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Just What the Heck Is Wellness Coaching?

By Janis McDonald

Wellness, health, and lifestyle coaching is one of the fastest growing professions today; still for many it remains a mystery.  Almost daily, I am asked, “What is wellness coaching?”  The answer can’t be completely explained in a 30-second “elevator speech,” so I will do my best to share my experience of the coaching relationship.

First, let’s take a look at what wellness coaching is not! It is not therapy, personal training, leading a team, or helping people improve their sport. Wellness coaching is definitely not about having the answers or giving advice.

Coaching for wellness, health, and lifestyle is a proven method to help people who are ready for the next phase of life and want to explore what’s possible.

The perfect coaching client is preparing or ready to take action on making a personal change. Sometimes this desire is due to a trauma, a wake-up call, having an “aha” moment, becoming uncomfortable with the comfortable, feeling stuck, or having too many choices. They have reached a dead end and have given up on going it alone.  In fact, they are tired of listening to themselves and are hoping to hear something different.

Wellness coaches are allies, guides, sounding boards, accountability partners, and mentors, who accompany people on their life journey.  With a coach’s support, people uncover or discover what they want now and in the future, why they want it, how are they going to get it, what will get in their way, and what they will do about it.

So, just what the heck is wellness? Many people feel health and fitness are the only elements. While they are vitally important to a well-lived and happy life, to live a truly “well” life, wellness must include social, intellectual, environmental, emotional, and spiritual health, and most importantly, a life purpose.

A few months ago, Judith Barrett, certified life coach and international teacher, moved to town after retiring from a 35-year career. In the last few years, due to job stress, she let her physical fitness wane and almost disappear.  Her usually high-energy life was experiencing a low, slow drain!

After getting settled, Judith made her first priority to regain her lost energy. She showed up at the Boomers and Beyonders gym, making a confident commitment to exercise and eat healthier.

Judith exercised with a vengeance: rowing, throwing balls, challenging her balance and agility with boxing as well as performing body weight exercises, always going for the endorphins and sweaty feeling she had been missing.

After the first few weeks, we found our conversations became more focused on coaching through issues and problems than fitness training. So we formally decided to split up our time together into half-hour coaching sessions followed by half-hour fitness workouts.

Recently, Judith told me, “I now feel empowered to handle issues as they come up and see clearly where I want to go. Sometimes a coach needs a coach!”  We laughed at how hard it is to think outside the box when we are in the box.

Go to and watch “How Coaching Works,” the Wellcoaches School short video that beautifully demonstrates coaching without using any words.

Listening deeply is at the heart and soul of coaching. Let’s end with my favorite quote:

“Listen, or your tongue shall make you deaf.” (Old Cherokee saying.)

Janis McDonald, long-time resident, wellness coach, private gym owner


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