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Wellness Coaching: The Latest Trend in Fitness

Experts share tips about choosing a fitness professional who can put you on the road to better health.

Looking for the Right Wellness Coach

Michael Arloski, PhD, is the author of Wellness Coaching for Lasting Change, a training manual used by several coaching programs, works with dozens of corporate clients, training them on the finer points of coaching for long-term lifestyle changes.

"We need to move from 'prescribe and treat,' or what I like to call 'education and implore' -- where we're begging someone to change after we give them a lot of information -- to a coaching model where we're advocating for change and becoming an ally with that person," he says.

Not everyone who calls himself a coach -- especially a wellness coach -- is qualified, however. Because certification is neither standardized nor required, searching for a good wellness coach is still a case of buyer beware.

"Coaching is a fairly new field, and someone can call themselves a health coach and not have any credentials attached to that. There is no national certification out there to protect people. There are also a lot of matchbook credentials. Anybody can put a shingle out there and call themselves a coach," says Albertson.

To determine whether a coach is reputable, Moore suggests checking references and asking for testimonials. Look for people with degrees or certification from reputable organizations and then interview them extensively about their background.

Ideally, a wellness coach should have at least two years of experience working one-on-one with clients, and preferably a year of coaching experience following training. Other qualities to look for include professionalism, passion, confidence, and humility, so be sure to interview several before making a decision. Credible ones will offer a free initial consultation.

Moore advises choosing a coach who makes you feel the most energized and confident. You should be inspired after a coaching session, with lots of "Aha!" moments, as well as motivated about your ability to make needed changes in your life.

Plan to pay between $50 and $150 a session, and expect to spend at least three months with a coach before seeing meaningful progress, which is typically defined as the creation of two or three healthy new habits. And don't hesitate to end the relationship if something doesn't feel right.

In addition to his dramatic weight loss, Harburger says the changes have had a positive effect on his career. Harburger's wellness coaching has led him to return to private practice and reduce his workweek to 75%.

"I struggled with giving myself permission to do that, but it was miraculous. Before, I would never have initiated that. Now, I feel so unencumbered," he says. "It's like I'm on constant vacation."

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