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Health Coaching or Personal Trainer...Who’s Better?

I get asked this question often, so I thought it would be a good idea to discuss it in a little more length in this blog post.

Health Coaches are effectively the new kids on the block, and they have been spawned as a consequence of the challenges that people face in the 21st century. These challenges principally involve managing lifestyle factors more successfully, so that individuals can lead a healthier and happier lifestyle.

Traditionally, when people have looked to improve their health (outside of the medical fraternity) they have turned to personal training. The profession of personal training is now well established, and the role of personal trainers has also adapted over the years to meet the needs of the client. Most personal trainers focus on physical exercise with nutritional support. Having a personal trainer carries with it a little kudos, as celebrities often talk about their latest workout and how it has transformed their physique.

Personal training therefore has a strong association with improving aesthetics of the individual. However when it comes to health and wellbeing things are a little more complicated than purely exercise and nutrition (although both are still very important).

Good health is all about balancing competing ends, and comes via the interplay of many factors that work together to support the individual. As a former personal trainer, I recognised the shortcomings in the personal training model and made the transition into health coaching as a consequence.

Simply thinking that you can eat and exercise your way out of a bad health or into fitness is too simplistic a model for getting permanent and long-lasting results.

We are not only physical beings, but also social /psychological /environmental beings as well. Just exercising more is not going to give you the changes that you need. In fact, I have worked with many individuals who have decreased their health as a consequence of exercising incorrectly or too intensively (regular marathon runners don’t live any longer than active individuals, in fact they tend to live shorter lives).

As a health coach I get much better results, because I place my client and their lifestyle at the centre. What this means, is that my client is the driver, because it is them and only them that truly understand the circumstances of their life and how best to make changes. They are the expert, and therefore as a coach my role is to help them recognise their strengths and how they have achieved change in the past.

By looking for and understanding these ‘outlier moments’ we can then devise a strategy for change based on their own terms. Successful maintenance of lifestyle changes is also more likely, as it incorporates every element of their lifestyle. Any other approach is doomed to failure, because sustainable change can only happen when intervention seamlessly blends into what they are already doing.

As a health coach I continue to achieve all the positive changes I did when working as a personal trainer, such as weight loss, muscle gain and cardiovascular health, but now these changes become permanent. This is because I bring the social /psychological /environmental elements of the client's life into sharp focus. Because the coaching conversations are client led, the client becomes empowered to make the changes they want to make under their terms. I then work with them to bring about the changes based on the client's previous life successes.


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