I’ve been a certified personal trainer for nearly ten years. In that time, I have worked hard to support my clients as whole people, helping them see how exercising regularly could support better physical and mental health.
Even so, I felt I could be of better service to my clients by becoming an ACE-certified Health Coach. I wanted to continue my education and broaden my skills around communication, psychology, and coaching.
I freely admit I thought this certification process was going to be easy-peasy. And then I got started reading the Health Coach Manual and working through the exam prep book. I was wrong. I had a lot to learn!
The pre-requisites for earning a health coach certification include:
- Accredited certification in fitness, wellness, nutrition, healthcare, or a related field
- A minimum of two years work experience in coaching behavior change, exercise, wellness, or physical activity
Thus, health coach is not an “entry level” certification. Only those who have proven experience and passion for helping people create lifestyle change are eligible for health coach certification.
In the simplest terms, a health coach differs from a personal trainer because the health coach works with an extended scope of practice.
Here are 3 ways a health coach is different from a personal trainer
The health coach directs exercise programs but may not design them
Health coaching is a lifestyle-based approach to helping clients build a healthier life. Fitness is one component of that healthier life. The health coach helps the client understand what she needs in terms of exercise and then makes recommendations for group classes, activities, or other ways to include more movement in the client’s life. If the health coach is also a personal trainer (like me!), then exercise program design specifics are also included.
In addition to helping clients determine their how to improve their exercise habits, health coaches help clients understand the constraints of their reality that may interfere with keeping up exercise. Knowing challenges are coming and planning for how to get through them are keys to sustainable success.
The health coach has advanced nutrition education
Personal training certification requires knowledge of basic nutrition and how to guide clients to make better food choices. It has cursory education about energy systems and how exercise converts nutrition to energy.
Health coaching certification involves understanding how clients of various backgrounds with different medical conditions need different types of nutritional advice. The advanced nutrition education that is part of the certification process means health coaches are well equipped to dispense a more full array of nutrition advice, from evaluating food diaries to helping clients understand energy balance.
Health coaches and the psychology of coaching behavior change
Health coaching certification requires study of various psychological models of behavior, behavior change, and change processes. Furthermore, the health coach education includes various methods and styles of communication as a way to fill the coaching kit bag with lots of tools to suit a wide range of clients.
Most people who seek out personal trainers or health coaches do so for weight management guidance. The health coach should have a better understanding of mental aspects of weight loss. Knowing how to listen, plan, and advise– and adapt as the client needs– requires a firm grasp of coaching psychology. A health coach is different from a personal trainer because health coach certification is heavily based on understanding types of behavior change psychology.
If you’re looking for someone to support you as you design a healthier lifestyle, a health coach just may be the person you need to lead your team. Interested in learning more about my health coaching services? Reach out to me via the form below. We can schedule a 15 minute phone chat to see how we can work together.