pill” for fixing just about anything, we are seeing a trend whereby $2.3 trillion is spent annually on healthcare, yet only 2% of this staggering sum goes towards illness prevention. In fact, research has indicated that less than 3% of doctor visits are spent discussing nutrition or behavioral changes. Clearly, with our population living longer, it would be prudent to provide ways to optimize those golden years. Since the preventative maintenance role does not always suit the average physician, health coaching can step up and become a safe, informative, and personalized resource.

Health coaching, as an adjunct to personal training, is a process that promotes healthy, sustainable behavioral changes by challenging a client to do more than just lift weights or walk on a treadmill. It requires teaching a client how to pay attention to that inner voice inside of practical wisdom that so many of us often try to silence. Coaches can help clients identify their values, and transform their goals into action. By utilizing principles of positive psychology, as well as being cognizant of ways to motivate, successful health coaches are able to help clients reach places in their lives that they may never have considered possible!

In Part Two of this article, we will explore many of the specific methods employed by health coaches as they guide clients on new and exciting journeys to wellness. Stay tuned!



NFPT Staff Writer

NFPT Staff Writers contribute in various ways to the NFPT blog