Giving advice, in our industry, is just one method we use to motivate our clients, who seek us out to activate change, not only in their bodies, but in their lives as well. Yet more often than not, our advice falls to the wayside as people become too consumed with the demands of their lifestyles. Cultivating an interactive communication, like that of coaching, can drive this one-dimensional approach of listing generalized solutions to bring motivational change through the open dialogue with your consumer. These training techniques, such as life coaching, are getting much attention, and still many trainers don't know exactly what it is or how to integrate it into their current business offerings.


            The field of life coaching, as we know it today, started in the early 1980s. In the past, many people have applied some form of life coaching, which can and has been categorized under similar labels such as lifestyle coaching, life strategies coaching, wellness coaching, fitness coaching and personal coaching, among others. Prior to the term "coaching," many did not utilize the specific title of life coach, rather referring to themselves as mentors, advisors or consultants. Today, fitness professionals are often approached with life coaching types of questions with no real skills set to appropriately respond. Coaching can present a challenge for the average trainer because they rely on science, which tells us that when you apply certain principles, you yield specific physiological results coaching is much different.


            As a coach, you learn how to dissect the motivational strategies of each client to not only produce fitness programs that incorporate the physical component, but to also encourage success without the same "cheerleader" routine.


Coaching the "Heart" of Your Client

            Skills acquired through coaching, such as determining a person's decision-making processes on internal or external factors, can assist in finding the right strategies to push your client in reaching his goals. For example, someone who is motivated internally would say, "I know I did a great job because it makes me feel great inside."  On the other side, a person motivated externally would say, "my spouse complimented about how great I look. I'll sign up for six more sessions." Observing these differences can train coaches to enhance their listening skills to tap into a client's internal strategies for success.  


            There are many additional tools that coaches employ aside from assessing language such as personal inventory lists of strengths and weaknesses. Coaches also utilize surveys, journals and daily, weekly, monthly and annual goal planning. All these devices are a means to allow the coach in assisting their clients in an internal dialog, which determines how they, as clients, interpret the world and how they speak to themselves about their own experiences. One of the outcomes of coaching should be for the coach and client to develop the most concise path to attain what is truly desired based on the CLIENT's values.


The Right Program

            Your personal training and exercise science skills will be an essential foundation to build upon as you begin a life coaching career; however, there is so much more to know in order to accurately assist a coaching client with his or her goals based on his or her values, goals and belief system. If you decide to invest your resources in becoming a life coach, the following are some things you should consider:


 Select a program which covers the types of coaching skills that would be most applicable to your area of focus. Do your research to find the curriculum that has the most direct application to those you intend to help. Some of these programs are better designed for those with fitness backgrounds, while others have more of a business focus. In addition, some programs concentrate on relationship coaching or executive coaching, which may not be as appealing to fitness professionals. 


Select a program that fits into your schedule. Some educational courses will require you to participate in teleclasses at pre-selected times, which may not work with a trainer's traditionally split schedule. Others have more of an open format and can be completed independently during a trainer's down time.


Select a program that is most congruent with your values. Some courses have more of a spiritual context or specific ideology, while others simply give you valuable tools that don't subscribe to any specific thought process and have universal appeal.


Using Coaching into Your Business

            Once you attain the knowledge to become a life coach, how do you introduce it to your personal training business? There are an infinite number of options. One way to start would be to incorporate coaching for your personal training clients. So, during your warm-up and cool-down periods, you can use your newfound skills to get your client into the right frame of mind to stay focused and get the most out of the session. But because the service is not clearly defined, it could be difficult to charge. Another option is to offer a 90-minute session once a ' week, which can be evenly split between fitness and coaching. A quiet room with privacy is needed for confidentiality during the coaching segment. A coaching session, at least once a month, should be dedicated to checking in with progress, re-establishing new goals or coming up with solutions for obstacles and so on.


            Frequently, life coaching takes place by telephone and over the Internet via email and webinars. Coaches can have electronic forms for the client to access prior to each phone coaching session. This preparatory work allows the coach to review and assess the information from these forms to help direct the focus of the forthcoming coaching session. These electronic technologies, like through a web site, can also be used to offer initial information about the coaching services, the coach's bio, coaching philosophy, surveys and messages of inspiration. Life coaching is not just limited to a one-on-one format, but can also expand to include a group environment, similar to how group exercise is done. Each class/session has a specific theme, in which the attendees have a similar interest in the class format/topic being discussed. In addition, each participant is at somewhat of a similar ability level/place in life. Coaching topics for groups could include "Moving through Mid-Life," "Momentum in the New Year" or "Discovering Your Ideal Self."  Each of these topics can appeal to specific demographics, which allows for better dialog and continuity within the group.


Price Setting

            When you are marketing your new life coaching services, you must consider who will be using your coaching skills. Remember as a coach, you want to gain the respect needed for your higher echelon of professional services. However, respect is not the only benefit you want to make as a professional. You are likely wondering, "How much will I earn as a life coach?" This depends on many factors that include professionalism, branding, geographic location, target demographic, education and experience. Asking too much may price you out of the market; asking too little may indicate you lack credibility and results. Becoming a life coach can enhance your personal training business and the chance to learn about what has brought you to this point in your life and what you can now do to reach the top. Life coaching can present a road of self-discovery for both you and for your client.


            John Spencer Ellis, MBA, EdD is the President of NESTA (National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association) and the Spencer Institute for Life Coaching. Please visit or call 877.348.6692.


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