Overcoming Gym Intimidation

Overcoming Gym Intimidation

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It’s one thing to want to start an exercise habit. It’s another thing entirely to get off the couch and make it happen.

As a health coach, I’m a proponent of a little self reflection at the beginning of any new habit-building process. There are two questions to the self reflection: Why do you want to start an exercise habit? What is keeping you from getting off the couch?

Hard time thinking of answers? Check out my secrets to starting an exercise habit that sicks….

If you’re clear that one of the reasons you can’t get off the couch is that you’re worried what other exercisers will think of you, I can help.

Overcoming gym intimidation, especially for a woman 40+, is a common obstacle to starting a workout program.

I validate your anxiety.

If you’ve never worked out before, or if you’ve taken a long break, it’s nerve-wracking to go to a gym. What will other people think of you? Will you know what to do? Is there a mismatch between how your body looks and how you feel?

One of the frequently reported symptoms of perimenopause is increased anxiety.  Even if you have never been prone to anxiety attacks in your past, changing hormone levels may cause your anxiety levels to increase. Couple that with something you’re not really confident about to begin with…and gym intimidation is real.

Overcoming gym intimidation can be done. It requires a little planning and a little creative thinking.

Would working out with a friend help? Having a wing-woman with you give you a friendly face to focus on rather than being drawn in to what a bunch of (experienced!) strangers are doing.

Would blocking out the noise from the gym help you to focus? Bring your own headphones and tune in to the TV on the treadmill or let your favorite tunes keep you focused on yourself.

Remind yourself of your WHY. Having a clear reason for wanting to exercise more can motivate you to overcome your fears.

I believe that working through the gym intimidation is worth it. YOU are worth it!


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Nervous about going to the gym? You're not alone. Learn ways to overcome gym intimidation (especially for women 40+)

Five Red Flags of Personal Trainers and Health Coaches

Five Red Flags of Personal Trainers and Health Coaches

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A certified health coach or certified personal trainer should respect the boundaries of her scope of practice. Even though there is no single certifying body for health coaches or personal trainers, there are standards of professionalism that should be followed.

There are five things to look for to ensure that your health coach or personal trainer is operating within her educational and certified practice. If your fit pro raises any of these red flags, it’s time for a conversation and probably a change.

Red Flag #1: The personal trainer or health coach diagnoses illness or medical conditions

Neither a certified health coach nor a personal trainer can diagnose illnesses or medical conditions. Rather, a reputable health pro should have a network of referral partners who can properly assess a medical situation. While your health coach or personal trainer should be able to modify your fitness plan if you note a tweaky shoulder or sore knee, offering a diagnosis of your situation is not appropriate.

Red Flag #2: The personal trainer or health coach provides physician-prescribed rehab

After you’ve seen a physician and received a diagnosis of your injury, you still need medical clearance before working with your health coach or personal trainer again.

If your recovery plan includes physical therapy, make sure you are working with a qualified physical therapist. Their understanding of anatomy and physiology specific to your situation will best support your recovery. Again, the health coach or personal trainer may be able to continue the work you started in physical therapy, but follow your physician’s recommendation for who to see and for how long.

Of course, if your trainer or coach is also a physical therapist, then lucky you!

Red Flag #3: Your personal trainer or health coach writes meal plans

Neither health coaches nor personal trainers can write meal plans. Yes, I know many who do. And I also know you can find a meal plan on websites all over the internet.

But laws in most US states forbid anyone other than registered dietitians to write meal plans. Period. Stop.

So while your health coach or personal trainer can (and should!) encourage you to keep a food diary and discuss your nutrition choices with you, they are most likely operating outside of the law if they write meal plans.

Red Flag #4: Your trainer or coach pushes supplements

Again, there are plenty of personal trainers who sell supplements. It is, however, a clear conflict of interest to sell supplements to clients if the trainer makes a profit off the sale. Health coaches have a more clear boundary regarding pushing supplements to clients, and that boundary makes it a no-go situation.

If a health coach believes her client would benefit from supplementation, it is best to encourage the client to a) seek advice from her physician and b) offer a reputable source for high quality supplementation.

Red Flag #5: Your trainer or coach lacks personal boundaries

Most people get into fitness and health coaching because they want to help people. With that understanding, your coach or trainer should be personable. For sure!

And working with people on personal issues like behavior change or weight requires an intimacy that most client-service provider relationships don’t need. For coaches who work independently (like me), boundaries are further blurred because sessions are often conducted in the client’s home.

While it is natural for trainer-client relationships to be friendly, if you feel uncomfortable with your trainer or health coach, know that there are other health pros out there. Go find a better fit! Remember that you entered into this relationship because you wanted to make your life better and healthier. If the person you hired to help you becomes a liability, you’re in control to end it.

Also, keep an ear out…your trainer or health coach shouldn’t tell you specifics of another client’s situation. Knowing that they respect their clients’ privacy should give you confidence to share openly about your situation.

It is my hope that you never see any of these five red flag warning signs of working with personal trainers or health coaches. I work hard to bring a sense of professionalism to my work, and I know most of my colleagues do as well.

5 Red Flag Warning Signs when working with personal trainers or health coaches

3 Ways a Health Coach is different from a Personal Trainer

3 Ways a Health Coach is different from a Personal Trainer

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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.

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3 Ways a Health Coach is different from a Personal Trainer

What does a Health Coach do?

What does a Health Coach do?

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Health coaches are part of the movement dedicated to reversing the physical inactivity epidemic. A health coach helps educate and motivate people to adopt healthy, long-term, sustainable behaviors to improve their health. They coach people to create a life that avoids so many lifestyle illnesses and health conditions.

A health coach works to facilitate healthy lifestyle changes through three areas: physical activity, nutrition education, and behavior change.


Working with a health coach begins with a holistic assessment of your lifestyle. Lack of time is the most frequently reported reason for why people don’t exercise.  Health coaches work to help clients understand how to realistically include movement in their days.

There is also discussion about your support systems. In order to maintain positive changes long-term, you need reliable support systems. Sometimes this involves suggestions for altering high-risk behaviors. While this sounds really scary, it can mean changing a simple habit like snuggling on the couch with your sweetie, while watching TV and eating a bowl of ice cream every night.

Coaching behavior change is the heart of a health coach’s job. Using psychological methodologies, the health coach helps clients evaluate their starting point. From there, the coach can introduce small mindset shifts to set off a snowball effect of positive change.

Another role of the health coach is guiding goal setting. Depending on the client’s starting point and desired main goal, the coach helps clients set goals related to fitness, nutrition, self-care, and overall wellness. The health coach ensures that goals are realistic, appropriate, and achievable for the client.

Weight management coaching includes a blend of psychology, fitness planning, and nutrition evaluation and education. Health coaches have advanced study in both the psychology of weight management as well as the science of physiology. This unique blend places health coaches as central figures in fighting the obesity epidemic.

Where can I find a Certified Health Coach?

  • Medical offices- particularly those inclined to functional medicine or holistic practice
  • Corporate wellness programs
  • Community centers
  • Private practice

Many health coaches are fitness and wellness professionals who want to further their education to better serve their clients.

Interested in chatting about my health coaching services? Fill out the form below, and we’ll get a 15-minute phone call set up right away.

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3 Secrets to Starting an Exercise Habit that Sticks

3 Secrets to Starting an Exercise Habit that Sticks

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Starting an exercise habit is hard. But when you feel prepared both mentally and physically, you’re more likely to stick with it.

3 Secrets to Starting an Exercise Habit that Sticks


Everyone was a beginner at some point. Don’t psyche yourself out before you even get started. Know that it is okay not to know how to do things. It is totally normal to feel a bit lost and confused if you’ve never lifted weights or been to a Zumba class or tried to run for more than a minute before. Heck, even walking is a great way to get started!

If you accept that being a beginner when you’re starting an exercise habit means that you need to ask for help, you’re much more likely to be successful. There are people who are happy and willing to help you. Many personal trainers are willing to work with you for just a session or two if you need a little jumpstart or orientation.

It’s always a better idea to ask someone who knows what they are doing rather than just trying to look around and fake it til you make it. Remember that the goal of working out is to improve your health– so don’t do something that might lead to injury.

And here’s the really good news about being a beginner: you have lots of room for improvement! You’re likely to see and feel progress fairly quickly after starting an exercise habit. Woo hoo!


Just like when you’re cooking in the kitchen, using the right equipment makes the whole process much more enjoyable. Whether you’re working out at home or at a gym or studio, having the right equipment increases the chances that you’ll stick with your new program.

So if you’re thinking of doing yoga at home, buy yourself a good mat. If you want to take spin classes at a gym, make sure you buy the right kind of shoes. Want to start a weekly kayaking date? Buy sunscreen that not only works but feels great on your skin.

You can find some of my favorite pieces of workout equipment here.

Regardless of what meaningful movement you’re going to be doing, I suggest investing in a good pair of shoes (and good socks!) and a water bottle you love. Ladies, find yourself a sports bra that does its job without digging in to your skin and chafing. Being comfortable while you’re exercising goes a long way in making sure you maintain your workout schedule.

One word of caution: don’t go buying a fancy tech watch gizmo just because everyone else has one. If you’re someone who is more motivated by how you feel than tons of data, you don’t need to spend your money there.


I know it seems totally obvious, but so many people skip this step! Doing something you love is the most critical factor of all when starting an exercise habit! Figure out how your body loves to move, and you’ll be so much more motivated to prioritize your workouts.

This is the perfect time to tune out your friends and focus on yourself. While having an exercise buddy is a great way to stick with your workouts, internal motivation is an unstoppable force. Don’t be afraid to chart your own course.

If all of your friends love to run but you hate running, then don’t run! If you really want to join a soccer league so you can play on a team again like you did in high school, go for it! And bonus points to you if your idea of workout fun scares you a little bit. Exercise is a great way to push both your body and your mind.

Struggling to come up with an idea that really appeals to you? There’s an reflection exercise as part of my FREE Fit in Fitness 5-Day Challenge that can help!

I hope you have great success with these 3 secrets to starting an exercise habit that sticks. Good health and great happiness to you.

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These 3 secrets to starting an exercise habit that sticks will help any beginner get off on the right foot-- and keep going!