Guest blog post written by Michelle Falzone, a Registered Kinesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Toronto. Michelle also runs her own online health and fitness coaching business dedicated to building stronger and more confident women, in and out of the gym.
Just two years into working in the personal training field I knew deep down I needed to do more to better serve my clients. For the clients I coached once or twice a week for an hour, the time they spent with me was approximately 0.6 -1.2% of their week.
I was determined to find a way to maximize the one percent of their week we spent together. My mission was to ensure that my interactions with my clients were impactful inside AND outside of our sessions. In the end, I know that lasting change is experienced when my clients are sent off into the wilderness for the remaining 167 hours of the week, and are able to integrate helpful habits into their days.
I was on a mission to empower my clients to reach what they really wanted - transformation. To do that, I needed to learn more about how to influence the way people think. Becoming more educated on behavioural psychology was the key.
I decided to enrol in the Wellness Coaching Program at Humber College. Here I learned more about the theory and practice of behaviour change. Fortunately I was offered a full-time Health Coach position with NexJ Health after my internship. With this opportunity, I enjoyed putting my fitness coach hat down for three years and investing my energy to become a better listener and communicator.
I quickly realized that it wasn’t the reps and sets that would transform my clients lives. It was the behaviour change coaching that encouraged them to think big and start small with their health behaviours.
Seeing people completely transforming their lives in six months just by having regular conversations and touch points between sessions was astounding.
It showed me that taking the time to truly understand what clients want to achieve, hearing their full story and supporting them through action planning and moving through roadblocks to build their confidence, was the real gold for lasting lifestyle change.
Most clients hire a wellness professional because they want to improve their strength, get in shape and be pain-free. To essentially look, feel and perform better. Most clients are aware that this requires some sort of a lifestyle change. And if they are unaware, it is our responsibility to provide education and personalized coaching to help them understand that and commit to themselves. Otherwise, this can lead to a disservice to your clients and your business.
In the end, clients have better outcomes and are more successful with lifestyle change when they feel heard, seen and slowly guided in a more helpful direction. This can be achieved with the magic of coaching.
Everyone has had that client that has “tried everything”. The diets, the exercise programming, supplements, pain management modalities and even a personal trainer or three. According to this client’s experience, nothing worked.
Oftentimes, it wasn’t the tool they used, it was the intention behind why they chose that tool and how they used it. Let’s break that down a bit.
Did they take the time to ease into making a lifestyle change?
Did they sit down and reflect on if they would be able to keep up with this strategy six months, one year, or five years from the moment they processed their credit card payment?
Did they purchase this product/service with the intention of doing a complete 180 health change in an unrealistic time frame?
Did the personal trainer or movement therapist make every session about pushing them to their limits, causing them to associate exercise as something that is painful and exhausting?
This is why behaviour change coaching is so powerful. This type of coaching positions the client as the expert in their life; as an individual with all the answers to their own questions when it comes to lifestyle change.
Behaviour change coaching is designed to meet the client where they are, leverage their strengths, resources and support to help build self-belief and the skills to achieve and maintain the lifestyle they desire.
Behaviour change coaching, more commonly referred to as wellness coaching or health coaching, involves active listening, reflecting, open-ended questioning, validating and offering empathy.
Using these coaching skills, coaches and clients build a therapeutic alliance, also called a ‘therapeutic relationship’. Therapeutic alliance is how a client and their healthcare provider connect, behave, and engage with each other.
Building a therapeutic alliance is one of the most effective ways to impact a person on their wellness journey. The foundation is built on trust, connection and authenticity. This helps our clients openly share what is most true for them without fear of being judged, shamed or ridiculed. Wellness focused health care provides a space that is safe, and ensures clients feel heard and their personal choices are respected.
Alongside building a therapeutic relationship, leveraging behaviour change theories such as motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy and appreciative inquiry, the coach facilitates the discussion in a manner that brings the client to their own realizations and next steps.
Realizations can include discovering that they in fact do have what it takes to live the life they want, that they know what will confidently work for them, and that they are in the driver's seat. The result? EMPOWERMENT.
There are a lot of people that can tremendously benefit from the support of a coach. If the client is able to connect with the right coach for their needs, who has their best interest at heart, and the client is committed to themselves and their health goals, transformation is calling their name.
If you are interested in learning more about wellness coaching, the Wellness Conversations course offered by First Line Education on May 14 & 15, 2022 can be a great way to scratch that itch.
I’d love to know if you found this helpful and do reach out if you would like to connect or have any questions that have brewed for you by the end of this read!
Michelle has her Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Ontario, where she concurrently completed the Fitness Assessment and Exercise Counselling Certificate.
After a few years in the field, her interest in behavioural psychology grew, and she completed the Wellness Coaching Post-Graduate Certificate program at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. As a Registered Kinesiologist, Michelle works in the Movement & Performance department at Cleveland Clinic in downtown Toronto.
Michelle also runs her own online health and fitness coaching business dedicated to building stronger and more confident women, in and out of the gym. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys woodworking, hiking and exploring new cuisines.
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