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  • Writer's pictureCoach Sandy Robinson

Do I need a Health Coach or Personal Trainer?

Learn the differences between a Health Coach and Personal Trainer and how to choose the right fit for you, to help you reach your goals.

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Spend time with your Coach asking the right questions.

So, you’ve reached a point where you have decided to seek help for your health and wellness. Your first thought might be, “it’s time for me to find a trainer.” At that point your search begins through conversations with friends, conversations with your co-workers, maybe a Doctor referral, and of course online research.

Too Many Options

You quickly see there are too many options! You have personal trainers, health coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches, and the list goes on. It can be overwhelming to say the least. In effort to narrow it down, let’s review some of the basics..

Certified or Not Certified

First, you need to know that there is a big difference between the fitness enthusiast you met at the gym that calls himself a “personal trainer”, the “health coach” who has an oil or remedy for what ails you, the “nutrition specialist” promoting a pill and a protein shake for every meal, and a Certified Personal Trainer, or Certified Health Coach. When searching for a coach with the training to facilitate your goals, you need to ask if they are certified with an accredited organization. If they are not, then although their intentions may be sincere, and their heart full of passion for your goals, they are likely NOT qualified to coach you effectively and responsibly.

There are many direct marketing organizations that sell products and train independent consultants, salespeople, independent distributors, to know the product line and how to push it. They will give them a title of Health Coach, Fitness Coach, Weight loss or nutrition specialist, etc. because it sounds professional and fits in line with the brand they are promoting. Ultimately, you need a professional that can equip, educate, and motivate you with science backed information, to reach your goals. You do not necessarily need another fad diet, meal plan, or product. You need appropriate behavior modifications, and professional support to stick with it!


Certified Health Coach Roles

· A Certified Health Coach’s primary role is to partner with their clients in “meeting them where they are at” in their efforts to adopt and/or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Certified Health and Wellness Coaches are trusted advisors and are trained thoroughly to help their clients nourish their mind, body, and soul. My certification is through Dr. Sears Wellness Institute founded by world-renowned physician and author, Dr. William Sears. The Institute is a leader in science-based health and wellness education that focuses on the four pillars of health; Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude and Nutrition (L.E.A.N.). A certification by the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute is obtained only after completing the extensive course work and meeting all requirements. Once certified, a Health Coach possesses the knowledge, tools and resources to make a positive difference in the health of others.

· Certified Health Coaches work with clients to identify areas of desired change, educate their clients on several options to equip them for the desired change, and then motivate their clients to pursue the behaviors and changes they want to work on to reach their goal. This is a powerful method of behavior change, since the client gets to choose the path and course of action, rather than the coach prescribing the path. When a client is able to take ownership of the plan, then they will potentially be more successful in reaching their goals and maintaining the new behaviors for a lifetime, rather than following a prescribed plan only to give up later because it was too much too fast, or never something they really wanted to do, but they were simply “following the rules.”

· Certified Health Coaches may provide nutritional guidance and skills to assist with a medical provider’s plan of treatment/care. However, they may not give specific meal plans, may not prescribe supplements, may not develop a treatment plan for health conditions, may not suggest discontinuing medications, or going against Doctor’s orders.

· Certified Health Coaches may provide information on various methods or programs available to facilitate achieving fitness goals, but are not usually trained in exercise physiology, kinesiology, exercise programming, or modifying movements for special populations.

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Achieve wellness with the right tools, education, and motivation to meet your needs.

Certified Personal Trainer Roles

· Certified Personal Trainers are trained to enhance the components of fitness for the general, healthy population.

· My Personal Trainer Certification is through AFAA, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. AFAA also requires extensive course work reviewing the human body and exercise physiology, behavior modification and communication skills, fitness screening, health assessment, injury prevention, and the basics of nutrition and weight management.

· Certified Personal Trainers are also required to have current CPR/AED certification.

· Certified Personal Trainers are trained to develop an exercise plan, execute the plan by instructing/supervising the client, and motivating or redirecting the client when the plan is not being followed or is being performed incorrectly. They also are trained to modify the plan to suit the special needs of their client if they are limited due to fitness capability or injuries.

· Certified Personal Trainers may not prescribe specific meal plans, prescribe supplements, prescribe treatment plans for illness, or override a medical professional’s orders.

· Certified Personal Trainers are not trained extensively in facilitating behavior modification in the areas of lifestyle, attitude, and nutrition to the same level as a Certified Health Coach. Therefore, they are limited in ability to facilitate change in areas outside of exercise specific behaviors.


Now these lists are not exhaustive, and the roles/benefits/limitations can vary from person to person based on their actual certification, continuing education, and years of experience. The purpose of providing these basics is to help you identify what each professional should likely be able to perform, and to help you decide which one, or possibly both, may be needed to help you reach your personal goals.

I have the pleasure of being certified in both, which has allowed me to provide a wide range of services to ultimately meet the needs of my clients, while also providing a competitive rate for my service ending in financial savings for the client. They essentially get two professionals for the price of one!

In the end, the choice is up to you. You are the one to determine what you want to achieve by setting a goal. From there, you should research which professional can best help you reach your goal and it may take more than one.

Keep in mind, you are valuable, and worth the investment. Invest in your “I.R.A.H.” as Dr. Sears calls it, your “Individual Retirement Account for Health.” We all think and plan for our future financially, but how many of us are thinking, and planning for our future health? Invest the time; invest the money, your future self will thank you for it!

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